While I was initially rattled by the constant noise and congestion, I’ve grown to enjoy the rush that comes from the chaos. My hometown of Newport Beach seems decidedly dull in comparison, and when I go down to Orange County to visit my parents now, it’s hard for me to stay more than a day.
In some ways, Los Angeles has ruined my ability to sit still and ruined my enjoyment of some of the simple things I used to savor before I became soiled/spoiled by my residence. I crave bolder flavors now – in both my social life and in the food I eat. I’m no longer satisfied by planning my calendar around my favorite TV shows, and I couldn’t imagine eating a plain bowl of white rice and shelled soybeans for dinner like I’ve done in years past.
Even so, there are moments when I wish I could briefly transport myself to a place where life is a little less gratuitous and a little more basic. And there are moments when I wish I could be happy eating a bland bowl of mush without my head swirling with ideas about how I could improve it with a little lemon zest or drizzle of sherry vinegar or touch of goat cheese.
So when I first heard about simplethings, the new pie and sandwich shop that’s opening soon on West Third Street in West Hollywood, I thought to myself, “They are only going to serve pie and sandwiches? What’s so exciting about that?”
It seemed too simple for a town and area that tends to gravitate toward the more exotic. Pie and sandwiches are both decidedly humble entities and are usually the type of things that are made and enjoyed at home.
Yet when I visited the discreet shop this past Friday for a hosted media preview event, I found myself immediately smitten by the cafe and bakery’s old fashioned mentality. Partners Andy Paxson, Ryan Handel and Carrie Cusack take the time to do things the right way – the way that evokes a fond sense of going to a family gathering rather than going out.
The turkey for the Thanksgiving sandwich that’s topped with cornbread jalapeño stuffing and cranberry sauce is roasted and carved fresh. The potato salad is perked up with grainy mustard rather than excessive, caloric additives. And Executive Chef Carrie Cusak’s pies taste wholesome – like the type of thing Grandma might have made if she had the same imagination and eye for presentation.
The pies, which are available in three sizes – mini, small and large, are thoughtfully conceived and executed. A peanut butter pie topped with a brûléed marshmallow is mouth-smackingly peanut buttery – exactly what I want it to be when I collect a mini one to sample. I’m even fonder of the same pie with a chocolate cookie crust. The deep cocoa flavor helps balance out the intense nuttiness.
The pristine whip cream-topped banana toffee pie is a dream for those who, like me, have an assertive sweet tooth. I love the sultry budino-like texture of the toffee filling that is only subtlety kissed with banana and find it hard to stop eating it in lieu of the other pies. But there is life beyond the graham cracker crusted options that also include a delightfully tart key lime selection. There are blueberry crumble pies, apple pies, pumpkin pies, sweet potato pies, and pecan pies – each as adorable and classically prepared as its predecessor.
It’s the pumpkin whoopie pie, however, that evokes my most enthusiastic response of the evening. The ambitiously-sized, cake-like cookies taste like fall – full of the aromatic spices that are so familiar and comforting this time of year. I want to eat the whole thing, while licking the mild cream cheese frosting out from the center like I would have as a child.
If there was a place where that kind of behavior would be acceptable, it would be at simplethings – a shop devoted to bringing some of life’s simplest pleasures back to Los Angeles.
Simplethings Sandwich & Pie Shop
8310 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048