Living in a hotel, seeing a play almost every day (two today), driving considerable distances, and visiting the occasional museum show, it's not easy to squeeze in meals. But we manage.
Friday morning we met friends for brunch at a French-themed place not too far away (by Los Angeles standards). I'm a sucker for egg, spinach, and gruyère, so I ordered "Spinach Gruyere Pie with Poached Egg and Sliced Applewood Smoked Bacon." This turned out to be a spinach quiche in a pie-shell with a poached egg on top and a strip of bacon below, and apart from the pastry itself it was pretty tasty.
Julienne Fine Foods and Celebrations, 2649 Mission St, San Marino, California; (626) 441-2290
That was substantial enough that we opted only for bread and brie in our room later in the day and a Martini before the evening's play — a very good Endgame.
Saturday morning we tried the highly touted pastries and coffee a mile down our street, Huntington Drive. It was a perfect morning for the walk, and the cappuccino was good enough to have another. The doughnuts, though, from Snob Doughnuts ("a cup of joe and a side of dough") were fairly ordinary, and the in-house croissant seemed salty to me, though I liked its crisp, well-baked flakiness.
Taza, a social coffee house, 11 W Huntington Drive, Arcadia; (626) 538-2233
Lunch yesterday was in Pasadena, in a location that had been one of my favorite restaurants for a number of years — Tre Venezie, whose kitchen explored arcane byways of the three provinces of the Veneto. Alas, the restaurant closed a few years back. In its place, two years ago or so, a tapas restaurant opened, and a trusted source had told us it has a very good reputation. We contented ourselves with a plate of marvelously fluffy salt-cod fritters in a smooth, creamy ali-oli; a plate of padrones fried in very nice olive oil, and crema catalana with smooth, supple date sauce and a little chocolate mousse on the side.
Racion, 119 W Green Street, Pasadena; (626) 396-3090
Saturday night — last night — we had certainly the best dinner in quite a while, at a restaurant as impressive for its menu and its kitchen as it was for its sound level. We sat outside the restaurant's huge dining room, and regularly measured 90 decibels at our table.
But the food made up for the noise. We started with two salads: "Genevieve’s Shaved Summer Vegetable Salad," little gems. housemade ricotta salata. mustard vinaigrette; and a kale. endive. and arugula salad with a caper-anchovy vinaigrette, pecorino toscano, and breadcrumbs. These were beautiful salads, perfectly portioned, nicely balanced, with crisp, flavorful dressings and the right, discreet amount of cheese.
I moved on to agnolotti alla vaccinara: cacao pasta parcels with braised oxtail, burro fuso, grana padano, pine nuts, and currants — a marvelous dish, deep and resonant, rich and medieval-tasting, somehow combining culinary values of both the Veneto and Piemonte. I was very happy.
Lindsey ordered dessert, but they all looked rather equal to me, none standing out. One thing had jumped off the menu toward me, though: a veal tartare crostino, with shallots, parsley, lemon, capers, and tonnato sauce. In other words, back to Piemonte: carne crudo and vitello tonnato cleverly merged onto one plate. The waiter seemed a little surprised at first, but quickly agreed it was a perfect dessert.
Barbera di Monferrato, Zerbetta, 2011
Bestia, 2121 7th Place, Los Angeles; 213-514-5724