I am the worst kind of skeptic when it comes to dairy substitutes; I think non-dairy ice cream is one of the cruelest tricks ever played on a vulnerable public; I think that you'd have a tastier experience eating the box that tempeh bacon comes in than the contents; I think "nut cheese" ought to be delivered in secure tankers with hazardous materials signage.
So when I bit into a mouthful of chewy molasses cookie at a party this past weekend, I was not thinking about food substitutes.
"These are fantastic," I said around a mouthful of sugar-studded dessert.
"Yes, they are," said another guest at the party. "Is it okay if I take some home?"
"Yes, of course," said the person who brought them, grinning deviously, "...and they're gluten-free."
Wait, what? Everyone knows gluten-free baked goods are leaden gut bombs that exist only as token nods to dessert, right? Right?
Wrong. So very, very wrong. These cookies, from a Los Angeles bakery called Lisa & Mo, were every bit as good as homemade, regular-flour ginger cookies. I don't think I could identify them as gluten-free in a blind tasting, and that's saying a lot.
Then later I had a coconut cupcake with cream cheese frosting and a dot of lemon curd, and it was better than ninety percent of the me-too cupcakes currently giving South County yoga moms sugar highs. It, too, was gluten-free; it, too, was another dent in my I-hate-food-substitutes armor.
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They rely on a proprietary blend that includes coconut and almond flours, then beat the hell out of the dough to develop whatever lacy protein matrices they can; this violent method is used for a jaw-dropping variety of products for a startup bakery. They make graham-free graham crackers and nine or ten varieties of brownies, as well as a dozen varieties of cupcakes based on chocolate, not to mention "naked cakes" with no frosting.
Lisa & Mo gluten-free desserts are sold only at Greenleaf Gourmet Chop Shop for now; it may be time to engage in a social media campaign to get Whole Foods to carry these instead of the other, lesser specimens they currently sell next to the coffee stand. I know I'd buy it; I can only imagine what a boon a place like this would be if I were gluten-intolerant.
Find Lisa & Mo online at http://www.lisaandmo.com or call (310) 746-8040.