"Life's short," says the promotional postcards for Long Beach's cutesy neighborhood bakery Shortnin Bread. "Eat dessert first!" So one morning I decided to take that advice and held out on breakfast for what I thought would be a dessert-filled lunch. Except when I arrived at Shortnin Bread's corner storefront--which holds down a newly revitalized stretch of shops in the East Village Arts District--I found a selection of treats much wider than the house-made ice creams, bacon chocolate chip cookies and bittersweet chocolate s'more brownies that originally made the farmer's market vet locally famous.
While the artisan bakery and creamery does not serve any sandwiches or other traditional-style lunch fare (yet!), head pastry chef Justina Fenton's increasingly savory explorations make for filling mid-day summer meals that don't even need the sweets to feel decadent.
Take the sharp cheddar, bacon and chive scone, for instance, which smells like a quiche but tastes like some dreamy polenta breakfast burrito that has somehow taken on the consistency of all that's good about muffin tops. Or the bakery's new line of daily savory tarts, which the staff has started calling "pizza pies" since they look like pizza slices, but are actually made with Fenton's flaky pie-crust recipe.
The tart I got was made of roma tomatoes, basil and mozzarella (like a delicious near-caprese plus carbs), but previous editions have included ricotta and summer squash as well as one that featured carmelized onions, jam, potato and thyme--all served at room temperature to let the flavors pop.
The ingredients are so fresh and so well-combined on these things that if Shortnin Bread didn't make so many damn good sweet things too, you'd think they were trying to hop on OC's artisanal pizza trend. But no! This is low-key Long Beach, and Fenton just wants you to be able to enjoy a "strictly dark chocolate brownie" alongside a jalepeño, corn and quesa frescsa muffin and not think twice about washing it all down with a bottle of Dry soda or a cup of their cold-brewed iced coffee (which, by the way, is much better than Berlin's around the corner).
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Of course if you actually did want dessert for lunch, that can definitely happen too. Try the Everything Blondie--a cookie-based Chex-mix-meets-trail-mix bar loaded with pretzels, potato chips, peanut butter, toasted marshmallows and white and dark chocolate chips. No joke!
Shortnin' Bread Artisan Bakery and Creamery, 401 E. 3rd Street, Long Beach, (562) 257-0016; www.shortninbreadbakery.com.