Laleh Bakery – North Vancouver, BC

Laleh Bakery
130 W15th St
North Vancouver, BC
(604) 986-6364

North Vancouver’s Laleh Bakery specializes in Persian cookies that you serve to accompany traditional afternoon tea. These melt-in-your-mouth treats pair well with tea drinking. They come in a variety of textures that complement the ritual – often slightly dry, flakey, and grainy – with crunchy punctuation provided by walnuts, or pistachios. Some are sticky sweet, or are covered in powdered sugar.

Butter and semolina lend their richness, and the subtle flavour of cardamon or rosewater permeate many of these confections. Date and fig jams are used as spreads sandwiched between cookie rounds or as fillings. Preserves such as apricot, or berry jam serve to fill thumbprint indentations.

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Leonard’s Bakery – Honolulu, HI

Leonard’s Bakery
933 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI
(808) 737-5591

The story of this local Hawaiian icon weaves through a touching tale of immigration from far away lands in the late-19th century, family ties, hard work, and the origins of how this popular Portuguese confection came to the Islands. I always love hearing the background of ethnic foods/restaurants transplanted to other countries.

Leonard’s bake shop required a larger sized, modern facility in the late 1950’s, and has been in their current location on Kapahulu Avenue ever since.  It clearly has that era’s old school feel to it, from the moment you see the overhanging rafter with a pair of benches to sit on to enjoy your purchases inside, if you’re lucky.  The parking lot can get busy as well, and I even witnessed a fender bender between two cars that were jostling to use one spot.

The L-shaped counter where you place your order with the staff is filled with various baked goods, but I think most people are here for the Malasadas.   These deep fried, doughy balls of goodness coated in sugar are obviously not for the health conscious among us.

In general, Malasadas don’t have that distinct hole in the middle like doughnuts do, but some do have fillings (at Leonard’s they had custard, chocolate and coconut).  As pictured in one of the signs on the counter, this month’s special was Lilikoi (a tart-tasting grapefruit/passion fruit native to many parts of Latin America, areas in the Pacific and even Africa).

As they are freshly made in the back, once you give your order, they come out boxed and ready to go.  I’d recommend you get a few of each type, those dusted with white sugar, cinnamon sugar, and some with the fillings, to get a taste of each type available.

I think this is a growing trend, mainly to increase revenues from other sources when a food brand establishes itself, and Leonard’s also had peripheral goods for sale, including t-shirts.  There was one design my friend liked, but unfortunately they were out of his size.

Without a space to enjoy our bounty, our group walked down the street back towards Waikiki, and found the air conditioned comforts of a seating area within a Safeway store.  The aroma emerging from the open boxes flooded the space and we got the attention of several neighbors, who no doubt knew what we had.

The light but slightly crispy exterior and the fluffy inside was still quite warm when I bit into my first plain Malasada.  The texture was not as dense as I thought, which made for eating more than one in a single sitting quite easy.  I found the custard-filled variety equally as pleasing, and the slight coolness of the filling provided a contrast to the warmth of the dough.  Oh, and the Lilikoi one we sampled, was pretty good too.  I think combined with my tasting of Lilikoi mustard at Puka Dog, I’ve become quite the fan of this exotic fruit.

Leonard's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Café Gelato – Las Vegas, NV

Café Gelato (Ice Cream & Sweets)
@ Bellagio Las Vegas
3600 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV
1 888 987 6667

Café Gelato (Bellagio) on Urbanspoon

You’d think that in December in Las Vegas, one would probably avoid cold sweets, especially when we actually had snow in the city – a rare occurrence for Sin City. But after a lot of walking around in heated buildings, something cool was highly sought after. Café Gelato with its large glass display case showing an assortment of tantalizing gelato flavors, appeared like an oasis in the massive Bellagio hotel.

I have to admit, ice cream and gelato are probably my most favorite dessert. As bad as it is for you, I have a hard time controlling my cravings when it comes to this stuff. I even have a bad memory of attempting (and finishing) the legendary “4×4” at Baskin Robbins back in the day – which included four scoops and four toppings in one single serving. So I surprised myself by just asking for a single scoop ($4.75) of the refreshingly cool mango flavor.

For me, the balance of just how soft gelato is makes a big difference to me. Too soft and it reminds me of a slightly runny milkshake, too hard and its just ice cream. Thankfully Café Gelato had it down pat. Still solid enough that it wasn’t like soft serve ice cream, and a strong intense natural flavor that reminded me of the ripe mango fruits that I have eaten in places like southern India and Thailand this past year. Despite its appearance, the single serving cup was more than enough due to the richness and density of the gelato. Either that or I am slowing down in my ice treats consumption as I get older – there is no way I could even face that 4×4 today.

The Raspberry Brownie ($6.00) was pleasantly not overwhelmingly sweet as if often the case. Again, as with gelato, I am a bit fussy when it comes to how “thick” brownies are. Here, it was pretty good in terms of that contrast between the sticky moist goodness of the inside and the crumbly exterior. For those who don’t like their brownie way too sugary, this is a good option.

Being that it is Vegas and in one of the more expensive casino hotels, the price point was a big high. The small latte I had also went for a generous $5.50, making me think I should have gotten my caffeine fix at the better looking café across the hallway at Palio. But for those fortunate to have some winnings at the tables, I suppose it really doesn’t matter what you pay in this town.

Café Gelato (Bellagio) on Urbanspoon

Sweet Obsession – Vancouver, BC

Sweet Obsession Cakes & Pastries
2611 West 16th Avenue
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (604) 739 0555

Nestled in a quiet neighborhood along West 16th Avenue, Sweet Obsession has been in existence for well over a decade now and has a strong customer base that appreciates the delectable delights and creations of Pastry Chef Tracy Kadonoff. Associated with the next door Trafalgars Bistro (previously reviewed on Foodosophy), Sweet Obsession currently operates a sit down cafe as well as housing a retail counter for take-away orders. It is a popular destination for late night gatherings, and you will often find the tables inside (and in the summer on the sidewalk patio) all occupied even past 9pm.  I’ve been there several times now over the past few years to eat-in as well as to take out, and most recently took friends there for their first experience after a group dinner.

Although I am not a huge dessert lover in general, there are times that I do have a craving for something sweet after a meal, or as a snack along with some good hot tea.  Given the choice, I will more often than not pass on anything chocolaty, and go for something along the lines of a cheesecake.  I think part of this is due to my curiosity about how each cheesecake will taste in terms of its texture and sweetness level, as I’ve had it come in so many different forms.  I’ve also found over the years that the denser is it, the less I am inclined to eat a larger portion (some sort of natural weight control mechanism for me perhaps).  The slice of Mango Cheesecake that I received here was on the richer side, which made cutting through with a fork not very easy.  The hint of mango flavor provided a refreshing tone to it, but overall it was quite sweet and even this little piece was more than I could handle.  Thankfully I was there with friends, who also had their own piece from which I could sample, and who could help polish off my cheesecake.

The Pecan Cranberry Tart was an interesting balance between the pecan filling and the cranberry (more sweet than tart).  It did taste very nice, though again I could probably not finish a single piece by myself as the richness of flavor was very strong.  The bottom shell was of a thinness that I enjoy, in that it was not too crumbly and did not leave that unpleasant dry granular dust-like taste you get in some pastries.

The third item that we shared was the Black & White Mousse.  I really enjoyed the top white layer as it was a softer, creamier consistency than the bottom half, which was much thicker and a whole lot sweeter.  Mixing the two flavors was a must, but the more I took a few bites, the less I wanted to slide my fork down into the darker section.  This cake was the least popular among our table.

The verdict?

Sweet Obsession fills a nice little niche as a neighborhood cafe, in a comfortable setting with plenty of dessert choices to enjoy.  It can get a bit hectic inside with both cafe diners and those just looking to take a piece/cake home as the floorspace is not that large.  As well, finding a free table at times is a challenge due to the popularity of the place.  The close proximity of the seating arrangements reminded me of coffee cafes in Asia.  However, on the right night, regardless of season, you will find it to be a pleasant place to meet with a friend or just sit and enjoy a book over a cup of coffee and a slice of dessert.  Who knows, it might just become your own little obsession.

Before we left, I quickly browsed the counter that featured an assortment of other food items.  This bag of mixed granola caught my attention, as I’d been looking for a cereal replacement that would interest me in the morning.  The price tag was a bit higher than it should be I thought, but nonetheless I purchased one and have enjoyed a few breakfasts with it since.

Sweet Obsession Cakes & Pastries on Urbanspoon