7 Ways to Show Your V-day Love, Plus New Eats & Drinks Around Town
A curated selection of sweets—culled from some of the Valley’s most talented bakers and artisans—to present to your loved ones this Valentine’s Day
CategoryEat & Drink
Written byKaren Young
PhotographsCourtesy of the respective restaurants
Anna Avetisyan has spent the last three years building her handcrafted vegan chocolate business. Trained as a pastry chef and chocolatier, she works in a Canoga Park commercial kitchen to create an assortment of fine hand-painted artisanal confections. Made with imported fair-trade dark Belgium chocolate and organic coconut milk instead of dairy, the elegant sweets are also kosher and gluten-free. For Valentine’s Day, Anna is offering made-to-order 15- and 24-piece boxes with heart- and semisphere-shaped bonbons ($33 to $50). Flavors include passion fruit, strawberry and coconut—or richer mixes with hazelnut and chocolate ganache. Non-chocolate flavors are made with imported French purées and include passion fruit-caramel, strawberry-coconut and coconut flake. Order by February 12.
Cake Bash Studio & Bakery
Sisters Karla Peguero and Miredys Peguero opened their Lake Balboa shop and dessert café nearly two years ago with space for classes to boot. With pastry chef Karla helming the kitchen and Miredys taking care of business, they are known for their extravagantly themed cakes as well as cupcakes, cake pops, fruit tarts, macarons, brownies and more. Paying homage to their native country of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, they also feature a selection of authentic baked goods including alfajores, tres leches and quesitos (cheese rolls). They even make their own version of ice cream by mixing cake, frosting and ice together for a refreshing frozen treat. For Valentine’s Day, the assortment of red, pink and white runs the gamut—including elegant fondant cakes, chocolate-covered strawberries with sprinkles, bite-sized heart-shaped “word” cookies, cupcakes, macarons and truffles—all packaged especially for the occasion. Order by February 10; walk-ins welcome.
This small, family-owned café and chocolate shop in NoHo (with a boutique in Beverly Hills) is known for its coffee drinks and chocolate-covered strawberries perfect for the day of hearts. Choose from one of three flavor selections with one dozen decadent berries in dark, milk and white chocolate. Add to the surprise and spell your love in Spanish or English ($40 to $45). Fashionistas will get a kick out of the chocolate high-heeled pump with white polka dots and red bow ($28). For the little ones, there’s a small chocolate teddy bear and chocolate heart plant ($6 to $8). Colorful handmade truffles and bonbons come in boxes of one and two dozen ($30 to $50).
Déjà Vu Cakes
Just when you think the cupcake trend is on its way out, you come across an unassuming neighborhood bakery like Déjà Vu Cakes that changes your mind. Located in a Valley Village strip mall at Laurel Canyon and Riverside, the small shop is owned by husband-and-wife team Emil Bejanian and Rubina John, who is the head baker. The batter and toppings are made from scratch using all fresh ingredients and no preservatives—resulting in a moist cupcake without the cloying sweet taste that accompanies others. Whipped fluffy toppings include mascarpone, buttercream, Nutella, ganache and dulce de leche. Rubina hand-decorates all Valentine’s Day cupcakes with variations of hearts and flowers. Buy them individually ($3.50 to $4.50) or by the half-dozen and dozen ($20 to $40). Specialty flavors include champagne (frosting and cake), black forest (with liquor cherries) and red velvet cream cheese. Gluten-free cupcakes are $5. Added bonus: Receive a free cup of coffee with every purchase. Order ASAP in advance.
This Sherman Oaks bakery, which just opened, is an Instagram-worthy playground with an upscale Etsy persona. The sweets section is only one part of the antique blue storefront that also features a marketplace carrying imported European kitchenware, tableware, pantry goods, party items and exotic tea blends. Watch bakers create through a glass window at the entrance and then check out the offerings at the sleek back counter featuring a highly curated selection of sophisticated desserts, including a berry-topped pavlova (that teases customers, as it is custom-order only), tartes, shortbread cookies, meringues, macarons, mini-tea cakes, birthday cakes and mini-donuts. For Valentine’s Day signature pink boxes will be filled with an array of their specialties. Orders must be placed in advance.
Maya Zellman’s specialty sweets are rooted in her family’s Brazilian heritage. Named after Brigadier Eduardo Gomes who in the ’40s ran for the presidency of the Republic, the Brigadeiro is an indulgent bite that is a cross between a truffle and a caramel. Although the Brigadier didn’t win, the popularity of the confection surged and became a beloved dessert. The L.A. native says she fell in love with the sweet when she traveled to Brazil to visit family—and then took home the recipe to make it her own. Based at the communal space BLVD Kitchen in Sherman Oaks, Maya makes her all-natural, hand-rolled, small-batch confections individually. For Valentine’s Day, Maya is creating heart-topped Brigadeiro in four flavors: classic chocolate, coconut, coffee dark chocolate and sweet milk. An extra plus: She collaborated with fellow artisan Kasey Blaustein of Kasey Jones Ink, who designed hand-drawn custom sleeves for 6-, 12- and 24-piece boxes ($17, $30 and $47). Pre-order is recommended by February 11. Walk-ins are welcome.
Salt & Straw
Valentine’s Day lasts the entire month at this small-batch ice cream shop, which fortunately for 818-ers has a Studio City location. Head ice cream maker Tyler Malek collaborated with five Southern California-based chocolatiers to create decadent flavors specially for its L.A. shops. Looking for ice cream with a kick? The cardamom black pepper and port truffle from Santa Barbara-based Twenty-Four Blackbirds featuring house-made zinfandel port jelly will appease spice-seekers. Chocolate-lovers who crave a rich embrace may lean toward hazelnut praline elegantly created with crisp chocolate from Culver City’s Milla Chocolates amidst swirls of Nutella fudge. Mediterranean flavors emerge in sesame fig buttercups, the signature confection from Mar Vista’s Ococoa, blending ganache with lightly spiced cardamom, while Compartés chocolate bar The Drive In is reimagined as caramelized popcorn milk chocolate. Those preferring lighter fare may find the 85% Peruvian chocolate sorbet made with San Diego-based Nibble’s chocolate, coconut cream and fleur de sel the perfect sweet-and-savory vegan scoop.
New Eats and Drinks
Vitello’s has a new menu aimed at vegans. Entertainer Michael Feinstein, a vegan for more than 20 years and partner in the upstairs jazz club Feinstein’s at Vitello’s, worked closely with the restaurant’s team to create a menu featuring vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Dishes include some of Michael’s personal favorites including artichoke cakes, meatless meatballs, Beyond BRATwurst, jackfruit tacos, Southwest Chick’n salad (Gardein Chick’n cutlet), capellini alla checca, Chick’n Parmesan, and sausage and peppers ($14 to $26).
Also at the Studio City supper club on Valentine’s Day: dinner and a show with Chris Mann, best known for his role as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera’s 25th Anniversary Tour. The one-night-only menu includes lobster pappardelle, chicken rollatini, petite fillet skewers or oven-roasted Arctic char.
Lucifer’s Pizza just opened its fourth location in Studio City next to Stout Burgers on Ventura Boulevard. Playing into its mischievous fiery name, there are four spice levels from “zero” to “blazing.” In addition to pizza, there are salads, chicken wings, baked fries and tiramisu. Owner Adam Borich considers his handmade pizza crust to serve as a plate filled with fave dinner dishes such as: roast pumpkin and prosciutto; chicken basil pesto; and Greek lamb and rosemary. Vegan cheese and gluten-free dough can be substituted on all pizzas, with keto-friendly cauliflower crust available in personal size. Only offered at the Studio City location is The Growler with fresh mozzarella, salmon, arugula, capers, cream cheese and fresh chili. Just for Valentine’s Day: heart-shaped pizzas offered from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Expect beer and wine in the next couple months.
Philz Coffee is now open in Studio City next to sweetgreen from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The Northern California-based company is known for individually brewing cups of coffee. Customized blends include Tantalizing Turkish with cardamom and topped with fresh mint; citrus and strawberry-laced Canopy of Heaven; and spicy iced Gingersnap. The iced Mint Mojito is not to be missed. Fresh pastries, breakfast burritos, a variety of toasts, sandwiches and vegan options are also on hand. The contemporary space features plenty of wood tables, a handful of outlets and a custom mural by L.A. native Cloe Hakakian.
Blue Water Café recently opened in Woodland Hills in the space of the former Gasolina Café (which moved down the street to a larger spot). The small, family-owned café features an all-day breakfast plus Middle Eastern favorites such as fattoush salad, tabbouleh, hummus, falafel and gyro wraps.
21014 Ventura Blvd.