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Valerie Confections' new Echo Park cafe takes cue from afternoon tea -- but 'less precious'

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Just a couple weeks away from opening a coffee shop/lunch counter at Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles, Valerie Confections is moving into another location -- the former Delilah Bakery space on Echo Park Avenue in Echo Park -- expected to debut by June.

The L.A.-based maker of pristine chocolates, preserves and cakes has a 1st Street retail shop and sells baked goods at local farmers markets. Owner Valerie Gordon, inspired by her collaboration with a tea shop, says the Echo Park cafe will be focusing on teas and both savory and sweet dishes to pair with them. Gordon curates a menu for American Tea Room in Beverly Hills and, in working with owner David Barenholtz, her "enthusiasm for tea has grown and grown and grown." she said. "The idea is taking afternoon tea and making it a bit less precious. It's just tea and a snack that you can have every day." 

At Valerie Echo Park, the menu will include dishes such as black rice salad infused with sencha green tea and Moroccan chicken with kumquat rice. "Some of these are savory items that we've been doing for catering that haven't been available to the public, in addition to petit fours, pastries, seasonal cakes, chocolates and tea sandwiches. A lot of foods that pair with tea -- with citrus notes and fresh, bright or smoky flavors, some Asian ingredients and some Middle Eastern ingredients."

Tea sandwiches include prosciutto with lemon butter and pickled asparagus, fresh ricotta with caramelized fennel and smoked tomato, and fennel salami with kumquat preserves. On the sweet side, matcha cake with lemon verbena ganache, for example. Full brunch on the weekends is planned in the restaurant that is now painted a mocha brown and features a patio that seats about 30.

Gordon says there will be no overlap with the menu at Valerie Grand Central other than pastries and $2 drip coffee, which is sort of an obsession. "We've been diligently sampling for a delicious classic coffee that's satisfying, not esoteric, and pairs with our desserts," she says. "I just want a $2 drip coffee that tastes good." 

1665 Echo Park. Ave., Los Angeles, ValerieConfections.com.

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