Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A sweet Sunday in Santa Monica

This was Sunday's theme.

On Sunday afternoon, I took the Big Blue Bus' Line 2 (just $0.35/ride with my student ID), to Santa Monica.  On Arizona Ave I saw Angelato, which is quite impressive for having over 100 flavors arranged in an attractive serpentine counter.  They do not allow pictures inside but do allow three samples per person, and I tried the German chocolate, spumone, and bacio (dark chocolate hazelnut).  The German chocolate was unremarkably good, the spumone was boring, and the bacio was kind of grainy, so instead I decided to pay tribute to summer and general palm-tree-containing environments with a scoop ($3.50) of the pina colada.

I think choosing an ice cream or gelato flavor may be similar to choosing a PhD lab: rotations (samples) in individual labs are advisable, no matter how reputable or impressive the institution as a whole may be.  If you choose a lab/flavor you haven't sampled it could certainly make you happy, but it could also leave you [surprisingly] disappointed.  Unfortunately, in this case the latter resulted; the pina colada gelato was somewhat watery/icy and also one-dimensionally sweet.  Oh well, foodie fails happen.  I shrugged it off, walked to the Pier, rented a bike and cruised along the beach for an hour.  Then I walked to Santa Monica Place and headed to its top level, which is all restaurants and includes a gourmet food court called The Market.

Right inside the entrance was a small stand for Gotta Have S'More.  Founder/proprietress Carmen described to me the various flavors of s'muffins, which are essentially a small muffin-shaped graham cracker crust enveloping and topped with chocolate, marshmallow, and sometimes caramel or peanut butter.  Single s'muffins are $2.95, and Carmen carefully packaged a chocolate caramel for me to take home.

Next, I found the stand for Aurelie: The Cookie Guru, who sells chocolate chip cookies and not much else.  This cookie is spectacular, especially when eaten warm (right after purchase): an evenly crisp edge, a luscious chewy interior with a near-perfect layer of chocolate throughout, and a large, flat, gooey chip on top.  Aurelie charges $3 for each cookie, which is also spectacularly expensive (and makes this the priciest cookie I've ever purchased).  I was far from pleased with that, as someone on a student budget, but at least a single one of these cookies provides a very satisfactory indulgence given their quality.  So if they all are consistently this good, then at least the pricing is arguably commensurate with much of Santa Monica....

At L'Artisan du Chocolat, which is not to be confused with the London-based Artisan du Chocolat, I perused the lovely array of truffles, macarons, and chocolate-dipped madeleines, sampled the coconut truffle, but didn't buy anything.

My last stop was N'ice Cream, which has a much smaller inventory than Angelato but, based on my taste test, is also much more consistent.  I tried the lemon champagne sorbet, hazelnut gelato, and coconut gelato, and had a hard time deciding before getting a single scoop ($3.50) of the refreshingly effervescent lemon champagne.  The friendly ladies behind the counter were quick to mention that the sorbets are 65 calories per scoop.

Later, after returning home, I followed Carmen's advice to warm up the s'muffin in the microwave.  Once warmed it was really fantastic: indeed, a richer and sultrier incarnation of a familiar dessert.

And with that, I wrapped up an excellently productive afternoon of sand, sun and sugar!