Where does Bear Grylls eat when he’s bored with Caribou Testicles? Try Bear-spotting at the Huckleberry Bakery and Café, Santa Monica, California. Story – Holiday Goddess Editor Vicki Arkoff.
For adventurer Bear Grylls, blue plate specials du jour have included bear poo, elephant dung juice, frozen yak eyeball, rancid camel fat and intestinal fluid, raw goat testicles, live rhinoceros beetle, and wriggling ant larvae. One of the worst, oddly, was a breakfast mash of locusts, beetles, moths, and a praying mantis. The brekkie of champions? Nope. “A truly terrible way to start the day,” Bear reckons.
Bear Grylls is Charles Darwin’s poster boy for survival of the fittest, largely because he’s gained a reputation for his willingness to eat and drink just about anything remotely edible. Famously, that includes drinking his own urine. “That really is pretty horrible,” the star of Man Vs. Wild, Born Survivor and Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls said at the time. “It’s warm, it’s salty, and it’s not my favorite.”
But as true culinary explorer, Bear does have more traditionally palatable favorites to recommend. He honed a taste for fine foods at an early age thanks to his blue blood upbringing as the son of the late Conservative party politician Sir Michael Grylls and Lady Sarah Grylls, and his during his education at Eton College. “All you can do is lie back and think of England,” Bear says of the mental mind-games needed to choke back nasty meals. However, another of his tricks is to think of the award-winning artisan breads, pastries, breakfasts and free-range, antibiotic-free meats at his #1 favorite restaurant in the world: Huckleberry Bakery and Café in Santa Monica, California.
Specializing in homemade foods and fresh produce from the local farmer’s market, Huckleberry Bakery and Café (1014 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA www.huckleberrycafe.com) is on nearly every food lover’s short-list of truly great American bakeries and breakfast cafes. Its Poached Eggs Over Market Vegetables was named one of Alan Richman’s 5 best dishes of the year, and pastry chef Zoe Nathan has received more accolades than she can count, including a Beard Foundation nomination. Locals and traveling foodies come from around the world for the ever-changing daily specials, the fantastic weekend brunch and Thursday night prix fixe family dinners ($35 per person, half price for kids, free for tots). Regulars include Reece Witherspoon, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner.
Huckleberry is owned and operated by husband and wife team Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb, who fell in love while working together at the Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen. Both are local products, born and raised in Santa Monica, who dreamt of opening a local artisan bakery and cafe for food lovers. Zoe — who learned to bake at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, and worked in the kitchen at Lupa in New York City and Joe’s in Venice — is responsible for all of the food both sweet and savory. Josh — who opened Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen in December, 2006 — oversees the operations of the bakery and café and stocks the specialty retail items.
Bear eats there as often as he can, and I’m grateful that he took the time to introduce it to me. Huckleberry is so good, in fact, that Bear named his youngest son after it. Or vice versa, possibly. It was difficult to understand exactly what he said with one of Zoe’s berry tarts in his mouth.