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I have a problem with Costco/La Brea Bakery bread

RicRios May 21, 2009 11:05 PM

What I'm about to say regards only the Costco at Lincoln & Washington. No idea if a similar phenomenon affects other Costco facilities.

I used to like Costco/LBB bread. Great taste, texture, price. In particular, the bag of two baguettes. But that was some time ago.

For the last couple months or so, LBB/Costco bread smells very strongly like ... cake.
Problem is, whenever I'm looking for bread, I mean bread.
Not the (falsely attributed) Marie Antoinette solution, no brioche, no cake. Just bread.
And the Costco (again, Washington & Lincoln) stuff borders the inedible category, very strong sweety cakey smell & even sometimes sugary taste.

Here's my theory:
1) LBB sells the dough to Costco ( plus royalties, I guess, to use their label ).
2) Costco bakes it on demand as the day goes by.
3) Somehow (savings? ) they started using same oven not only for bread but also for all their other bakery items.
4) Not only same oven, but most probably everything is cooked in one and the same batch.

If anybody is in the know, please do tell.

( And no, I haven't sent them a letter; I have no more stamina to go over vacuous polite corporate BS)

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  1. monku RE: RicRios May 22, 2009 05:45 AM

    Never had that problem and I buy the LBB baquettes quite often at the Costco's in Los Feliz and Alhambra.
    I don't think they'd be foolish enough to bake cakes and bread at the same time.

    Next time you're at that Costco you should run it by someone in the bakery department. Could be someone not following procedures.

    1. BubblyOne RE: RicRios May 22, 2009 11:27 AM

      You might try the frozen La Brea rolls and baquettes. They are REALLY good for frozen and now come in several varieties/flavors. I found them at Gelson's, but I'm sure they must be elsewhere.

      1. Arthur RE: RicRios May 22, 2009 01:38 PM

        The store on Lincoln and Washington is my go-to Costco. I buy La Brea Bakery breads every time I shop there, which is about once every two weeks. I've never experienced the OP's problem.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Arthur
          bulavinaka RE: Arthur May 22, 2009 01:45 PM

          I just picked up a six-pack of the demis and sampled one - it seems fine. I took a sniff of the baguettes while I was there, and they seemed fine, though the surrounding smells other baked goods are pronounced.

          1. re: bulavinaka
            Arthur RE: bulavinaka May 24, 2009 02:21 PM

            "I took a sniff of the baguettes while I was there, and they seemed fine, though the surrounding smells other baked goods are pronounced."

            That area of the store is an enormous bakery. What else should it smell like?

            1. re: Arthur
              bulavinaka RE: Arthur May 24, 2009 02:53 PM

              Bread "breathes." Like just about everything on this planet, it's constantly trying to achieve a state of equilibrium with its surroundings. Because of its relatively low mass/volume ratio and its moisture content, it is very susceptible to a high rate of change, based on its surrounding environment. I don't know if you've ever done this, but it's common knowledge to place a piece of white bread along with fresh soft-textured cookies inside of a closed paper bag to keep the cookies that way. After a day, the bread smells and sort of tastes like the cookies...

              1. re: bulavinaka
                Arthur RE: bulavinaka May 24, 2009 03:20 PM

                bulavinaka, that's all true and genuinely interesting, but it also conveys nothing unique about the OP's claim of what I'll call "consistent taste contamination" at this particular Costco. Based on your nicely florid analysis, _all_ bakery breads (especially those in everyday bakery display cases) are sold in an environment where they should end up smelling and tasting like cake and cookies. if anything, the La Brea Bakery breads at Costco would be far less susceptible to this because they are quickly bagged and put on the open-air shelves for purchase and quick turnover.

                1. re: Arthur
                  bulavinaka RE: Arthur May 24, 2009 03:38 PM

                  Hi Arthur, I think asserting that all the breads would be cross-contaminated might be a stretch. But I could easily see where bread fresh out of the oven that is set down and cooling off directly next to some other baked items doing the same might pick up the aromas/tastes of their "next door neighbors." The breads immediately adjacent to other products could be next to each other for a good hour, probably on racks. Racks of bread next to racks of cookies, cakes, whatever. The loaves on the edge of the trays would be the ones of concern. But what would beat all odds in my book is the OP picking up these particular samples of the huge batches on each visit.

        2. alkylyou RE: RicRios May 24, 2009 10:55 AM

          i've never bought lbb from this costco, but for all the times i've been there (which is a lot since i just graduated from loyola marymount down the street), i've always thought that it was one of the weaker costco stores.
          they have the highest sales per square foot of any costco and it shows.
          that place is a madhouse at all times.
          i've always had a feeling they cut corners somewhere, so it would make sense they're getting lazy on the bread.

          4 Replies
          1. re: alkylyou
            Arthur RE: alkylyou May 24, 2009 02:17 PM

            As I said above, I shop at that store all the time. But I've also shopped at almost every other Costco in the Los Angeles area as well. From my not-insubstantial experience, I've seen that this Costco is no more of a "madhouse" than the others, and I think it's actually one of the best in town.

            Moreover, your claim that it has "the highest sales per square foot of any costco" (according to who?) inherently challenges every aspect of your assertion that it is "one of the weaker costco stores." And I've never seen a shred of evidence that they cut corners anywhere - unlike, say, the Van Nuys store, which did not provide paper shopping bags when other locations did, and was the first in the area to jump at the chance to replace Hebrew National hot dogs at its food court with the much cheaper, non-kosher Kirkland brand. (BTW, the alleged corner-cutting Lincoln & Washington Costco's food court is one of the few that still sells Hebrew Nationals.)

            You even admit that you have never bought La Brea Bakery breads from this Costco. So the fact that you don't enjoy shopping at this location is perfectly fine, but your gut feelings about the bread (and the store) are wholly and pretty wildly unsubstantiated by any of the facts you've presented.

            1. re: Arthur
              Servorg RE: Arthur May 24, 2009 02:23 PM

              We have taken to shopping at the MDR Costco on Monday nights (and then hitting In & Out for dinner). Very quiet usually (and where I don't feel like I'm constantly playing chicken with out of control/suicidal cart drivers like it is on any Sunday afternoon).

              1. re: Servorg
                Jase RE: Servorg May 27, 2009 08:02 PM

                SHHHHH!!!! Mon. Tue and Wed night after 7 is the perfect time to get gas, then hit Costco and also have time to get a hot dog or a burger at In and Out.

                1. re: Jase
                  wilafur RE: Jase May 28, 2009 10:22 AM

                  damn, costco on weds was awesome. too bad traffic sucked so bad with obama being in town and all.

          2. c
            Cinnamon RE: RicRios May 24, 2009 03:27 PM

            How's the texture -does it taste alright? Wondering what the odds are that some mislabeled cake flour got involved vs. the more glutinous bread flour.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Cinnamon
              RicRios RE: Cinnamon May 24, 2009 09:47 PM

              Texture is OK.
              It seems to me the cross-contamination is mostly smell. Which in turn affects taste, as every wino knows well.

              BTW, I did send an email to LBB about this issue. If I hear back I'll post.

              1. re: RicRios
                Cinnamon RE: RicRios May 24, 2009 10:27 PM

                Well maybe it's time we set up a Chow-train for someone to go to La Brea bakery and put us all on their delivery route. I want the dark pumpernickel.

                You know, I don't think L.A. is much of a bread town.

                1. re: Cinnamon
                  bulavinaka RE: Cinnamon May 25, 2009 12:07 AM

                  It's getting there - think back 20 years ago...

                2. re: RicRios
                  RicRios RE: RicRios May 27, 2009 02:35 PM

                  Here's LBB's response:

                  I refer to the problem you reported regarding the La Brea Bakery products sold at Costco Culver City (13463 Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey, CA 90292). Let me take this opportunity to thank you for the time you have taken in contacting us and the opportunity you have afforded us to investigate this incident.

                  Quality is our main priority here at La Brea Bakery and we are very concerned that a customer would have cause to be dissatisfied with a product. Very strict Quality Control procedures are in place in the manufacturing facility and every effort is made to ensure that our products reach each customer in optimum condition. This is a philosophy that needs to be shared by the retailers further handling and selling our product.

                  La Brea Bakery has clear baking, storage, display and overall product handling instructions that need to be adhered to by all retailers. The retailer’s practices should not affect our product’s integrity and should not bring about undesirable alterations to the its sensory characteristics. In addition product safety should not be compromised in any case. As a result of this incident I have asked our field sales team to instruct their retail customers to be extra vigilant when handling our products to ensure such an incident does not recur. In particular I have also requested our local sales technician to visit this store when next in the area and review the procedures in place.

                  We apologize for the inconvenience this incident has caused you and are very grateful to you for taking the time and trouble to bring this to our attention as it can only help to improve the service we provide. Please send your full street address if you wish to receive coupons.

                  Please feel free to contact us if you have questions and please let us know if the problem persists.

                  Assuring you of our best intentions at all times.

                  Yours sincerely,

                  Mary Jeanne Kougioumtzidis

              2. OC Mutt RE: RicRios May 24, 2009 06:13 PM

                Their "Noah's Bagels" are lousy as well.

                2 Replies
                1. re: OC Mutt
                  ozhead RE: OC Mutt May 27, 2009 03:05 PM

                  ALL Noah's bagels are lousy. Except maybe as throw pillows.

                  1. re: OC Mutt
                    Arthur RE: OC Mutt May 30, 2009 12:07 PM

                    As a born-and-bred ex-New Yorker, I don't think the Noah's Bagels baked at Costco are anywhere near that bad. They're not sensational, but they certainly qualify as average/above average.

                    If you compare Costco's bagels to those from the best bagel shops (which nowadays charge more than $1.25 per bagel), then yes, Costco's are inferior. But that's clearly an inappropriate comparison. A better one would be to all supermarket bagels (e.g., Lender's, Thomas', Sara Lee, Western, or from the supermarkets' own bakeries), a contest that Costco's bagels wins by a torrential landslide. And at $4.99 for a dozen, they are the best bagel bargain to be found anywhere in Los Angeles.

                  2. r
                    RicRios RE: RicRios Jun 12, 2009 08:35 AM

                    Update June 12:

                    Lo and behold!

                    Yesterday, all LBB bread was neatly arranged on an entirely separate table, far away from all other bakery items. And it did taste like ... bread. No smell and/or sweet obnoxious contamination.

                    I attribute this to a variety of factors. In decreasing order of PP (plausibility power):

                    a) Pure chance ( PP 95% )
                    b) More than one customer complained ( PP 4.9 % )
                    c) If one customer complains they ( Who? LBB? Costco? Both? ) listen ( PP 0.1% )

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: RicRios
                      Arthur RE: RicRios Jun 12, 2009 10:01 AM

                      ... or what all the evidence suggests is the most likely answer:

                      d) Your overactive imagination ( PP 99% )

                      Ric, again, I've been going to that Costco for years, and I can attest that the LBB breads have always been on a separate, well-ventilated table away from all the sweeter, cakey baked goods - i.e., they are much more segregated than you'd find in a typical bakery. The department may have recently moved the bread a bit farther away simply because management seems to be constantly rearranging goods throughout the store. Sorry, but nobody else on this page who has shopped at that location has backed up your claim, and I maintain that it is baseless and the product of some kind of sensory glitch.

                      1. re: Arthur
                        Wolfgang RE: Arthur Jun 12, 2009 11:57 AM

                        I find the costco LBB french baguettes to be on a whole sweeter than they used to be. They're better than other grocery store baguettes, but they've lost any kind of flavour. Even if it's not sourdough, I want a little bitterness.
                        I can see how one might think the other sweets have contaminated the baguettes.
                        I don't find the whole grain loaf to be sweeter, though.
                        I haven't tried the other offerings.

                    2. t
                      tcakes38 RE: RicRios Oct 12, 2010 06:52 PM

                      Costco does not bake other product when baking the LLB, please talk to the bakery manager. He can help you understand Par-Breads

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