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favorite large bakery/cafe?

I'm prepared to visit them all...as long as they're not part of some soulless chain. I'm thinking of places like City Bakery, Porto's, Lovebirds, Susina, Clementine, etc. I love Europane but it's a little small for the gathering I have in mind. Suggestions?

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    1. re: jackattack

      Why? I just don't get Amandine. It's the Asian take on French pastry. I've been inside a few times and left empty handed. It's just not my thing, nor is it very big.
      How large does it need to be for your gathering?

      1. re: compucook

        Preferably as big as City Bakery, but more interesting looking. Thanks!

        1. re: compucook

          Just curious as to why you think Amandine has an Asian take? It's always struck me as very French.

        2. How many people do you need to accomodate?

          6 Replies
          1. re: Burger Boy

            Molly, last time I dropped by, I was the only person in there--employee or customer-who wasn't Asian. I do realize it's a French bakery, but it was just my sense of it. FWIW. I didn't mean it to sound like a negative, and apologize if it did.

            1. re: compucook

              The chef is Japanese trained in France. Her pastries are phenomenal.

              1. re: compucook

                I didn't think you were suggesting it was a negative, I was just genuinely curious as all the pastries have always seemed very French to me, although they aren't overly sweet and maybe that's what you were referring to. If you have yet to try to pastries, you really should. The chocolate croissant is very good and I also really like orange cream cheese brioche. Jin patisserie has much more of an Asian influence, I think.

                1. re: mollyomormon

                  I believe it's owned by Japanese people. There was an article about Amadine in my moms Japanese magazine.

                2. re: compucook

                  It depends when you go. A typical morning there is very Brentwood/Santa Monica - a mixed crowd sprinkled with twenty- to fifty-somethings, and an occasional grande dame who has lived in the neighborhood since Brentwood's farm days - very crochety and usually accompanied by a nurse; the counter people are Asian, Latino/Latina, and caucasian. I've been in the afternoons where it can be slower, and often towards the back and out by the parking lot, I've noticed what seems to be younger Japanese social clubs having meetings. Maybe you ran in to them... Whatever the case, if you personally found that the goods didn't pass your scrutiny, I don't know where else I'd send you. By far the best croissants, danishes and brioche I've had in LA. I also really like their breads but usually load up on their other baked goods. And the cakes, tartes, etc. in the case are exceptional as well - I haven't tried their cheesecake loaves though. As Mollyo mentions - most things tend be not as sweet as one might expect - just a heads-up...

                3. Akasha has a bakery/cafe side. Rustic Canyon does, too (or will soon!)

                  1. BreadBar is great and they have a good menu that seems to satisfy lots of different types of eaters. I don't know how big your gathering will be, but you'll probably be better off at the Century City location because it's more set up for a larger group. The service is good and the bread is outstanding. I like most of the things on their menu, but I particularly like their salads and sandwiches. They use very high-quality ingredients in everything, not just their breads.

                    If you'd like to try something different and very tasty, check out the dinner service at BreadBar, when their guest chef prepares lots of asian-french-california tapas that are truly extraordinary. The crab-guacamole and the green tea cheesecake were two of the best things I've eaten this year. And the guy is a pickling fiend, so you'll find all sorts of unusual things pickled in all sorts of unusual pickling mixes.

                    1. A bunch of us Alfa Club folks did an informal gathering at the Burbank Porto's one Saturday following a get-together at the Autobooks bookstore down the street. Even as jammed as it was, we had no problem getting adjacent tables, and the self-service ordering meant we didn't have to figure out how to divvy up the tab. Many of the group - it's heavy on OC residents - had never been there before, or even heard of it, but had been seduced by the Porto's pastries which the bookstore gives away on Saturday mornings. The sandwiches and potato balls were huge hits.