In a sea of puffy fried doughnuts and red-velvet cupcakes spewed from vending machines, Raw Baby offers the Southern California palate a respite from the usual. It can get a bit overwhelming, this dizzying parade of treats trying to outdo one another in a show of saccharine bravado. The internet has proven that the number of ways you can top a milkshake or fill a pastry is infinite, and while it is no doubt delicious, often the point of it all is lost.
Raw Baby churns out unbaked, uncooked desserts from a space among warehouses and offices on Trask Avenue. The front of the house is compact, with a simple chalkboard menu next to floating shelves of homemade coconut butter and a refrigerated display case housing ready-made desserts. The operation, run by chef Arlena Conner, serves local retailers such as Mother’s Market and the Erewhon in Los Angeles.
While there is some fuss on the benefits of raw food—cooking can increase the availability of nutrients and make certain things more digestible, yet applying heat destroys those lovely nutrients in others—the quality of the fare here is apparent. Conner is well-versed in crafting a menu that maneuvers around a gamut of diet restrictions—dairy-, egg-, soy- and gluten-free—while staying within the parameters of vegan sensibilities. It’s a task that can have mediocre results in the hands of the less equipped.
Everything is made with whole, real ingredients. Perfectly chewy almond and walnut crusts are held together with sticky dates. Toppings are kept to all things you can either pick or pluck directly from the earth. If you’re lucky, the special of the day might be the strawberry shortcake, which strikes a curious contrast of tart, nostalgic flavors with a lush fruit filling. Slices of blueberry lemon cheesecake are made with a clever blend of silky cashews and sharp lemon, while aromatic, dried lavender buds fill your nostrils with their deep, smoky scent. For something hearty and not quite cake, but maybe better, lean toward the 24 Carrot Gold, which marries maple syrup and cinnamon with shreds of the savory, mild veggie and bites of cashew.
There are also petite chocolate cups sold in packs of four, the base made with a concise blend of raw cacao heated at an even 98 degrees, coconut oil, maple syrup and coconut butter. The caramels come topped with crunchy chopped hazelnuts and ooze a satisfying, sweet center. I’m keen on the raspberry almond: The sharp scent of the freeze-dried-raspberry layer hits like a strong perfume before giving way to the almost sandy chocolate underneath. The tryst is almost intoxicating, and when I take some home, I jog (okay, sprint) from my car to my apartment, scarfing them down at the kitchen counter. Clearly, these desserts are not meant to share.
Raw Baby, 10302 Trask Ave., Ste. C, Garden Grove, (949) 437-3734; rawbabydesserts.com.
Charisma can usually be found eating cake with a cup of hot coffee for breakfast or walking around the OC with Toto, her awesome corgi-chihuahua.