Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Great Expectations

My mom had, and I assume she still does, a total fear of driving on the freeway. She just wouldn't do it, under any circumstances and I suppose it was just as well. When I was growing up, our family lived in the Valley Hi neighborhood of South Sacramento, just off of Mack Road & Center Parkway. My dad worked for the state and would take the bus in the morning to get to work. Instead of taking the bus home, my mom would pack my brother and sister and I into the family vehicle and drive downtown to pick him up. Instead of hopping on the Highway 99 (which would have made sense, going against traffic at that time of day), we would take Franklin Boulevard all the way from South Sac to my dad's office downtown. Traffic being how it was heading back south, we'd take Franklin Boulevard back home- the scenic route past the Campbell Soup factory bellowing the smells of tomato soup, the long since gone Cal Worthington Chevrolet, and the old Southgate Plaza (which did make sense considering the bumper-to-bumper action on southbound 99 at 5 pm). The ride was such a chore and many evenings my mom would have to cope with 3 rambunctious, fighting siblings who wanted to be anywhere but stuffed in the back of a car driving from South Sac to Downtown and back.

Some days, though, were different...

On those once-a-week-treat-days (usually fridays) we'd stop at La Esperanza Bakery (Esperanza translates to Hope or Expectation) on the way home for glorious Pan Dulce...which the three of us would promptly stuff our faces with, keeping the peace in the back seat until we got home.

So unassuming & non-descript

Look for this sign just north of Fruitridge...And be very afraid of La Pantera Club (ask Chris Macias)

Pan dulce is sweet bread, basically pastries- stuff to have with coffee in the morning or for dessert after dinner. In and of itself, it's no big deal. The French have their croissants. The Italians have their cannolis. The Germans have their strudel. Breakfast pastries are neither new nor earth shattering...But let me ask you this?

When is the last time you actually had a warm pastery that literally just came out of the oven?

And then I will follow up with question #2, supplemental:

How much did you pay at Starbucks for that preservative filled, dead inside pastry?

Don't answer yet...

Two things hit you when you walk into La Esperanza: The temperature and the smell. The minute you enter, your nostrils are filled with the smell of sweet, sticky dough. It's seriously intoxicating and can put you in a little state of bliss that is enhanced by the warmth emanating from the ovens inside, hidden behind the thin partitions separating the retail area from the baking area where spanish radio blasts as the bakers get their sweet groove on (last time I was there, I seriously heard a version of Billy Joel's Piano Man in spanish). Get there on a weekend morning and you find yourself waiting in line, surrounded by families from the nearby neighborhoods speaking spanish, catching up on the latest gossip, patiently shuffling towards the front of the line.

You want yummy goodness? You gotta wait!

Need a Hannah Montana piƱata?

When you reach the head of the line, you are confronted with all sorts of colors, shapes, and sizes of cooked-within-the-hour pastries. It's sometimes overwhelming.

As you can see, I got there between batches out of the oven...

On this particular day I experienced a slight fail. Normally I buy a bunch of Empanadas con Crema, which are thin turnovers coated with fine sugar on the outside and filled with a heavenly custard cream. Seriously, my favorite sweet in the world. This day, I had to settle for my second favorite. They're called ojos (eyes). They are a sort of firm dense yellowcakeish pastry covered with a berry glaze and coconut shavings, filled with a heavier slathering of the berry glaze.

Mine eyes have seen the light!

I ordered five of those bad girls, fresh out of the oven and paid less than $5!

(Feel free to answer those two previous questions now)

So I'm set with coffee treats for the rest of my weekend and head over to Espresso Metro to read a book and drink a latte....but I am tempted to buy one of these:

No, you're not having a weird acid flashback from Catholic School

or some of these...

Got Salsa?

Next time you want warm pastries, make the effort & get to the 'hood early in the morning. You will never want to have "regular" pastries with your coffee, ever again...ever

La Esperanza Bakery is located at 5044 Franklin Boulevard...

1 comment:

  1. Aaron, Keep it up! You write very well and BTW I love those candles. I have the Virgin Mary in our living room right now. Cindy