Jeff Smith 2 p.m., Dec. 18
Sweet-Filled Asian Confections Beckon You at Pangea Bakery Cafe
I tried acupuncture for the time recently. I was told that it would alleviate pain and help make me as relaxed as a wet noodle. Yeah, not so much. Unless, that is, you call relaxation 30 minutes of jolting pain and a practitioner snapping at you like a piranha: "You're too sensitive! Stop being so sensitive!"
Fortunately, the office was in Kearny Mesa, home to many of San Diego's tastiest Asian eateries. My plan was to treat myself to a steaming, healing bowl of pho at Mignon Pho & Grill on Convoy, but on my way there I was sidetracked by a sign: Pangea Bakery Cafe.
I was still steps away from entering Pangea when the sweet smells of yeast, butter and vanilla beckoned me. Pangea's space is airy, inviting and pristine. Yet the glass cases that house scores of delectable confections wrapped in cellophane are wrapped with yellow glass coverings, casting a sallow yellow glow on the food. Look beyond it. Get up close and personal with the confections.
Pangea offers a wide variety of Asian and Pan-Asian baked goods including Hawaiian, Chinese, and Taiwanese specialties. I like going in the morning between 8-10am when they're busy transferring the freshly baked goods from the oven to the shelves. The staff, who couldn't be kinder, will happily answer your questions and offer samples.
The last time I was there, one of the managers had just taken these Cream Buns (pictured below) out of the oven and generously offered me one. When you bite into one of these golden saucers your teeth sink into the pillowy soft, dough revealing a pool of warm, mildly sweet cream.
A few minutes later the manager removed a tray of shiny golden spheres from the oven (pictured below). He told me that they're called Date Yolk Pastries, and inside of each one, you'll find a sassy, sweet mashed date filling.
Yet of all, the sweet-filled wonders I enjoyed that day, my favorite were the Taro Mochi Poluo Buns. When you pull apart the crackled, sugary dough, you discover an appealing mauve-hued taro paste that is more savory than sweet; it's sort of like a mild potato flavored filling. One bite brought me instantly back to the Big Island of Hawaii where taro buns are ubiquitous and delicious.
And because I really, really like taro buns, I bought a package of Taro Biscuits for the road. Like oversized marbles, these purple-swirled doughy bites are chewy, mildly sweet and ideal with a hot cup of Chinese black tea.
So next time you're in Kearny Mesa, consider treating yourself to Pangea Bakery Cafe, though I'd skip the acupuncture.
Pangea Bakery Cafe 4689 Convoy Street, Suite 100 Kearny Mesa, CA 92111 858.560.0688 Please visit Pangea's website for more details.