The Hatfield’s really know what they’re doing. When you walk into Sycamore Kitchen you’re greeted with heavily loaded 6-foot-long pastry case. It’s about as beautiful to me as a treasure chest is to a greedy pirate. I don’t care if you’re the most disciplined, gluten-intolerant person in the city, you can’t possibly ignore that delectable display of goodness.
The first few times I visited, it was not good. We’re talking 4 or 5 pastries (I promise, I do share) ordered each time. I figured I was taking one for the team, trying everything in order to report which ones to go and eat. But of course I wasn’t really reporting to anyone and all of the treats are worthy of a trek, short or far. So really, I’m just a pastry addict.
Here are some of the items I’ve tasted, and I’ll sing the praises of my faves.
1. Salted Caramel Pecan Babka Roll: You’ve never tasted anything like this before. Wildly good, best sweet in town at the moment IMHO.
2. Creme Fraiche Coffee Cake: Good n’ moist. Husband devoured it.
4. Seasonal Crostata
5. Chocolate Hazelnut Cookie: Oh so rich. Take it to-go and have a nice, cold glass of milk with it.
6. Blueberry Oat Bar: Juicy. Crumbly. Moist. Awesome.
Of course one cannot live on sugar alone. Best savory item at SK? Pork belly hash bowl, hands down.
If you haven’t had the chance to stop by the new(ish) Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook in Culver City, I highly recommend a visit. There’s a lot to love, including:
1. A mile of switch-backing trails
2. A serious set of stairs leading all the way up to the 500-foot-high peak
3. Convenient parking on Jefferson Boulevard
4. A visitors’ center
5. A glassed-in event pavilion and…
6. Sparkly new bathrooms at the summit
7. A pretty nice view from the top, the Hollywood Hills to the north, the downtown LA skyline to the east, the ocean at to the west)
The 57 acre park opened back in 2009 and is managed by the California State Parks department. A lot of bond money — millions and millions of dollars — went into the restoration project intended to increase the green space in the neighborhood. Over 3 million people live within 5 miles of the overlook.
What I love most about BHSO is probably what every other thrifty hiker loves — that the space offers a variety of ways to work out without fees. Like most health-conscious Angelenos, I’m all for spin class and yoga and Zumba until I look at a price sheet. Really?! I have to pay how much to sweat buckets and suffer? I’ll take the BHSO over those costs any day. Get a little vitamin D, breath the fresh air, and not have to touch any germy, perspiration-encrusted gym machinery.
Other people are certainly having the same thought. Extremely fit runners hustle up and down the trails and stair climbers extend their already-rigorous workout by doing sit ups and such at the peak. New parents push strollers along pathways or tote babies in carriers. There’s a true community feel.
LA needs more spaces like this.
This is of course not an exhaustive list of great gift shops. In a city as wide and crazy as Los Angeles, there are most likely two dozen+ stores that I’ve never set foot in, each of which would probably make me want to spend a whole pay check on unnecessary (but adorable!) bric-a-brac. These are just a few that I’ve made it to and that I personally adore and that I count on when I’m in a present-giving bind.
Tweak, The Original Giftery: I’m not sure what I love more, the fact that every item in Tweak has pre-wrapped versions of itself stacked underneath the display (perfect for those of us that buy gifts en route to a shin dig) or that their merchandise collection is so quirky. A corksicle for your favorite wino? A gun-shaped ice cube tray for the stalwart Republican in the family? Check and check. Their kids’ book section rocks as well, from Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre board books to class Eric Carle works. Visit their website for a peek at more of their odds and ends.
Lundeen’s: This shop in downtown Culver City is a must visit for handmade wares, stationary, books, unique kitchen goods, and great kids’ gear. Tea cozies by Kata Golda caught my eye last time I stepped in and it took all the strength I had to not buy multiple “to save as Christmas presents for next year.” Yeah right. I also love their card collection, their jewelry made by local artists, and these blabla dolls. So sweet!
Kelly Green Home: Situated in one of my favorite neighborhoods in LA, Kelly Green Home in Echo Park pleases my both my earth conscious sensibilities and my desire to give chic, awesome gifts. The majority of the items sold here, from bamboo forks to stainless steel lunch tins to biodegradable bee nest kits, are fair trade and/or are made with sustainable materials. After you shop, check out another killer stop right down the street: Stories Books and Cafe.