It’s 2019, and the “food as medicine” movement is fast becoming mainstream.
We all know someone eating – or avoiding – certain foods in pursuit of better health. For many, the rise, and rising awareness, of food allergies and sensitivities has upgraded the issue of food choice from ‘optional’ to ‘critical.’
With so much focus on what to give up, it can be hard to know where to safely turn for a treat. One that can satisfy that sweet tooth without derailing diet directives. Luckily, at the crossroads of healthy and indulgent, lies a new, local sweet spot: Lavender Lane Baking Co.
Born of necessity, perfected through test-kitchen trial and error, Lavender Lane is a Costa Mesa-based commercial bakery specializing in gluten-free, paleo-friendly, grain-free baked goods. Co-founders, Christine Bren and Sarah Butler, are on a mission to prove you needn’t sacrifice deliciousness in pursuit of wellness.
Fresh-Baked Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Paleo-Friendly Goodies at Lavender Lane Baking Co. in Costa Mesa.
Photos: Brandy Young
Bren and Butler met through their daughters, who have been friends for years. Coming from divergent backgrounds – as a Psychologist and a Corporate Marketing Exec., respectively – they seemingly had little in common, career-wise. Until, that is, they both found themselves going gluten free. It was the shift in eating that would eventually lead to a shift in careers.
“It started with my son, when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes,” shared Bren. “I got a good sense of how food worked, things like carbohydrates and glycemic index. Then, my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac’s disease, which meant no gluten at all. Then, I was hit with autoimmune disease – four diseases, actually – so now I’ve gone full anti-inflammation diet.
“So here we are, a family with all these diet restrictions, and you know what? I just want a chocolate-chip cookie.”
Bren, a cookie lover, was disappointed with her options. When she couldn’t find a chocolate-chip cookie that met her standards – for both taste and nutrition – she decided to create one herself.
“I got busy, making batch after batch, and kept refining as I went,” said Bren. “Eventually, the cookies got to a point that people were saying, ‘Hey, these are really good!’ I knew I was onto something.”
Around this time, Butler met up with Bren for coffee.
“She started talking about her passion for what she was doing, and I said, “I’m in!” said Butler, who had started eating a gluten-free diet in solidarity with her husband, and saw marketability in what Bren was doing with her grain-free cookies. Butler left her corporate marketing job and Lavender Lane Baking Co. was born.
“Christine is the creative, with a flower in her hair, tinkering with recipes,” said Butler. “I’m the one pouring over the spreadsheets. We’re ‘yin and yang,’ but that has made a really great partnership.”
The Gluten-Free Cookie That Started It All, at Lavender Lane Baking Co. In Costa Mesa.
Photos: Brandy Young
Lavender Lane launched in 2018, baking from The Hood Kitchen Space, a rent-by-the-hour, commercial kitchen here in Costa Mesa.
“Eventually we outgrew that situation and needed to find our own space,” said Butler. “So we started looking around for a suitable facility.”
“We also wanted to have complete control over our kitchen environment, which is crucial when you’re cooking gluten-free,” added Bren. “At The Hood, we never knew who was using the kitchen before us, and whether or not there might be trace allergens lingering around. Now, with our own kitchen, we can say with certainty our facility is 100% gluten-free.”
The space occupied by Lavender Lane Baking Co. used to belong to Royal Tea & Treatery, a gluten-free tea and treats event space.
“The fact that the previous owners were also gluten-free is great for us,” said Bren. “It’s like it was meant to be.”
These days, Lavender Lane has expanded its offerings well beyond the flagship chocolate-chip cookie. They do bread, brownies (with or without walnuts), cookie bars, pecan tea cookies, chocolate bark and grain-free granola. Everything on the menu is gluten-free, paleo-friendly, grain-free, soy-free, non-GMO, and made from real ingredients.
A Full Menu of Baked Goodies, Made-To-Order and Nutrient-Rich, in Costa Mesa, CA.
Photos: Brandy Young
Lavender Lane is actually located on Grace Lane, here in Costa Mesa. The name is a nod to the street where Bren grew up, and first learned to bake.
“I thought it was a sweet name,” said Bren. “I love the smell of lavender. I love the taste of lavender, and, of course, the calming effects. It’s perfect!”
Despite the central location, Butler is quick to point out that they are a commercial kitchen, not a retail space. Customers request their baked goods online – which are made to order, from scratch – then you can choose to have them shipped (across the U.S.), have them hand-delivered (locally), or stop by the bakery during designated pick-up times.
“If you want your brownies and cookies delivered, it might just be our kids who do it!” said Butler with a laugh. “We’re trying to get our kids jobs on board the family business.”
On the day of our visit, we were lucky enough to sample a little bit of everything Lavender Lane has to offer. Our recommendation? Definitely indulge if you have food allergies or restrictions… and definitely indulge if you don’t!
Given how many “traditional” ingredients were omitted, we weren’t sure what to expect. But we were floored by how delicious – dare we say normal – everything tasted. The brownies were moist, chewy, chocolatey and so very satisfying, especially with walnuts. The granola was crunchy, full of cinnamon – a lovely snack! We enjoyed the pecan cookies with a cup of ginger tea, and the combination was heavenly. The bread had a soft, supple texture that felt like gourmet avocado toast waiting to happen.
In short, Lavender Lane really has accomplished what they set out to do: created a menu of baked goods that gives you everything you want – in a cookie, brownie, bread – despite all you’ve given up!
Photo: Brandy Young
“We get that reaction a lot,” said Bren. “People see ‘gluten-free’ and they think it’s going to be terrible. I just wish we could get our brownies and cookies into every mouth in Costa Mesa, because then you’d see. We are getting a lot of return business, subscription orders, people sending gift boxes to their friends. It really is that delicious, people just need to try it.”
That first bite can be an emotional experience for some.
“We had a woman that literally cried in front of Christine because she could finally have bread again,” said Butler. “She thought her sandwich days were over. She was so grateful to find us.”
The Lavender Lane duo is grateful, too: to be doing this important work, and to be doing it from Costa Mesa.
“Costa Mesa is so friendly to small business,” said Bren. “I like the people, it’s a friendly place. So many of my favorite local haunts are here, too.”
“One of our first events in the outside world was to bring our baked goods to the Westside Market,” added Butler. “People came out with families. There were couples, young and old. Everyone was so nice and so real.
“Costa Mesa is a nice blend of humanity that way. You have the whole age spectrum here, and people are really committed to their community. It’s really lovely.” ♥
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