Valerie Gordon on Moving Into Downtown's Grand Central Market
The coffee shop experience comes home, with The Brown Derby Cobb Salad and Blum's Coffee Crunch cake, too.
Confectioner Valerie Gordon has come to be known for her dainty pastries, fantastical cakes, and sourced-from-the-farmers-market jams and spreads. She has been operating out of a tiny shop near Silver Lake for several years, and though she also sells her items at Farmers' Markets and gourmet shops around town, Valerie Confections was a single, stand alone shop until today.
Valerie at Grand Central Market opens downtown this morning. Located near the center of the open air market off Broadway, you'll smell the stall before you spot it. On offer are many of Valerie's signature pastries, along with a full espresso and coffee menu, breakfast items, salads, sandwiches, and cakes by the slice. There are also dishes inspired by actual historic menu items. To get the full scoop, we talked with Gordon directly.
You talk about wanting to give downtown "the coffee shop experience." What exactly do you mean by that and what do you love about it? Why did you want to emulate it?
Friendly, familiar, easy. A feeling of comfort where someone can dine privately or engage in conversation with the person next to them. There is a constancy in the counter experience, a place where everyone feels welcome.
You're serving things like The Brown Derby Cobb Salad in GCM, and you've been making Blum's Coffee Crunch cake for a few years. What was it about these particular historic dishes and desserts?
I love the simplicity of the foods from the 1930's-1960's. When exceptional ingredients are used in these recipes there is nothing more delicious. It all feels new right now, in particular the descriptions—in an era where many menus list a full paragraph for each dish it is almost refreshing to see something as succinct as "Egg Salad Sandwich."
Tell me about your personal experience, or your memories of these historic dishes.
The Blum's Coffee Crunch cake was a defining cake in my youth, but with regards to the counter experience, who doesn't remember the feeling of their first lunch at a counter? There is something innately fun about the experience, probably because most people don't have counters in there homes… the meal becomes experiential and unique.
Are they the real recipes, or merely homages?
The cakes are all real recipes that I have sourced in old cookbooks or through the internet. As much as possible, I have also researched the savory dishes through the same channels and also through interviewing people who remember the original dishes and the presentation.
Tell me a bit about the new space: what do you love, and what have been challenges?
The new space is perfect. Preservation is a tricky process, there are constant issues with upgrades and the sheer labor involved in maintaining a property like the Grand Central Market. It's easy to tear a building down and start new, and I have immense respect for the owners of the market and the spirit with which they have embraced the market's history and it's future. My partner Stan and I always work to create products and foods that are timeless, so to be positioned in a building that is the physical presence of the same philosophy feels like a marriage that will last.
Valerie at Grand Central Market, 317 Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013