cheese

A Red velvet cheesecake is surrounded by Reese's Snickers at left, and Chocolate marble at Pacific Cheesecake Company on Friday, September 16, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

I can see her now, looking like Joan from “Mad Men.” It’s 1967, and my mother is bent over the oven, carefully extracting the cheesecake meant for dinner guests. She removes it gingerly from its water bath and inspects the heavy disc for cracks, dark spots or sinkholes. It’s been a long, arduous process making that cheesecake, and she is satisfied.

These memories flew to mind as I tasted the classic cheesecake created by the experienced hands at Pacific Cheesecake Company. Operating out of a tiny storefront smack in the middle of the Hyundai dealership on the Brand Boulevard of Cars in Glendale, this efficient operation is the brainchild of the Freeman family.

Karen Freeman has been perfecting her cheesecake recipe for 30 years. Her three sons all pitch in to keep the business humming. The ever-hospitable Steven mans the front counter and is eager to hand out as many samples as visitors can eat. With more than 110 flavors on the menu and a dozen or so on the sample plate each day, you could be there a while.

I took an original 10-inch cheesecake ($45) to a backyard party. It was a hit. First of all, it was a beautiful thing to look upon, with a perfect shape and color and a pretty sprinkling of crumbs on top. Everyone agreed it was more cake-like than your average cheesecake, very much like my mother used to make. The texture managed to be light and dense at the same time, with a not-too-sweet flavor and the tang of sour cream in the rich top layer. I would have liked a thicker graham cracker crust with more tooth, and I was not pleased with the way the middle of the cake stuck to my serving knife on each slice. But overall, it was creamy and delicious.

Thanks to their convenient mini-cheesecakes ($2.50 each), my family and I had the grueling job of testing some of their other flavors. (I do it for you, dear readers!) They are not lying when they claim to use the finest ingredients. The chocolate in the chocolate raspberry is deep and dark, and the raspberry reduction swirled throughout is obviously homemade. The creme brulee has a delicate flavor and an authentic caramelized sugar topping. Then there’s the coconut mango rolled in toasted coconut with a vibrant mango puree on top. But I’m partial to the lemon basil with its fresh lemon juice and fragrant basil in a toasted almond crust, a wholly new taste sensation that really works.

Pacific Cheesecake Company doesn’t stop at sweet cheesecakes. They have a line of savory ones as well. Similar to a cream cheese torte with herbs and spices, you’d serve this with crackers as an appetizer. The Gorgonzola apricot wrapped in toasted walnuts (in lieu of graham cracker crumbs) is wonderful. A 4 1/2-inch cake ($10) is right for a small dinner party. The 10-inch wheel ($55) is for a big, catered affair.

Keep Pacific Cheesecake Company in mind for your next gathering. Perhaps the “Mad Men” season premiere.

LISA DUPUY has been reviewing area restaurants since 2008. She welcomes comments at LDupuy@aol.com.

Infobox

What: Pacific Cheesecake Company

Where: 413 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale

When: Monday to Wednesday 10 a.m to 5 p.m.; Thursday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

Prices: Mini-cheesecakes $2.50; medium and large cheesecakes $35 to $55

Contact: (818) 518-0709; www.pacificcheesecakecompany.com