Here’s your key to a successful visit to Milan Bakery & Miss Doughnuts.
This tiny little strip-mall carryout bakery is a *Bolivian* bakery, and the doughnuts are being sold, I would think, so they can stay in business for the morning rush crowd driving down Lee Highway in Falls Church (this parking lot is easy-in, easy-out).
But it *is* Bolivian, and that’s where you will find your rewards; not on the donut shelves.
This morning, I ordered an extra-large coffee (Green Mountain Roasters, pumped out of a canister, I’m afraid to say – bad, but not completely undrinkable because it was made properly, and hot). Honestly, I would put a well-made, fresh version of this just one step below Mayorga presented in the same format (once you reach pump-canister format, you’re on your own!)
Interestingly, the business card says “Milan Latino Bakery” and mentions nothing about “Miss Doughnuts,” with the tagline, “Delicias del Oriente Boliviano” which I *think* translates to “Delicious things (Delicacies?) from Eastern Bolivia,” so it’s either regional, or I’m interpreting it incorrectly. Only one of nine pictures on the back shows any doughnuts; this is a Bolivian bakery, with much of the pastry being sold savory, not sweet.
With my coffee, I got three Bolivian savory pastries:
Pastel con Queso which was quite large, and looked something like this. It’s traditionally eaten with a purple drink called Api (which you can see in the glass mug in the photo). Api Morado is a thick, purple, corn drink served at breakfast, and I’d bet they have it here if you ask for it. This large pastry was nothing more than a flaky pastry, wrapped around mozzarella, and sprinkled with a little powdered sugar. That’s it! It was more savory than sweet, and nothing special except for its cultural aspect – I’ll bet a breakfast of this and api morado, in La Paz, could be a memorable affair, even if bought from a food truck. Yet, this pastry pales in comparison with the next two.
Empanada de Arroz with rice, yuca, and cheese was served in a banana leaf, and was a step up both in quality and interest from the Pastel con Queso, looking just like this. Delicious by itself, the starches from the yuca lent a complexity that rice alone just wouldn’t have. In looks, I would have called this a tamale rather than an empanada, but I’m out of my area of expertise once I leave the world of Bolivian Salteñas. Golden brown and delicious, it went just beautifully with my cup of coffee. Yes, *that* coffee.
Last, and certainly not least, was my Cuñape – a dense, roll-like structure made with yuca flour, yuca, and cheese (lots of queso in these Bolivian pastries!), looking just like this. This was the best of the three because the yuca (flour?) gave it a light, airy, rice-like, almost Korean-like texture inside the crusty periphery. There was just enough sweetness in the Cuñape to call me back, bite-after-bite, and once you graduate to the “next one of these” three pastries, you have to force yourself to go back to the prior one. Needless to say, I did not finish all three, despite them probably having been baked just this morning – they certainly tasted completely fresh.
The total for all this was $7.03. On this snowy morning, I gave the very nice, pleasant, patient lady – who wrote down two of the ingredients’ lists for me in english – a $10, and told her to keep the change.
If you come here, do try the Empanada de Arroz (in the banana leaf) and a Cuñape. These are the items you want.
Milan Bakery is a little hole-in-the-wall where a budding connoisseur has to do some work to end up rewarded, but the rewards are there for you to find, and they’re not on the doughnut shelves, although if you’re driving down Lee Highway and absolutely *must* have a doughnut, this is about your only option, and they’re not *that* bad; just not the best things on offer. (And I’m telling you, even the Green Mountain Roasters coffee wasn’t *that* bad because it had been correctly made, and I assure you I’m well aware of how awful this coffee can be). I had been here a couple of times before, having gone the doughnut route, but this time I came away with a much more solid impression.