85 C Bakery & Cafe Opens in Koreatown

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Last week 85°C Bakery Cafe opened on Wilshire Blvd., to an enthusiastic crowd of locals, business people and some tourists. As I approached the new bakery cafe, I noticed a line of fans winding around the corner. There are almost 1000 worldwide.

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The idea of 85°C Bakery Cafe began as Taiwanese businessman Wu Cheng-Hsueh was having coffee with his wife. He wanted to open a bakery cafe that offered a variety of coffee and teas, plus sweet and savory breads for a low price.

When he opened his first shop Taipei in 2004, he named it 85 °C, which is 185 °F, the optimal temperature to serve and drink coffee. It became a hit and he started opening more cafes throughout Asia.

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Since Taiwanese are known for sprinkling salt on their fruit to enhance the sweetness, Wu decided to try this with coffee. It became an overnight sensation to perk-up coffee with sea salt and whipped cream. 85°C has surpassed Starbucks to become the biggest coffee chain in Taiwan, with 325 stores in Taiwan and expanding into China, Australia and the U.S. Wu persuaded a Guatemalan supplier to sell him virtually all its coffee beans. He hired three Taiwanese master chefs Henry Cheng, Chili Yin and Li Che Chen to create recipes to prepare, bake and decorate beautiful pastries and cakes for his guests.

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The first store to open in the United States was in Irvine, CA in 2009. The iconic sea salt coffee beverages sealed with a clear plastic lid was a huge hit. Since then over 30 other cafes have opened in the United States.

Recently, I was invited to the new Koreatown cafe. At the entrance I noticed a stack of white plastic trays, and perfectly cut pieces of paper to place on top of your tray. Guests pick up white plastic tongs, and explore the glass cases and center islands filled with 60 types of Asian and European pastries, beautifully decorated cakes and baked goods.

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While filling my tray, I admired marble taro bread, blueberry cream cheese sweet bread, chocolate buns, walnut raisin bread, strawberry cream cakes, fresh fruit tarts, and the pretty mango crème brulee. Looking at the prices, I selected a few extra items, because it’s a better value than other bakeries in town. I liked when a staff member walked out of the kitchen shouting,”Fresh Bread.” Everyone flocked over to see what is fresh and warm.

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Taking my tray up to the register counter, it’s time to order a beverage from the coffee and tea bar before paying. I knew I had to try one of the iced sea salt coffees, so I ordered that and an unsweetened Jasmine green tea. My iced sea salt coffee arrived in a colorful layer of ice, dark brown coffee, and a foamy sweet cream rising to the top that was dazzled with sea salt. “The cream is full fat, because health experts say full fat is easier for your body to digest and it offers such a wonderful creaminess.” There is sugar sprinkled on top, but you can omit that. Guests shake the colorful sweet and slightly salty layers to be blended together before sticking a thick straw into the tall plastic cup. The pleasing and smooth rich taste offers a delightful zing with a hint of salt.

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Soon 85°C Bakery Café will open it’s 1000 eatery in Texas.  The bakery also has an extensive array of pre-made and made-to-order layer and roll cakes for birthdays or other special occasion. Most are under $30 a cake.

The Koreatown location is open Monday -Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday & Saturday from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m., Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. 3377 Wilshire Blvd, Unit 101, 102A, 102B, Los Angeles, CA 90010 (213)388-8585.

See The Pride during Pride Month – June 2017

A group of journalists were invited to meet director Michael Arden and the cast of The Pride at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. I learned from Artistic Director Paul Crewes that previews begin on June 8 and Opening Night is June 14.

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Director Michael Arden with Neil Bledsoe, Jessica Collins, Augustus Prew, and Matthew Wilkas

What’s unique about The Pride is that it takes place in both 1958 and 2008, as it examines the changing attitudes of sexuality over a period of 50 years. Sitting on stools, Arden and actors Neil Bledsoe, Augustus Prew, Jessica Collins and Matthew Wilkas shared with us their introduction to The Pride, the casting and rehearsal process. Here’s what I learned:

When Was Your First Encounter With The Play:

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Augustus Phew

Augustus: I saw this play in London and it was a kismet experience for me. I went to a nearby bar about one hour before seeing The Pride. I started talking to someone at the bar who turned out to be playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell. Then I saw the play and it put all of my feelings about being gay into perspective. Nuisances whispered in my ear as a I watched the play unfold. Now I have a new appreciation of the play and want to give those whispers back to others.

Neil: I heard about The Pride while in New York and had friends tell me, “This one thing happens…” yet no one would tell me what it was. I didn’t get to see the beauty and power of the play in New York, yet when I read the script in LA, I said “Wow, I get it.” I really wanted to do this play.

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Neil Bledsoe

Jessica: It’s wonderful to be the only lady in the play.

What do you hope the audience gets from the play, especially during PRIDE Month:

Jessica: This play offers universal appeal with its writing. It’s so human and moving. I hope it creates more empathy to homosexuals.

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Jessica Collins

Augustus: This play is a coming to terms with oneself. It’s about the restrictions we place on ourselves and the prejudice we feel. I feel its personally enriching and helps one have the courage to stand up and be who you are.

Wilkas: When the play was in New York, critics said, “Beautiful, well written, yet not relevant.” This play is so ahead of its time. It’s poignant, relatable and people will be moved by it.

How is this play different than the London production?

Paul: It’s the second production Michael has directed this season at The Wallis, his first was the successful Merrily We Roll Along. When I programmed this into the Wallis 2017 schedule, I phoned Michael Arden in Soho to direct this piece. I was fascinated with the time lapse of the 50s and what has changed since it debuted in London and what still needs to be changed. A lot has progressed, but some hasn’t yet.

Michael: Prejudice is related to fear and we are living in a fearful time. This play is different because it’s an American cast and done in the round. This is the first time I have done a show in the round. The last few productions I have directed were visually enormous. In the round, the physical elements come from the actors and what they bring to the play. Everything vanishes, except the people. It allows actors to look at each other and gives the cast more freedom. I feel like an actors manager encouraging them in the process.

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Augustus: Michael directs this in a synchronistic way. He adds moments that give a unique tone. What you think the play is about isn’t…What it is about, more than any play is the dialogue. My character offers two different worlds. Decoding his thoughts has been amazing, overwhelming and not easy.

Neil: This play was written before the recession. Each character wears a specific mask that challenges the mind and vulnerability. In 2008 the masks are more open than in the 50s.

Jessica: My character has a mouthful of British language that is challenging. She takes sharp turns, morphing, and evolving. A scene is just not 3 notes, but 30. I play different characters in each time period. Each offer hope, empathy and certain qualities in both time periods.

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Director Michael Arden with the cast

What does The Pride mean?

Michael: The Pride of oneself. The honesty of what The Pride is for you. Each character examines their Pride.

Tickets are available for $40 to $75. Visit The Wallis or call (310)746-4000.

The Wallis is located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd. Beverly Hills, CA  90210.

 

 

Otium at The Broad

The last time my husband and I explored The Broad, we strolled over to the contemporary urban Otium restaurant designed by architect Osvaldo Maiozzi. With its striking box-like design, we peeked inside and admired the soaring ceiling and handmade glass pieces that resembled falling raindrops. The open elegant kitchen is near a long bar with floor-to-ceiling shelves stocked with bottles lined up like soldiers. Bartenders were climbing and pushing the tall, rolling ladder from side to side to grab bottles up near the top. It was lively and fun, so we made a note to come back another time for dinner.

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Grilled octopus is brightened with a squeeze of lemon and complemented with tzatziki spread. (photo by Jill Weinlein)

With tickets in hand to the opening night of “Jersey Boys” at the Ahmanson Theatre, we decided to make an impromptu visit to Otium for a pre-theater dinner. Without reservations, we were seated at a long communal table next to another couple from Manhattan Beach. It was their first time dining at Otium too, before seeing a show at the nearby Walt Disney Concert Hall.

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We told our server we had theatre tickets for the 8 p.m. show and needed to leave by 7:45 p.m. He assured us that he would do his best, and recommended a few dishes that could be prepared quickly.

The chef of Otium, Timothy Hollingsworth, was once the chef de cuisine at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, earning the distinctive James Beard Rising Star Chef award in 2010, so we were expecting a great meal.

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Even though we were dining indoors, it was near the outdoor patio, offering views of the 100-year-old olive trees gracing The Broad’s park-like plaza. Looking up, we gazed in wonder at the restaurant’s open mezzanine with a private dining area and vertical garden created by LA Urban Farms. Hollingsworth utilizes its herbs, vegetables and edible flowers to enhance each menu item.

The wine list offers more than 20 wines by the glass – some as much as $22 per glass – and an extensive offering of bottled wine. If you prefer to bring your own bottle, a $35 corkage fee applies.

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Freshly baked bread arranged in a cloverleaf pattern arrived in a mini cast-iron skillet glistening with butter, chopped chives, herbs and a sprinkling of sea salt.

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A plate of wood-fired octopus arrived next with a long tentacle sticking straight up saluting us. Hollingsworth combines octopus with a variety of spices, maybe a bay leaf, a pinch of thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. I’m sure he squeezed fresh lemon before and after grilling. The octopus was served on tzatziki spread with thinly sliced cucumber medallions and pickled red onion ribbons with a few arugula leaves offering a peppery enhancement.

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Another dish from the sea was the ceviche made with a combination of kanpachi (Amberjack or Japanese yellowfish), sliced squid, chopped green tomatoes, shrimp and avocado. A few squeezes of lime juice, chopped parsley, salt and thinly sliced aji peppers dazzled the fresh and chunky ceviche served in an artistic blue Irving Place Studios hand-thrown ceramic bowl.

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Avocado and grapefruit salad.

Our waiter recommended the falafel plate, with four deep-fried, ground chickpea balls placed on a puree of chickpea and eggplant with cucumber, Meyer lemon, parsley and micro greens. There wasn’t anything spectacular about this small mezze plate for $17. I’m unsure why our server singled it out, however his suggestion aboutthe grapefruit avocado salad was a winner, with ancient amaranth grains, thinly sliced radish, a sprinkling of sesame seeds and glaze of miso dressing.

Even though the service was friendly, our dishes took longer coming out of the kitchen than we had hoped. While apologizing repeatedly, our server inquired in the kitchen about my husband’s poached halibut several times, before finally bringing it out. At almost $40, it was a disappointing piece of bland fish, with an unmemorable Green Goddess glaze on top of a jardiniere of mixed vegetables and caramelized onions.

We paid our bill and ran to the theater as the lights were dimming. Fortunately, the show was better than our experience at Otium and the evening ended on a high note.

The restaurant is open for weekend brunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., lunch from Tuesday to Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., snacks Tuesday through Sunday from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and dinner nightly starting at 5:30 p.m. Closed on Mondays. $$$ 222 S. Hope St. (213)935-8500.

This review was also featured in the June 1, 2017 Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.