Have you ever eaten something so strange and beguiling you can’t quite wrap your head around it? But you keep eating it and eating it because it’s such a curious phenomenon and, eventually, you decide that you love it but you’re not sure why? That’s precisely what happened to me last week when I finally visited SQIRL headquarters down on Virgil after having enjoyed their jams over the past year and a half that I’ve lived in Los Angeles. The headquarters, which is actually a cafe, may be my new favorite secret lunch spot that’s not-so-secret because lots of people know about it.
Here’s the sign you see from the street:
And here’s a sense of what it’s like inside:
Imagine your favorite neighborhood coffee shop; now imagine that they make sandwiches and brown rice bowls and you’ll get a sense of what SQIRL is like. Studying the menu for a bit, I had a big choice to make. So many intriguing options, only one hungry stomach. After careful consideration, I decided the thing that intrigued me most was the burnt brioche with the homemade ricotta and blueberry tarragon jam. Two elements, in particular, drew me in: the homemade ricotta (how nice) and the idea of burnt brioche. Burnt? Like: they burn it?
Indeed they do! Here it is again from a different angle.
Look there’s only one reason that a place like SQIRL would burn brioche on purpose: they think it tastes good that way.
And you know what? It really does. It doesn’t taste rancid and carcinogenic, like you might expect something burnt to taste. Instead, it tastes just beyond caramelized. My best comparison: a marshmallow that you toast over a campfire that turns black. You still love the way it tastes, right, even though it is for all intents and purposes burnt? Such is the case with burnt brioche. (And, for the record, they really just burn the edges–which, come to think of it, makes me wonder: how do they do that? Do they use a blowtorch?)
The ricotta gives it a freshness and creaminess and then the jam, which is what SQIRL is best known for (I have a jar of their jam in my refrigerator) is just sweet enough. Altogether, it’s a great L.A. mouth experience (how’s that for a plug?), and perhaps an experience you can recreate at home with a slice of brioche, a blowtorch and a dream.