You might have figured out from earlier posts that I thoroughly enjoy reading Donna Leon’s mystery novel series featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. Set in Venice, Italy, reading the books sends me on a trip to an exotic and interesting place, with a guide I trust. Guido Brunetti is married to Paola, who I enjoy knowing just as much as Guido. She is a professor of literature and an excellent cook. As intriguing as the mysteries are, I also like being in the company of Guido and Paola, especially when they discuss and eat food. Paola cooks up amazing dishes using fresh ingredients, which the entire family — including a teen daughter and son — sit down to eat each day. Often I read about one of the meals they’ve eaten and I have to cook up the same thing. William and Natalie love it when I announce, “We’re having a Brunetti dinner tonight.” In fact, they get excited when they see me reading one of the novels because it means I’ll be re-creating one of the meals.
When they learned that Donna Leon had published a book titled Brunetti’s Cookbook (with recipes by Leon’s best friend Roberta Pianaro), they decided to hunt it down for me as a Mother’s Day gift. Although now out-of-print, they discovered one copy on the shelf at Vromans, one of our favorite independent bookstores. The recipes are my favorite kind – short and simple with fresh ingredients. The only problem I foresee is that the cookbook includes excerpts from the novels, which means I am in danger of being distracted in the middle of my cooking. Last night, I forgot to add water to the pot in which I was steaming yellow summer squash. Fortunately, I heard a sizzling sound and rescued the squash with a splash of water from the tea kettle close by.
When William asked me what I’d like to do on Mother’s Day, I said, “I’d love to have a Proof Bakery croissant with tea and berries for breakfast on our patio and then read all afternoon.”
Early Sunday morning, he gladly drove over to Atwater Village (from our house it is an hour roundtrip, early Sunday morning with no traffic) for what we’ve all agreed are the world’s most remarkable croissants. Na Young Ma, owner and baker at Proof Bakery, graduated with a degree in art history from Cornell and then discovered a passion for baking while living in New York. How lucky we are that she discovered this talent and brought her passion to southern California! What makes Proof’s croissants perfect are: the love and attention that goes into them (3 days of prep!); they’re flaky without being too buttery; and your tastebuds tell you that all other ingredients are top notch.
By 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, William arrived on our patio with three kinds of croissants: ham and cheese, pistachio, and chocolate. I ate my ham and cheese croissant slowly with some blackberries from Pudwill Farms and a cup of organic assam tea from Harney & Sons. I followed with half a pistachio croissant, which made me sigh with pleasure.
When I read aloud from Donna Leon’s Foreword in Brunetti’s Cookbook, Natalie said, “That sounds like us!”
“Italian life is filled with food: people talk about it constantly, spend a great deal of time shopping for it and preparing it, and devote a joyous amount of time eating it. One has but to pay close attention to them when they talk about food, or when they cook and eat, to begin to understand how fundamental it is to the living of a happy life…”
Proof Bakery is located at 3156 Glendale Blvd. in Los Angeles (Atwater Village neighborhood)