Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Back south again

Pasadena, May 27, 2014—

WHAT A FINE PLACE this is. We were down here with friends last month, and wanted to try this new spot, but it was just too damn crowded and noisy that particular Saturday night. Much better tonight, at a nine o'clock seating. We had plenty of time and space for ourselves, after a long drive, and this proves to be a great place to take it easy and savor both cuisine and hospitality.

We began with bread, butter, and giardiniera — those pickled raw vegetables the Piemontese love so. Lindsey's Aunt Victoria used to make a huge supply every year, and we got the taste from her. The version here is just a tad sweeter and lacks the tuna, but is crisp and bracing and perfect with the house-made cultured butter, churned from cream and buttarmilk and carefully aged.

Then a salad: fine thin green asparagus, artichoke hearts and bottoms, on a bed of mesclun, with walnuts and a bit of pecorino, dressed with a coddled duck egg.  Delicious.

The main course — well, we'd smelled the heavenly fragrance of porchetta the moment we'd entered the room; what chooce did we have? It was rolled and stuffed with fennel, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper, with chile pepper as well, and perfectly roasted, unctuous and generous, with marvelous crisp crackling skin to it. Nicely roasted delicious little potatoes and salsa verde on the side. Too much, of course: but I ate every last morsel.

Desserts: a nive gianduja budino woth a bitter-chocolate wafer cap, the pudding exploding on the tongue with saltt crystals and a faint trace, just the right amount, of truffle-scented olive oil. Lindsey had the olive oil cake, served as a lightly toasted slice, with candied mandarinequat slices. A real find, this place; we'll certainly be back.

Pecorino/ Passerimo, Falerio, De Angelis (Marche), 2012; Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Marchione, 2010 (coarse, open, attractive)

• Union, 37 East Union Street, Pasadena, California; 626-795-5841

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