"Sweets run deep in my family. My mom made cookies all the time when I was little. And my sisters made pies with fruit, so that was important, too, to have fresh fruit. The frosting on the chocolate cake is very much like a Duncan Hines--when it solidifies, it's kind of crunchy on the outside, but as soon as you bite into it, it melts."
Says Urban Epicuria partner Davis, "People are longing for the past and more comforting times. That's why we wanted modern food with a touch of retro. If you want super-fancy, you can go out to a nice restaurant for that, but here we offer something traditional and classic.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday October 28, 1998 Home Edition Food Part H Page 2 Food Desk 2 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
Because of an editing error, producer Dino De Laurentiis was misidentified as a director and his name misspelled in an Oct. 21 story about the baker Mani Niall.
Also, many readers have asked where they can buy Niall's non-nonfat pastries. They are at Urban Epicuria, 8315 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (213) 848-8411.
"I think it's all over the country. People are talking about being healthier, but behind closed doors, they're eating chocolate cake. Maybe people are more health-conscious in L.A., but we sell a lot of chocolate chip cookies."
Niall, who still consults for the Bakery, hasn't completely abandoned his healthful concepts. In addition to his Hollywood cheesecake, apple pie, jumbo chocolate chip cookie and chocolate chip scone, he offers low-fat raspberry linzer bars, low-fat ginger molasses and chocolate hermits and sugar-free morning glory muffins.
The country's split-personality approach to food--inhaling fast-food burgers and Ben & Jerry's ice cream with one hand while gobbling Olestra-fried chips and fat-free frozen yogurt with the other--accounts for the requests Niall gets for both high-fat and healthful food.
He understands perfectly what that's all about. "When I got involved here testing recipes," he explains, "I made a conscious decision that I wasn't going to be so rigid about what I was eating. I exercise a lot, but I found out when I loosened up on my restrictions and my eating that my weight didn't change. Maybe I could lose an inch or two around my waist, but what's the price? A little bit less enjoyment. I still drink soy milk, but I'll eat desserts with butter.
"Still," he adds, "a lot of the work I do is cooking from a healthier point of view. But I think people adhere to things so rigidly in the hopes that it's going to make some magical change for them, and it doesn't always happen. If you have a sweet tooth and you want to eat something sweet every day, it's probably a good idea that every other day you eat something low-fat. I have to encourage that."