Welcome to Pasadena: Tender Greens

I’m delighted to find that so many of my favorite eateries are opening up their second and third (or seventh!) store in the Pasadena area! Musha, a Japanese izakaya, recently opened in Old Town (I no longer need to drive to Santa Monica or Torrance for yummy Japanese tapas); vegan extraordinaire Real Food Daily opened on Del Mar; and famous Urth Caffé is scheduled to open in the Pasadena Playhouse District in 2013.

Another establishment to make Pasadena its new home is Tender Greens, an amazing salad place that serves quality salad, as well as hot food off the grill. I really enjoyed going to the Culver City location, so it’s a treat that this lovely place is now closer to my house.

My last visit was more than two months ago, but I thought I’ll share the photos here!

It’s no surprise that I order the same old Backyard Steak salad. I can’t help it – it’s so delicious!

This is Kevin’s Chipotle Barbeque Chicken salad. I’m going to try to venture out to other offerings next time … if I can stay away from the steak salad. I’m a total creature of habit!

Tender Greens
621 East Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91101
★★★★☆

Thai Food and Fireworks

What’s so wonderful about having a fourth of July fall on a Wednesday is that you have two blissful days that feel very much like a Friday. On a flip side, the worst part about celebrating a holiday in the middle of the week is that you have, well, two Mondays. You can pretty much determine whether you’re an eternal optimist or a glass-half-empty pessimist simply by the way you viewed this week. Would anyone care to take a wild guess as to which one I am?lol

Our family usually celebrates the nation’s birthday at our parent’s house in the Valley. It’s a tradition that my father mends the grill while my mother makes some wonderful side dishes … while my sister and I, and our beaus, nibble on appetizers over a glass or two of wine. This year, however, we decided to postpone the annual BBQ a few weeks because my sister was away on business and none of us wanted to be in a food coma, knowing that we have to return to work the following day.

Kevin and I invited Shannon and Raf over for dinner at home but instead, they invited us for Thai dinner at their favorite restaurant in Pasadena — and even treated us to this wonderful dinner! We enjoyed a glass of wine at their home before heading over to President Thai for an early dinner at 6:00 p.m.

I was surprised to see that the place was lively, even at this time of the evening, with patrons who, like us, decided to skip the traditional BBQ dinner. We sat in the outside patio, near the waterfall. The outside was breezy and perfect and although we were seated toward the back, the service staff was very attentive.

The food was superb – easily one of the best Thai foods I’ve had in many years. We started out with an order of Fried Tofu, hich were crisp and flavorful, and not at all greasy.

We ordered my favorite Thai dish, Yum Woon Sen, or glass noodle with shrimp, ground chicken, onion, and cilantro. Many places put too much fish sauce in the dressing and make it way too pungent, but this one was just right!

Pad Thai was loaded with meat and vegetable. I don’t usually order Pad Thai so it was a pleasant change to my usual Thai repertoire.  Very delicious.

I enjoyed the Fried Rice very much, especially the dried pork on top.

BBQ Chicken was tender and flavorful. Although I’m not much of a chicken person, even I had to have some kind of barbeque for the Independence Day!biggrin

After dinner, we headed over to Kevin’s friend’s house for a fireworks viewing party. This breathtaking properly sits on top of the Pasadena hill, overlooking the Rose Bowl. Kevin, Shannon, Raf, and I, along with 100-plus of their friends sat on the front yard grass and watched the beautiful fireworks, from the best seats in town.  (I found someone’s recording of the fireworks here!  This person probably recorded it from inside the Rose Bowl, but this is exactly how we saw it too!)

It was simply an amazing, amazing night. Happy birthday, America! And thank you, Shannon and Raf, for such a wonderful dinner.

A Perfect Day

Breakfast (9:30 a.m.): A quick, natto and okra rice for breakfast before heading out the door to go running with Tiffany and Shannon. We ran the streets of Pasadena for a total of six miles, to prepare for the upcoming Pasadena Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon. We stopped by Starbucks to get a bottled water and got a sample of its new Blonde roast. I personally like the darker roast, Sumatra being my favorite, but this one was not bad at all! I would have ordered a cup if we didn’t have to keep on running!

Lunch (1:30 p.m.): We went to Le Pain Quotidien for lunch. I inhaled a piece of bread with the heavenly, almost crack-like white chocolate Blondie spread (can this thing be any more delicious?), and downed the Mint Lemonade.

I finally got to try the Tuscan Bean Salad that Tiffany got last time (and wished I had). It really hit the spot, after the run.

There was a guy with a sketchbook sitting near us at a communal table. When I got up to use the restroom, I got the glimpse of what he was drawing. On a paper, I saw a picture of a beautiful woman. When I looked closely, the woman looked very much like Tiffany. Are women supposed to feel flattered by this or be freaked out?  We say it’s creepy.eek

Afterward, we stopped at Paper Source and Sur La Table, two of my favorite shops on Colorado Blvd. I picked up a small vegetable slicer. I already have a large mandoline with all the bells and whistles but I’ve never used it because I’m completely intimidated … but I think I can manage this smaller version. Cucumber sunomono, here I come!

Dinner (7:30 p.m.): I finally got to partake on the birthday celebration that my parents planned for me! I wasn’t able to attend last week because I ended up spending that Saturday in bed (darn cough attack!) so I was happy that I got to finally celebrate it with my family. We had okomomiyaki!  Going to a nice restaurant is wonderful but there is nothing better  than a dinner party at home with the family.

My mother baked an amazing, chiffon cake with strawberries and whipped cream that was out of this world.

(Please excuse my naked face. I came to my parents’ house directly from the workout / lunch and didn’t have the time to do my hair and put on my eyebrows.)

Today was an absolute perfect day, full of so much love. I’m the luckiest person in the world.biggrin Thank you, Mom, Dad, and Saori, for such beautiful celebration.

The Daily Bread: Le Pain Quotidien

Le Pain Quotidien, a super cozy bakery / restaurant, with lovely communal tables, deserves the “I ain’t got a clue how to pronounce your name but I friggin’ love your bread” award. According to its homepage, the name is pronounced, “luh paN koh-ti-dyaN.” I still can’t properly say it without tying my tongue in knot, but I LOVE this place. The breads here are pretty darn amazing.

On one Sunday afternoon after our Rose Bowl run, my friend Tiffany and I went to the Old Town Pasadena location for a quick lunch. We started out with the freshly squeezed mint lemonade (we loved that it wasn’t too sweet)  and shared a bread basket . With a spread like white chocolate and other seasonal jams and butters, it’s not at all difficult to polish off the large basket in one sitting.

To accompany our breads, we each ordered a plate of salad:

Tuscan White Bean and Prosciutto Salad (it was so good, I was kicking myself for not ordering this myself) …

and … Aged Goat Cheese with Arugula.

No wonder the name of the restaurant is translated to “the daily bread” because I can seriously eat here every day. I’m definitely trying its tartines next time.

Le Pain Quotidien
88 W. Colorado Boulevard, #102, Pasadena, CA 91105
★★★★★

Cool School Cafeteria: Lemonade

The month of September is all about a fresh beginning. For students, it’s time to stock up on No. 2 pencils and Pee Chee folders for the new school year, and for us adults, it’s all about new fall dramas on television.  So far I’ve watched Revenge, Pan Am, Charlie’s Angels and The Playboy Club online … and I must say that Revenge was my favorite, although I’m not too certain any of them will last for more than one season.

Along with all things new, my fiance and I discovered a new kid in the Pasadena culinary block over the weekend while searching for a good lunch place! Lemonade, a casual eatery that describes itself as “part lemonade stand, part grade-school cafeteria” opened on South Lake Avenue next to Billy (aka William Sonoma) several weeks ago and it already shows the true promise of becoming one of the most popular kids in the neighborhood.

Lemonade is not new for everyone, with various locations already in the Los Angeles area (in fact, my fiance frequents the one in Downtown LA near his work), but it was my first time visiting the place.

In the true school cafeteria fashion, there are plastic trays stacked at the beginning of a line for you to take while you make your selection from about 30 colorful array of prepared “marketplace” food like Israeli couscous and heirloom tomato salad.  There are also “Braises” like Red Miso Short Ribs and Beef Stroganoff available that sit orderly in individual Le Creuset Dutch ovens. There are sandwiches, soups, salads, and desserts available as well.

It was a bit tricky to figure out the ordering process at first, and it brought back the bitter memory of my first attempt at ordering food in an elementary school cafeteria when I spoke no words of English. Luckily, pointing is a universal language and it still worked here like it did for me in the mid-80s. If you want to try the “marketplace” items, simply decide how many “portion” of it you want. Its portion is pretty generous (about a heaping cup), and you can split a portion into two so you can try more variety.

I split two portions and ended up with (clockwise): beets with pickled onion and hazelnut dressing; Kale salad; drunken soy chicken with soba noodle, peanut, and creamy sesame; and shaved fennel with mushroom, pecorino, and lemon.

My favorite was the shaved fennel that married the wonderful flavors and textures of crunchy liquoricey bulbs, slightly tangy of mushrooms, and salty pecorino cheese. All items reminded me of the lovely M Chaya Café! I can’t wait to replicate this at home.

My fiancé ordered a Harissa chicken, avocado, manchego, picked onion Panini sandwich, with a side of simple arugula salad, which were super delicious!  The bread was a little on the dry side but the juicy chicken breasts and a generous portion of manchego cheese more than compensated for it.

And of course, you can’t forget the restaurant’s namesake drink when you’re here. There are unique lemonade flavors like watermelon rosemary and cucumber mint, along with traditional ones like Arnold Palmer. I tried the blueberry mint flavor which was a little too sweet for me (it was Chick-Fil-A sweet) but was still delicious nonetheless. The Blood Orange lemonade my fiancé ordered was a little less sweet and much more refreshing.

Staring out something new can be stressful at times but I’m comforted to know that I found a nice place to sit for lunch from now.

Lemonade
146 South Lake Ave., Pasadena, CA
★★★★☆

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
★★★★☆