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Friday, Jun 21, 2013

My father’s daughter: a coffee-and-pastry roundup

Sweet treats and something warm to drink, no matter the time of day

By Marie Tran-McCaslin
wanderingforweb Azucar’s Cray-nut
- Photo by Marie Tran-McCaslin

I mentioned my mom in my recent piece about J&T Thai Street Food. I figure if Mom gets a few lines, then it's only fair that Dad does, too. My father is in his 80s, and, to this day, he's had one constant habit: He always has a pastry and a hot drink for teatime. As a belated Father's Day nod, I thought I'd cover some great places for a tasty pastry or a hot drink:

There's something special about Taiwanese bakeries. To buy, you pluck your choices from cubbies filled with baked goods. San Diego doesn't have 85C Bakery Cafe, the Taiwanese juggernaut with U.S. locations in Los Angeles and Orange counties, but it does have Pangea Bakery Café (4689 Convoy St., Suite 100, in Kearny Mesa). Pangea offers multiple types of sweet breads, headlined by the taro bun, with its streaks of purple in the bread. I love the sweets, but my favorite from Pangea is actually savory: eggy challah-like bread topped with toasted scallions.

Lately, there's been much fuss over frying croissant dough. San Diego's certainly not immune to it, with Ocean Beach's Azucar (4820 Newport Ave.) serving the Cray-nut. Imagine crispy, flaky layers rolled in cinnamon sugar and filled with cream. The first iteration contained a rum custard cream, but as of this writing, the most recent version was filled with a delectable Nutella cream. The labor-intensive sweets are a specialty item available Mondays. I think Dad would appreciate the novelty of frying laminated dough and dunking it in sugar, but he would especially enjoy the traditional Cuban guava and cheese pastry. Go for the novelty; stay for Azucar's selection of pastries and cakes.

If afternoon conjures sweets, sandwiches and drinking tea with pinkies in the air, then I'll suggest Bread and Cie's (350 University Ave. in Hillcrest) tea service. Available daily from 2 to 5 p.m., the service consists of three tiers of pastries and mini-sandwiches with huge cups of tea. However, don't expect English formality; instead, you get itty-bitty treats served with a casual California flair. Scones come with clotted cream, and the chocolate mini-cupcake is perfect, but the best part is lounging in the shaded patio with a cup of tea while watching Hillcrest bustle along.

Many places that serve pastries will likely peddle coffee and tea, including those already mentioned. For my father, it's about the pastry, not the drink; for me, the drink is as important as the pastry. I've covered several coffee places here, but there are many more. North Park's Coffee & Tea Collective (2911 El Cajon Blvd) is roasting and serving great coffee while occasionally featuring handmade eats from local baker Christina Ng (@ChinitasPies on Twitter) and pizzas from Tribute Pizza's Matthew Lyons. In Barrio Logan, there's Ryan Bros. Coffee (1894 Main St.), which I learned about from a CityBeat reader named Kristina after my April 2012 Café Moto piece.

Write to and Marie blogs at and you can follow her on Twitter at @MeanderingEats.