Every Halloween, my husband and I get invited to a “Night of the Living Dead” party to which we have to wear appropriately themed costumes. In 2000, my mate went as Al Gore; in 2004, as John Kerry. But this year, he and I are fighting over which of us gets to wear the Romney mask and which the Obama visage.
Yup, as I write, the election is way too close to forecast, and obsessively checking the major Internet polling sites (Politico, Real Clear Politics and Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight Blog) every couple of hours, I despair of being able to make it to Nov. 7 without a complete meltdown. But the intervention of Halloween may just keep me from taking to my bed, or hiding under it in fear of the election outcome.
Halloween has been my favorite holiday since I became aware of it at about age 4, the last time I can ever remember thinking of myself as a princess, and even trepidation about the election can’t keep me from reveling in the holiday goodies appearing in grocery stores (mixed orange and licorice jelly beans at Sprouts, ghost pumpkins at Trader Joe’s, big bags of Snickers and trays of jack o’ lantern cookies and cupcakes everywhere.)
Nor can my angst keep me from at least one visit to savor the many Halloween novelties at Cost Plus, which aside from “mummified” cats, rats and spiders (Oh my!), stocks edible eyeballs, skeleton bones and gummy critters, along with Witches’ Brew Ale and themed wines, including several vampire vintages, Seven Deadly Zins and Velvet Devil. If the election doesn’t go our way, we can drown our sorrows in the bottles labeled specifically for Day of the Dead.
But, best of all for my mate and me right now are two local restaurants where we’ve been able to indulge in a super comfort food meal on site (one of the few remedies that can ease the knots in the pit of our stomachs and still allow us to function) and, lately, to purchase a few cheerful Halloween edibles to sustain the relief once we’re back home.
The first is Euro Pane. Actually, Euro Pane may count as two, since it now has an additional location, but much of the menu is the same, and almost all the baked goods are identical. For me, a mouthful of their incredibly delectable soft-cooked, open-faced egg salad sandwich with sun-dried tomato pesto on multigrain or olive bread ($8) immediately blocks all fears. My husband gains solace by burying himself in the tuna melt with gruyere ($8.50).
We never leave without a huge box of baked goods. (After all, there’s good reason why Euro Pane was named Best Bakery in our recent Best Of issue and why it has a Zagat rating of 25). Squares of bread pudding and pear spice cake, fruit or custard tarts, sticky buns, strudel, etc. make up the usual mix. But on our latest trip, we noticed new holiday-themed pumpkin bars, pumpkin muffins, decorated cupcakes and graceful ghost cookies.
I have to admit the cookies (inexplicably $2.05 at one store, $1.35 at the other) and the pumpkin bar ($3.75 for a smallish rectangle) aren’t nearly as exciting as Euro Pane’s macarons (NOT macaroons!), which are also being flavored with pumpkin ($1.85) for the holiday season. But the plump muffin ($2.10), its magnificent overhanging cap sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds (they’ve also been chopped into the aromatic batter) is well worth the price. If I can get over my pre-election funk, I might just stock up the freezer with a dozen or so.
The second restaurant providing us with respite from political jitters as well as Halloween cheer is Plate 38. Besides its 22 Zagat rating, the Weekly’s 2011 Best New Restaurant award and a Chowhound rave about its classic burger (“Best in L.A. County”), it serves some of the most comforting grub around.
I’ve been pigging out on brioche French toast with nutella, brûléed bananas, powdered sugar, maple syrup and Chantilly cream ($10.75), while my mate prefers to chill his emotions with the mushroom burger with caramelized onions, blue cheese, provolone and truffle oil on a brioche bun ($10.50) with a side of garlic herb fries ($3.75).
For the past two months, we’ve been ending our at-least-weekly brunches with a nice hunk of Plate 38’s apple and chocolate bread pudding with dark caramel sauce ($6.50), but as of about a week ago, Halloween desserts have made their appearance. Like Euro Pane, Plate 38 is featuring a pumpkin muffin ($2.45), its version crusted with sugar and studded throughout with pecans.
Creative cupcakes pumpkin-bacon with white butter cream frosting topped with a smattering of caramel, more chopped bacon and a huge plastic spider, and chocolate-beer, with chocolate butter cream, decorated with an edible skull, bone and dark chocolate disk sell for $3.25. Ornamented caramel apples are also available for $4.75.
So, with the daily succor of Euro Pane and Plate 38’s comfort food and yummy sweets, we’re hoping to get through the first week in November, no matter what happens in the election (and then join Weight Watchers).
To buoy our spirits even further, we’re planning to take in one of the performances of Pacific Opera Project’s “Sweeney Todd” this weekend (8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday). It promises great music (Sondheim!), an uplifting theme (at least from our present down-in-the-dumps mood) and tickets are only $20.
2361 E. Colorado Blvd.,