Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bread and cheese combined, at La Casa del Pan

I didn't discover the wonder of pandebono and pao de quieijo—cassava and yucca based cheese breads—until I lived in Astoria. Though the area is best known for its Greek population, there are also plenty of Bangladeshis, Arabics, Brazilians, and Columbians; it was in the bakeries of the latter two that I finally came across these delicious creations.

The very first was at the small Columbian bakery La Casa del Pan. I wandered in one afternoon while exploring the Steinway area shortly after moving into my apartment. As soon as I bit into the pandebono, I was hooked. The combination of thin, slightly crisp outside, fluffy and super-moist inside, and warm, cheesy flavor was perfect to me…I couldn't believe it had taken me so long to discover them.
I started dropping in whenever I passed, and once I made BH swing by before driving me home so that I could pick up a bunch to bring back to my parents. He waited in the car while I dashed in, and I came out triumphantly bearing a sackful that had just recently been in the oven. Their fragrance was divine. Right there in the car, we dug in. The warm, savory insides nearly melted in our mouths, and we went through three of them before stopping ourselves from eating the rest.
Back in the area again several weeks ago over winter break, I had to pick up a few. La Casa del Pan sells cheese breads in three different shapes: a round, puffy bun; a small, flatter ring; and a version of the ring in a larger size—it's all about the ratio of the crust. With most bread I like the innards the best so I'm partial to the non-ring version.

I got three, ate two, and saved the big one to bring home for my parents. I may not live in Astoria anymore, but some habits still remain the same.

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