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