Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Review: La Brea Bakery Cafe - Disneyland CA

On previous visits to Anaheim, I had given up on finding any pizza worth the calories. Visiting Anaheim is like going to the mall - the familiar chain stores and chain restaurants. All the best food is in Disneyland. It's not quite authentic, but Disney always does a good job imitating any category of food.
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Still, I managed to stumble on some intriguing pizza, quite by accident. Downtown Disney is an area of shops and restaurants that does not require admission to the parks. In 2015, I went there to have breakfast at La Brea Bakery Cafe. La Brea is a huge bakery, making bread on both coasts, but also operates a cafe in Los Angeles and another at Disneyland.


THE 2015 EXPERIENCE


Looking at the breakfast menu, I searched for something that emphasized the bread which has made the bakery famous. But then I saw the pizzas! I was going to resist pizza for breakfast until I saw the "Eggs in a Nest" option. This pie featured two eggs over easy, prosciutto, spicy marinara, and a big pile of arugula "nest."


I ordered a decaf coffee, not the usual beverage for pizza, but it seemed right for the bread-and-eggs dish that this pizza promised. The coffee was remarkably good. Better than the good K-cups I've been drinking, better than Starbucks. The waiter told me is was "Silverback single origin" coffee, sourced from Rwanda. Powerful flavor but with a silky smooth finish.


The pizza arrived swiftly, and it was a pretty big personal pie. Beautiful to look at, with the huge puffy charred cornicione that is typical of the best Neapolitans. The deep piles of wonderfully fresh arugula were lovely but also served to hide the rest of the pie.

Ordinarily, I love arugula, but I like my salad on the side instead of piled onto my pizza.  But it worked very well with the egg, spicy sauce, and crust, even as it made for a messy slice.

The crust was superb.  Better than 4 out of 5 authentic Neapolitan pies I've had. This is the magic of Disney (or Disney-approved places) - somehow great food is churned out by the kids they hire to staff these places. The cheese was sparse, appropriately, and a bit of a role player. The sauce was likewise applied sparingly; otherwise, the weight and the moisture of the sunnyside egg would have made for a wet pie.
Underside
In fact, this pie had a wonderful texture, terrific balance, and no soggy middle. Each slice could be picked up and eaten with little sag. The one shortcoming is the quality of the prosciutto. It was pale pink, cut a little too thickly, and didn't have a fresh aroma. It still added to the pie, but other cured meat (bacon, speck, soppressata) might have worked better.

Wonderful coffee, a nearly-perfectly executed Neapolitan, good service -- all this made for a delightful pizza experience in a town where I'd given up on finding decent pie. The pie was $15, the coffee (free refills) was $4. Not cheap, but a grand bargain in Disneyland. I would eat again at La Brea Bakery without hesitation. Breakfast may be the best time to be there, before it gets populated with sunburned crying kids well past nap time.


THE 2017 UPDATE

I had a return visit to Anaheim in November of 2017, and I eagerly anticipated another breakfast pizza at La Brea. Alas, they had revamped the menu and it was gone from the offerings. So at 8am, I ordered a pepperoni pizza.

This Neapolitan pie had the same wonderful crust, its dough single-sourced from an heirloom grain, Fortuna wheat grown in Montana. The pie was delightful around the cornicione, with great and complex flavors as well as the right mix of densely chewy and crunchy.

The interior of the pie required knife and fork, because of the fountains of grease that had flowed from the pepperoni and the over-application of the standard mozzarella. Fully half of each slice was drenched in orange oil. I cherish the greasy pizza as much as anyone, but this was overloaded.
Lovely char, but lots of grease underneath
The red sauce was a San Marzano puree, and it stood up well to the salty cheese and oily pepperoni. Curiously, there were two kinds of pepperoni. There were thin discs of a large diameter that seemed almost prosciutto-like, and small cups of thicker pepperoni that probably yielded up most of that orange oil. Both seemed to be high quality salumi.
Twio kinds of pepperoni
Despite the grease overload, this was still a very tasty pie, but it lacked all the artisanal balance of the breakfast pie I'd enjoyed in 2015.
Swimming in orange oil
I suspect that egg-on-pizza was a bit too exotic for the typical Disney park patron, so the menu revamp included a return to basic pizza with an emphasis on what many Americans want from their pizza: a lot of bland mozzarella.

I still recommend La Brea Bakery Cafe pizza - but the menu revamp has dropped it down a notch. 



La Brea Bakery Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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