Twoheys Carhop Service

When Jack and Jean Twohey opened the first Twohey’s Restaurant on Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena, CA, a bottle of Coco-Cola cost 5 Cents, a new car sold for around $900, and to fill it up cost 15 cents a gallon.

Twoheys offers curbside service

Just a short drive from Hollywood, Twoheys was a favorite hang out for Hollywood legends Cary Grant, Mickey Rooney and Bill Murray. They drove to the San Gabriel Valley area to enjoy a specialty hamburger, onion rings, and hand-dipped fountain beverage.

Their logo of a man with a close pin on his nose is ‘Stinko’. According to co-owner Tanya Christos, a man sat at a counter and ordered a hamburger with just onions and pickles. When it arrived there was a generous amount of onions and pickles stacked between the bun. A lady sitting next to him muttered, “Oh stinko!” and when the staff and owners overheard her, they got the idea to make ‘Little Stink-o’ into the logo of Twoheys trademark.

In 1955, Twoheys relocated to the corner of Huntington Drive and Atlantic Blvd. in Alhambra, CA, offering American diner food and carhop style service. The restaurant became a popular destination for both young and old alike. When the Twohey family passed ownership to a local Pasadena family in 1997, the family promised to continue to preserve the traditional menu items that has attracted generations of loyal customers.

Now, after 75 years, Twoheys renovated a space in South Pasadena on Fair Oaks. The new look is modern and clean with a retro vibe, featuring a full bar, two outdoor patios, a soda fountain counter and designated parking carhop service.

I was able to chat by phone with Tanya Christos about the new location. “We opened in October, 2020 and everyone who came in to dine were so grateful and happy we opened.” I learned they did a soft opening and in less than two months the word got out and the outdoor patio was filled with diners. “Little did we know when we took over the lease, the outdoor patios with 90 seats would be essential during the pandemic,” said Christos. Since South Pasadena is part of LA County, they had to closed their outdoor dining towards the end of 2020. “The state is under so much pressure for restaurants to reopen, we just hope numbers continue to come down, and we can offer sit down service again to our customers.”

“We had to incorporate new dining concepts, takeout and delivery, and were forced to get creative with Family Meal Kits, Cocktails to go, and carhop service,” said Christos. “We have 6 parking spots to bring out curbside delivery during breakfast breakfast, lunch and dinner.” Just call in your order 30 minutes in advance and call the restaurant again upon arrival. Tell them which parking spot number you are at, and your order will be delivered on a classic carhop tray if requested, or in a bag to take home.

Ordering their family meal packs, we received meatloaf for my 88 year old father and a roast turkey dinner for my husband, daughter and me. Both were served with garlic mashed potatoes, carrots and green beans, house salad, dinner rolls and a choice of dessert – ice cream sundae or rice pudding. They also offer large salads, a variety of burger and sandwich packs that feed four people, as well as Prime Rib Wednesdays.

Order one of their cocktails to-go to enjoy at home. They bottle their most popular drinks that pour into three servings, yet cost the price of two.

Click her to see the Twoheys menu. They are open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., six days per week, and closed on Tuesdays. 424 Fair Oaks Ave., (626)284-7387.

This review is also featured in the Beverly Press on January 21, 2021.

The Raymond 1886 Indian Summer BBQ

For one night only, Chef Jonathan is barbecuing customized meals for you. Build your own BBQ bowl or plate, along with exclusive cocktails.

The $18 bowl begins with a choice of one meat, one side and one topping. Choose brisket with Nueske bbq sauce; pork shiso with bonito teryiaki sauce; or barbecued chicken breast with spicy mayo.

Sides include steam short-grain rice, red quinoa or sesame potato salad. Toppings are crunchy garlic chili or furikake kimchi. The larger portion plates are $28 each.

Dine in cocktails include:

Don Lockwood
Bourbon, Scotch, Maple Syrup, Angostura Bitters

Army/Navy
Gin, Orgeat, Lemon, Angostura Bitters

Saladito
Mezcal, Honey, Lime, Chili Salt

Cocktails: $10 per Cocktail for Outdoor Dine-in / $20 Takeout & Delivery (2 Servings)1

PICKUP TIMES:
11am to 4pm on Sunday, September 27th, 2020 and outdoor in-dine times are from
4 pm to 9pm. 1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena (626)441-3136.

Daphne’s Mediterranean Delights

Seeking outdoor dining venues re-opening in Los Angeles, I discovered that the Mediterranean-inspired Daphne’s California Greek Restaurant is open for takeaway and al fresco dining. This fast-casual dining venue offers an array of healthy starters, salads, bowls, pita sandwiches and plates. I visited the Pasadena location during my lunch hour.

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Walking inside I noticed a sign that reads “No mask, no service,” reminding guests of proper COVID-19 protocols. The friendly Daphne’s employee Adriana Aguila, welcomed me and offered some recommendations. She told me business has been picking up since their reopening, and that she takes the cleanliness and safety protocols very seriously. Wearing a mask and gloves, she fills guests drink orders with ice, tea and soda, located inside the closed dining room.

At the grill a chef wearing a mask started my order of crispy phyllo spanakopita filled with feta and spinach, and made one of Dapahne’s new strawberry salad. All were boxed for me to take outside to eat or bring home.

The spanakopita arrived in four bite-sized pieces alongside a generous portion of mixed greens topped with freshly chopped strawberries, candied walnuts, feta and grilled and sliced chicken. Aguila, who said that the chicken is antibiotic free, included a container of honey vinaigrette dressing to toss to my liking. Salads also come with a container of tzatziki sauce and warm pita with the words “Happy is Healthy” on the paper bag.

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Other salads on the menu include a Greek salad, falafel salad and a Mediterranean salad with mixed greens tossed with lemon tahini dressing, tomatoes, cucumbers, red cabbage, chickpeas, artichokes, feta, kalamata olives and a grilled chicken skewer.

Three bowls on the menu, including a creamy hummus bowl, Greek bowl and gyro bowl, are served with a few pieces of warm pita bread.

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Sandwiches include a spicy grilled chicken pita that has a fire feta sauce to spike the flavor, as well as a classic pita with a choice of either gyro or grilled chicken for protein. For vegetarians, they make a chickpea falafel pita filled with red cabbage, hummus, cucumber-tomato salad and lemon tahini dressing.

If you want to feed the whole family, Daphne’s offers a family feast special for $34.99 offering diners the option to select two proteins, two sides, a sauce and pita bread.

Proteins include hand-carved gyro that is lean, tender and melts in your mouth, or grilled chicken or falafel. For $4.99 extra, you can select grilled steak, seasonal fish or shrimp skewers.

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Select from side dishes that include seasoned basmati rice, Greek salad, french fries, tabbouleh, cucumber-tomato salad, roasted vegetables or pita chips. Sauces include tzatziki, hummus or, for $2.99 extra, fire feta.

The menu also features a Mix & Match plate that includes two proteins, a Greek side salad, seasoned basmati rice, tzatziki and pita. I ordered the grilled Mediterranean fish plate that had half of a grilled lemon and fresh herbs sprinkled on top. Accompanying this entrée was a Greek side salad, seasoned basmati rice, tzatziki and pita slices. They also offer a Surf & Turf plate that includes grilled shrimp and steak skewers served on a bed of seasoned basmati rice with roasted vegetables, tzatziki and pita bread.

For vegetarians, there is a plate of tabbouleh, chickpea falafel, spanakopita, hummus, Greek side salad, tzatziki and sliced pita.

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For kids, they have four menu items that come with seasoned basmati rice and warm pita for $5.99. Kids can select hand-carved gyro, grilled chicken, chickpea falafel or cheese pita pizza. On Sundays, kids eat for free when an adult entree is purchased.

Save room for their crispy baklava phyllo dough drizzled with honey and chopped walnuts for dessert.

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Daphne’s has also partnered with Uber Eats, Postmates, Grubhub and DoorDash to deliver fresh Mediterranean cuisine to your door.

What I like most about Daphne’s Mediterranean-inspired fare is the menu offers healthy items that appeal to everyone seeking a low-fat, low-carb, high protein diet, as well as for those vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets. $-$$

7100 Santa Monica Blvd., Ste 130, West Hollywood, (323)969-8225. Take a drive and visit other Daphne’s Restaurant locations at 3573 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, (626)351-5005; or 2700 Marine Ave., #109, Redondo Beach, (310)355-0535.

This review was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News 

Guest Chef Michael Hung at Raymond 1886

Enjoy a five-day dining staycation at Raymond 1886 in Pasadena while Executive Chef Michael Hung of Faith & Flower takes over the kitchen as  a guest chef beginning on Tuesday, July 28 through Saturday, Aug. 1.

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For those looking to venture out to celebrate the summer, the historic Craftsman designed restaurant offers three outdoor dining patios to sip handcrafted cocktails and wine pairing to enjoy with the creative chef’s five-course tasting menu along with The Raymond 1886 Head Barman Jesus Gomez’s Wine & Cocktail Pairing for an extra $20.

First Course Gargalliou of Young summer squash, Heirloom tomatoes, Black miso and tomato dashi. Pairing: Victorine de Chasternay Brut Rose

Second Course: House-made Truffled Cornbread and honey butter. Pairing: African Flower cocktail made with Bourbon, Crème de Cacao, CioCiaro Amaro & Orange Bitters.

Third Course Roasted Catalan Prawn with saffron poached fingerling potatoes and chorizo. Pairing: Domaine Gueneau Sancerre La Guiberte.

Fourth Course: Grilled Petit NY Steak with slowcooked wax beans, caramelized onion and mushroom jam. Pairing: Château Boutisse.

Dessert: Burnt sugar chocolate mousse with pistachio shortbread, spearmint crema, and honeycomb toffee. Pairing: Athol Brose – Scotch, Honey Syrup, Layered Cream with Freshly Grated Nutmeg.

The Raymond - Old Fashioned

The 5 course menu is $75 per person with an additional $20 for beverage pairings. His Takeout & Delivery menu is $55 per person. Visit www.TheRaymond.com or call The Raymond 1886 directly at (626)441-3136.

The Raymond 1886 is open for Dinner every Tuesday through Sunday from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm, and for Brunch every Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 am to 2:30 pm. 1886 is open every Tuesday through Sunday from 4:00 pm to 12:00 Midnight. 1886 Happy Hour is every Tuesday through Sunday from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

 

CHADO celebrates 30 years in Los Angeles

Celebrating 30 years in greater Los Angeles, Chado Tea Room has revolutionized how people drink and think about tea. Touted as a “tea lovers paradise” with hundreds of varieties, visitors are presented with a “Bible” filled with pages of caffeinated and decaffeinated teas from around the world.

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Recently, my daughter and I had the opportunity to meet Reena Shah, president and a founder of Chado, along with the CEO of Chado, Reena’s daughter, Bianca. They sat down with us during a high tea service at the Pasadena Chado Tea Room.

Reena met her husband, Devan Shah, who grew up in the tea business. They began selling tea in Los Angeles.

In 1990, they opened their first Chado Tea Room on Third Street. The store has since closed, but the legacy lives on at four other locations providing a high tea service and full selection of premium teas.

Chado gets its name from the word “cha” meaning “tea” in Chinese and the word “do” which means “way” in Japanese. Each tea room has knowledgeable servers educating guests about the varieties of tea.

Bianca recommended we started with a pot of strawberry, chocolate and Champagne flavored hot tea.

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We ordered the celebration afternoon tea service, which begins with a choice of a salad or a light orange and creamy heirloom tomato soup enhanced with basil and cilantro. We selected the soup, which was pure comfort, especially when dipping one of the toasted bread slices into the soup.

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The tea service continues with a three-tiered stand filled with a variety of sandwiches on the top plate: smoked salmon with dill and lemon, egg salad made from hard boiled eggs marinated in smoky black tea, chicken salad with cranberry, and cucumber.

Light jazz played in the background as we sat among walls lined with a beautiful tea pots and large glass jars displaying blended tea from around the world.

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On the middle tier were two warm scones served with Chado’s homemade cream, fresh sliced strawberries and berry jam. Our server recommended that we eat these first, while they were still warm.

Desserts on the bottom include fresh strawberries, shortbread cookies and flavored macarons.

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Tek Mehreteab, now a partner in the Chado Tea group, came to our table and offered a tea tasting of six different types, starting from light to dark, with yellow tea from China as the first one to taste.

“It’s rarer than white tea, and Reena’s husband imported yellow tea back in 2009,” Tek said. Once the tea leaves are picked, they turn yellow, are sun-dried and pan fried to achieve a clean flavor. “Everything is from one single plant, just a different process is used to create white, oolong, black and green tea.”

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Most green tea is grown in Japan. “The leaves are picked in spring and covered in bamboo to promote more chlorophyll, giving the flavor a grassy essence,” Tek said.

Matcha is finely ground green tea that is turned into a powder, mixed with hot water and whisked. “This tea is served in most Japanese tea ceremonies,” Tek said.

He said Darjeeling tea is the Champagne of teas. “You can’t replicate Darjeeling tea grown in the Darjeeling district in India,” Tek said. “When properly brewed, it offers a musky spiciness with a floral aroma.”

He also informed us that “chai” means tea in India, yet in America it is known as a “spicy tea.” At Chado, the Bianca chai with shredded coconut is delicious.

The L.A. Tea Festival in August is an annual two-day event that Devan Shah started in 2011. “What started with 12 tea companies and 900 people, now has 44 tea companies with 2,400 people sampling over 400 different teas,” said Bianca, who now runs the festival since her father passed away four years ago.

Tea lovers and inquisitive newcomers can sample unique tea pairings, craft tea-infused cocktails, boba tastings, and attend cheese and chocolate with tea classes at the Reef in downtown L.A. on August 22-23, 2020.

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Visit one of the Chado Tea Rooms to enjoy afternoon high tea. $$

6801 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 209, (323)472-8111; 369 E. First St., (213)258-2531; 79 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, (626)431-2832; 1303 El Prado Ave., Torrance, (424)757-5222. chadotea.com.

This review was featured in the Beverly Press on March 12, 2020.

MASTERS OF TASTE Helping Homelessness

Last night I dined inside the Rose Bowl Stadium locker room for a preview of the 5th annual MASTERS OF TASTE. This premier outdoor food and beverage festival will once again be on the field of the iconic Rose Bowl Stadium on Sunday, April 5, 2020.

Food and beverage enthusiasts have the opportunity to enjoy a spectacular array of savory and sweet culinary items, and variety of non-alcohol and alcoholic beverages for one price.

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This is the #yearofthewoman, as the Master Chef Host is Chef Vanda Asapahu of Ayara Thai. She is the first woman ever to host this successful fundraiser for Union Station Homeless Services.

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Culinary host Billy Harris was the emcee of the evening introducing chefs, Union Station members and the great people behind the scene providing creative fare and beverages.

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Last year’s host Executive Chef Michael Hung of Faith & Flower prepared the first course of the evening – an exquisite bite-sized, baked choux pastry stuffed with a savory mornay made with béchamel sauce with Gruyère cheese and truffles. He told a crowd of 85 guests, “We raised half a million dollars at last year’s Masters of Taste. He said he is putting his best foot forward to raise more than $500,000 for Homeless Services in 2020.

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The second course was a smoked Icelandic cod Smorrebrod, prepared by chef Lene Flemming Houck from Open Face Food Shop. It was served with the most delicious housemade pickled vegetables.

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Harris introduced Anne Miskey, the Chief Executive Officer at Union Station Homeless Services (USHS). She shared that “USHS permanently housed 1,200 homeless people in 2019 and that 97% are still housed and haven’t turned back to homelessness.”

She gave advice of how we can end homelessness – EAT. “Eating together connects people,” said Miskey. “Food is a common denominator all around the world. When you break bread with people, you touch and connect a fellow human being.” Miskey believes food has the power to welcome those in need.

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Next chef Vanda Asapahu came out to talk about the third course she made with her mother – Nam Ya. “This is one of the most loved dishes in southern Thailand, and we used to eat it every weekend.” It’s a slightly spicy fish curry made with coconut milk and rice vermicelli, Dungeness crab, cilantro and fried basil.  Vanda may be tiny in stature, however this talented chef is fierce in the kitchen. Each dish she makes is prepared from scratch and enhanced with herbs and spices to ensure the boldest, most genuine flavors.

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With each course a different pairing of OBVIOUS WINES was poured by Kristen Walters and team. These Estate wines are crafted through sustainably farming practices across vineyards in California, Chile, and France. What makes them distinctive is their labels. You don’t need to be an oenophile to understand the nuances of each wine.

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Other beverages served were PATHWATER reusable/refillable purified water, and Petal Sparkling Beverage Blends. Around the table we selected one of each of the six flavors for taste tests. The tall and slim cans have a beautiful label and are packed with powerful antioxidants. There is Original Rose, Mint Rose, Lychee Rose, Elderberry White Tea Flower, Peach Marigold, and Lemongrass Dandelion.

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The fourth course was a Ragout de Boeuf by Chef Kimmy Tang served with a taste of dark and bold Obvious #1 wine. Like a slow cooked beef stew, it was served with tender potatoes, carrots and a round slice of bread.

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Over the last 4 years, Masters of Taste has raised over $2 million dollars to benefit Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena. 100% of ticket purchases and upgrades are used to combat homelessness and rebuild the lives of families and individuals that are experiencing homelessness.

Click here for a list of the MASTERS this year participating. Click here for information on tickets for the April 5, 2020 culinary extravaganza to help those in need move into a permanent home.

Rustic Italian fare at Union Pasadena

When Executive chef Bruce Kalman left his restaurant Union, I wondered what would happen to this Old Pasadena favorite. Kalman made Union a star, and in return his culinary career took off launching him into Bravo’s Season 15 Top Chef contention. After four years at Union, he decided to focus on some new projects.

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Owner Marie Petulla and Executive Chef Christopher Keyser took over the 50-seat restaurant with red brick walls and a tall ceiling. Eager to see how Union may have changed, I recently dined there on a Friday night, and found every table in the dining room occupied. The only seats available were at a low counter at the bar where we could hear Keyser in the kitchen directing his staff.

Our server Julie was attentive and told us that Union is still pork intensive and the chefs still butcher in-house. She recommended two of the newer items, a smoked pork ragu and the summer peach panzanella salad served with a sprinkling of watercress and the creamiest stracciatella, the softest part of burrata cheese. Torn bread croutons toasted in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt are a nice touch. The salad is dressed with a light honey and pepper vinaigrette bringing out appealing summer flavors.

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Next, we ordered the charred octopus starter, enhanced with a Spanish almond picade sauce, made with roasted almonds, bread and warm lobster jus. A nice addition to this plate was the thinly sliced cured pork salumi picante.

The pork meatballs are a popular dish bathed in a sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes, caper berries, and chile.

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One of my favorite dishes were the wild mushrooms sautéed in truffle butter on a bed of creamy polenta. When Chef Keyser came out of the kitchen, I complimented him on this dish, and he told me he uses local Pasadena Grist & Toll milled stone ground corn to make this flavorful polenta. Chef Keyser adds a sweet jammy Pedro Ximenez Sherry vinegar to make this rich dish even more decadent. He also use this supplier for the wheat to make all the in-house pastas, including the sensational Torchetti made with Calabrese pork ragu. This savory dish has housemade ricotta, fried rosemary and peperoncini. Another pasta staple is the black squid ink lumache, a whimsical shaped, thick tube pasta with poached Maine lobster. Shaved fennel, a squeeze of lemon, and golden butter flecked with black truffles finishes the dish.

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While eating our olive oil cake with freshly made ice cream, Chef Keyser came out again and shared his kitchen philosophy – kindness and respect. “I don’t tolerate a poisonous environment in my kitchen” he said. “We are serious, yet we like to have fun and encourage creativity with the dishes we prepare. Sometimes it takes three tries to get it right before we put it on the menu.” He also credits his kitchen staff by putting their names on the menu. “I find chefs who care, hire them and together we become a great team,” he said.

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Come see why Union’s kitchen continues to have a strong following of regular and new guests enjoying Italian delights. $$ Hours: 5 to 11 p.m., Monday through Friday  and 5 to 11 p.m. The restaurant opens at 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 37 E. Union St. (626)795-5841.

This review was featured also in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News – 

Preview of the 2019 Masters of Taste

To kick-off ticket sales for Masters of Taste 2019, I was recently invited to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena to experience a preview menu. Approximately 100 sponsors and influential & beverage enthusiasts gathered inside the (not open to the public) stadium locker room for a special dinner.

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We learned this year’s Masters of Taste takes place on Sunday, April 7, 2019. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit Union Station Homeless Services, a nonprofit organization based in Pasadena. Union Station helps homeless men, women and children in rebuilding their lives. Services include street outreach, meals, shelter, housing, case management and career development.

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Chefs Michael Hung & Sammy Monsour

This year Executive chef Michael Hung from Faith & Flower is the Masters of Taste Host Chef. Hung was outside in a pop-up kitchen with his brother the Executive Chef Jon Hung from The Raymond 1886, along with Sammy Monsour of Preux & Proper, Jonathan Aviles from Salazar and Jon Hensley of Lark Cake Shop.

Before a sit-down dinner, we stood among beautiful wood lockers and banners above displaying historic and memorable events featured at the Rose Bowl. While sipping signature handcrafted cocktails by The Raymond 1886 and Ventura Spirits we met Cameron Masden, one of The Raymond 1886 mixologists. He made a “Kami of Dawn” with KI NO BI Dry Gin, lemon juice, Yuzu syrup, passion fruit, green chartreuse, and Cordo Marihana. He will be at the April 7 event, along with other beverage masters from top cocktail bars.

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Bryan Chenault of Ventura Spirits made “East LA Spitz” with Amaro Americano, East Imperial grapefruit, tonic and a twist of orange. Slices of Pasadena’s Plant pizza were passed around the room.

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The first course was prepared by Salazar’s Executive Chef Jonathan Aviles. He made Coctel de Camaron that was paired with a shot of H.E. Greer Back Bar Project Nuestra Soledad Mezcal.

The second course was a savory NOLA style seafood gumbo pot prepared by Chef Sammy Monsour the Executive Chef at Preux & Proper. It went perfectly with a glass of O’Melvaney Red Ale poured by Frank Martinez from the San Fernando Brewing Co.

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Next Jon Hung at The Raymond 1886 prepared seared sea trout with lentils and plump sweet raisins. Russell Shin poured glasses of San Simeon Sauvignon Blanc ’18 to enjoy with this course.

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When Jon’s brother Michael, the Host Chef of Masters of Taste and Executive Chef Faith & Flower, served his beautifully executed slow roasted loin New York Strip steak, we all remarked how tender and flavorful this was, especially with his classic French Bordelaise sauce. It was served with a lovely green pea tart. This dish was paired with a glass of San Antonio Winery Cabernet Sauvignon ’15.

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We finished with a small box of artisan chocolates from Joe Terpoghossian’s Mignon Chocolates and a red velvet mini-cupcake from John Hensley of Lark Cake Shop. Both of these were served with a small glass of strawberry brandy from Bryan Chenault’s Ventura Spirits.

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This year’s Masters of Taste is on Sunday, April 7, 2019. Attendees have the opportunity to stroll the 50-yard line while enjoying small plates from some of L.A.’s top chefs and restaurants. There are only a limited amount of VIP tickets left – Click on Masters of Taste 2019 to learn more.

Countdown in Pasadena before & during 2019

Before 2019 – Sip & Savor after seeing the Rose Bowl Floats –

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The  Pasadena Tournament of Roses is a volunteer organization that annually hosts the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl Game. This year, they have added a new Sip & Savor festival on Dec. 28-30 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Jackie Robinson Memorial Field.

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Your $15 ticket gets you into the float building pavilion first to see The Grand Marsall’s 1939 Ford Deluxe Convertible, The 1967 Crown Firetruck that the Mayor of Pasadena and others will be riding on, and the 1930 Lincoln Sport Touring Car that the Tournament of Roses President will be riding in throughout the parade.

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The floats you will see hundreds of volunteers decorating include WASHINGTON Football’s float, CHINA AIRLINES, CHIPOLTE, CAL POLY UNIVERSITIES, and 24 HOUR FITNESS.

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After the viewing experience enter the Sip & Savor arena for fun Tournament of Roses photo opportunities, including holding the football championship trophy and a bouquet of roses.

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Southern California eateries include Pasadena’s newest Crack Shack. There are over 20 wine and craft beer tastings from some of California finest. , viewings of Rose Parade float decorating and kid-friendly activities with Pasadena’s Kidspace Children’s Museum.

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Musical entertainment includes Adelaide, Chris Anderson, Dan Methe and the Swing Cats, Hard Day’s Night, Mariachi Divas and Upstream. Tickets start at $15. For information and tickets, visit Tournament of Roses or sipandsavorpasadena.com

Dec. 31, 2018 – NYE in Pasadena is one of the most liveliest times of the year. Go back to the float decorating pavilion in the late afternoon to see the Tournament of Roses officials judge the floats. The engines are revved and they roll out each enormous float onto the road to make their journey to Orange Grove. This is also a fun spot to preview the completed floats that are waiting in line for millions of people to see on Jan. 1, 2019 at 8 a.m.

Rose Parade – January 1, 2019 – It’s been a tradition for 130 years to wake up early to watch the winning floats make their way along a 5.25 mile route along Colorado Blvd. Find a spot along the route to watch for FREE or you can purchase seats in the stands (877)793-9911.

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Afterwards, on January 1, 2019 locals and visitors have lunch and watch the Rose Bowl Football Game. This year Ohio State is playing Washington. For tickets go to http://tournamentofroses.com.

Jan.1 and Jan. 2, 2019 – Post Parade Float Viewing – Get close to be amazed as you are close enough to see and smell the floral masterpieces exhibited along Sierra Madre and Washington Blvd.

Pasadena Cheeseburger Week – Starting January 6-11 come try some of the finest cheeseburgers in Southern California. Legends have been told that the savory sandwich was created in Pasadena in the 1920s. In 2019 there are 40 restaurants Pasadena grilling up their signature burgers, some special creations, as well a and a deals  during Pasadena Cheeseburger Week.Some, such as El Portal, Dog Haus and Dog Haus Biergarten offer specially created burgers for Cheeseburger Week. New this year, are 1919 Cafe at the Huntington Library, Art Galleries and Botanical Garden and Trejo’s Tacos.

Impacting Lives through Art

Imagine walking through the halls of your school and seeing brightly colored uplifting words: BE Positive, BE Kind and Thoughtful spotlighted on a wall. On November 13, the fast casual Mediterranean flavorful and healthy restaurant brand CAVA  sponsored renown muralist Ruben Rojas to help them paint and beautify some of the walls at Jackson Elementary School in Altadena, CA.

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Cava employees volunteered to paint with Rojas, along with Nicole Landers Head of Business Development for Zola providing healthy coconut and sparkling waters, and Adam Von Rothfelder, the founder & CEO offering cups of his Strong Coffee.

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Meeting Mike Schibel Brand Manager of CAVA, he shared with me – Be positive, kind and thoughtful are also the principals at their 75 restaurant nationwide. Schibel introduced me to Rojas wearing a t-shirt with the words “Beautify Walls.”

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I discovered this native Californian started his journey studying pre-med, and then going into Real Estate and financial planning.  A friend noticed Rojas doodling on paper in his office and encouraged him to share his creativity and art with the world.

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Students at Jackson Elementary helped Rojas paint

Rojas is a co-founder of Beautify Earth and his murals bring messages of love, inspiring social change and transforming communities. Standing next to Rojas, he showed me some of his art on his Instagram @rubenrojas. One was his colorful mural messages: “You belong here” painted on a wall in San Antonio Texas. Another “Imagine A World Without Them: Whale” on a wall in Ventura, CA, “This one represents the mother orca whale who carried her dead calf on her back for more than two weeks, to prevent her baby from sinking to the bottom of the ocean floor,” said Rojas.

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Want to sponsor Ruben to help you make that difference in your own workspace? How about enhance a neighborhood you live or help change someone’s world? This artist can help spread your message through art, and make a lasting impact in the world. Contact him by going to his website – Ruben Rojas.

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Trejo’s Cantina is Muy Bueno

The bar in the front of Trejo’s newest cantina in Pasadena was standing room only, as was the large dining room. Theatre patrons were sipping one last drink, before seeing the first show of the Pasadena Playhouse season – Our Town. Located adjacent to the playhouse, the cantina makes sure theatre patrons are finished before the 8 p.m. curtain.

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The face of Danny Trejo, the actor and namesake of the new restaurant is featured throughout the dining room. Best known for his roles in movies including “Machete” and “From Dusk till Dawn,” he’s one of the driving forces behind this venture, which continues to expand. Trejo told me once, “I’d rather shoot for the moon and miss, then aim for the gutter and make it.” In my opinion he isn’t missing at all.

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The first Trejo’s Tacos on La Brea Ave. opened in 2016 by partners Trejo, Jeff Georgino and film producer Ash Shah. Georgino and Shah met while roommates at the University of Southern California. Shah and Trejo became friends on the set of the movie “Bad Ass.” Together they make quite a team.

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Soon after the success of Trejo’s Tacos, they opened Trejo’s Cantina in Hollywood on Cahuenga Ave. Next they started cruising around Los Angeles in Trejo’s Truck with the actor’s face displayed on the black food truck. Making stops throughout the City of Angels, the chefs prepared savory tacos filled with brisket, pork, cauliflower, and grilled chicken that they paired with horchata and refreshing agua frescas.

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Next they painted a bright pink Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts logo on Santa Monica Blvd. and started selling creative donuts with flavors that include margarita, Coco Loco, Low Rider and the Maple Pig with bacon. The coffee drinks are all made with Trejo Coffee.

Now they opened another cantina in the historic Pasadena area, offering sit down service, with heartier menu items and a full bar.

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At the bar, most of the beers are on draft except two served with a can, the Stone IPA and a Dos XX Lager. Besides cerveza, they also offer a variety of unique margaritas with names that include The Good Stuff made with Grand Marnier, Pink Señorita made with Blanco tequila, strawberry lemonade, triple sec and fresh lime, and The Jalapeño rimmed with Tajin, a seasoning powder made with chile peppers, lime, and salt. It will leave your lips tingling.

Since Danny Trejo stopped drinking years ago, he offers a variety of non alcoholic beverages for his guests. They make date sweetened horchata, a variety of fresh aguas frescas, Mexican Coke and a Cochata made with Trejo Coffee cold brew mixed with horchata.

Manager Thomas Fuchs welcomed us and sat us near the kitchen along the banquette decorated with colorful Mexican blankets hanging on the back wall.

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The first thing we noticed, as a basket of chips and salsa were delivered to our table is that they are different here than other Mexican restaurants. The chips stay extra crispy in a chip warmer, before sprinkled with sea salt and decorated with lime zest shavings. The chunky brick red colored salsa is made the night before with roasted tomatoes and tomatillos. The fresh guacamole is made each morning using serrano chiles, chopped pistachios, lemon and chopped onions, offering an appealing crunch.

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Looking at the menu, Thomas recommended the Brussels Sprouts, quesadilla and street corn for starters, “They are like no other,” he said. The Brussels Sprouts are dusted in corn starch and flash fried before dazzled with a red chimichurri sauce. When the street corn arrived in a bowl, we noticed perfectly grilled corn kernels cut off the cob and topped with chipotle cream and popcorn.

What makes Trejo’s quesadilla different is that it’s stuffed with crispy deep fried chicken, Mexican slaw and chilies. It’s served with a tangy, hot chipotle crema dipping sauce.

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Since the Trejo team is known for their Trejo’s street tacos, we ordered a couple for the table. On the menu there are multiple meat, vegetarian and vegan options. For meat lovers they make slowly cooked carnitas with red onions; brisket; and steak asada tacos. For seafood tacos they make blackened salmon, Baja fish and spicy shrimp. They also make a grilled chicken with achiote, slaw and pico de gallo.

I was curious about the young Jackfruit taco. Where else can you order a Jackfruit taco? It arrived in a soft corn tortilla with Mexican slaw, avocado cream, crunchy tortilla strips and pico de gallo. Jackfruit has become a new superfood in the vegan world. It’s a healthy and sustainable vegan meat replacement that offers sweet and earthy flavors. It tastes a little bit like pineapple, hearts of palm and kimchi, with a texture similar to pulled pork. The vegan Mexi-falafel taco has three fried beans, chilies and spice spheres that are topped with shredded kale, pickled pink onion swirls and dollops of cashew cream.

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My husband ordered the chicken fajitas served in a black skillet with a padded chili pepper hot pad on the handle, to prevent servers and guests from burning their hand. The grilled chicken is served with grilled lime wedges, sliced onions, Greenville peppers and an aluminum wrapped package filled with flour tortillas.

Looking at the table next to us, we noticed the burritos are massive here. They make five different types. They steak asada is filled with cheese, beans, rice, Mexican slaw, pepita pesto and pico de gallo. It comes dry, but for a few dollars more you can order it wet and topped with guacamole. They also make a carnitas burrito filled with pineapple, hot sauce, slaw and pico de gallo. Others include a fried chicken burrito, spicy shrimp and Mexi-falafel burrito.

Our server Nikki shared with us that she likes Trejo’s Cantina Mexican food, because it’s organic and non-GMO. “You can eat two or three tacos and not feel uncomfortable, because they are healthier,” she said. “The vegan and vegetarian options are terrific.”

Once the Pasadena Playhouse doors opened for the show, we noticed half of the diners stroll out into the Pasadena Playhouse courtyard. Their tables were cleared quickly and new diners sat down.

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Needing a quick dessert before the show, we ordered the cinnamon churros. They arrived hot, fat and crispy around the edges. Dipping them into the chocolate and strawberry sauce, we remarked that these are not the standard churros you find at most restaurants.

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Danny Trejo and his team are soaring high with another successful cantina. $$ 1556 N. Cahuenga Blvd. (323)461-8226 and 37 S. El Molino Ave. (626)792-4441. Trejo’s Tacos – 1048 S. La Brea Ave. (323)938-TACO and Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts – 6785 Santa Monica Blvd. (323)462-4600.

This review was also featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News – Oct. 12, 2107 –  http://beverlypress.com/2017/10/trejos-cantina-is-muy-bueno/

 

Sam Harris Continues to Shine Onstage

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

I sat in the historic Pasadena Theater today to eagerly watch HAM: A Musical Memoir about Sam Harris, the dynamic singer who won the hearts of 25 million Americans, when he  won the title of  Grand Champion in the popular television show – Star Search. This was the ultimate talent show 30 years before American Idol, America’s Got Talent and The Voice hit the air waves.

I marvel at the performing career this talented man has consistently enjoyed. Here are 10 fun facts about Sam Harris –

1. In 2014, Harris wrote an autobiography filled with essays and stories about his life for a book published by Simon and Schuster, titled Ham (Slices of a Life). It became a best seller.

2. With the association of Broadway Producer Suzi Dietz, Harris turned his book Ham into a one man show with his piano playing, co-composer and musical director Todd Schroeder.

3. The one set musical revue Sam Harris HAM: A Musical Memoir is directed by Ken Sawyer and Billy Porter (winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Lead Actor in a Musical for Kinky Boots).

4. Harris grew up in the Bible-Belt town of Sand Springs, Oklahoma. There is no sand or springs in the town, yet at an early age Harris knew he was different and gifted.

5. At the age of three, Harris’ father, the music director at the local high school, had him sing in front of a crowd-filled stadium during an athletic game. The sound of applause was intoxicating.

6. Harris would sing at any chance he got, from school musicals such as South Pacific to talent shows. At one talent show, he performed in multiple categories and won 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.

7. When he father took him to baseball signups, Harris knew he was different. He didn’t quite fit in with the team and after a week of tryouts, was told he could be the water boy. He continued pursuing singing and acting.

8. Hi friend from high school, Rochelle took Sam to a revival church in the black part of town. Harris discovered how to sing with joy from his soul.

9. Hi first LA gig was at Gio’s on Sunset Blvd. He sang to an empty dining room, yet his manager knew he had a star on his hands and got him an audition to Star Search. Harris won Star Search with his rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” In Sam Harris HAM: A Musical Memoir the last scene is a tender version of the winning song that will leave a tear in your eyes and a fondness for this exceptional man.

10. Sam is married and has one son. His family means the world to him.

The limited engagement of HAM: A MUSICAL MEMOIR plays at The Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino Avenue in Pasadena. Performances are Saturday, July 9 at 2 pm and 8 pm and Sunday, July 10 at 2 pm. Tickets are $27 – $82 and are available online at PasadenaPlayhouse.org, by phone at 626-356-PLAY (7529).