Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sweet Lady Jane's Lost Its Lustre

In an earlier post, I raved about Sweet Lady Jane bakery on Melrose. I have to take a lot of it back, alas. I tasted a white (yellow?) cake of theirs at a friend's birthday party about 5 years or so ago. I was new in town and thought it was spectacular. I had no doubts that this was where my wedding cake was going to come from. (To clarify, although my husband and I married almost a year ago, our Official Wedding Party with all the family is not until this May). Friends suggested other locales, but I was unmoved. I called to make my appointment (I was amazed I had to make an appointment, but this betrays more my relative unawareness of all things Bridal rather than anything terribly unusual at Sweet Lady Jane). The woman I was told to speak with was turse and impatient over the phone, almost off-puttingly so, but I thought she was probably just caught at a bad moment when she sounded annoyed by my mentioning that her suggestion of 10 am was a little early for us on a Saturday given that we were coming from across town, and did she perhaps have any time later. She relented and put us in at 3:30, and I was sure that I just needed a Wedding Princess attitude adjustment, and that I'd love her upon meeting, or at least I'd love her cakes.

Cut to the chase. The good news is that we were served tea and an espresso and tastes of their cakes, and we were not charged for these, even when I mentioned being perfectly willing to pay. The tea was fine. My husband reports the espresso was not, but since he is known to make waitresses in L.A. want to cry with his espresso standards, I won't hold this against them too much. The table we were seated at had a sign that instructed a 3 person minimum and a $6 minimum per person at this table, so the special treatment was particularly notable. The rule-sy signage at the cafe-sy place, though, was questionable. The selection of cakes in their catalogue were lovely, many downright gorgeous. No ridiculous, utterly impractical design ideas like on some wedding cake websites, and the kind of artistry that makes one think a style looks classic rather than hackneyed. The person we met with was obviously very bright and not giving us a hard sell, which I appreciated. She was straight up business, which is a style I happen to like. When she brought the cake tastes to us on a plate, however, and I put a morsel in my mouth with my fingers and my husband used his espresso spoon, she grabbed forks from the next table and handed them to us, saying "These are called forks." I wasn't sure if she was being condescending or funny. I was willing to believe the latter, but my husband thought it was the former. The critical bad news is that the cakes are, well, not spectacular. Don't get me wrong. They don't taste awful or anything. But we weren't wowed by any of them. And at prices that would start at 7 dollars per person plus delivery, we needed to be wowed. We tried the lemon curd, the coconut, the Italian Wedding cake, the Old Fashioned Chocolate, and the Chocolate Blackout Fudge. We had requested the White Chocolate Lemon, but it didn't arrive, and by the end of our tasting, we were non-plussed enough to not push the issue. The Italian wedding cake and the lemon curd were the best of the bunch, and the old-fashioned chocolate was not bad, but they were all too sweet and all of them lacked a complexity and nuance of flavor that we think makes a cake great rather than just alright. By the time we reached the car, my mere 10 small bites of cake were going straight to my head and not in a good way. It might have been partly the smog of the hot West Hollywood afternoon, but I felt pretty darn crappy, full of blah, sugar rush and headache. I bought some water at a nearby shop, which helped, and which I mention only as a means of unburdening my guilt for having absent mindedly and embarassingly left at Sweet Lady Jane the bottle of water that I absent-mindedly and embarassingly brought in with me. And now I am saying bad things about their cakes. But wait, I just remembered what happened when we got home. I don't feel sooo guilty come to think of it. Shortly after we returned from our mission, my husband whose constitution is far stronger than mine--let's put it this way, he lived in Nigeria without much fuss--had let's put it this way, an interesting time on the toilet.
It's my belief from experience that most often a dessert, if made from the finest ingredients (and at the risk of sounding woo woo, made with good vibes), doesn't make me feel bad. I might feel a bit of a buzz or like I haven't necessarily just had a health drink, but not downright icky.
We're thinking of making our own wedding cake...When in L.A....Sigh.