Oh how I miss living in Paris. I miss the sweet smells of butter and pastries that would waft down the street from les boulangeries. Man did the Parisians know what to do with a stick of butter and some flour. The week before I moved back to Los Angeles I had a croissant-off trying to dub a favorite across the city, for fear I wouldn't have a proper croissant again.
I've had some decent baked goods back in the U.S., but the flake isn't quite the same. It's hard for most bakeries to get the right ingredients here to make the right croissant, but then I was invited to experience the French products of L'Amande right here in Beverly Hills. I was skeptical until I learned about the extensive sourcing of ingredients L'Amande uses. The owners met while studying French cuisine in Switzerland and knew they would only open a French bakery in the U.S. if they could get the correct products. We're only talking about 3 products here - butter, flour and salt - but so much can go wrong with these products.
A perfect croissant has just the right milk fat content and most often comes from European Butter. This butter has a higher fat content of at least 82%, where American butters usually go up to 80%. Is this a big enough difference to notice? Mais oui!
One of the owners, Goncalo Moitinho de Almeida, said:
"For months, before our opening, we were in a panic to find a suitable butter. Importing it was out of the question because of the high import duties. This, apart from increasing the flavor, also increases its melting point allowing it to melt in your mouth not in the display tray. This butter is as good as the best French butter."
Those were fighting words indeed, so I went to see how things stacked up.
L'Amande occupies a busy stretch of Little Santa Monica Boulevard and makes great use of the afternoon sunlight with floor to ceiling windows. (There's another location in Torrance as well). There are nice French touches everywhere from the obligatory Eiffel Tower shots to pictures of French women and the blackboard menu that dons most French cafes.
There are classic French items on the menu like quiche, pain perdu and the his and her croque Madame and Monsieurs. I haven't had a good croque in a while, though I will say that they're not as prevalent as you might think in Paris. L'Amande's Croque Monsieur was sinfully delicious with a decadent pain de mie grilled with black forest ham and salty gruyere cheese melted inside, alongside the creamy Bechamel sauce.
There are salads and paninis, but then there's the main attraction. Belly up to the bakery display case and feast your eyes on the wonder that is butter, flour and salt. Every single item on the menu is baked fresh in house. There's nothing frozen or shipped from afar.
Every croissant takes 72 hours to create. In addition to the best butter, L'Amande also has their own laminating machine, which no, doesn't seal croissants for your next meeting, though that's not a bad idea. The machine separates the layers of dough to ensure consistent and flaky layers.
There are savory croissants with feta and spinach and portobello and ham, but you might as well go for it with something in the sweet family. The raspberry cream cheese croissant is one of L'Amande's big sellers, and for good reason. It's ridiculous. In a good way. It's what I always wanted a peanut butter and jelly to taste like.
From baguettes to tarts to madeleine, you really can't go wrong at L'Amande. They're using quality ingredients and preparing everything from scratch and you'll pay a little more for it, but it's a lot cheaper than hopping a plane to Paris!
I was a guest at L'Amande, but all opinions are always my own.
9530 S. Santa Monica Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA