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Entries in Dessert (7)


East Side Bake Shop, Mammoth Lakes

The East Side Bake Shop @esidebakeshop is closer to Crowley Lake than Mammoth Lakes, despite the address.

I know how to get to the East Side Bake Shop...take the McGee Creek exit on Highway 395 and take an immediate left on the Crowley Lake frontage road and it's on your left hand side of the road...where all the cars are parked.

To be perfectly honest, we stumbled upon the bake shop after doing some late afternoon activities on BLM land nearby.

I'm always on the quest for baked goods, pies, crumbles and scones tend to top the list for me. The Great Basin Bakery in Bishop is one of the better, albeit, less famous bakeries on the East Side. Schaat's in Mammoth and Bishop are the big bakeries on and off Highway 395.

The East Side Bake Shop is only a couple months new, but the quality speaks to someone baking a little longer than a couple months.

I felt immediately relaxed and at home inside the Bake Shop. The light was perfect, the log cabin feel, rustic; the smell of freshly baked goods permeated the room. A Siren Song of baked goods and savory treats...

The peach and strawberry crumble, fresh out of the oven was my immediate choice. My brother, looking for something more substantial, chose the quiche. My father, smartly chose the fresh fig bar.

My crumble was still warm when served in my deep, white bowl. I seriously thought twice about the dollup of whipped cream placed on top of my fruit dessert; almost wondering if I had fruit served with my whipped cream. Wonderfully satisfying crumble, not too sweet, hinted with spice, but only to accent the fruit. Delicious.

To test if the baker spices her baked goods similarly, I tried my Dad's fig bar. Totally different spice profile. A hearty fresh fig bar, the sweetness was more pronounced than my crumble, but balanced. I easily could have eaten one or taken one for later consumption.

My brother's quiche, the savory item for the afternoon, was equally well balanced. The salt profile was good and the eggs weren't overcooked. My brother and I tend to cook frittata 99 times out of 100, simply because we don't want to make a pie crust, but the same principles apply to both frittata and quiche, don't dry out the eggs and season more than you think.

Based upon my first experience at the Bake Shop, I went back again for a sample of two different scones, apricot and pecan spice.

The apricot, I snacked on during my drive from Mammoth over Tioga Pass and through Yosemite Valley back to Fresno. Scone two, the pecan spice, I ate for breakfast the next morning. Both scones had a crumble to them, not overly dense or "cake-like". Scones should have a certain lightness; credit to anyone who can bake at altitude.

I can say with confidence and ease that the East Side Bake Shop is one of the best bakeries on Highway 395 and worth the drive from Mammoth Lakes to grab breakfast or a mid afternoon snack. 

Truly a great bakery.

East Side Bake Shop on Urbanspoon


Pie in the Sky Cafe, Rock Creek

I only had three choices at 2:30 in the afternoon, Chocolate Pecan, Rhubarb, and Banana Cream pie. All the other fruit pies were sold out. Pie in the Sky starts selling pies at 10:30 am until they sell out and they sell out every day. I chose Chocolate Pecan.

I love math, so let’s do some. Pie in the Sky is open from June to October selling roughly 30 Pies a day, 7 days a week all Summer Long. So, 150 days multiplied by 30 pies a day…4500 Pies a season! Wow!

I spoke with Sue briefly about business. They’ve curtailed breakfast to simply pancakes and bacon every day. Lunch is composed of some burgers with chips. Pies drive business at Pie in the Sky. The cheapest slice of pie is $7.50. The cheapest whole pie is $40. Sounds like business is good.

And the Chocolate Pecan pie tastes good too. The crust is flakey, the pie filling is sweetened nicely, and my pie was just slightly warmed. A generous dollop of cream is also applied to each slice of pie.

A wonderful reward after hiking up the 12,000 Mono Pass Trail, high atop the Eastern Sierra. Cell phones don’t work here and we’re all better for it.

Pie in the Sky Cafe (at Rock Creek Lakes Resort) on Urbanspoon


Valle D’brume, Temecula

Only my second trip to Temecula and I found Valle D’brume, a higher-end bakery. The croissant was outstanding, simply outstanding. The apple Danish was also wonderful with just a hint of pastry cream attaching the apples to the pastry.

I can go on and on about how the croissant was brilliant in every way, but if you’ve never had a freshly baked croissant from a bakery in France or properly cooked in the Bay Area, you’ll miss the whole point of the review. I don’t have to review it. For those that haven’t had a perfect croissant, I’m sorry.


Fresnans may soon have the opportunity to eat properly prepared and freshly baked croissant’s at Café Corazon soon. If even half the effort of making a making a fresh cup of coffee goes into baking these little French doughballs, the results should be better than anything in Fresno, any more effort should bring the pastry to Big City standards.


The other thing I’m sad about, somehow my Jedi senses tell me, Valle  D’brume won’t make it in this shopping center. For my Fresno and Bay Area readers, think about RiverPark or a multi-plex mall in Dublin, and putting a craft bakery in there next to the Panera and other chains. The independent won’t make it. Each of the perfect little dough balls is only $2. Panera charges that for tops of day old muffins for Christ’s sake.


Driving through both Palmdale and Temecula are perfect examples of mega-mall and franchise hell. I hope for the best at Valle D’brume, but I’m too much of a realist to believe that even the most angelic of bakeries can survive very long in hell.

Vallee D'brume on Urbanspoon


Guilty Pleasure, Bingo Doughnuts

I happen to love doughnuts. I’d never made doughnuts from scratch until I went to Italy and made bombolini. However, I do remember making phony doughnuts when I was a kid. Basically, you buy some Grands biscuits or some other vacuum packed biscuit dough, punch a hole in the middle and fry the ring in vegetable oil. A few minutes later, you have little dough balls packed with fat and sugar. Oh, yah! 

Doughnuts from a doughnut shop are far more ‘cakey’ than the vacuumed packed fried biscuit dough from my youth. Well made glazed doughnuts are a thing of beauty to me. It’s up there with vanilla ice cream and a bar of dark chocolate, simple goodness, without pretension. Be it the foodie elite or a 6 year old child, doughnuts are something wholesome and good. 

Bingo Doughnuts at 2am on a Saturday night were wholesome and good. They were fresh. They looked perfect. They were golden brown and slightly shiny from glaze. I’d almost forgotten about grubbing on doughnuts at 2am. I’ve been thinking about tacos or pho recently and forgotten about this late-night classic. The cliché of cops eating doughnuts and drinking coffee on the graveyard shift is engrained in our culture, but it totally slipped my mind. Somewhere in my foodie haze of tacos, I’d forgotten about an American Classic.

I’m happy that doughnuts are back on my late-night radar.

Bingo Doughnuts on Urbanspoon

Cosmopolitan Bar and Grill, Downtown Fresno

I’ve never been to The Cosmopolitan Bar and Grill, known lovingly in Fresno as Cosmo’s. It’s been around since 1933 and is a staple in Downtown Fresno. Let’s be honest, most people remember exactly how to get here, not because it’s downtown, but because it’s across the street from Wildcat Adult Entertainment, a burr in the saddle of Fresno for a long time.

Here’s how the conversation goes,

“Where is Cosmo’s again? I know it’s downtown, but I forget where exactly.”

“You know, the building that’s painted purple downtown, the porno shop on the corner there off of G Street and Fresno …across the street is Cosmo’s.”

“Oh right, G Street. Isn’t The Basque Hotel around there too?”

“The Basque is around the corner across from the empty lot.  Just go to the porno shop and you can’t miss Cosmo’s, it’s across the street.”

Some people navigate by streets. Some navigate by landmarks.

Now that we have our directions clear, I was out to dinner with my cousins, well established eaters and patrons of legendary Cosmo’s. No, I didn't bring my camera or cell phone inside to take pictures, I was there with friends and family and didn't want to act like "the food critic" with a camera. My Master Jedi Powers allow me to make mental notes on the food without visual aides when necessary, this was one of those times where The Force guides my review (and a good visual memory).

We did the full set up, apps, mains, and dessert. Simple appetizers of the ubiquitous fried calamari (I think it’s CA law now that eating establishments must have fried calamari on the menu) and shrimp as well as a new item on the menu, clam pizza. As for the calamari and shrimp, the deep fry job was done properly. The calamari was tender and well seasoned. The shrimps were still moist inside the breading that coated them was crispy.  Tartar and cocktail sauce were provided, I didn't ask if they were house made. No complaints.

The pizza on the other hand, well, it fell short. It was labeled a clam pizza, but I couldn’t taste clams and all I saw on the pie were peppers and tomatoes. One person claimed there were clams, but I found no evidence to prove their claim on my pizza. As for the crust, I was left wanting.

Next up were the mains. As standard procedure, when evaluating many a restaurant, I will automatically order the rib-eye.  The Cosmo rib-eye comes with several choices of starch, which I usually don't order, but for evaluative purposes, I went with the rosemary mashed potato. Sticking with a Fresno tradition, soup or salad comes with main dishes; as it was a Friday, I ordered the Manhattan clam chowder (that’s the red one).

The chowder was more like a tomato soup with celery and clams, than a classic Manhattan chowder. Unlike the pizza, it had clams in it and was seasoned more with celery than anything else I could taste, other than the tomato broth. I finished my soup even though I have my internal issues as to what to call it. Tomato Soup with Clams? Minestrone with clams? Anyway, the soup was fine, just confusing to me.

The steak was presented well rested, properly seasoned and a perfect medium rare as ordered. I had absolutely no issue with the steak. In fact, there was nice flavor to the steak, a good crust, and solid seasoning. This was my expectation, well-crafted grilled beef.

I generally don’t order a starch with my steak, but since it was an option, I took my evaluative forkful of potato. Frankly, I don’t care for rosemary in my mash. And since I’m being a hater of infused mashed potatoes, I find the jalapeno mash potatoes at Fleming’s an outrage to serious wine drinkers. Please enjoy your Caymus Special Select with spicy jalapeno’s in you potatoes you jackass. Jalapeno’s are a palate killer, plain and simple. Rosemary can wreck a palate nearly as quickly in many circumstances, hence my avoidance of novelty mash potatoes. Cosmo's probably didn't have rosemary mash potatoes in 1933, just a guess. This dislike of novelty or Fresno Bedazzled Mash is a personal problem of mine, not Cosmo's. I often think Fresno likes "bedazzled" food. Similar to what I mentioned about Yosemite Ranch. I'm sure Cosmo's wouldn't do bedazzled mash if customers didn't like it or some sub-set requested it, but nothing and I mean nothing beats really well made old-fashioned mashed potatoes. Enough novelty mashed potato hating.

I did get a nibble of veal marsala from the opposite end of the table. Italian American  in style, I liked it. The flavors were bold and the veal wasn’t heavily breaded or pounded too thinly. With some simple pasta, that could have been a real winner as well. My Cousin MK got some huge lamb chops and I mean huge, double cut chops cooked right on medium rare plus. I could have easily swapped my steak for those.

I didn’t order dessert personally, but someone thought I’d be a good candidate (because I’m a glutton) to try the bread pudding.  The bread pudding was more like the top of the best apple pie you’ve ever tasted. It was ordered “crispy”, which meant nothing to me at the time, but obviously affected the flavor. The top of the bread, perfectly crisp and seasoned like an apple pie crust. The underside of the bread was wet and similar to pain perdu that I’ve had in French restaurants. The dessert made for a wonderful contrast in the mouth, crispy, sweet, a hint of spice, and mouthfilling. To me, besides the company at the table, it was the highlight of the night.

The moral of the Cosmo’s story (I did lead off with directions for a porno shop, so morals have to come in at some point)? Stick with the classics. It’s hard to go wrong with Fried Calamari, a Big Fat Steak (or Veal Marsala or Lamb Chops), and Bread Pudding. My gut says, you didn’t go to Cosmo’s for flourishes and nuance. My gut also says that in 1933, Cosmo’s didn’t have rosemary mash on the menu either, but probably full-O’butter mashed potatoes, which are 10 times better anyway. 

I’ll be back to Cosmo's and I know exactly how to get there’s around the corner from The Basque Hotel.

Cosmopolitan Tavern & Italian Grill on Urbanspoon