I finally made it to Union for dinner this week, nearly five months after it opened in Old Pasadena. I’ve been following the restaurant’s positive press since the start, but couldn’t quite swing a meal here (walking in at 5:30 PM on Saturday evening was impossible) until now. It was most definitely worth the wait.
Along with partner Marie Petulla, Chef Bruce Kalman has created a boisterous, 50-seat restaurant celebrating Northern Italian cooking using locally-sourced ingredients.
Prior to settling down, Chef Kalman was a James Beard nominated Rising Star Chef, pickle master, and alumnus of Park Avenue Café in New York, Spiaggia in Chicago, The Misfit in Santa Monica, and The Churchill in West Hollywood.
To start, a warm and crusty loaf from Etxea Basque Bakery served with house-made cultured butter sprinkled with coarse salt and damn fine giardiniera ($6). This was deceptively simple and so, so good.
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When A Hamburger Today discovered burger “greatness” in my neighborhood a few months back (“Classic Burger Joint Greatness at Jake’s of Pasadena“), I immediately bookmarked the spot with a future lunch date in mind.
I’ve walked past this ruby red, burger-slangin’ hut in Old Pasadena dozens of times over the years, but it wasn’t until reading this piece of positive reportage that I was motivated to sit down for a meal. It was just the nudge I needed.
I am not sure what Jake’s menu was like when it first opened its doors in 1947, but these days it’s a build-your-own-burger situation supplemented by a half dozen composed “Signature Burgers.”
When my lunch date and I entered the restaurant, we were greeted with order forms on clipboards and pencils to make our mark. A friendly waiter slash cashier picked up the forms from our table as soon as we finished filling them out.
In addition to burgers for each of us, Nastassia and I shared a basket of truly fantastic onion rings ($3.49). The batter, crazy-crisp with nary a trace of grease, made these irresistible.
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After spending a pretty penny at Connie & Ted’s for a New England seafood lunch that neither lived up to its hype nor merited its cost, I was inspired to find a lobster roll fix that offered a solid value.
While I adore Lobsta Truck’s $12 roll, I have mostly retired from chasing food trucks these days. The $8 lobster roll from Son of a Gun is another good option, but I require two (or possibly three) of these petite bites to really be satisfied.
My search for a reasonably priced and totally tasty lobster roll, that didn’t require stalking a moving vehicle, started and ended at Cousins Maine Lobster at Live Mixx Lounge in Old Pasadena.
This permanent pop-up is run by Sabin Lomac and Jim Tselikis, the cousins behind the Cousins Maine Lobster truck. The guys grew up together near Portland, Maine and launched their truck in 2012.
Live Mixx Lounge serves as a club by night and a seafood shack by day, and as a result, the space looks and feels very strange.
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I caved last weekend and gave in to the Cronut™ craze. I had always intended to wait for the real deal in New York City, but alas, I am as partial to hype and mass hysteria as the next food lover.
There are quite a few bakeries in L.A.
ripping off trying their hand at recreating Dominique Ansel‘s croissant-doughnut hybrid. I procured my crauxnut (faux Cronut™) at ConfeXion, a neighborhood spot specializing in cupcakes.
ConfeXion is owned by aunt and nephew team Vandy Altounian and Anthony Valerio. Prior to introducing the Southland to their “Brioughnut,” the duo scored big on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.
The tiny shop, which is located on the fringes of Old Pasadena, makes three different types of Brioughnuts every Saturday and Sunday. With my friend Nastassia and her boyfriend in tow, we snagged one of each. They were priced at $5 a pop.
The most successful of the trio was the “Salted Caramel.” The Brioughnut’s sweet and salty flourishes—caramelized pastry cream, caramel syrup, and flecks of fleur de sel—paired extraordinarily with the layers of flaky, buttery dough.
I can’t say if this interpretation was anything like the original Cronut™, but it was really delicious.
Continue reading ‘ConfeXion Cupcakes – Pasadena’