I’ve been a fan of Pitfire Artisan Pizza ever since sampling their slices a few years back, so I was pumped when Paul Hibler and team announced that their eighth location would be right in my own backyard. There certainly isn’t a shortage of pizza purveyors in Pasadena, but you know, a girl’s got to have choices.
Housed in the abandoned Sizzler on Arroyo Parkway, the new Pitfire is airy and spacious with communal tables, high ceilings, and wide aisles (perfect for parents with strollers—like us!). An eye-poppingly red Mugnaini oven provided a fitting centerpiece to the room.
The Astronomer and I came in for lunch with Baby June last week, our first solo food outing with the little one. Fortunately, she slept through the whole meal.
Service here is of the fast-casual variety, with orders placed at the front counter and food delivered when its ready.
The first dish to arrive was the Fall Farmers Market Plate ($10.85), which included roasted mushrooms with herbed citrus bread crumbs, ginger tomato jam and ricotta on grilled rustic bread, roasted brussels sprouts with salsa verde, and chile roasted pumpkin with garlic oil. The Astronomer and I both agreed that the ginger-spiked tomato jam on toast was most definitely our jam.
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I have never been particularly stoked about Pasadena’s dining scene in the seven years that I’ve called it home. Don’t get me wrong, Pie ‘n Burger and Lucky Boy will always have a very special place in my heart-slash-stomach, but one cannot live on cheeseburgers and breakfast burritos alone.
Recently, however, the city has experienced a surge of exciting openings that have my sentiments shifting. New additions to the culinary landscape like Union (pasta!), Lincoln (pastries!), 85 Degrees (taro buns!), Little Sheep (hot pot!), Blockheads (shaved snow!), 800 Degrees (pizza!), and Copenhagen Pastry have made Pasadena tastier than ever before. Score!
Following the success of the original Copenhagen Pastry in Culver City, owner Karen Hansen opened a second outlet in East Pasadena this past December. The specialty here are Danish pastries like the ones she grew up eating in Denmark.
Nearly all of the pastries here are made from laminated dough—yeast-leavened dough that’s folded 27 times over with layers of butter. The pastries are filled with various ratios of almond paste and custard, along with cinnamon, almond flakes, and fruit.
On my first visit to the bakery, I selected half a dozen pastries to share with The Astronomer. The most visually arresting was the Morning Poppy ($1.60)—the “carpet of poppy seeds” added textural interest and a touch of nuttiness to the almond paste and flaky pastry.
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I scream. You scream. We all scream for liquid nitrogen ice cream!
Ice Cream Lab, which first introduced its made-to-order liquid nitrogen ice cream in Beverly Hills in 2013, recently opened a second outlet in my neck of the woods—Old Town Pasadena. The Astronomer and I swung by to check out the new kid on the block during its debut weekend. We cannot resist an intriguing food and science mashup!
The opening menu, which was more concise than expected, featured four “Classic” flavors (vanilla bean, chocolate, strawberry, and cookies and cream) and three “Signature” specialties. All are made with either a custard or yogurt base.
Once we settled on our flavors, the shop’s “techs” used machines that looked like suped-up Kitchen Aids and -320 degree liquid nitrogen to instantly freeze the raw ingredients into ice cream. Very cool. Literally.
Note: The Astronomer, a scientist and proponent of safety, was surprised that the techs were not required to wear safety goggles and protective gloves. He feared for their eyeballs and exposed extremities.
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It may have taken a few years for 800 Degrees to make its way to The Eastside after debuting back in 2012 in Westwood Village, but as of last Friday night, the “Chipotle of pizza” is officially slangin’ damn good Neapolitan-style pies in Old Pasadena! Hooray!
800 Degrees was created by Chef Anthony Carron, in partnership with Umami Restaurant Group (Umami Burger, Red Medicine, and Umamicatessen) and Allen Ravert.
The restaurant is housed in an impressive two-story space designed in 1929 by John C. Austin, who was also responsible for Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles City Hall, and the Shrine Auditorium. 800 Degrees fires its pizzas (at 800 degrees, of course!) in a custom Mario Acunto wood-burning brick oven, promising guests “a 125 year-old classic in 60 seconds or less.”
All pizzas are made with Italian “00” flour, fresh mozzarella, imported Italian tomatoes, and extra virgin olive oil.
In addition to pizza pies of all stripes, 800 degrees offers an array of small bites, including an entire section of the menu dedicated to locally made burrata. We thoroughly adored the Prosciutto, melon, and arugula preparation this evening.
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