Natas Pastries – Portuguese in the valley

Natas Pastries

The same weekend we visited Portugal Imports, we also ventured into the valley to try Natas Pastries.  Tanya Bjork, artist extraordinaire, found out about this place from her mother and researched it.  The bakery was founded almost 5 years ago by Fatima Marques who was homesick for her native pastries.  Not finding a single place in Los Angeles that offered pasteis de nata (also called “natas”), she spent years studying how to reproduce these delectable desserts the authentic, old-fashioned way and went so far as to import an oven from Portugal.  Besides offering traditional favorites like queijadas (tarts filled with a mixture of cheese, sugar, cinammon), pasteis de coco and Portuguese sweet bread (similar to Hawaiian sweet bread), Natas Pastries also offers other European desserts like eclairs and Napoleans.  It is also a small restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Tanya and I decided to do Sunday brunch here and dragged our significant others.

Dining room

Dining room

Natas Pastries is a small space divided up into two areas – a dining room furnished with about 8 tables for 4 and the bakery front.  There are a few tables and chairs outside as well.  Inspired by the Portuguese style of using of blue and white glazed tiles, the dining room incorporates this aesthetic and accents it with dark wood furniture and tapestries reminiscent of Old Europe.  It was nice because it really did remind me of places I had seen when in Lisbon.

When we got there, the dining room was full as were the few tables outside.  People were going in and out of the door with boxes in hand.  Apparently, Natas Pastries is popular.  We had to wait around 15 minutes to be seated.  This gave us plenty of time to oogle the pastries on display and decide what we were going to get on our way out.

After our group was seated, we perused the menu and decided our meals.  I got the breakfast sandwich on Portuguese sweet bread with cheddar and linguica.  Tanya opted for the Sandes de Atum (Portuguese tuna salad sandwich).  Husband got the chocolate chip and Oreo cookies pancakes and Tanya’s boyfriend, Derek, got an omelette with artichokes, Cajun smoked sausage and feta.

Breakfast sandwich

I liked my breakfast sandwich.  The eggs were fluffy and not over-cooked.  There was plenty of cheese and linguica.  I wish the linguica was spicy but a bottle of hot sauce solved that issue.  The in-house Portuguese sweet bread was great – soft and thick.  The rolls do look thick but with the amount of egg and cheese, it all balanced out.  And the subtle sweetness of the bread added a little bit of contrast with the salty fillings.

Pancake Mountain

Husband’s pancakes were quite a plateful.  I’m not sure if this counts as breakfast or dessert.  Frankly, when this dish arrived, my teeth started hurting.  3 ginormous (yes, I had to resort to a made-up word) pancakes topped with powdered sugar, whipped cream, chocolate syrup and crumbled Oreo cookies sat before Husband.  Definitely not Portuguese… He had filled up on the mocha he ordered to drink so the husband barely put a dent into this.  I stole a few bites; the pancakes were thick and fluffy and definitely sweet with all the dessert-y toppings and syrup added.  Not a dish for me as I’m not a fan of over-the-top sugary stuff but for kids or people with a penchant for dessert, this is a winner.  I’d order just the pancakes, though.

Omelette

Tanya and Derek liked their food though Derek did comment that the ingredients he picked out made for a bit of an odd combination flavor-wise.

Omelettes come with house potatoes and choice of toast as well as what seems the be the house-standard fruit garnish of orange and watermelon. Our men quickly off-loaded their fruit onto our plates…

Tuna Salad Sandwich

Tanya claims that the imported canned Portuguese tuna used in the sandwich is more flavorful than the tuna we get here in the States.  I haven’t done a taste comparison so I can’t concur but she has had both quite a few times so I defer to her.

This sandwich is part of the lunch menu.  Served with a side salad and kettle chips, it was a large and filling-looking dish.

Portuguese pastries

European goodies

Selection is something Natas Pastries is not lacking.  Natas, queijadas, pasteis de coco, pasteis de feijão (bean tart), fruit tarts, chocolate covered strawberries, slices of various flavors of cakes, meringue cookies, this place is a dessert lover’s paradise.  And everything, including the sweet bread they use, is made in-house.

For those who have never tried Portuguese pastries before, the variety box is a great way to go – 9 pieces for $16.  I decided to get this since I have only tried natas.  I selected 3 natas, 3 queijadas and 3 pasteis de feijão.

The natas here were really good.  The crust was flaky and buttery while the filling was a nice custard-y texture.  It was better than the nata I had during my trip to Belém, though I did get that nata from some shop cafe and it had been sitting out for a while.  The queijadas were also tasty but the powdered sugar topping made it a little messy.  The cheese-cinammon-sugar filling was yummy without being very sweet.  Again, they make a very good pastry crust here.  The bean tart was also good but the natas were my fave followed by the queijadas.

Overall, this was a great little bakery and restaurant.  I will definitely be back for the tasty desserts.  After all, it’s a lot closer and cheaper to go to Natas Pastries than go all the way back to Lisbon.

4 NOMs for Natas Pastries!

Natas Pastries
13317 Ventura Boulevard
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423-6212
(818) 788-8050
Natas Pastries on Urbanspoon

Crepevine

Many many months ago, a high school friend and I went up to the Bay Area to visit another friend.  Naturally, many of our outings involved eating.  One of our excursions involved a stop at Crepevine for brunch.

Menu board at Crepevine

Located on Church St., this restaurant is a cute little eatery that boasts a huge menu of breakfast and lunch items such as omelettes, scrambles, pasta, sandwiches and, of course, crepes of the sweet and savory varieties.

When we arrived in the late morning, there was already quite a crowd inside.  All the outdoor tables were occupied as well.  Luckily, a large party was just leaving so we snagged their tables. Ordering was a bit confusing as we were given menus by a guy who seemed to be filling in the rolls of host, waiter and bus-boy but it took him a while to come back around to take orders.  There was a guy behind a register so I’m guessing we could also just go up to him and place our orders as well.

Crepevine - New Orleans Benedict

Perusing the menu, I decided on the New Orleans Benedict – crabcakes on an English muffin with poached eggs and spicy Cajun hollandaise ($9.50).  I know, I know…I’m at a place called Crepevine and I don’t order crepes?  I just wasn’t in the mood for them and honestly, I’m a huge fan of benedicts.  The crabcrakes were calling to me!

These were de-li-cious.  The English muffin was perfectly toasted; the eggs nicely poached with a requisite runny yolk.  The crabcakes were decent.  I don’t think they were freshly made but they tasted good, especially with the Cajun hollandaise.  It had a little kick but not a lot for me.  I would have like a little more heat.  The house potatoes were nothing special to write home about…the normal diced fried potatoes you can find at places serving breakfast.

Crepevine - Spicy cornbread with jalapeno jelly

Closeup of cornbread

Listed on the menu under “Sides” was a spicy cornbread with jalapeño jelly ($3.95).  I couldn’t pass this up so I ordered it.  I was expecting a normal sized muffin, not two toasted slices the size of Texas!   This could easily be split between two people.  The cornbread was crispy on the outside, moist on the inside.  As far as cornbread goes, this was one of the better ones I’ve had.  The toasting really gave it some character.  You can see in the close up the pieces of chopped peppers they mix into the batter to give it a supposed spicyness.  Once again, I found a lack of heat.  The jalapeño jelly was nice and gave it a little bit of the extra kick I was looking for.  Unfortunately, I was stuffed from my eggs benedict so I couldn’t finish it all.

Everyone ordered different things so here are some photos…

Crepevine - La Suisse French Toast

One of Crepevine's sweet crepes

Crepevine - Huevos Rancheros scramble

Looks yummy doesn’t it?

For the amount of food and the taste and quality, the prices are decent, almost borderline bargain.  There’s really no host so seating was a little confusing.  And during peak hours, large groups will be hard-pressed to find seating together.  Also, the service was a bit spotty but this place didn’t quite seem like a full-fledged sit-down restaurant.

The Catty Critic gives Crepevine 4 NOMs.

Crepevine
216 Church St
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 431-4646
http://www.crepevine.com
Crepevine on Urbanspoon

Playa Vista Farmer’s Market

The husband and I decided to check out the Playa Vista Farmer’s Market since it was on the way to where we were seeing “Inglourious Basterds” (or however Tarantino is mis-spelling it…). This Farmer’s Market is fairly small…only about 20-25 vendors with 1/3 of them being food vendors. The rest are either businesses or fruit and vegetable stands. We browsed around trying to figure out which food vendor we wanted to try. I stopped at the Eat booth while the husband decided on an omelette from a neighboring stand.

Eat - Turkey and Swiss on a Cranberry Scone

Eat - Turkey and Swiss on a Cranberry Scone

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Eat - Turkey and Swiss on a Cranberry scone close-up

Eat’s menu changes every week according to the lady at the booth. This week, they offered up a turkey and swiss sandwich served on a cranberry scone (a refined slider, if you will), bbq chicken sliders and regular beef sliders as well as a yogurt parfait. I couldn’t pass up on the scone sandwich (2 for $5) and ordered that. In the back was a grill that slices of turkey were placed on.  Once they were warmed up, the chef placed them with slices of swiss in between a halved cranberry scone and served it with some cranberry jelly.

These sandwiches were roughly the sized of my palm.  The scone was a bit on the dry side but did not crumble too much.  However, it did overpower the turkey and swiss a little and I didn’t taste too much cranberry.  The cranberry jelly was quite nice and had a little bit of spice to it.  I wish I had more of it to put on the sandwiches as more “wetness” would have helped.    Overall, it was an okay sandwich and it certainly got my creative juices running as to what other types of scone sandwiches could be created.

Ham and Swiss Omelette

Ham and Swiss Omelette

The omelette my husband got was a simple ham and swiss since he’s so anti-green stuff.  Still, it seems that he can’t escape the plants since the cook still put greens on his plate even though my other half asked for it to be omitted.  The omelette was quite good; the eggs were cooked to a nice fluffy consistency though I think it was slightly overdone.  There was a good amount of ham in each bite but I couldn’t quite find the swiss.  With the salt and pepper packets my husband added to the dish, the omelette ended up being quite flavorful.  As for the greens, it was a mix with tomatoes.  I didn’t taste any dressing on them.

Playa Vista Farmer's Market - Roasted Corn

Playa Vista Farmer's Market - Roasted Corn

We were still a little hungry and the tamale stand was calling to me.  The husband opted to get a huge ear of corn that we saw quite a few people walking around with.  The corn was incredible -very moist, buttered and tender.  The stand had an array of seasonings one could sprinkle on the ear, salt n’ pepper as well as lemon pepper and paprika.  The other half opted for black pepper, garlic salt and Lawry’s seasoning.

Playa Vista Farmer's Market - beef n' chile tamale

Playa Vista Farmer's Market - beef n' chile tamale

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Playa Vista Farmer's Market - tamale unwrapped

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tamale

The tamale booth seemed to be doing well given how many people I saw eating them and buying them in bulk.  The menu boasted about 6 different tamales ranging from chicken to beef to vegetarian fillings.  I chose a beef and chile filled one which cost me all of $3.50.  I decided to go with their medium salsa which had a very slight kick to it.  The tamale was nice and moist, very flavorful and had a good amount of filling.  The beef was tender.  This was a great tamale.  I would have gone back and bought some to take home if we weren’t going to be out for the rest of the day.  Maybe next week?

There were other booths that looked yummy.  A crepe booth next to Eat was serving up both sweet and savory dishes.  The usual Nutella and strawberry/banana crepes were on the menu but there was also a tomato and basil crepe that sounded positively delicious. A booth selling seafood had smoked salmon cakes that I sampled with a very spicy aoli.

This market looked like a good place to pick up local grown organic fruit.  I saw a variety of berries, nectarines, peaches, pluots and figs.  There was also a flower vendor that was doing very good business. We passed by a booth selling chocolate that was stone ground and used unrefined sugar and had some interesting flavor pairings.

It’s not as big as some of the other Farmer’s Markets around but it is new so hopefully it expands as more time passes and more people find out about it. For right now, it’s a decent place to get some eats and produce and a few other items.

There’s plenty of parking, which is nice, but not a lot of seating if you want to eat.  When we went towards the end of the hours, it wasn’t terribly crowded but there was still a steady stream of people coming in and out which was a positive sight as I rather enjoy farmer’s markets and want this one to stick around.

Playa Vista Farmer’s Market
Every Saturday 9am-2pm
Parking lot on Seabluff Drive, just south of Pacific Promenade