Tucked in between a stretch of eateries (that includes an ever-present Starbucks), a block or so east of PCC, and across the side street from Samy’s Camera is Bittersweet Treats.
We stumbled upon it about a year ago, looked at the treats presented on the counter and thought, these are different. We introduced ourselves and left our card, planning on returning for an interview for a feature story. Unfortunately, our focus was easily diverted by the all and sundry of publishing a weekly online magazine, and the months passed. But every time we drove along this part of Colorado Boulevard, we remembered and tried to discern exactly where Bittersweet was along the crowded block. And we lost it. Couldn’t find it. Driving by at 30 miles an hour was still too fast for us to snag a siting. It wasn’t until this past fall when we needed to rent a lens from Samy’s Camera that we took to foot and, finally, successfully, (re)found Bittersweet. We intended to drop off another card, but the place was jam packed and we were on a time crunch. Then, just into this new year, we received an invitation to a tasting. Unfortunately, it fell on an evening that we were expected to dine in Marina Del Rey, but we were able to crash the party for a smidgen of time, was kindly welcomed, and given a box to fill with our choice of treats-to-go.
Lunch had not been on the menu on this busy day, so as we pumped the brakes on the hour’s drive to the coast, we managed to sample some of the offerings. The bacon, cheese, and caramelized onion tart—kind of a non-quiche quiche—was moist and delicious. Initially, we thought it needed some salt, but then the bacon kicked in. Then we thought it needed freshly ground pepper because that is a favored addition to our savory foods, and especially on our eggs. But then the tenderness and moistness of the egg kicked in, along with the smoky salt of the bacon and the slowly sautéed onions with their hint of butter. We realized we were tasting all the flavors, unmasked by salt. The word that popped into our head was “clean.” The taste was fresh, clean, and true to the flavors of the ingredients. We could have easily indulged in another slice, or a bigger slice, or even a quarter wedge.
Another savory was the bacon and cheddar scones. Initially, our taste buds weren’t reacting, but then it came—sharp cheddar, smoky bacon, and a hint of chili fire. Really good. Not dry and not too crumbly (as often scones are wont to be).
The flourless chocolate cake was heavy, dense, and so wet it seemed unbaked. One associate (of a teen age) was not enamored—”You could tell is was flourless and not in a good way. You get sad about it. Complete let down.” But we (of an elder age) could not have disagreed more. We thought the chocolate flavor was divine—deep, rich, bordering on dark and with the tiniest edge of bitterness, which suited us to a tee.
Our teen taster did declare the fudge cake pops “perfect.” She continued, “It was a clutch cake pop.” Supposedly this means “10 out of 10,” “spot on,” and “rolled to perfection.” There you have it.
This teenage friend declared the red velvet whoopie pies “good, not amaze,” though she did give them an 8 out of 10 and said she had “never had a whoopie pie that moist.”
The red velvet cupcake was moist, too, and the cream cheese frosting flavorful, but we (of an elder age) do not understand the red velvet hoopla. It never—to us—tastes like anything. We’ve tried red velvet cake, cupcakes, and cake pops at a dozen places around the valley. Rien. Nada. We don’t taste chocolate or vanilla or any distinct flavor at all (except for the frosting). So, we of an elder age at Hometown Pasadena officially declare that we are not the place to look for red velvet reviews. We can’t be objective. Red velvet treats are a stunning color and the frosting tends to be tasty, but otherwise we judge the effort rather a waste of time. (Please feel free to voice your dissent.)
Bread pudding was offered, as well, and it was wet, wonderfully gooey, and tasted like bread pudding. The mini chocolate cupcake was reminiscent in flavor of the flourless chocolate cake, so that went down very easily—too easily because if it’s a mini, it’s illogical to consume just one.
A chévre tart with figs that were soaked in balsamic vinegar had the texture of New York cheesecake, though more moist, and had a light but distinct chévre taste. The figs were an ideal accompaniment and was followed by a sublime crust made with nuts.
Owner Linda Chen was animated and enthusiastic as she told stories of her bakers creating new dishes. Upon completion, everyone takes a sample, voices an opinion, and the fare then passes the taste test, is sidelined, or is improved upon. Chen appeared pleased to have a working environment where creativity is encouraged and rewarded—not just a boss and employees, but a collaborative team with members who feel as though they are a part of Bittersweet Treats’ growing success.
Don’t miss Bittersweets’ Happy Hour, every day from 4 to 5 p.m. Discounts on all fresh baked goods!
Bittersweet Treats, 1731 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 91106. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. 626.796.8655. BittersweetLA.com.