Friday, October 9, 2009

East Colfax Treats: Pan Dulce at El Paisa

East Colfax at Dallas St is in the heart of the wonderfully diverse downtown Aurora. In between the pawn shops, dollar stores, Mexican fashion outlets, Spanish speaking only insurance/ tax stores, the blue chair and the other magnificent miscellany of Aurora's diverse stretch of East Colfax, there is a bakery that consistently pumps out excellent sweet Mexican breads at all hours of the day-- and even into the night.

In fact, El Paisa (Pie-sah) brags on it's business cards that they have pan dulce (sweet bread) at every hour. That also means that ever-present is the warm and sweet smell of baking pastries emanating from the store, and from a good half-block away, it lures you in. If you approach from the north down Dallas you also have the chance to peek into the kitchen through the oft ajar door, and see the chaotic clutter of baking trays, mixers and concentrated bakers always hard at work. Actually, you never know what you might see. One time I was coming around the back from Dallas St and scared away of group of pigeons huddled outside the back door. As they waddled off the curb, too stuffed with pastry crumbs to bother to fly away, I stopped to check out the bakery action. On the floor inside, three very guilty looking pigeons looked up at me like, "Oh shit, he caught us". They froze for a second, but realized I wasn't angry, flailing my arms or armed with a broom, so they went back to grabbing crumbs off the floor.

Considering this, it may then be deemed ironic by some, that on the aforementioned business card, El Paisa also touts that their bakery is "Absolutely Hygienic". Not sure if Mexican bakery hygiene is a problem in Aurora (and it very well could be), but maybe they get a little sensitive because some people don't consider the fine pigeons of East Colfax absolutely hygienic.

Moving on. The pigeons were in the back room anyway, not in the bakery. And its not like they were on the tables kneading dough or flying around with sacks of flour. That could happen to anyone, even the most absolute and determined hygienists. The point is, I went in that day and got myself a whole huge bag of amazing Mexican pastries and have been going back ever since (because it is so damn good) without having contracted any pigeon-related illness. I only wish I had my camera that day.

Once in a Mexican bakery, or panaderia, it can be a little confusing if you don't know the protocol. Almost always there will be a stack of trays and tongs somewhere around. Grab one of each, and go to town. At El Paisa, there are five large pastry cabinets usually full to the brim with strange and fun looking delights. Like this one:

This one is a pig. Made from a light filo-type layered dough. With two candy eyes. And it is coated in sugar.  It's also delicious. This one is my favorite:


Another pig. Little pig, actually, or cochinito. It's not as sweet as its candied-eye cousin, but has a wonderful anise-licorice taste. It is perfect dunked in a steaming cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Now, not every pastry is shaped into a pig (although an argument could be made that they should be), but like many pig products, all the combined pastries at El Paisa certainly leave enough grease on a paper bag that they would be perfectly acceptable in any Dr. Nick-approved weight gaining diet.

"If the paper turns clear, it's your window to weight gain!"

Other items that made it on my tray that day can be seen below. A chocolate coated thing called piedra, or stone; a circular, spinkle-coated sugar cookie; a slightly charred elephant-ear (oreja); a fluffy, cinnamon-and-sugar coated deal called a moño (bow); and a polvoron, a classic, crumbly, sugar cookie.

I don't really have any specific recommendations except for the cochinito-- the pig shaped anise-flavored one. But really the thing is just to pick and choose whatever looks good and fresh. I think each one costs about $0.50, so you really can't go wrong. They are good day and night. In Mexico they are sometimes eaten for breakfast, but oftentimes are enjoyed as part of a light dinner or a late-night snack. Nothing like some coffee and refined sugar before bed.

They also have all those last minute necessities like dried chiles, milk, beans, eggs and tortillas. As well as a large selection of Mexican phone cards. They make cakes too. I haven't had any yet, but I've seem plenty of families pick them up, and the smiles on the kid's faces say everything. It's cake after all. I'd give it a try. In conclusion, make your way over to El Paisa, or your other local Mexican Panaderia and see what you find. It won't disappoint.
El Paisa on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Today unfortunately (03/03/2010)at around 1 a.m. a very bad accident happened to this bakery. I've been a customer for over 6 years because their 3 leches (3 milks) cake it is absolutely delicious!! The owner Jose Herrera is a very nice and great person! It seems that this was intentional fire. No one got hurt 2 people that was renting upstairs were taking to the hospital with minor injuries. This had nothing to do with the safety of bakery, apparentely someone robbed the cash registered and after that turned the business on fire! (So sad!) I feel very sad!

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