Get Out of Town!
Tour Pasadena by Foot & Fork
October, 2017 - Issue #157

There's one problem that comes with visiting Pasadena. Picking a restaurant.
"Four hours after we started, we had eaten our way around Pasadena, sampling more restaurants than we could have imagined on a single day. But now we had a BIGGER PROBLEM. With all these new favorites, how could we limit ourselves?"

Like flowers on a New Year's Day float, there's seemingly one of every variety imaginable in Pasadena. When it's time to pick, it's hard to settle on just one. Fortunately, we found the solution to this decidedly first-world problem.

Melting Pot Tours guides you around Pasadena to nibble on a little bit of everything, from ahi to asada and from green tea to tikka masala. Now you don't have to decide. You really can have it all.

April and I met our guide and eight fellow foodies on a recent Saturday morning at Everson Royce, a well-appointed wine bar that also sells beer and spirits on Raymond Avenue.

After a brief chat about the history of Pasadena, we made our way via side streets and hidden courtyards to our first stop. At Tortas Mexico, we dug in to carne asada tortas and sipped on watermelon agua fresca.

These were not, of course, full size tortas. We would have been full after one restaurant. However, these were ample portions you could sink your teeth into, far larger than Costco-sized samples.

Next up was Father Nature, for perfectly cooked falafel - warm and crunchy on the outside and airy inside.

With two heavy items in a row, we needed to lighten things up. Spinfish Poke House is tucked away in an alley off Colorado Boulevard. The fresh tuna, perfectly sticky white rice and savory sauces make the effort to find it oh so worth it.

On the verge of getting full, I was happy to pause our food consumption at Bird Pick Tea & Herb on De Lacey Avenue. Here, we sipped three different teas, including a blooming tea - tea leaves sown together with a single silk thread are placed in a clear tea pot, and the boiling water causes them to "bloom."

We resumed eating at All India Cafe, which laid out a delicious spread of Indian classics - deep-fried veggies, warm garlicky naan and a wonderfully-creamy chicken tikka masala. It was all so tasty that we gave up any pretense of pacing ourselves. We picked our plates clean.

An equally-delicious experience awaited us at Amara, a Venezuelan cafe on Raymond Avenue. We nibbled on fresh empanadas that are baked, not fried, and sipped their "drinking chocolate." Simply calling it hot chocolate is an injustice. Instead, imagine the best chocolate you've ever tasted made warm and poured into a cup.

We had officially transitioned into desserts, so it was time for ice cream. Where else should we go but Coolhaus? It's tucked inside the Indiana Colony, a shared marketplace space that also hosts The Pie Hole, Pressed Juicery, Legacy Teas and Spices and Intelligentsia Coffee. I went with the Laker Fan, a peanut butter and jelly combination that recreated all the gooey goodness of the sandwich, minus the Wonder Bread.

Before our last food stop, we ducked into The Soap Kitchen on Fair Oaks for a "sensory tasting," breathing in the rich fragrances of handmade soap created right there in the store.

That gave us enough time to let the ice cream settle and ready us for our final indulgence. Mignon Chocolate Boutique is a third-generation family enterprise originally founded as a bakery in Ukraine in 1935. Their beyond-the-ordinary handmade truffles, like sea salt ginger, have earned them a loyal following.

Four hours after we started, we had eaten our way around Pasadena, sampling more restaurants than we could have imagined on a single day. But now we had a bigger problem. With all these new favorites, how could we limit ourselves to one on our next visit to Pasadena?
Eric Harnish lives in Castaic, which boasts an unheralded cornucopia of flavors just waiting to be discovered.

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