Sunday is a day of exploring treasures around our great city. About 20 minutes from downtown is the bucolic small community of La Canada-Flintridge. It attracts rocket scientists due to its proximity to JPL, and entertainment executives seeking homes near the studios. There are lots of oak trees, bridal paths and bike trails throughout the town.
A big draw to the community is the 160 acre Descanso Gardens offering paved pathways to explore a variety of gardens, a small train ride, Patina Group chefs for casual dining and special events fare, water features, an art gallery, and historic home to tour.
Before or after a visit to Descanso Gardens, enjoy brunch at the nearby Flintridge Proper. It’s one of the only unique farm to table dining options in town and houses the world’s largest gin bar.
The talented architect and designer Sam Marshall, who worked on the popular Gjelina restaurant in Venice, redesigned a beloved local Mexican restaurant into a hip, updated social house with a beautiful wood bar for the owners Brady and Mary Caverly. Brady has been a gin aficionado for years and has an extensive collection of spirits from around the world. He even makes his own gin by foraging around the nearby foothills for juniper berries, while hiking with his family.
Fondly called by locals as The Proper, there are two dining areas – one on the lower level with booths, bistro tile with wood inlay flooring, and a large coffee counter. Up a few steps is a more conversational style dining area with an elaborate Flintridge Bridal Path sign with two horse heads carved in wood as the centerpiece of the room. Throughout the restaurant are nostalgic art and memorabilia pieces collected by the owners or donated by people in the community.
After a Sunday morning exploring the new ancient forest at Descanso Gardens, I took my family to The Proper to experience their brunch. Sitting in the upper area at a comfortable booth among classic wood paneling, I noticed talented and friendly bartenders entertaining guests, while preparing classic brunch cocktails using fresh squeezed juices and house made syrups, in classic glassware. I ordered an Angel Kiss that was slightly sweet and offered an essence of grapefruit. It’s was refreshing and perfect to sip while looking over the menu.
There are a variety of signature Proper dishes such as egg dishes, crab cakes, chopped salads, and fluffy pancakes. Our server Tiffany came over to our corner table with two enormous buttermilk biscuits on a wood plank that were sprinkled with sea salt. There was a silver container of berry jam and shredded butter that looked like shredded mozzarella cheese. The butter was so smooth and easy to spread on the warm biscuits. It was a fun starter to share among the table.
Head chef Matthew Allison makes omelettes the way you like by offering a variety of meat, cheese and vegetable options. Many brunch items are served with his signature smooshed fingerling potatoes. I learned from the owner Mary Caverly, that the potatoes are cooked until tender, then placed on a big pan and smushed with another big pan on top, before going into the oven. This process makes them crispy on the outside, yet creamy in the middle. With a little ketchup, it’s pure comfort food.
My daughter chose the vegetable skillet, that was hot and lined with smooshed potatoes and topped with sautéed veggies, poached eggs and a flavorful citrusy Hollandaise sauce that wasn’t heavy or gelatinous. The eggs continued to cook before the skillet cooled down. I remarked to my daughter this dish was similar to our favorite Korean bibimbap, yet with different ingredients.
My salmon Benedict arrived with two English muffins topped with smoked salmon, poached eggs and the same pleasing citrusy Hollandaise sauce that was on the veggie skillet.
My husband’s burger had a fresh salmon patty that the kitchen staff grinds daily. It was topped with a delicious dill cream and cucumber between a soft Brioche bun.
Since Descanso Gardens has the RISE of the Jack O’Lanterns exhibit on Thursday through Sunday until Nov. 1, stop by The Flintridge Proper for one of their Farm-to-Table nightly specials. Every Sunday they cook up Prime rib roast with garlic mashed potatoes and roasted baby carrots and Happy Hour specials are offered daily from 3 to 6 p.m.
If you come during the weekend for dinner, be sure to make reservations in advance to secure a table during peak times. It’s attractive interior, innovative fare and cocktails, and friendly service entices regulars and locals to come back often.
Open for lunch and dinner starting at 11:30 a.m. Breakfast and brunch is served on Sat. and Sunday starting at 8:30 a.m. The restaurant closes at 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturdays. $$
464 Foothill Blvd. La Canada Flintridge (818)790-4888.