Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Home of the Fragile, Creamy and Delectable Egg Salad Sandwich - Euro Pane Bakery

Unexpected surprises probably put as big a smile on my face as enjoying great dinners from places I frequent. Over the past few years, I usually pay a visit to my Pasadena Hounds once every few months, but normally for lunch or dinner. Then, on a fateful day late last year, we somehow ended up meeting earlier than usual (brunch time). Leaving it in the hands of my Pasadena Hounds, one of them casually blurted out, "Let's go to Euro Pane." I remembered reading about Euro Pane Bakery a few times on Chowhound, but never had the inclination to go. However, being ever curious, I said, "Sure, why not?" And ever since that first visit, I've found been more than happy to return for one glorious dish: The Egg Salad Sandwich. :)

From the outside, Euro Pane Bakery looks like any other nondescript business along the multiple strip malls on Colorado Boulevard (except for the abundance of potted plants dotting the storefront). Opened 16 years ago by Baker-Owner Sumi Chang (who studied under Nancy Silverton at La Brea Bakery), Euro Pane has built up a loyal following, with regulars stopping in and greeting the servers (and vice versa) on a first name basis.

Once inside, you're greeted with a single display case filled with whatever fresh baked pastries and sweets are available for that day, as well as a simple menu of their Sandwich selections. (Note: Euro Pane thankfully does not use Partially-Hydrogenated Oils for their pastries; only Butter.)

On my first visit to this bakery, I have to try their Plain Croissant. :)

It's fresh, doughy with a light chew and not too heavy. But it lacks that wonderful crispy, flaky exterior found in many of the best Croissants around town. If you consider this in comparison to all Croissants offered in So Cal, it's not bad, but if you compare this to places like Anisette, Amandine, etc., it's going to fall short.

Their Almond Bearclaw is up next.

Unfortunately, it's less moist than their Croissant, with a semi-dried out block of Almond Paste in the center.

At this point, I'm a little worried, but one of my Hounds reassures me the best is yet to come. We then try their Macadamia Nut Tart.

The first bite yields a lightly sweet, crunchy, fresh burst of Macadamia Nuts and a beautiful crust that's just the right amount of buttery without being overwhelming. Excellent! :)

Our first Sandwich arrives at this point: Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Sandwich (on Multigrain Bread).

Euro Pane bakes all their Bread in-house, and offers a choice of 7 types of Bread for their Sandwiches: Ciabatta, Multigrain, Sourdough, Rosemary Currant, Cranberry Walnut, Olive, and Brioche. I'm not the biggest Sandwich fan in the world (I usually don't order them), but this Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Sandwich is simply wonderful: It starts with the Multigrain Bread which is *so* soft, moist, infused with a pleasing "fields of grain" aroma, which then gives way to silky, luscious Roasted Red Peppers, a tease from the Basil Pesto, and then the Chevrine Natural Goat Cheese, which is creamy and delightful. (^_^) An excellent Sandwich.

But then I look up and notice a mischievous grin from one of my Pasadena Hounds, as our server puts down the Egg Salad Sandwich (on Olive Bread).

It's served open-face, and it is visually stunning! I hadn't even tasted it yet, and I knew this was something special. I gently lift up a piece of the Egg Salad Sandwich and take a bite:


It's unlike any Egg Salad Sandwich I've had before; it's lush, silky, delicate, with accents of Chives and Black Pepper with their Homemade Mayonnaise. This is a celebration of wonderfully cooked, soft, succulent Eggs with a kiss of citrus from the Lemon and the Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto. It's a true paradigm shift on what a great Egg Salad Sandwich could be. I'm simply stunned into simple happiness as I munch on the rest of my half of the Sandwich, regretting that I didn't have a full order to myself. (^_~)

Making sure this wasn't a fluke, over the past 4 visits, it's still been as consistently silky and delicious as before. I can see why Jonathan Gold added this to his 99 Bites article. It's my favorite item at Euro Pane, easily. :)

On another visit, my guest wants to try their Rosemary Currant Roll.

It turns out to be a little bit of salty, a bit of sweet (from the Currants), with a fragrant Rosemary tinge, but at the end of the day, it still tastes like a familiar, thick-skinned, chewy Dinner Roll.

We continue with their Raspberry Vanilla Tart.

It's piquant, with a neutral Custard. The crust is flaky and excellent like in their Macadamia Nut Tart. We all agree that it's well-balanced, but ultimately I'd rather have their Macadamia Nut Tart. :)

Things bounce back nicely with their Almond Brioche.

The Brioche itself is relatively light - not as weightless and airy as some versions locally - but the generous layering of fresh Toasted Almonds, Mascarpone and moist Almond Paste really elevates this pastry and redeems Euro Pane from their failed Almond Bearclaw.

Their Chicken Salad Sandwich (on Rosemary Currant Bread) arrives soon after.

I'm hoping for a repeat of the success of their Egg Salad Sandwich, but this one doesn't quite get there. The Rosemary Currant Bread is very good: Unlike the Rosemary Currant Roll we just had, their Rosemary Currant Bread is soft, fresh and really serves to highlight the piny Rosemary and lightly sweet Currant flavors. The Chicken, lightly touched by Dill and Yogurt on a bed of Mixed Greens, is a great idea and executed very well, except that the Chicken itself tastes old (like it's been sitting in the fridge 1+ days). :( It's not inedible by any means, but that really bright, clean taste of fresh-made Chicken Salad is nowhere to be found.

Their Tomato and Feta Sandwich (on Olive Bread) is also disappointing.

I enjoy a good Feta Cheese as much as the next person, but the Feta used at Euro Pane is intensely salty. One hopes that the Fresh Tomato, Mixed Greens and Basil Pesto might help to balance out the Feta, but in reality it doesn't; the Feta is *that* salty. It probably didn't help that we ordered it with Olive Bread (which was excellent again). Next time, I'll try it with a sweeter selection, like their Cranberry Walnut or Rosemary Currant.

Finally, we try their Salmon Sandwich (on Ciabatta Bread).

First off, the Ciabatta Bread is pretty impressive: Euro Pane's version has an alluring, satisfying crunch, which gives way to a soft, tongue-pleasing under layer. It's probably the most memorable Ciabatta I've had in the past year. It definitely saved the rest of the Sandwich: The Smoked Salmon is fine, a thick, tender cut of fish, but it lacks the delicate, nuanced facets of an outstanding Smoked Salmon. It's also a bit too salty for my tastes, and the Dill Creme, Mixed Baby Greens and Red Onions aren't enough to even out the sodium.

On another visit, a Blueberry Tart finds its way to our table to start things off.

Their Tarts are definitely some of the better items on the menu, and the Blueberry Tart continues this trend: The Blueberries taste fresh and not too sweet; the Tart crust is crumbly with a slight crunch and quite tasty.

Probably the one major disappointment I've run into at Euro Pane is their Zucchini Focaccia.

Unlike their other breads and pastries, the Zucchini Focaccia is super dry and musty. The Asiago Cheese and many Zucchini strands are burnt, which hurt the overall flavor as well. In addition, none of us picked up on any real Zucchini flavor; it was mainly burnt, dry, musty Bread.

Next to arrive is their Turkey Sandwich (on Cranberry Walnut Bread).

I usually don't expect much with Turkey Sandwiches (they usually turn out rather dry and very lean), and sadly, Euro Pane's version is no different. The Turkey itself tastes about ~1 - 2 days old, with a bit of the refrigerator funk, but it's not as dry as many Turkey Sandwiches I've had over the years. But it's the Cranberry Walnut Bread that's the real winner here: There are nice little bursts of sweet from the Cranberries, along with some little chunks of Walnut here and there. The Bread itself is as soft and gentle and mouth-pleasing as the other types I've tried here.

They make a respectable Tuna Sandwich (on Multigrain Bread).

It starts with a clean-tasting Tuna, not too much Mayonnaise, and nicely balanced with just the right amount of Capers and Sweet Pickles, with some Tomatoes and Mixed Greens. And once again, the fresh-baked Multigrain Bread is a standout.

Having recently tried some Macarons at Patisserie Chantilly, I was curious how Sumi Chang's version would turn out, so we order a Pistachio Macaron.

Euro Pane's version has a very light outer shell that crumbles easily, giving way to a delicious Cream filling. It's a touch too sweet, but it's lighter and more delicate than Patisserie Chantilly's version.

On my most recent visit, I suddenly remembered the cute article on Monkey Bread from Tasting Table LA, so I quickly order one. :)

The Monkey Bread is indeed crumbly, airy and fresh-baked. It's a touch dry in some spots, but only a little. Otherwise, it's spot-on delicious, lightly sweet and pillowy. :)

As my guests and I are ordering, we notice a huge pan of Ricotta Mushroom Frittata arriving fresh from the kitchen. How could we resist? :)

Their Frittata incorporates Mushrooms, Bell Peppers, Spinach, Mixed Field Greens and hearty chunks of Ricotta Cheese along with the Egg. It's still hot from the oven (which is a plus), and the vegetables are fine, but the Frittata is touch more dense than I'd like. Overall, it's good, but nothing outstanding.

Service at Euro Pane Bakery is pretty straightforward: Select what you want from the display case and place any other Sandwich or Drink orders at the counter. You take a number and seat yourself and the food is brought out to you. The utensils and napkins, etc. are all self-serve, along with free Filtered Water. Prices range from $2.25 - $5.50 for Pastries, and $7.50 - $8.75 for Sandwiches. We averaged about ~$15 per person (including tax and tip).

Euro Pane Bakery is rather interesting in that their baked goods range from mediocre (Zucchini Focaccia, Almond Bearclaw) to simply excellent (all of their fresh Breads (for their Sandwiches), Macadamia Nut Tart). One might argue that if they can't make an outstanding, basic Croissant, then how good can anything else be? But that's exactly where Euro Pane shines the most, with the surprising Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Sandwich, but an even more stunning Egg Salad Sandwich that features the best Egg Salad I've had anywhere around town. I'll be glad to return just for those two Sandwiches and maybe a Macadamia Nut Tart. :)

Rating: 7.0 (out of 10.0)
(Rating for Egg Salad Sandwich Only: 8.9 (out of 10.0))

Euro Pane Bakery
950 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91106
Tel: (626) 577-1828

Hours: Mon - Sat, 7:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Sun, 7:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.


Gastronomer said...

Wow! It looks like you spent a small fortune at Euro Pane ;-) I am also a HUGE fan of their egg salad. Gotta get my paws on a macadamia nut tart.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Gastronomer,

No no, just multiple visits with friends. :) I'm glad you love their Egg Salad Sandwich as well. Definitely let me know if you get to try their Macadamia Nut Tart or their Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Sandwich. :)

Anonymous said...

First and only time I ate there, a mouse peeked out from one of the planters, snatched up some food, and ran back. Haven't been back since...

streetgourmetla said...

Alright, I am an egg enthusiast, so this has me written all over it.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Anonymous,

Wow, sorry to hear about the mouse you saw outside near the planters snatching some food. Ugh. If you ever do get to try it one more time (inside this time), let me know how it goes. Thanks. :)

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Street Gourmet LA,

You will love this then. :) Let me know if you end up trying it and what you think of it. Thanks!

PulledPorker said...

I never understood the fascination with Euro Pane. Although I've never thought it is bad, I just don't think it's as great as people make it out to be; I get the feeling it's one of those places people want to be great before they have even been there.

That being said, a couple of these sandwiches (particularly the pepper and goat cheese) look much better than anything I have seen there in person. Maybe I should give them another chance.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Pulled Porker,

Oh I definitely agree with you. If you see my score above, for the overall feeling on Euro Pane, they definitely have some misses, but they have some standouts as well. I'm bummed their basic Croissant isn't in the top echelon in L.A., but have you tried their Egg Salad Sandwich? Let me know what you think. :)

And their Red Pepper & Goat Cheese is really nice as well. Those and the Macadamia Nut Tart are probably my favorite items there. There are many other items that I'd completely skip and avoid as well. Thanks.

weezermonkey said...

I may be the only egg salad hater here -- it REALLY grosses me out!

But I do like Euro Pane's other offerings, although their macarons are not my favorite.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi weezermonkey,

No no, I definitely can see that. :) I have friends who refuse to eat eggs that aren't fully cooked; there's something about gooey / liquid-y egg yolks that can be a turnoff for some.

burumun said...

You should say hi next time you visit Pasadena, my campus is just 2-3 blocks away :)
I visited Europane too before to try their Egg salad during lunch but, alas, they were out. Instead I got their chicken salad sandwich and like you was a little disappointed. Sounds like I need to try again though.

Aunt Snow said...

I adore egg salad - my husband thinks its weird - so I will go try Euro Pane. Someday, anyway - I don't get over to Pasadena often.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi burumun,

Oh nice. :) Yes, definitely you have to go back just to try their Egg Salad Sandwich it's pretty amazing. :) Let me know what you think of it if you do.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Aunt Snow,

As an Egg Salad fan, you should definitely give it a try. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. :)

Kathy H. said...

I friggin' love this place! Thanks for your comprehensive review. I've referenced your blog ("via 'Exile Kiss'") on my SM networks. Just Tweeted it on Twitter via @kathy_writer. Keyword search is Exile Kiss. Keep up the great work!

- Kathy H.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Kathy,

Glad to hear you also enjoy Euro Pane. :) Thanks for the kind words.

mileena said...

you post the best reviews. :) love the details and wonderful pictures.

i love their egg salad too and i'm not usually a fan of undercooked eggs. sooo yummy.

i don't really like their other macarons, but have you tried the salted caramel macaron? it is an amazing balance of sweet and salty (my favorite). they are usually out of it unless you go early or call and have them hold some for you.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi mileena,

Thank you, you're too kind. :) Another Egg Salad Fan! :)

Thanks for the recommendation on the Salted Caramel Macarons. I'll definitely be looking for them next time I'm in the area. :)

Blog Widget by LinkWithin