Pasadena, California, November 6, 2016—
BREAKFAST AS YESTERDAY, and a tuna sandwich for lunch, at the Los Angeles County Arboretum — why have we never before visited this marvelous park?
Then, after our fourth play in three days — the intense The Maids, by Jean Genet — a fine Enigma cocktail at a quiet, pleasant bar tucked improbably under a wooded hillside. The Enigma is basically a Martini with the addition of yellow Chartreuse, garnished with a star anise. Thoughtful.
Los Angeles County Arboretum,
Circle Drive, Arcadia, California; +1 (626) 821-3222
The Raymond, 1250 S Fair Oaks Avenue, South Pasadena; +1 (626) 441-3136
Dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, still the best I know in Pasadena and one of the best in Los Angeles and environs. It's crowded and noisy; the tables are set close; the service is swift and not particularly gracious. But the kitchen and the concept are superb.
The dining room decor is dominated by a huge blackboard declaring allegiance to sustainability and simplicity, with a prominent quote attributed to Alice Waters:
Let Food Taste of What It is
And the waiter explained that the twin loyalties of the place are to her commitment to local and sustainable products and to the cuisine of northern Italy. You can see why the Contessa and I will put up with the noise.
We ordered identically (and simply and sustainably): an arugula salad, with finely grated Parmesan cheese and lemon vinaigrette, and what the menu lists as "BUCATINI CACIO E PEPE (Pecorino-Romano, black pepper, 63° egg*)"
Now cacio e pepe is a favorite dish of mine, as readers who've travelled with us to Rome will recall. Normally the dish features spaghetti: I prefer the thicker bucatini, which hold their shape well, evade overcooking, and handle more easily on the fork — important to aging trembling hands.
The two cheeses were fine examples of their type, and the ratio was perfect. The black pepper was fresh, fruity, and pungent: Telicherry, I imagine. And the addition of the egg was a superb idea.
At first I thought the egg had been cooked simply by the heat of the drained pasta, but Internet research has cleared things up: A 63° egg, I read, is one that has been cooked in its shell for an hour in a water bath held at 63 degrees. (Fahrenheit, of course.) The yolk is runny but very slighttly thickened; the white is coddled, consistent, and unctuous.
And, importantly, the pasta had not been completely drained; enough of the flour-laden cooking water had been retained to merge with the egg, once broken, to engineer a substance whose texture and flavor is really delicious, really memorable. We have to try this at home.
Erbaluce di Caluso, La Torazza, 2013: unfiltered, golden, dry, good flavor
Union, 37 E Union Street, Pasadena; +1 (626) 795-5841