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Happy Meal: Pasadena

November 19, 2009

Pasadena will always be the place where I first saw a man wearing a kilt as a fashion statement. It’s where I took  my first  hip hop exercise class. Part of the workout was out on the streets. Sadly, that’s as close as I’ve ever gotten to being part of a flash mob.

Pasadena also brought us sports pioneer Jackie Robinson, rehabber Dr Drew Pinsky and designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy. The last I heard the women behind Rodarte still live with their parents there. Their clothes, have the look of Degas ballerinas gone punk. That and their distressed knitting has made them among my favorite designers.

Perhaps even more importantly, for the sake of this convo, Julia Child hails from Pasadena.

She attended Le Cordon Bleu in France. In part because of her influence on foodies in the United States, the French cooking school now has a campus in Pasadena.

The school runs a fine dining restaurant and a cafe. That cafe, staffed by students,  is where I had a happy breakfast this week.

Ambiance: While the uniform at  trendy restaurants in LaLa is  $800 gladiator shoes worn with $400 distressed jeans  accessorized with a $2,000 over-sized purse, the look here is the Le Cordon Bleu uniforms, no toque. I will say that the ambition looks good on the students, who are both the staff and the customers, especially when combined with the exposed brick walls. The only stars here are of the rising culinary variety. The line in front of the register is also dotted with regulars. One stood directly behind us and he advised me to order a side dish. Who was I to argue?  My order: I toyed with getting eggs with my side of potatoes, but they didn’t offer any egg white options. My dining companion ordered what was billed as a three-egg frittata with goat cheese and red bell peppers, served with  sourdough toast.

As an indulgence, we both ordered apricot pastries. That turned out to be so not necessary.

Because of a kitchen mix up, our orders were put on the same plate. It was a simple fix. We got another plate and split the meal  and it was more than plenty.  Half of one pastry ended up in a doggie bag.  If I have a critique it would be that the pastry was ever so slightly gummy.

The fritatta, which is basically an Italian omelette, was  fresh and tasty–although we both felt the volume was closer to two eggs rather than three.

The clear star of the meal was the potatoes, every bite a delight. The rich dish reminded me of a gratin, but it was creamier. The only thing that could make them better was hot sauce, which the cafe kindly provided.

If I stuff the suggestion box it would be to include more vegetarian options. I’d love to see what  budding and seasoned chefs could do with tofu. I’d also love to see non-pork meat options.

Having said that there are pancakes, muesli, pain perdu. The kind regular who advised me on what to eat ordered oatmeal. It was served in a big bowl  topped with raisins. And he told me that all of the portions at the cafe used to be bigger.

Service: This is casual dining at its finest. The student behind the counter answered every question I had with a smile and the enthusiasm that comes with being a student who wants to be there.  This is  a place imbued with the joy of  foodies. There was no le ‘tude in sight.

Prices:
Breakfast – $1.50 – $7
Lunch – $3 – $10
Dinner – $3 – $10

Amuse Bouche: Before leaving, I had to ask about the recipe for the potatoes. It was my fortune to find the person who runs the cafe, another enthusiastic foodie, Le Cordon Bleu instructor,  Mme.Terrie Beal.  She was in the front of the house prepping for  for  the Thanksgiving desserts the cafe will be making.

She told me that the potatoes are indeed a cafe favorite. When I asked about the ingredients, and I knew pretty much what was coming, she said the dish is basically  “potatoes, cheese and heavy cream.”

I asked if I could substitute non-fat evaporated milk for the heavy cream. Mme Beal told me she’d done it herself with low fat.  So I’m going to experiment with evap and even soy milk and cheese. Stay tuned for my recipe.

The cafe’s top chef went on to give me some other cooking tips, with a smile.  She made my happy meal even happier.

Rating: I give it five tines out of five. What’s a pastry that’s a bit gummy when compared to a meal served with joy?

How I Brought Bling to My Plate:

  • I ordered what I wanted.I didn’t have everything I wanted. There is no way I could have had the pain perdu,which is a fancy name for french toast, and the potatoes. Next time.
  • I went easy the rest of the day. I had my treat and happy memories.
  • I followed the advice of a regular and got those potatoes. His recommendation trumps any restaurant critic.
  • I got info on the recipe so I can make a slimmed down version of the dish at home.
If I have a critique it would be that the pastry was ever so slightly gummy in the thickest part of the pastry.
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 19, 2009 2:57 pm

    You really have my mouth watering in this episode! Fabulous photos!

  2. lenanozizwe permalink*
    November 19, 2009 3:27 pm

    Thx girl. You inspire me to continue shooting. It’s fun.

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