Since 1910, Mikawaya has satiated sweet teeth with myriad mouthwatering Japanese pastries, including mochi, a rich dollop of ice cream swaddled in a sweet-rice dough cocoon. Tickle your taste buds with seven mochi ice cream flavors ($6 for five mochi balls), including tangy mango and soothing green tea, a zenful dessert experience akin to splitting a hot-fudge sundae with an enlightened butterfly. Indulge cocoa cravings with chewy chocolate mochi mouthfuls, nibble on scrumptious strawberry spheres, or bestow boxes upon friends or passersby, a perfect treat to win over the meter maid whose only weakness is rice dough.
Devan and Reena Shah, and Tek Mehreteab are passionate about tea. By sourcing leaves from eight regions in India, China, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Japan, they are able to proffer more than 300 standard and specialty varieties online and inside Chado Tea Room. The name Chado, taken from the Chinese cha, meaning "tea," and the Japanese do, meaning "path," speaks to the owners’ strict standards for their product. Many of their green, black, white, and oolong teas are USDA-certified organic; the Shahs also stock unique varieties such as Chinese pu-er teas and hand-tied blooming tea balls. In addition, they brew special house blends for morning, afternoon, and evening, helping customers find the right blend to start the day or serve to bats that have invaded their home.
Staffers pair teas with an array of cream-topped scones, cookies, cakes, and roasted savory sandwiches during teatime at Chado's three tearooms. Though each location is decorated differently, the same three-tiered sandwich platters and steaming pots of tea travel between panda paintings hanging in the Los Angeles location, underneath strings of holiday lights at the Pasadena location, and between ceiling-high wooden shelves stocked with mugs, filters, teapots, and bags of loose-leaf tea at the Hollywood location.
As a successful financial consultant, Sharlena Fong spent her days wearing buttoned-up business attire and roaming New York City's World Financial Center. Then came September 11, 2001. Her professional life shaken and her priorities reorganized, she said goodbye to the world of finance, trading her power suits for a chef’s toque. After finishing culinary school and working under experienced chefs at Eleven Madison Park and Bouchon Bakery in New York City, Fong teamed up with James Gonzalez and Dennis Hunter in 2007 to open Semi Sweet Bakery in Los Angeles. Today, they all continue to work together with the same goal in mind: morphing frowns into grins with the help of fresh-baked pastries, cookies, and cakes. Hunter explains it best on the shop’s website: "No matter how bad someone's day is, no matter how much heartache someone may be going through, I get to give them a slice of cake or a piece of pastry made with love, and they smile!"
Love is not the only ingredient in their baked goods, however. Inspired by his training under Chef Monica May at Nickel Diner, Chef Gonzalez believes in using local, sustainable ingredients, making everything in-house and from scratch all while balancing each morsel’s delicate flavor profile. In the kitchen each day, chefs bake their signature ding a lings in sweet flavors such as hazelnut crunch and red velvet alongside savory empanadas stuffed with mushroom and short rib. Samoa macaroons packed with coconut, chocolate, and caramel sidle up to mugs of drip coffee and loose-leaf tea from SerendipiTe. The shop also trades in larger treats: nine-inch cakes in flavors such as strawberry three ways with jam and lemon curd fly out the door for surprise birthday parties or surprise I-ate-your-birthday-cake-in-the-car parties.
The original Beard Papa’s began filling the airs of Osaka, Japan, with the warm, wafting smells of its original-recipe cream puffs. A double-layer puff featuring piecrust on the outside and a mixture of vanilla custard cream and whipped cream on the inside, the successful little treats have led the bakery to expand to more than 300 locations throughout Southeast Asia, Russia, the United States, and the moon. The venerable bakery has also graduated to other pint-size desserts and Asian-influenced treats, including mochi ice cream and mango ice showers, a fusion of shaved ice, layered sweet sauce, and mango chunks.
The name Bird Pick Tea & Herb comes from a legend told by the grandfather of one of the shop’s founders: long ago, tea cultivators would follow birds known to choose the best leaves for themselves. Although the staff doesn’t actually employ birds to select each leaf, the spirit of the legend lives on in Bird Pick’s careful selection of teas, which come from misty estates in the mountains of China. Seasonal varieties of black, white, and green teas release earthy aromas from bins of loose leaves and tea bags, and oolong teas display the smoky colors left by a harvesting process that involves crushing and fermenting the buds. An inventory of elegant accessories includes receptacles for storing tea, glass infusers for brewing, bowls for whisking matcha tea, and air horns for letting guests know a tea party is over. Bird Pick even sells straw-hued honeys from New Zealand to accent complex brews served in pots decorated with sprays of blue flowers and Chinese characters.
Each scoop of New Zealand Natural is made from the milk of cows that graze on New Zealand's pristine, unpolluted pastures. Crunch bits of toffee while surfing a smooth wave of fudge in a scoop of English Toffee, or pick plump boysenberries from a melty mound of Boysenberry Dream. Though menus differ across locations, all New Zealand Natural parlors boast a lengthy list of flavors that range from fruity to fudgy and hearty to light. Calorie-conscious eaters can indulge in a scoop of no-sugar-added zilch chocolate or low-fat, creamy mango passion frozen yogurt. Prices start at $2.99 for a small, and ice creams can be served in a cup or cone. Customers can also create their own soft-serve treat from any variety of the hard-scoop ice cream, low-fat yogurt, or fat- and dairy-free sorbets through New Zealand Natural's special Fruit Flo machine. For those preferring slurpable sweets, smoothies ($4.69) and shakes ($4.69) can be sipped in New Zealand Natural's bright and bubbly parlor or taken on a trip down an alley full of forgotten kittens.