September 15, 2007

Spinach Omelets

I love a good breakfast. I especially love spinach omelets and have not found very many places that serve them and can get all the components of the breakfast right; a nice fluffy omelet with fresh spinach, crunchy hash browns that are not mushy in the middle, good coffee and toast. Another must is that you can go to the place after rolling out of bed and putting on your sweats and throwing your hair into a pony tail and feel like you belong. So that rules out several breakfast places.
I happened upon this little hole in the wall a couple years ago. It’s a few blocks north of Colorado on Holly Street, open until 3 in the afternoon and only takes cash. It has been there a while and the décor shows it. Ernie owns the place and will probably seat you, take your order and wait on you too. The menu consists of an odd variety of selections, breakfast foods, lunch sandwiches and burgers and some Chinese offerings. You could probably walk into the place with your jammies and no one would bat and eye (perfect for the morning after).
My favorite on the menu are the omelets. They are fluffy and filled with your selection of yummies. I love the spinach omelet, inside is melty cheese and pieces of crispy bacon. The spinach is fresh and is cooked into the egg and is perfect. The hash browns are crispy on the outside and perfect on the inside, no mushy stuff here.

They also make a killer corned beef hash, if that is your thing. Sometimes it’s hard to find straight hash on the menu. There are all those hash variations that include things like, pesto or sun dried tomatoes, or some other trendy ingredient that completely ruins corned beef hash. Pancakes are stellar too. I stay away from the benedict since I am a hollandaise snob and the stuff here doesn’t cut it for me.

Go try 54 Holly. It will take you back in time. Say hi to Ernie for me.

54 Holly, 54 Holly Pasadena, CA 626.792.0506

August 15, 2007

A Journey back in time....

There are few franchised eating establishments that dot the southern California landscape worth mentioning in a food blog. As you might guess the majority of these would be fast food. In-n-out and Tommy’s are two that come to mind, that might be considered institutions, perhaps maybe even iconic.

Lately, after not really enjoying the sandwich known as a burger most of my life, I have come to a term of endearment with the in-n-out cheese burger and indulge myself on rare occasions, and even more recently I have started to crave a burger that I once had in college. A little place over on Beverly and Rampart that we would drive to after the UCLA football games at the Coliseum, (I know I am dating myself once again).

Tommy’s. I would stand in line and order mine, no onion no mustard and watch the big Samoan guy scowl at me for the special request, but dutifully make it for me non-the- less; the greasy cheesy chili mess all over my hands which later had to be washed with soap to remove the orange stains (from the grease and chili), a super thick slice of tomato, crisp pickles slices, and no mustard.

Today I indulged myself once again. Not living near, or wanting to drive to the “Original” Tommy’s. I decided to try one that was on my way home from the office. I assume they would all be as good, as conscientious about your burger, even with a scowl, the Samoan made mine right every time.

I drove through, Cheeseburger grilled onion, NO mustard. The cashier repeated my order to me and handed me a bag that was already beginning to turn a faint orange color on the bottom.

By the time I got home to eat the thing, I had worked myself into a Tommy burger froth. I found my camera do document the blessed event, carefully unwrapping and photographing the mess. Next I decided to cut the burger, since you really couldn’t see the inside from the frontal shot.

I cut the burger in two and separated the halves, licking the knife in anticipation of my first bite.

What did I taste?
No, it couldn’t be!

I removed the bun and yes, it was there, bright yellow, I took off the tomato, the pickle, and scraped off the onion until no yellow was to be seen. What was left? Chili, burger and cheese; I had a pink pit bull begging at my feet. I considered giving her what was left, half a bun, burger and chili, but I was hungry, so I knife and forked most of the remainder. I had heartburn by the time I was halfway through, probably more from the disappointment than from the food. The pretty pink pit bull shared the second half with me, I wonder if she got heartburn too.

Such an anti-climactic journey back in time, maybe one day I will journey back to Rampart and Beverly. I am sure the big Samoan who made sure there was no mustard on my burger 20 years ago is long gone, but hopefully replaced with someone just as conscientious, who maybe doesn’t scowl.

July 25, 2007


Heading out to taste the wines of the Edna Valley and Paso Robles area, and to eat some of the food of the region too! Will be back with some non-local reviews of the food and wine.

July 05, 2007

Pie 'n Burger

I grew up in Pasadena. Third generation, my grandfather worked for Cal-Tech then JPL, and my grandmother was in the women’s club, my father was and engineer at, well you know, that big building. I spent too much time at Bullocks on Lake Street, and cried when Macy’s bought it. I couldn’t believe it when Saks closed, wasn’t there enough rich old ladies in Pasadena to keep it going? I remember the Haagen Daz, and Jergens.

Fast forward several years. Notice in the above paragraph I did not mention the place, you know the place that everyone talks about. Its probably because I was a vegetarian for 8 years, them moved away for 10, and now that I have been back in the Dena for 10 years, someone had to drag me to a Pasadena icon. Gee how could I have ever missed the place?

I met my S.O. for lunch, I was shopping on Lake Street, yea, I have come to terms with Macy’s, and I actually like Ann Taylor! So I had worked up quite a hunger. We decided to go to Pie n Burger. He was appalled that I had not been there, and I call myself a native.

The place was busy; as I am sure it usually is at lunch. It was much smaller that I thought, with just a few tables and a counter. The menu is basically on the wall. Everything right there, it takes you back a few years too, Lo Cal plate, when is the last time we heard that. I started to consider something other than a burger, a grilled tuna? chefs salad? and quickly snapped out of it.

Cheeseburger, NO thousand, pickle, lettuce, tomato and grlled onion; thank you, my S.O. had hamburger with the works, drippy, messy, apparently delicious Thousand Island homemade on the premises.

Well, I was not disappointed and snarfed up every last bite of the hand made patty with the perfect amount of melty cheese, and french fries. The size is just right; you can get your mouth around the thing, barely. The charm of the place is that it takes you back, the kitchen is right in front of you and you watch everything being made, the waitresses have been there forever and seem to know everyone, except me of course, even my S.O. was recognized. He probably is a closet Pie 'n Burger fanatic but wouldn’t let on.

Oh, and the pie, not that I had room for any, well just a bite, boysenberry, yum. My suggestion is to go off peak times so you don’t have to wait and get ice cream with the pie. Yum.

Pie 'n Burger 913 E. California Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91106 626.795.1123

June 24, 2007

My New Obsession

Several months ago I started reading a site called Chow. This site is amazing for anyone interested in food, like me. After reading so much about something called xiao long bao, XLB, or soup dumplings, I began to salivate, to dream about this comfort sounding food, to wonder what the taste would be like. A steamed dumpling of pork and crab, some type of gelatinous stock so when steamed it melts into a bit of soup in the dumpling. Now I am as white as they get and my past experience with Chinese food is pretty lame, and had no idea wht to expect. But I decided to try these little gems. A few weeks ago I made the trek down to Valley Blvd. I was hooked. So hooked that I actually dreamed about the dumplings that night. So when the opportunity to take a crowd to this place came up, to order lots of variety, to taste the little bundles of joy once again came up, I jumped on it.

Today I went to Mei Long Village for the second time. There were 8 of us so we were able to order a variety of dishes to try. I loved all of them, but my favorite is still the XLB - Soup Dumpling. I can't get enough of these, by the end of the meal we had consumed 5 orders of them!

All in all we ordered hot and sour soup, pork pump, lamb with green onion, black pepper beef, orange chicken, jade shrimp and the crab and pork dumplings and some vegetable dumplings too. It was amazing. We all enjoyed the food, even the less adventurous enjoyed it so much they were willing to try things that they would not normally eat.

We celebrated my sons 19th birthday. Several of his friends were with us and at the end of the meal there was nothing left to take home. I asked the waitress if the XLB would travel and how an order to go would hold up, she said it would not be a good idea, so we had one last order! The people there were nice, some spoke english which helped, one of our group asked for a fork and the waiter giggled so hard we all had to just crack up! I am hooked on those lovely bundles of joy. My new obsession. Thank you Chowhounders for telling me about this wonderful place! A new obsession.

Another Italian Joint

Il Forno is a large open restaurant with a large bar at one side, beer and wine only. There is also a lovely patio that has a fountain. I have been here several times as I work a block away and any time some decent place to eat moves into town we are thrilled, a place for lunch that is walking distance. The owner has been in the restaurant business for years and always greets me warmly when I walk through the door.

Downtown Azusa is known for its purple light poles, and lack of any destination type place restaurant shops etc. However over the last couple years things are changing. Gone are the pawn shops and boarded up hotel, now there is Starbucks, a small Japanese restaurant (which I don't recommend), real estate offices, and Il Forno.

The food is consistent, the only complaint I ever had was the day it opened and my pasta, though good, was served cold. I think their strengths are the pasta dishes and the thin crust pizza and calzones. They have several sandwiches on the menu and other than the sausage or meatball are just sandwiches. There is a selection of salads and now during the summer months there is almost always a salad special on the board. I have had their soups also and find them good and flavorful.

The prices are right, and the owner has been through a couple iterations of the menu, this one seems to be sticking. I will continue to frequent the place, consistent close to the office and friendly. If you are in the neighborhood it is worth a try. But for really authentic Itialian go to Brigante.

May 14, 2007

A SoCal Gal reivews a Sammie from Philly

So after reading post after post on different CHOW boards regarding the mouth watering Fredo’s Philly Cheesesteak, I decided I had to try it.

First of all I am not an expert on The Philly Cheesesteak. In fact I think I have eaten only one, at Canyon City BBQ, prior to this experience. I think Canyon City’s sammie was good, but far from authentic, so the experts say. They use tri tip, so its more of a tri tip sammie with the philly fixin’s. My experience is based on my love for food, not to vouch for the authenticity of the Philly Cheese steak!

Fredo’s is just north of Orange Grove on Lake Street. I found street parking on Lake, luckily, the place is pretty bare bones. Comfortable tables and chairs with a few condiments, a few Philadelphia decorations and pictures of Cheese steak eaters on the wall, clearly finding a niche, but clean and I felt welcome.

I told Dan (the Owner) I heard great things about his sammies and I ordered the super, which came with onions, pepper, and mushrooms. There is a choice of cheese offerings, but I did not name mine so I assume I got the traditional “white” as the menu offers.

He took my order and immediately told me that the kitchen staff is all new and today was there first day. He was clearly concerned, and chatted with me while I waited for my sammie. He is not from Philly but lived there for several years, and has worked in the business for a while. It sounded like Fredo's is his first restaurant endeavor.

My sammie took about 10 minutesto make, and I got it into the car with the intent to wait until I got home to eat, but since that is 10 minutes away I thought I had better try at least a couple bites. Yum. It was delicious. I took several large bites in the car and then devoured the rest of that half when I got home. Tons of meat, not a single piece of gristle, juicy with out being soggy and just the right amount of melty cheese and pepper, onion etc. so as not to overwhelm. I have no complaints. My bread was soft and fresh, and the roll was large but definitely did not overwhelm the sammie. Plenty of meat in every bite and half was more than enough. Fredos sammie was very large, huge in fact, easily shared.

I hope he does well. I will go back, and I recommend the Super.

May 04, 2007

The Journey to Babita

I suppose I have fallen into “food block”. I have not put up a bite for weeks. I have even been to Babita recently and couldn't find the recipe for writing a post. So here I am finally, with a main course of words.

Ahh. The journey to Babita has a story behind it. My SO and I had been dating not quite 1 year when we realized that in a week or so the day we first stared into each others eyes over some margaritas and lousy Mexican food would be upon us. We decided to honor the event, to celebrate, and this time to find some delicious Mexican food to do so with that was worthy of the occasion.

Well we didn’t have to look or even think about it as I had wanted to try Babita for months! So thanks to my chow hounding friends no search was needed.
The restaurant is on San Gabriel Blvd right next to Saint Anthony’s Church; it is on a corner, and from the outside you could never imagine the tastes, smells, and the culinary adventure that being on the inside will take you on.

The reservation was for 8 and we brought a bottle of 1997 Stags Leap Merlot. We were seated by none other than the chef himself, and I immediately engaged him in a dialog about his menu. He joked quite a bit with me and told me that he wouldn’t order the soup, which I had inquired about, and then went on to describe it in such a matter my mouth watered. I get it he is playing with me! When he opened the wine he poured it he then proceeded to pick up the glass and take a very deep sniff of the bouquet, he was so obviously enjoying it that we offered him some. “No, not while I have to work”, he declined. And then when I asked him for recommendations he told me to close my eyes and pick! He was such fun, we enjoyed the banter immensely!

I noticed he circulated among the tables that had all been seated about the same time. Then disappeared to cook, and his wife took over. It is almost as if they arrange the seating, since they did not have a 7:30 reservation available, but the resturant was far from full when we arrived and during our meal it did not fill up. It was nice.

The Shrimp Topolobampo was on my must try list, but I was discouraged to order it by our waitress as I had indicated I didn’t want anything too spicy. I ordered a ceviche instead and it was amazing. Fresh, light, tangy, not fishy, it was red snapper and perfect We also shared a Cesar salad. I know, who orders Cesar salad at a Mexican restaurant, but this was an incredible blend of flavors.Probably one of the best I have had, you could tell the dressing was just made; it was rich and had a strong bite of anchovy perfect.

The lamb shank was what my SO wanted, but they were out of it when we arrived so he settled on the Barbacoa. I ordered the Cochinita Pibil. My pork was melt in your mouth and 2 tangy cold salads of one of red cabbage and one of onion accompanied the pork. The beef cheeks, which neither of had ever had were very good. My SO thought a little fatty, but I assume that the nature of the dish. Fresh tortillas were on the table and we finished everything!

The evening was perfect, for every reason. I suppose the only complaint I might have is that there was a long wait between courses the evening being a bit of a slow process. It seemed that Roberto and his wife were the only ones there.

I want to go back and try one of his seafood or fish dishes next. Or maybe get daring and get the Shrimp Topolobampo

April 05, 2007

Tarrantino’s and Scarantino’s

In the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to try both of these quaint little Italian places in Pasadena.

I have been wanting to go back to “Dino’s” for the last 10 years, I had my 21st birthday dinner there with my father, grandfather, and sister back in um 1981! (yea ok so now you know how old I am). I vaguely recall having this after dinner drink called “Lost in the Woods”, I had asked the waiter (and boy those young Italian men were so cute back in ’81) why the name? Ah, because once you drink one you feel as if you are lost in the woods! Yes, it packed quite the punch!

Dino’s evolved to Scarantino’s about a year ago, same family, similar menu. The inside was not as dark as I had remembered, it was busy, but not full on a Saturday evening, the food in front of people looked appetizing, and I was hungry. I opted for chicken piccatta, it was a little over sauced but not overcooked, I ordered my pasta with alfredo instead of a red sauce and the combination was nice. There was the Dino’s salad that I remember, same dressing. Which I liked quite a bit, sort of a creamy tangy Italian.

There were large amounts of food served. I ordered wine by the glass, a Paso Robles chardonnay. I believe it was $9 a glass, which seems a little steep compared to the overall pricing, which was very reasonable for the amount and quality. I would defiantly go back; it was not gourmet Italian, but it was good and I am going to guess that it will be consistent, and a good place to take those who want a typical Italian restaurant with a standard menu.

A couple weeks later I was invited to a birthday dinner at Tarrantino’s. I love this little hole in the wall (seriously). They take cash only, and have rows of tables against the walls, and tables also going down the center of the restaurant, and yes they have red checkered tablecloths! And there was this clique of 4 men sitting at one of the tables that could have been Tony and his Captains. This place gets high marks from Chowhounders and I was anxious to try their food.

One of my favorite dishes is Carbonara, especially when it is prepared traditionally. It was on the menu, so I was in heaven. Other dishes ordered were a spinach pizza which I had been also anxious to try, shrimp pasta and spicy eggplant pasta. Of course we all started with a Tarrantino’s salad. The dressing was a tangy vinaigrette, my only complaint was too much oregano. I think I like Dino's, OOPS, Scarntinos dressing better.

When my dish arrived it looked delicious! My mouth watered. Chunks of proscuitto and pieces of onion, flecks of red pepper; I stuck my fork in and twirled a nice bite to put in my mouth. Mmmmmmmm! The pork was cooked just right, a little fatty a little crunchy a lot of flavor, the pasta was cooked al dente and the sauce was perfect. My only complaint was the fact it was very spicy, a bit too much red pepper. But I am also a wimp when it comes to spiciness. I continued to eat (and share) my dish, drinking big gulps of wine to put out the fire. I also tasted the spinach pizza, what a delight! There was a generous layer of spinach under the melted cheese. Happy food. The prices are incredibly reasonable, the menu is varied, and the food is wonderful. We brought our own wine; the corkage fee is $10. I can’t wait to go back and order the carbornara again, easy on the pepper flakes.

Scarantino's 2055 E Colorado Blvd Pasadena (626) 844-6633
Tarrantino's 784 E Green St Pasadena (626) 796-7836

March 17, 2007

Inedible Food

Earlier this week I was running around, doing errands, I happened to be at the big box mall (needed to shop at stores that started with a B) at the corner of Foothill and Madre shopping at the BBB (Bed Bath and Beyond) and BB (Best Buy). I was hungry and had to get home fast to meet the Direct TV guy (yah, I just moved so things have been hectic). I spotted this fast food Chinese place across the corner, PEI WEI. Hmm, supposed to be related to PF Changs so it can’t be to bad.

I decide to order won ton soup and Pad Thai to go, I only have to wait a few minutes for the food so I get home just in time to meet the TV guy.

I start with the won ton, pull a bowl and spoon out and begin to ladle out some soup. Hmmm what is this? Pieces of mushy won tons at the bottom of the take out container, not only did the noodles fall apart but the little meat balls inside turned to ground whatever and sunk to the bottom. There were also green things floating in the soup, I could not tell what they were.

I took a bite, hoping the broth was flavorful. YUK! It was awful all of it! I couldn't’t eat any and decided that the broth, noodles (what was left) the dogs would like ladled over their crunchy dried food that evening (see how I am making the disgusting won ton soup sound good to dogs?)

I prayed that the Pad Thai was edible as I was very hungry. I opened the box. OK, lots of noodles, where’s the meat? The veggies, a bean sprout perhaps? Under the pile of overcooked noodles I found 1 piece each of chicken beef and pork, and about 5 pieces of tofu. Oh, and I finally found some bean spouts but they were so overcooked I could hardly tell them from the noodles. I ate enough to stop the hunger pangs, and then threw the rest away.

Stay away from this place. It’s for the dogs.

Pei Wei Asian Diner, 3455 E Foothill Blvd Pasadena, CA 91107
Phone: (626) 325-9020 Pei Wei Take Away: (626) 325-9020

March 07, 2007


I grew up with my grandmother, she was from Chihuahua, and grew up in a small town in the Sierra Nevada’s in Northern Mexico. I could tell you all kinds of cool stories about her and food, she used to go pick wild mushrooms with an Indian, and he would tell them which were edible and which ones were not. But those stories are for a different blog, right?

She was a super cook and made the best Albondigas Soup. She taught me how to make a lot of delicious things, but Albondigas was not one of them, thus the quest for the best Albondigas in the SGV began.

What is Albondigas you ask? A delicious soup that usually will have zucchini, potato, carrot, onion, tomato, celery and meatballs that are very light and fluffy because they use rice instead of breadcrumbs and a secret ingriendient; the broth is flavored from all the vegetables and my grandma always added a small can of tomato sauce which gave it more flavor.

I have tried this wonderful comfort food at almost every Mexican restaurant I go to. So far I have tired Max’s in Azusa, Caberra’s in Duarte, Peppers in Arcadia, La Nueva Posada in Pasadena, Mijares in Pasadena, Los Gueros in Monrovia and Sergios in Azusa, and probably more. That is not counting mi abuelas.

So is there a clear winner? Not really. I liked the meatballs at Caberra’s but the broth had no flavor, the broth at La Nueva Posada was fantastic but the meatballs were a little dense and there were no potatoes. Sergios vegetables were way to mushy, Max’s had a good average on everything, but probably the best was Los Gueros, everything was good but there were no potatoes. Obviously I have my perfect soup all picked out. I will order one of my favorite comfort foods again at Los Gueros, Max’s and La Nueva Posada, but after that the search is still on.

Can you recommend the perfect bowl?

Los Gueros 313 West Huntington Dr., Monrovia (626) 358-0200

February 19, 2007

Mexican Fried Chicken

Ok, so the best Mexican food in the SGV is Babita’s, but I have not been there yet! So this rant will review some other place that you call Cal-Mex for the most part. I can’t contend with “The Great Taco Hunt's” level of taste tests. This post has been spurred on by my recent discovery of Mexican Fried Chicken, at La Nueva Posada in Pasadena.

Yes that is what I said, “Fried Chicken”. We, my S.O. (significant other) and I decided to try someplace new for Mexican food. What we were actually craving was a good margarita, but we figured if the food is good so are the drinks, right? (go figure) Well sorta, the margarita was ok, I have had better. The menu of margaritas at El Cholo, and The Border Grille, that used to be in the Paseo (gone now) has yet to be beat in the SGV, at least from my tasting. BTW Babita serves beer and wine only, so we have no idea what alcoholic concoction could come out of that kitchen!

Saturday night, the place is packed, lot of kids too. I look at the menu, same menu different place, until I spot Mexican Fried Chicken. Hmmm. I ask the waitress, she says it takes 30 minutes because they make it to order, and it is very good; this is a good thing!

My immediate hunger is placated with some really good albondigas soup, chips and salsa, good but nothing to write home about. I liked the texture of the salsa, although it needed a little more zing. When the chicken shows up at the table it is sitting in a thin red sauce, I assume it is the marinade. It is a half of a chicken with the breast cut in half. The chicken is moist and full of flavor, without being spicy. The meat actually has flavor, not from the skin or the sauce, it was actually marinated! I let my cut bites soak up more sauce before I pop them in my mouth; moist, crunchy, not greasy, full of flavor. Yum! How charming. I wonder who thought that recipe up! It was good but could have used more sauce on the side, don’t want ruin the crunch with soggy. I even ate it cold the next day, it was still good. I am wondering how this chicken compares to Dino’s chicken, which is a mariachi band playing in your mouth!

I would definitely go back for the chicken, the carne asada looked tempting. I might try that, and would definitely go back for albondigas a great big bowl!

La Nueva Posada 2835 E Foothill Blvd Pasadena, CA (626)793-7191

February 15, 2007


If you live in the SGV and have never been to Damon’s Steak House, then shame on you!!! It’s camp, it’s retro, it’s fun, it’s a time warp, it’s a tiki hut monument to the bovine. The restaurant has been there for-ever! And the clientele is amusing to say the least, oh and the food is good, but don’t expect JJ’s or Morton’s you will be disappointed.

Expect big strong mai tai’s, double stuffed potatoes instead of baked, beets in your salad with some house dressing that is a bit like French, and big steaks. They recently added a rib eye to their menu, this is my favorite cut, so it is what I order. Just enough marbling and fat, and cooked nicely at medium rare. The portions are big, and you will not leave hungry or sober, unless you don’t drink mai tai's!

Damon’s is not for everyone. If your culinary palate is snobby, or you don’t like bamboo, umbrella drinks, Hawaiian shirts or waitresses who have been there for-ever, then go somewhere else. But Damon’s fills a need for a big steak at a small price, for a strong drink, and some atmosphere and entertainment. My 23 year old niece loves it. We go together, it bridges the generation gap.

So if you have lived in the SGV and have not been there, try it, you will like it.

Damon's 317 Brand Blvd, Glendale, (818)507-1510

February 01, 2007

French Onion Soup

I love Soup and one of my favorites is French Onion. I almost always order it if it is on the menu, sometimes even in the heat of summer! Because I am not always sure where to find it, I posted a request at CHOW on the best soup in the LA area. I got lots of responses of which I will share with you.

I however have the places I have tried and I want to share those with you too! I live in Sierra Madre and work in Azusa so most of the places I have been to are either lunch places near my office, or in Pasadena. So many of the suggestions which are in LA, I have not had the opportunity to try, yet!

For lunch Village Eatery in Glendora has a decent bowl, the flavor is good, the croutons can be disappointing though. Last time I had it they used some weird breadstick as a crouton, and the cheese doesn’t cover the top.

My favorite is at The Golden Spur also in Glendora, a really retro steak house (leather booths, everyone drinks martinis at lunch). Consistently good, lovely crock topped with a thick chewy layer of golden brown cheesey love and crunchy croutons; I always order it, and it is always on the menu.

I also had a bowl a Bistro de la Gare in South Pasadena, it was good, but not what I expected. Not the rich dark broth that is traditional, it was a light almost chicken broth. The flavor was different yet good, and cheese and croutons yummy, but for some reason it left me wanting more. It wasn’t what I expected and my palate was set on that dark rich soup that I adore.

Now for the CHOW hound recommendations! Morton’s, it is on their lunch menu only, Doughboys on 3rd, both of these were mentioned several times so I am sure that they are worth trying out. The Crepe Vine and the Raymond both in Pasadena, I am not sure if the Raymond has the soup on their daily menu or it is a seasonal thing. You can read the whole thread here if you would like!

The Golden Spur 1223 E Route 66 (Foothill) Glendora, CA 91740 (626) 963-9302

January 29, 2007

Bistro 45

As usual my birthday celebration lasted the better part of a week, with the high light being a romantic dinner at Bistro 45 in Pasadena, with my special someone. It has one of the most extensive wine lists I have seen in Southern California. It was voted “Best Restaurant for Wine Lovers by Wine Spectator 1992 – 2006”. I want to add that the wine pricing was amazing with offers in all price ranges. We selected a 2003 Duckhorn Merlot and it was exquisite!

The menu has something for everyone and of course there were several specials. The “Tomba Tuna” and signature “Composed Salad of Baby Red & Oak Leaf Lettuces French feta, strawberries & Cabernet dressing”, AKA Strawberry salad were both divine. I especially loved the tuna, prepared seared on top of marinated yellow beets. Who would have thought! This tuna was white, not like the Ahi you see at most restaurants. We enjoyed Mumm Napa Brut by the glass with these selections.

I chose the Roasted Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast, with an amazing honey infused demi glaze. Surprisingly the duck was served medium rare and tasted perfect. The only thing missing was that layer of perfectly crusty and crunchy skin that is usually atop most duck breast dishes, but the flavors were so amazing I didn’t miss it that much! A mascarpone risotto was served with the duck, light and creamy, a perfect complement! My dinner partner had the roasted beef tenderloin, which was flavored and cooked perfectly; melted in your mouth. The wine selection paired perfectly with our entrees, and the “Black White and Orange” dark chocolate bombe tasted amazing with the merlot too!

The service was impeccable with someone stopping by the table often enough, but not so much as to be annoying, to make sure our dining experience was perfect. We sat on the covered and heated patio; I was concerned that it would be too cold as it was raining! However the temperature was cozy, and I would not worry at all about patio dining here, there wasn’t even a draft on my feet.

I would vote for this as a special occasion restaurant, especially for someone who loves to pour over a wine list (no pun intended). I want to try the Sea Bass Bouillabaisse next time we are there, can’t wait to look for a wine pairing for that!

Bistro 45 45 S. Mentor Ave in Pasadena, CA (626) 795-2478
Top Thirty Restaurants in Southern California 1994 - 2005" Zagat Survey"
"Top Ten Restaurants and Wine Lists in L.A." Wine Spectator"
"Top 100 Restaurants in Nation" Conde Nast Traveler"

January 25, 2007


Also pronounced, baahbeeque. I love to throw a steak on the grill, make some beer chicken, or carne asada. But the art of smoking and slow cooking is beyond my area of expertise. Two of my favorite BBQ’d meats are brisket, which, if done correctly melts in your mouth, and pulled pork. My ex-husband occasionally would reach this goal with his brisket, however not consistently enough. The best pulled pork I have ever eaten is at a place called Port Cape, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and I can’t get there as often as I like.

Both of these dishes require long hours of smoking and cooking and basting. Not easily done on the home grill. That is why I frequent Canyon City BBQ in Azusa. They have the best pulled pork this side of the Rockies and their brisket is to die for! Not only do they have an extensive and delicious lunch and dinner menu featuring all your BBQ’d favorites, but will cater as well.

My favorite items are the loaded spud. Holy cow! A huge potato (bigger than the ones at Northwood’s Inn) butter, sour cream, cheese, chives, whatever you want except the kitchen sink, plus a large portion of pulled pork, chicken, brisket or tri-tip piled on top; the pulled pork sandwich done traditionally with the slaw on the bun, and of course the brisket. The ribs are delicious too.

They also have a large variety of side dishes, my favorites being the cole slaw and the macaroni salad. I have used Canyon City to cater parties and have been amazed at the amount of food that is delivered!

For lunch today I had the brisket, as usual it was very good. My lunch partner in crime had the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich. WOW. I am not one of those die hard Philly Cheese Steak lovers, but it looked delicious, and fortunately I was offered a bite, and accepted, before she wolfed it all down! So I got to taste the thinly sliced tri-tip with sautéed fresh onion and peppers, and of course the melted cheese, I’m going to order that one next visit. If you are lucky enough to be waited on by Mary Ann (aka Crazy Mary) your BBQ experience will be complete!

Now I have eaten at a lot of BBQ joints in the San Gabriel Valley, Robin’s in Pasadena, professes to be the best around. They got one of those “voted best” awards. Taste of Texas in Covina and Buckboard BBQ in Upland are good too, but they are definitely NOT the best, Canyon City blows their socks off. Plus Canyon City’s owners Don and Lana are just real people, waiting tables, filling your drinks, and making sure we all come back again.

Canyon City BBQ, 375 N. San Gabriel Ave., Azusa 626.815.4227

January 24, 2007

Birthday Lunch

Yesterday was my birthday. Some of my staff, who are a great group, took me to lunch at the only Zagat rated restaurant in Azusa. Now don’t get me wrong, Azusa has a lot of good places to eat. But they are just that, places. No real restaurants. Not that this restaurant, even though it is really delicious, has a five star ambiance! It is next to the only porn shop in Azusa, The Red Panty.

Any how so much for panties, Tulipano’s is very good. The owner greets you and kisses your hand (feminists beware). I consider myself a liberated woman, but I enjoy his camp attitude, and silly jokes and dotting at the table. The lunch specials are plentiful and usually delicious.

My favorite thing is the fresh brushetta that is brought to the table as soon as your drinks are served. It is very garlicky, and delicious. I had the fish special, a light sautéed sea bass, may I emphasize it was not over cooked!!! With a delicious fresh tomato and pepper sauce over it, served with some pasta and vegetables. Another special was a half and half homemade ravioli’s with a cream sauce and a manicotti stuffed with cheeses with a marinara sauce. It looked good, but disappeared before I was offered a bite! Chicken ravioli with a fresh tomato pomadora was also served to one of the group, it also looked delicious.

Every one of us (6) were pleased with our lunches, my only regret was not ordering some soup. There were 3 varieties, and you know how I feel about soup!

Tulipano's 530 S. Citrus Ave. Azusa, CA 91702 626-967-6670

Soup is Good Food

My favorite thing to eat on a cold winter night is soup. But not out of a can!!! I make some decent homemade varieties, but they always are an all afternoon affair, and not something that can be “whipped up” after a long day at the office. I have found two restaurants, inexpensive and ethnic, that offer some delicious soups.

Young’s Gourmet is a hole in the wall Chinese place in a little strip mall in Duarte. I go here for lunch at least once a week.

My favorite dish is the “Chicken Noodle Soup”. It is a huge bowl of steaming rich chicken broth, filled with ramen noodles, vegetables and chicken. The flavor of the broth is consistently perfect; the vegetables are stir fried to order and placed on top of the ramen, and the ramen is cooked perfectly, not mushy or hard. What I like about this is when you order this “to go” the broth is kept separate from the remainder of the fresh ingredients so nothing gets over cooked or soggy on the ride home. YUM. Their Won Ton Soup is also very good, and I love the Mu Shi Pork (not soup). This is not on the lunch special menu, but can be ordered anytime.

The service is always good, and the waitresses Annie and Lena are exceptionally nice.

Young’s Gourmet 1340 E. Huntington Drive Duarte 626.358.8763

If you prefer something south of the border try Ranch los Magueyes, or as the locals call it “Max’s”. Max is always there to great you, and makes a killer margarita. They have some soups on the menu you don’t find at Mexican places everyday. I especially like a soup called Fideo. It is a chicken tomato broth, flavored with onion. In it is simply fideo noodles, vermicelli, which are toasted in oil before being cooked in the broth so they will not get starchy. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods, I make it at home, and Max’s is as close as I have found to my home made. They also offer Cocido (vegetable soup made with beef bones), Sopa de Albondigas (meatball soup), Menudo every day not just on the weekends.

Rancho los Magueyes (Max’s) 248W. Foothill Blvd. Azusa 626.334-9695