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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
 Dining in Paradise

Editors' Note: On this page in our May, 2001, issue we published a review of Alaine's Bakery in Los Angeles. We are sorry to report that this excellent bakery has closed its doors. They will be missed. Alaine's will continue to sell her baked goods by mail order.

In most restaurant reviews the reader sees the restaurant experience from one person's point of view. In the reviews of the Vegetarians in Paradise, the reader experiences the eatery from the point of view of two people in dialogue form. Vegetarians in Paradise brings you those two intrepid restaurant aficionados, Zel and Reuben Allen, who will take you along as they eat a swath across the Los Angeles environs.

This month we depart from our usual restaurant review, and instead we ask our readers to join us for tea time at a bakery.

Alaine's Bakery Z: Review a bakery? It's not a restaurant! I looked at Reuben in disbelief! Well, maybe. After all, it is a vegan bakery, I rationalized.

R: Well, quite truthfully, it didn't take a lengthy dissertation to persuade Zel. I must agree it really is an offbeat idea to review a bakery, but who among us doesn't enjoy desserts? And, hopefully, there are many that just might be grateful to discover that vegan desserts are in abundance right here in Los Angeles.

Z: Alaine's Bakery is right off Pico Boulevard., not far from the Westside Pavillion. As we tuned onto Pelham Avenue, we immediately spotted the ivy-covered building with the large green awning announcing Alaine's Bakery painted in white letters. On the sidewalk outside the small shop were two small tables with chairs, a perfect little spot for a sip with a little sweet treat.

R: The shop's owner, Alaine, an attractive woman with shoulder length blonde hair and bubbly personality, greeted us with a big smile and a hearty welcome. She joined us at the one small inside table beside the window and was quite receptive to answering our many questions.

Z: The bakery's first product was her Rainforest Cake, a healthy combination densely packed with dried fruits and nuts baked into a firm, fruitcake-like loaf. It's captured the attention of many natural food disciples including Dr. John McDougal who adopted this cake as his travel energy bar. The cake was earthy, naturally fruit sweetened, and bordered on intoxicating!

R: Our bakery mistress told us her baking space wasn't always this cute, homey little shop in West Los Angeles. Its inception, in 1993, was simply rented space in a catering kitchen that had some down time.

Z: Alaine was not always a bakery entrepreneur. There were many facets to her past. She was a screenwriter and educator. Her teaching included English, English as a Second Language, and French. She learned the bakery business from scratch, seeking out sources for ingredients, learning how to determine costs of products, and developing her unique recipes.

R: We felt like celebrities at a special premiere that afternoon. We were the first to sample her newly created sandwiches now being offered to her take-out clientele. We shared the Millet No-Meat-Loaf, a really thick sandwich that's bound for success. Alaine, dedicated to bringing healthy nutrition awareness to her customers, makes the millet loaf with sprouted organic millet, lentils, shiitake mushrooms, herbs and vegan eggless mayonnaise, and accompanies the sandwich with blue corn chips.

Z: Further exploring the sandwich offerings, we tasted the Better Than Egg, an eggless egg salad made from tofu and vegan mayonnaise and topped with tomato and onion. It was light and practically melted in my mouth. Served on flourless sprouted whole grain bread, it was hearty, and I knew it was wholesome, but my taste buds craved a bit more seasoning.

R: Two other tasty sandwiches are listed on the blackboard. The Deli is a combo of cholesterol-free vegan deli slices, tomato, sprouts, cucumber, and kosher dill pickles. The Veggie includes avocado, tomato, sprouts, Bermuda onions, and cucumber. All the sandwiches are made with the healthiest of breads, a flourless, sprouted whole grain blend.

Z: As we finished our sandwiches, Richard, the bakery manager, brought out a large multi- colored, freshly made Mixed Fruit Tart and placed it in one of the two display cases at the counter. With glistening strawberries and kiwis on top, it was a visual delight! True to her mission, Alaine makes this tart with a healthy whole-grain barley crust.

R: Along with Earth Cafe organic regular and decaf coffees, we could choose from eight unique teas, some herbal and some caffeinated. All the teas Alaine buys must be fair wage and shade grown. To prepare me for the rush-hour freeway traffic, I ordered the Peaceful Mind, a calming blend of chamomile, mint, and lavender. Zel had the Buddha's Delight, a pungent, aromatic tea. Both complimented the desserts we were about to sample.

Z: Next we tasted the Lemon Tart. Since Alaine knew we were going to taste many items, she served it without the crust. It was heavenly! How can you beat the fresh flavor from real lemons and fresh lemonade sweetened with fruit juice concentrate. In the summer, she makes Apple, Peach, and Pear Tarts, too!

R: Alaine creates all of her own recipes and offers over 60 different items. She even makes special sweet treats for diabetics using Xylitol, a sweetener from Finland made from the natural bark of the birch tree. We learned that it has zero sugar and one half the calories of regular sugar. Those on gluten-free diets can find their sweet cravings met at Alaine's, too, with her Gluten-free Banana Raspberry Muffins, Orange Almond Cookies, Chocolate Cake, Carrot Cake, and Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins.

Z: Because everything is vegan, the bakery has a large kosher clientele. Since it was the week of Passover, Alaine created an Almond Torte made with matzoh meal. Though she isn't Jewish, many of her customers who are Jewish suggested she contact a Rabbi to see if her bakery could receive a kosher rating. Kehilla kosher Rabbi Teichman did come to the bakery and certified it kosher, though not kosher for the week of Passover.

R: To die for is the only way to describe the Chocolate Mousse that Alaine considers her biggest "crossover item." She uses the term "crosscover" for items even non vegans would enjoy. No one would even know it contained tofu. It was light, yet dense enough to satisfy. The creamy chocolate flavor lingered in my mouth the next few minutes.

Birds Eating Z: That mousse lifted me into chocolate heaven, too. And while we both savored the after-flavors, we took a minute out to notice some of the goodies in the display cases. The shelves were brimming with temptations that pleasure the soul--colorful Fruit Tarts in individual serving sizes, including Lemon Curd, Key Lime, and the Mixed Fruit Tarts, Apple Pie as well as Blueberry, Peach, Cherry, and Key Lime Pies. Smiling up at us was the Easter Bunny Carrot Cake shaped like a you what and covered with shredded coconut.

R: The muffins were plump, the selection numerous--Peach Blueberry Oat Bran and Pumpkin Cranberry to name just a couple. There was more--Carrot Bread, Banana Walnut Bread, Coconut Macaroons the size of Zel's hand, Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies, Carob Brownies, Chocolate Cakes, Carrot Cakes, Banana Cakes, Cranberry Walnut Bread. We were just kids turned loose in a bakeshop spree.

Z: While we were salivating over the cakes in the showcase, Alaine arrived at our table with a sample of wheat-free Blueberry Uncheesecake. Alaine had outdone herself. This creamy, luscious concoction was pure magic!

R: Since Alaine was not ready to end our binge, we weren't either. We were having too much fun. Next came the Banana Chocolate-Chip Cake with its creamy chocolate mousse-like filling and frosting. Cake lovers will go bonkers for this!

Z: Moving right along we plunged our forks into the Fresh Apple Pie with its hearty organic wheat crust. Any mother would be proud to claim this pie as her own! It was delicious and not overly sweet! We liked that quality.

R: Then it was time for a cookie. Can you believe that? Alaine debuted her newest creation, a Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie made with organic whole-wheat pastry flour, Sucanat (an unrefined evaporated cane juice), pecans, and dairy-free chocolate chips. It had a hint of crispness on the outside and was soft and chewy on the inside, sweet, but not too sweet. Truly, the perfect cookie!

Z: We finished with a Berry Fool made from silken lite tofu, unsweetened raspberries, and rice milk. It definitely made us feel better to note that it was low calorie and fat free. Parfait-like in texture, it was light, creamy, and bursting with raspberry flavor. We were practically undone by now, wallowing in an opiate state of ecstasy!

R: What I admire about Alaine is that she has sidestepped traditional baking practices that produce products with unhealthful ingredients. Instead, she has created all these great flavors and tastes in baked goods with the purest ingredients--vegan ingredients that are natural and unaltered. You won't find white flour here. Nor will you find a grain of refined white sugar in the pantry. You will find delectable, natural vegan desserts.

Alaine's Bakery
2366 Pelham Ave., West Los Angeles, CA 90064
Reviewed May 2001

Click here for past Dining in Paradise reviews

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