Pasadena, California, May 11, 2013—OUR FIFTY-SIXTH wedding anniversary today: a day for a quiet dinner, just the two of us, in a nice comfortable familiar restaurant. Well, that's not all that easy. The restaurants with interesting menus these days, at least the ones we know down in these parts, are anything but romantic: big, loud, trendy.
There are plenty of old-fashioned romantic places, I'm sure — dimly lit, hushed, discreet. But they're full of old people, when they're full, and their menus run to the tired "continental" repertoire. Phooey.
We wound up at a place we've been to on a number of previous visits. It's a neighborhood spot, but its chef is serious and enterprising. Alas, like every other restaurant, it has helpfully kept up with our declining aural sensitivity by somehow increasing the noise level. On the other hand it keeps the light level flatteringly dim: I was unable to make a single photograph good enough to publish even here, and Niépce knows I've put plenty of poor photos here.
We opened with a glass of bubbly and the field-greens salad, with tangerine sections to remind us we were in Southern California, and white truffle oil to remind us we were eating upscale — but, in fact, a nice vinaigrette for greens that included everything from mizuma to mâche.
Then on to beef cheeks. Dark as sin, braised eight hours in a greatly reduced veal stock, the meat was intense and rich; I couldn't have eaten another bite. The potato purée was smooth and rather delicately flavored; the chard was deep, just short of bitter. It all seemed perfectly appropriate to an anniversary; we didn't need or desire dessert.
Cava, Campos de la Estrella (Spain); Pinot noir, Sean Minor (Carneros), 2011• Bashan, 3459 N Verdugo Road, Glendale, (818) 541-1532