Black Cow Cafe in Montrose

Montrose – what a hidden gem of a neighborhood! Just around the corner from Glendale and La Canada Flintridge, this quaint town is the home of Montrose Shopping Park on Honolulu Avenue packed with lovely mom-and-pop shops and unique restaurants.

Kevin and I enjoyed a Saturday morning breakfast at Black Cow Café. I love getting an early start to the weekend. I seldom get out of bed before noon on a weekendredfacebut when I do, like I did this Saturday, I have the most productive rest of the day.

I started out breakfast with an order of Costa Rica coffee in French press. It was a little on the strong side but it was rich and flavorful. I’m convinced that coffee is best brewed in French Press. It somehow eliminates the acidy taste from a cup of java, leaving only the velvety liquid jewel.

For breakfast, I ordered the Crab Cake Benedict, two perfectly pouched eggs on top of crab cakes and drizzled with hollandaise sauce. The crab cakes were so fulfilling, I didn’t have the chance to miss English muffins. The grilled tomato with pesto was delicious (what a clever idea) and went perfectly with the generous portion of spinach salad.

The Country Fried Steak that Kevin ordered was pretty darn tasty. It was so tender that I had to steal more than one piece! I am still confused as to why these types of steak are typically called Chicken Fried Steak, even though there’s no chicken. I understand that words “chicken” and “fried” are used as adjectives but that’s just too confusing. Anyway … I digress.

For delicious breakfast, I’ll wake up early next week again!

Black Cow Cafe
2219 Honolulu Ave., Montrose, CA 91020
★★★★★

Weekend Brunch: Euro Pane Bakery

The early bird may have caught the worm, but the early-rises here got the fantastic brunch at Euro Pane Bakery in Pasadena this weekend.

After my fiancé and I completed the 3-mile lap around the Rose Bowl for our (almost) weekly Saturday morning workout at around 10:00 a.m., we headed to this lovely bakery on Colorado Blvd, right across from Paseo Colorado, for some well-deserving brunch. What awaited us were plates of cheesy Croque Monsieur (for him) and Seared Chicken Sandwich (for me), and a flaky and buttery Plum Pastry from the glass showcase for dessert (for us).  Now, that’s definitely better than a handful of worms!

I really like this place, especially the warm atmosphere, with the communal table that sits in the middle of the restaurant (it’s very La Pain Quatidien-esque). It is cozy and comfortable that I can see myself spending hours here reading over a cup of coffee. There is an outside seating area as well where you can enjoy watching people shopping at Paseo, under the sunny Southern California sun.

By the way, there are two Euro Pane Bakeries in Pasadena — one on 345 E. Colorado (this one) and the original one on 950 E.  Colorado. I haven’t been to the original one but I heard that it gets very crowded. If you want a more quiet experience, I suggest you check this one out.

I had a bite of my fiancé’s Croque Monsieur and thought the sandwich was delicious with salty ham squeezed between two pieces of bread just sliced from the freshly-baked boule. I would have expected it to have a little more béchamel sauce instead of just letting the mountain of cheese ooze on top, but it was still very flavorful and satisfying.  And the portion is humongous!  Whoa!

Seared Sandwich that I ordered was simple but delicious. There’s really nothing special to it, really – with generous portion of sliced chicken breasts, mixed green, feta cheese crumbles, with slices of divine cranberry bread – but it really hit the spot after breaking a sweat from running. On a side note, now thinking back, I’m not sure if this was the Seared Chicken I ate or the Mediterranean Sandwich. I ordered the former and the receipt indicated the same, but I remember reading on the chalk board that Seared Chicken Sandwich has salsa verde, jalapenos, and other South-of-the-Border inspired flavors instead. Well, anyway, the good thing is that everything served here is pretty good so you can rest assured that you’ll be satisfied with your order, even if you end up getting something different.

By the way, if you’re not sure what to order, try its famous Egg Salad Sandwich!  You won’t be disappointed.

With all the food we ate for brunch, we have to go back and run another lap to burn off the calories!  Good thing that I’m not a big fan of French macarons here.  Otherwise, I would have been in bigger trouble.

Euro Pane Bakery
345 E Colorado Blvd., Ste 101, Pasadena, CA 91106
★★★★☆

A Timeless Treasure: Porto’s Bakery and Cafe

Maybe I have OCD. Not severe like Melvin Udall but I do strange things sometimes that are quite unexplainable, which makes me believe that I may have a baby OCD (if there is such a thing). For example, I set all my clocks forward 45 minutes. The logic behind it is that by forwarding them 45 minutes, I will never over-sleep or be late to places. Even if the alarm doesn’t work and I wake up at, say, 8:00 a.m. (which is late), I actually haven’t overslept because it’s still 7:15 a.m. And 45 minutes is not random. My snooze button goes off every nine minutes. Therefore, I can snooze five times and still wake up on time. This logic, however, doesn’t work because I still manage to somehow arrive late to work more often than I’d like to admit.  But the fact that I still refuse to change this behavior confirms that I have some serious issues.

But, maybe my issue is not OCD but just that I’m not a morning person. In fact, I have trouble getting up every morning. I also don’t eat breakfast because I don’t like to put anything in my mouth before 10:00 a.m. Furthermore, I’m extremely cranky before my first cup of tea. Simply put, I’m pretty much a non-functional zombie in the a.m.  Until I walked into Porto’s.

a-line

I stopped by Porto’s Bakery and Café in Burbank (the lesser known branch of the two, in Glendale, although very popular in its own rite) on the way to work this morning to pick up a birthday cake for my special friend/colleague. I was half-asleep and cranky as hell as I parked my car and walked toward the entrance on Magnolia and Hollywood Way. But something magical happened when I sat foot in this popular Cuban eatery. The welcoming scent of the freshly baked baguettes, butter croissants, and the nutty aroma of freshly brewed coffee awakened all my senses and this zombie was suddenly alive. And the sight of Guava and Cheese Strudels, Apricot-Cheese Danishes, Carrot Apple Muffins, and a colorful array of whole cakes fresh out of the oven, even wet my appetite that I absolutely had to pick up a pastry for myself for breakfast.

I selected the whole Chocolate Raspberry Mouse cake, which the birthday gal and I, along with other friends and colleagues, enjoyed at lunch. The combination of silky chocolate and tangy raspberry mouse melted in my mouth like magic. It was so light and smooth that, although most of us were full from decadent lunch, we managed to eat the entire cake and even licked the plates clean.

a-cake

Aside from sweets, Porto’s also offers wide selections of savory dishes, from fresh salads to Cuban sandwiches. My favorite (and everyone else’s too) is, hands down, the famous Potato Balls. Once you take a bite out of the warm, croquette made out of mashed potatoes and seasoned ground beef, your culinary world will never be the same. Media Noche Sandwich, a Cuban ham, pork and Swiss cheese sandwich served on a toasted sweet roll, is the close second.

Everything served at Porto’s is timeless, and it’s never too early or late to dive into the heavenly treasures … even for a nocturnal like myself.

Porto’s Bakery and Cafe: 3614 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505

★★★★★

Strenghts Discovered: California Cookshack

omeletMarcus Buckingham, the co-author of Now, Discover Your Strengths and a string of organizational effectiveness books, spoke at my work the other day to ①plug his new career development program (for men) and ②grant the most amazing and fabulous one hour of our lives (for women). He was handsome, charismatic, well spoken, funny and … British.  Need I say more?

Between wiping off the drool and trying to remain somewhat composed (it was, afterall, a company event), I heard him speak about his basic philosophy — that success comes from enhancing one’s strengths and not necessarily from pouring all the effort into improving his/her weaknesses.

I would say that Mr. Dreamboat will surely be proud of California Cookshack, a popular coffee shop located in South Pasadena that only focuses on serving breakfast to locals. Moreover, the restaurant is open only on a weekend.  Talk about finetuning its strength and not messing around.

And strenght it is.  The menu is pretty straightforward – with the basic selections of eggs, bacon, pancakes and all the usual suspects  — but one thing that sets this place apart from other coffee shops is the generous portion of the moist coffee cake that accompanies every meal. It is called a coffee cake but it’s more like an old-fashioned corn bread with a bit of a twist, and it could, I kid you not, be the best freebie you’ll ever get before 9:00 a.m..  It is simply divine.

burrito

I’ve had several breakfasts here and my favorite is the make-your-own omelet. I like mine with spinach, tomatoes and feta cheese – simple but full of flavor (top). The Breakfast Burrito (above) is not bad either although it’s terrifying to see that it is almost the size of your face.

I wish I can sit on my ass all day and eat, eat and eat because I’m quite good at it (Look, mum!  I can make that burrito disappear!). But what Mr. Dreamboat neglected to mention is what you’re suppose to do if your strength happens to also be your bloody weakness.

cookshack

California Cookshack: 1929 Huntington Dr., South Pasadena, CA 91030

★★★★☆