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Going Out | CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK

Visions by Sugarplum dance next to Starbucks

January 02, 2003|S. Irene Virbila | Times Staff Writer

It takes confidence to open a cafe-bakery next door to a Starbucks, but Anna Delorefice, a pastry chef who has worked at both Spagos, and Jenna Turner, who managed the Farm of Beverly Hills (among other restaurants), have done it. Starbucks and Sugarplum Bakery are so different, though, there's no contest.

Decorated with Moroccan floor tiles, crystal-beaded chandeliers and budget Art Nouveau touches, Sugarplum is an improbable peacock of a bakery. Mahogany-stained tables and a sleek banquette covered in paisley furnish the lofty, light-drenched space on Beverly Boulevard just west of La Brea Avenue. The 4-month-old bakery is a haven of civility where patrons arrive with papers or books tucked under their arms and, lulled by the relaxed atmosphere, never get around to opening their briefcases or laptops.

Customers line up in front of the tall mahogany-and-glass pastry case to contemplate an array of pretty butter-cream cakes, shimmering fruit tarts, demure petits fours and dainty cookies. In the mornings, the neighborhood stops in for flaky croissants, cheese danishes and cinnamon twists to enjoy with a frothy latte or cappuccino.

Sugarplum opens early. When I called to ask how early, a friendly voice told me 7 a.m. but added that if I needed to pick up a croissant or pastry on my way to work, I could go around to the back even earlier.

At lunch, the cafe has ready-made sandwiches: Black forest ham, Fontina cheese and whole-grain mustard on focaccia, for example, or prosciutto, mozzarella and roasted red peppers on the same fluffy flatbread. They're toasted in a panini press until the cheese melts and the bread is crisped.

Sugarplum Bakery has also laid in a cache of old-fashioned candies like saltwater taffy, satiny striped ribbon candy, sugarcoated almonds and striped candy canes that have the child in everyone grasping for sweets. And to make sure everyone in the family gets a treat, next to the cash register are bags of handmade dog biscuits.

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Sugarplum Bakery

Where: 7122 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles.

When: Open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. No alcohol. Parking lot in back; also street parking.

Cost: Pastries $2 to $3.25; sandwiches $7; cakes and tarts $26 to $35.

Info: (323) 934-7900; fax (323) 934-7963.

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