Looking for the perfect croissant? It’s in Ojai

This is the place to eat – and what to call – right now.

Entire box of cakes in Dutchess

Just after 7 a.m. on a recent Sunday morning, a line of people gathered around the bread stand in Dutchess. On display at the Ojai restaurant and bakery are mountains of croissants, heirloom tomato-lined trays, piles of chocolate croissants and croissants stuffed with ham, cheese and mustard. A plate filled with pickled peppers and cheddar scones, along with a whole coconut chiffon, stacks of bagels and sugar-topped morning cakes. The sides press against the glass around the case. Everyone pointed and their eyes widened at the breadth of choice.

I have ordered pretty much everything. That would be a good drive back to Los Angeles.

Pastry chef and partner Kelsey Brito is obsessed with her viennoiserie show, spending about two months perfecting the croissant. She even tried making her own butter for the butter cubes, a key step in creating the layered dough for croissants.

Croissants are “so important to my baking case,” she said on a recent call. “And you know, when I eat a croissant, I want it to crumble into a million pieces in my lap and make a mess.”

I opened the box as soon as I got in the car. I plan to eat ham and cheese croissants on the drive back to Los Angeles. Before starting the car, I took my first bite: There was a pastry explosion, with crumbs shooting into my lap (mission accomplished, Brito). A generous amount of butter is then melted into the Niman Ranch cold cuts, melted white cheese, and sharp and grainy mustard. The car didn’t move before I finished the whole job.

Next, I learned about what Brito describes as her sacrificial bagel. The bagels have a crisp, delicate appearance with a soft yet chewy middle and a slight sourdough.

“We took bread dough and shaped it like a bagel, boiled it up like a bagel, and that was the best thing ever,” says Brito. “Some people will say it’s not a bagel, and fair enough, but it was for us.”

Both the top and bottom of the bagels are dipped in Brito’s bagel seasoning so that every available topping has poppy seeds, sesame seeds, fennel seeds and dried onions. Each bagel comes with some delicious cream cheese, pickled onions, a few halved CastZErano olives, and whatever fresh herbs are available in the kitchen. Sunday’s bagel consists of sprigs of dill, some basil, and mint.

I suggest you come early. A friend who showed up later in the day missed all the croissants. Don’t make you like that.

Fried quail and naan from Dutchess

Fried quail with tikka masala sauce on a white round plate.

Fried quail with tikka masala sauce from Dutchess in Ojai.

(Saw Naing)

The evening before my morning of layered dough, I treated myself to a solo birthday dinner at Burmese-inspired Dutchess, from the same group of restaurants that include Rustic Canyon and Cassia in Los Angeles . While there are pastries and counters for breakfast and lunch, it’s a full-service restaurant that sits down in the evenings with curries, lamb biryani, fermented tea leaf salad and a full bar with homemade vermouth and bitters. I was halfway through dinner when I embarrassedly threw a quail bone on the floor. I was trying to separate the two bones trying to catch every last bit of meat as it hit the air, flew in an arc and nearly landed on the next table. I’m still lamenting the missed bite.

“Good,” said chef and partner Saw Naing as I relayed my experience over a recent call. “I want people to use their hand and rip it off.”

Naing says that in Burma, where the cook grew up with Indian and Burmese families, quails are everywhere. “It was our daily food,” he said. In Burma, he often eats these birds as a street-style barbecue. At Dutchess, he dredged and fried his quail in a cast iron skillet.

He serves quail in a pot of curry made with his own garam masala, onion, garlic, ginger, and cream. He then tops it with chimichurri – his version of Argentinian sauce that’s full of coriander, cooked scallions, lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, and juice.

Naan with butter and a cocktail on a wooden table.

Naan with avocado at Dutchess in Ojai.

(Mariana Schulze)

The coating on the quail falls off into large, crisp, crisp and slightly bitter bricks from a good dose of fenugreek powder. The meat smelled of lemongrass and ginger. Naing soaked his quail in a brine with buttermilk mixed with fish sauce.

I ordered some naan soaked in the leftover sauce on the plate, tearing it into chunks to scoop up the rich curry.

“When I was in Burma, I grew up eating naan every morning,” says Naing. “It’s the only bread I eat.”

Naing whips her flatbreads with homemade honey and buttermilk. On the side, there’s a black skin of shallot, garlic and herb butter with garam masala.

Depending on when you visit, the tikka masala can be replaced with another curry. A quail can be a goat. Order all.

https://www.latimes.com/food/story/2022-09-26/best-croissants-best-bagels-dutchess-ojai Looking for the perfect croissant? It’s in Ojai

Russell Falcon

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