Sunday, August 13, 2006
monastery of the angels.
very little about hollywood surprises me, but i do admit that finding out that there was a monastery around the corner from the 101 did startle me. then to find out that it was home to cloistered dominican nuns was more of a shock than mel losing his religion on the PCH (although, i just found out there's a cloistered nun who's a voting member of the academy. ha! i wonder what she thought of "brokeback.") well, heck. this was worth visiting.
i'm not sure i understand the whole concept of how the monastery was founded, but you can find its history here. the building in which the monastery is housed used to be a mansion, but was bought by the order in the 'thirties; i'm not sure exactly how large the building is, as i've only been in the courtyard, but it is impressive in its simple, austere, spanish-influenced style. the small garden of contemplation has a beautiful statue of st. dominic visited by our lady, and another of st. michael; it is peaceful despite being just yards away from the busy traffic. although the style of the statuary, the architecture, and the calm really make you feel like you've stepped back into time (and maybe into another world), you only have to look into the empty parking lot to know you're in hollywood, baby, because the corner is almost always occupied by a covered mercedes benz G-class G500 SUV. um. i can't even venture to guess who in the order owns that whip. but i do know how they pay for its upkeep....
in the grand tradition of many a sequestered order, the dominican nuns bake and handcraft confections that they sell in their modest gift shop. the monastery is best known for its pumpkin bread, which is a hefty almost two pound loaf of tender, lightly spiced, lightly sweetened, cakey bread, studded with walnuts and baked fresh every day. at US$7 a loaf, it sounds pricy, but is actually quite a bargain, considering the quality, care, and sheer enormity of the giant loaf.
however, i am drawn in by the handmade chocolates and confections--the chocolate and peanut butter fudge, truffles, chocolate-dipped caramels, and coconut fruit bars. i am absolutely taken in by the mint meltaways, cubes of milk or dark chocolate infused with potent mint oil that you pop onto your tongue, then let the heat of your mouth melt the smooth chocolate away. you don't get an immediate jolt of mint, but instead you start to feel the coolness fill your mouth and slide down your throat; once all the chocolate is gone, a lingering sweet, minty essence remains. bliss.
my friend michael didn't think that these chocolates would knock see's candies off the top of his list, but these really did it for me in their simplicity, quality, and the sheer quirkiness of it all. also, each box is labelled "better than the best"; clearly, either these nuns haven't taken a vow of humility, or they really know their product has no equal. or, perhaps, these women hidden behind the monastery's stucco'd walls are just another part of the whole hollywood machine, and know how to sell the dream. cheeky monkeys. gotta admire the humour in that.
the monastery of the angels
1977 carmen avenue,
(gift shop open monday through saturday, 8.30am to 5pm)