January 11, 2011

La Monarca Bakery, Santa Monica

La Monarca Bakery opened its newest location almost a month ago in Santa Monica at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Euclid Street. The other two bakeries are located in City of Commerce and Huntington Park. The bakery is named after the beautiful monarch butterflies that migrate thousands of miles each year to overwinter in Mexico. The vibrant orange almost golden color of the butterfly is well represented at the bakery. I was first introduced to La Monarca Bakery at the Taste of Mexico press conference last year and very impressed by everything I tasted. After the Santa Monica location opened, I had an opportunity to visit and meet with co-owner Ricardo Cervantes to learn more.

The bakery is easy to spot and the floor to ceiling glass windows are very welcoming. The immediate feeling upon entering the bakery is warmth and comfort. The sweet aroma of treats baking in the oven is simply irresistible and automatically put a smile on my face. The table at the entrance has round metal trays and tongs for costumers to use in selecting items from the glass cases to the left.

There is a blackboard that explains the process, which is similar to a Chinese bakery.

Don't miss the case with enticing cakes and a display of cookies and cupcakes before getting to the cashier.

Once you arrive at the cashier, you'll be greeted with a variety of hand picked specialty items available for purchase, such as jam and stone ground chocolates. The most popular jam is coconut and they only had one left at this location.

There is also a display of baked goods for customers to sample. If the item you want isn't on display, simply ask a employee behind the counter and they would be happy to give you a sample. The genius concept of La Monarca Bakery is that customers can sample everything before they buy it, including cakes and jams.

About 80% of the pastry at La Monarca Bakery are typical Mexican pastry and the rest are specialty items from various regions of Mexico. Everything at the bakery is made fresh with all natural ingredients and absolutely no lard, preservatives or any prepackaged mixes. The bakers arrive at 4 am to make treats for the day and since no preservatives are used, items have a short shelf life. To prevent waste, the bakery works with the Salvation Army to make use of the unsold baked goods.

Apart from the large selection of baked goods, the bakery also has an extensive specialty drinks menu. It is worth noting all the coffee used at La Monarca Bakery is certified organic from farms in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Cafe Oaxaca
This drink is made with espresso, Mexican hot chocolate and steamed milk. Soy milk is also available upon request and the drink is available in two sizes: small or medium. The espresso and hot chocolate create a smooth and bold flavor. The amount of sweetness is perfect and the whipped topping lends richness to the drink without overpowering it.

Cafe de Olla
This is coffee is a specialty at La Monarca Bakery and one that I would recommend to everyone. The coffee is brewed with cinnamon and brown sugar which gives the coffee a hint of sweetness and spice. The coffee is light and makes for a great compliment to the sweet treats.

Orejas (palmiers)
The orejas is huge and flaky with just the right amount of sweetness.

Trenzas jamon, queso y jalapeno (ham, cheese and jalapeno)
The layered pastry outside is soft and the ham mixture inside is salty, spicy and creamy. The chunks of ham gave the filling a nice texture. This was one of my favorite items.

Taquitos de guava (taco with guava)
The taquito is rolled in sugar and stuffed with guava. It's not overly sweet and nicely balanced by the tangy flavor of the guava. There are a variety of fillings to choose from including pineapple.

Conchas de chocolate (chocolate sea shell)
The concha is one of the more well known items, but it tastes nothing like the ones sold in other bakeries. The chocolate flavor is very prominent and the bread is light, but holds up well to a dunk in a cup of coffee.

Croissant de queso crema (cream cheese croissant)
The croissants here are a take on the traditional french croissant but with a Mexican flare. The sweet flavor of the croissant works well with the creamy and slightly salty flavor of the cheese. The filling is evenly distributed throughout the croissant.

We also brought home some items that still tasted very fresh the next day. The brioche had a beautiful golden crust and the inside was dense, but airy at the same time with a subtle egg flavor. Great with some jam.

Croissant de chocolate (chocolate croissant)
The chocolate to croissant ratio was perfect.

Sweet Croissant

The croissant was buttery with a nice hint of sweetness.

Bunuelos This popular treat is usually fried, but at La Monarca it is baked for a healthier version. It is crispy and sweet.

The bakery will soon be offering sugar free items as well as new items like coconut candy. The closing time has not been set and management will be testing various times to determine the best time to close. Lunch is also in the works and might be available starting next Monday.

Overall, the quality of the ingredients used and the care put into making every item comes through in every bite. The fresh, natural approach eliminates the worry of eating something containing ingredients a few pages long and none of which I can pronounce. The sample everything before you buy it idea is brilliant and takes away the worry of customers buying something not to their liking. With the wide range of selections, it will be easy to find something for everyone.
The layout of the bakery is inviting and the decor gives off a relaxing vibe. This bakery is a true gem and the residents of Santa Monica are lucky to have it in their backyard. The rest of us will have to make the worth while trek to the west side, which for me will be sooner than later. My stomach is already craving for another trenza and cafe oaxaca.

La Monarca Bakery
1300 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90403

Metered street parking enforced until 4 p.m.


Anonymous said...

I feel so ashamed every time I see Monarca. The "OG" branch is down the street from me (on the wayyy East side) yet I've never visited. Woe is me.

Pink Foodie said...

You'll have to visit one of these days or maybe we'll meet at the Santa Monica location to start the ride :)