|Flan with guava shells, El Colmao|
|Panqueques with cajeta, Rincon Chileno|
First up was Panaderia El Carriel, the most off-the-beaten path of the places we tried. The Huntington Park Columbian bakery is a tiny bare-bones place, but in addition to an array of only-in-Columbia pastries, it serves full Columbian breakfasts and lunches. We tried flaky chicharronitos filled with dulce de leche or cajeta milk caramel, called arequipe in Columbia; warm round bunuelos, tasting like fresh cake donut balls; pan de bono, small bagel-like savory cheese breads and arepa de choclo, a sweet corn-inflected disc sprinkled with cheese.
Next it was back to central L.A. to Amalia's on Virgil for Guatamalan sweets, where plantains are king. On the dessert menu were plantains stuffed with sweet black beans and crema (right); atol -- a hot, plantain-based drink and an unusual dessert mole, in which plantains swum in a cinnamon and chocolate-scented sweet mole sauce.
|Fresh Colmbian bunuelos|
Running out of time, we had to regrettably skip Wood Spoon's Brazilian passion fruit mousse and press on to El Colmao, another longtime staple. Here we tried flan with guava shells, which were very sweet but paired well with a competent flan, and a less-common Cuban dessert of shaved sweetened coconut paired with Philadelphia cream cheese. Again, very sweet but I liked the unusual combo of creamy cheese and sweet coconut. While flavors like corn, plantain, dulce de leche and guava are common throughout Latin America, each country has a different and worthwhile take on how to present desserts. Next time you eat at a Latin American restaurant, save room for dessert!
Here's more pictures of Latin desserts and pastries from tourmate Elina Shatkin.