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La Gran Via Bakery ~ Inglewood

12:22 PM PST on February 28, 2007

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La Gran Via Bakery: "Monarca de los Cakes" ~ 4461 Lennox Blvd. ~ Inglewood, CA 90304~ (310)674-0654

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Rise and shine, from Cuba to you, La Gran Via is Inglewood's great crown champ of all things sweet and savory. Wake up and smell the croquetas de jamón, empanadas, bocaditos, papas rellenas and brazo gitano. If breakfast meats tickle your fancy, behold the choice offerings of lightly fried tasties in the counter top "easy bake". Lose yourself in the kaleidoscopic array of fresh baked sweet breads and cookies. What are those cone shaped honeydripper treats? What smells so good? I'll be damned- is that Ronald Reagan!

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The Monaraca de los Cakes' southern exposure to California sun gives us the warm glass light I crave in the A.M. Sunny up to las mesas, sitting by the cake lockers. At home in the neighborhood he lived in as a kid, mi cuñado, José, tells us he remembers all the birthday, wedding and baptism cakes "La Monarca" produced, along with beefy 1/2 sandwiches and bocaditos for fiestas around town. We were here with his 90 year old grandmother, Snra. Valle, born in Havana, Cuba. She was visiting from Miami to see her familia. Who else should emerge from the baker's kitchen to the counter but the jefe baker himself in an immaculate white apron! From after school kids with BMX bikes to viejos way too old to be driving, the crowd at La Gran Via is local, fluid, and keeps everything fresh.

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On another day we joined Snr. Rio Kvisto for a café to raise the living from the dead of night. Buenas, caballero. Que tal? Tell us- what is to love about La Gran Via.

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Rio Kvisto: A trip to the bakery is inconceivable without staying for a café cubano, which differentiates itself by a brewing process in which sugar is included with the ground beans prior to being subjected to a sweet aroma-extracting jet of steam heat. The potent inky dark fluid that slips down inside of your gullet contrasts with the bright light surounding you, yet pulls you into a black-and-white ying-yang harmony that will help you meet the day.

Another ying yang balance can be found in the white cheese and guayabana (aka guava) pastries. If you have not had this famous latin american flavor pairing, it might strike you as a bit unusual; but, trust me, this sweet, savory, opposites-attracts, works. Methinks it must have originated by happy accident, like the mythical genesis of another sweet-savory pairing- the chocolate bar famously falling into the jar of peanut butter in the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercial.

"¡Tú pusiste queso en mi guayabana!"

"¡Y tú pusiste guayabana en mi queso!"

-two great tastes that taste great together!

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Gracias, Rio Kvisto. We also love the pasteles de guayaba. Mind the deliciousness of these demons, and the consistency of their liquid guava jelly filling. Stack away, but if the guava is still thickening, carefull not to tip and spill the fill. These junior pastry pots are also made with cajeta- the creamy caramel mix that also goes by the names of arequipe or dulce de leche, depending on your locale.

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There can only be one "Monarca de los Cakes". If you'd like to look on the brighter side of life and food makes you happy, visit La Gran Via.

For anyone interested in the darker side of life, read Johny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo. Mr. Trumbo worked for 9 years at a bakery in Los Angeles. You may recognize his book as the inspiration for the song One by Metallica. Some of the books most poetic and sensorial passages tell of Johny's life working at a bakery before the war.

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José Martí

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