Friday, March 02, 2007

The Mighty Cream Puff -- Beard Papa

Beard Papa
Hollywood & Highland Shopping Center
6801 Hollywood Blvd.No.1.5.-153
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 462-6100

Again, I'm not really a dessert guy. But the overwhelming response to my post about Mashti Malone's tells me that I should really let you know about Beard Papa.

The shopping center at Hollywood and Highland is surely one of the most curious destinations in Los Angeles. Aside from the rat's-maze escalator system (after six years of going there a couple times a week I STILL go the wrong way at every counterintuitive turn) and the utterly-without-irony giant white elephants that loom over the not-quite-failed enterprise, there are some truly odd food outlets. There's the taqueria that isn't quite a La Salsa or a Rubio's; the pizza place that isn't a Sbarro (althought their NY style pizza is not bad); and the bizarre, well-hidden mini-food court with just three establishments serving steak and potatoes, Mongolian BBQ and falafels.

All this is sure to confuse the tourists, but nothing leads to quite so much scratching of Midwestern heads as Beard Papa. Located in the middle of the staircase leading to the main courtyard off of Hollywood Blvd., a few steps away from the Red Line Station entrance, I stood and watched for several minutes as tourists waddled up to the menu, saw "cream puffs," glanced cockeyed at the Santa Claus-like Beard Papa logo and walked away as if their logic circuits were fried.

Locals know better. The cream puffs being squeezed out behind counter of the small, spartan shop are transcendent. You watch as the puffmaker squeezes a dollop of freshly-made filling into your freshly-baked puff. There are three varieties of puff on most days: one filled with simple, buttery vanilla cream, with just a hint of citrus; a chocolate-covered "eclair;" and a special puff-of-the-day that might filled with be caramel cream today, strawberry tomorrow, pumpkin in the fall. The pastry dough is unbelievably light and airy, the filling decadent and sweet without being cloying or overly rich. These babies make you ralize why the phrase "light as a cream puff" need not be an oxymoron. Add a generous dusting of powdered sugar (handle with extreme caution if you're wearing black!) and you've got the best reason I can think of to hop on the Red Line -- next to saving the planet, that is.