Open House: Urth Caffe Pasadena

Restaurants open & close – always. In this industry especially it’s been nearly as reliable as a politician breaking a campaign promise.  So do businesses in general to a lesser degree – like Zinke’s shoe repair shop & The White Hut in Pasadena.

So when I happened to meet the district manager (DM) of the Southern Cal Urth Caffe’s, during a stroll in the Playhouse District, she told me about the upcoming “grand opening” of their newest right here in Pasadena.  My reaction was, “Oh, Ok.”

You see, I’ve been hearing about & seeing the coming of the Pasadena Urth Caffe (UC) for about three years now. Losing Zinke’s shoe shop & The White Hut, which had some history in Pasadena, from that corner was probably the clearest sign something new, and hopefully better, was coming.  Nevertheless, the bulldozing of those old businesses revealed some other Pasadena history, as I wrote here: All About The Watchmaker.

 

Urth Caffe has been around for about 20 yrs with locations from Downtown LA westward to Santa Monica. However, their 1st caffe began on Melrose in West Hollywood. That was also the place I had my 1st and only experience with UC back in the 90’s.  UC was a popular cafe when it first opened, even for WeHo, and celebrities were often seen there. 

 

This “grand opening” on August 18th was actually an Open House. Nothing was actually being bought or sold, no regular hours nor full menu. This would be the day for a FREE sampling of their food & drinks as UC’s offer to be known & accepted by its potential customers in the vicinity. It would also be my return visit to UC since that time in West Hollywood back in the 20th Century.  IF UC were closer I wouldn’t have waited until this century to return.

 

Perhaps you were one of those who made it to their open house.  The event ran from 12-7pm. Around 10:30am I passed by and already a few dozen people were lining up outside, starving to get inside for the FREE food/drinks. I figured these were some of Pasadena’s young & homeless dressed in their Sunday best.

 

After the Open House I told the DM that I would write about this new UC but I wasn’t sure if it would be this Open House or the Grand Opening planned for September. Her response: “Both!”   Sure.  She understandably didn’t how productive & lazy this blogger is.  For now, lemme just continue with this write up on the open house.

 

Lemme talk less & put up some pics from that FREE day.

UC asked the city to close down their street on Madison Avenue. I assume bicycles were given equal treatment with motor vehicles.

 

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I alerted some of my Pasadena foodie friends of this FREE event. When I first arrived on the scene I saw a brunch of people standing & sitting.  I went to talk with a police officer to make sure she was aware of the FREE food & drink when I was approached by the head honcho of the Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Residents Association and bike hugger. Well, at least one person listened to me!

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I saw brunches of people, but where was the FREE food??  Luckily, I promptly recognized the DM and she directed me on the straight & narrow.  After barely thanking her I immediately recognized another friend who listens to me, Jian, by her USC jersey. She’s a special breed: loves to eat but also loves to cook. Hell, she’s just full of love!

 

Our 1st stop upon entering the caffe were drinks: lemonade, teas, and water.

 

 

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Next stop was coffee. UC brought in some of their best barista’s from their other locations.  They went virtually non-stop putting out Latte’s, Spanish Latte’s, and regular reliable coffee.

Coffee Station. They brot in their best Barista's among their UC's.

 

 

Next station held sliders, sandwiches, and sweets.  From my recollection, among the sliders & sandwiches were grilled cheeze, Panini’s, turkey burgers, & chicken curry.  Sweets included cheezecake, flourless chocolate cake,  carrot cake, tiramisu, and coconut cake.

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Jian's

 

We filled up! – we only had 2 hands & small plates. But this was like Korean All You Can Eat BBQ or American All You Can Eat Souplantation (w/o the price tag), so we made happy returns!

 

 

 

 

Inside looking out. For those who simply wanted to street people watch…

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Another person I recognized was a Pasadena Media cameraman (sitting on the right corner) who was there to document another local event.  We chatted about our last event.

 

 

For some reason the water station wasn’t quite as busy as the others.

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Although the lines moved very quickly, the treats sometimes came to the people on that warm day.

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I sampled a few of these.

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The Photographers Photographer.  Suddenly among the customers one customer sets up a microphone and begins to sing. Not just any singer: an Opera singer,  who I overheard was Golda the daughter of the owners, Shallom & Jilla Berkman.  UC providing FREE entertainment as well!

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UC was assisted by a catering company which has also catered big events such as celebrity award shows.  It was no surprise then when the open house closed for the day there were still boxes and trays of food.

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Behind me were the last customers – 2 beautiful girls: “We never been to Urth Caffe.”  “We just moved to Pasadena.” Oh, and where did y’all come from? “Michigan” & “Tennessee.”  Oh. Can I ask what brought you both to Pasadena? “Work.”  I shared a piece of Pasadena history with these newest Pasadenan’s, although I miss the old-timers and their long history with our city.  Another couple of girls I happened to know were shut out. They sadly came a minute too late. I gave them some of my pumpkin pie to lift their spirits.

 

Anyway, it’s too bad this was the only day I could eat FREE Cafe food!  Thank God it wasn’t the only day: below is a sample of what was in my Doggy bag for my happy meal the next day! 

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This Open House is in the books. Hope you got to attend, but if not, UC plans another FREEBIE day when their next UC opens. Hope it’s nearby!  Since that day, UC had a soft opening last Monday: limited hours with only pastries & drinks for now while they fully staff & train their kitchen to handle the full menu. Although I was given a date of September 2nd when they would be ready to fully open and truly have a “grand opening”, it’s best I hold off until I see it with my own eyes.  Restaurant openings have  a tendency to change.

So, Pasadena has another new restaurant.  Check out the Urth, at the southeast corner of Colorado Blvd & Madison, and lemme know what you think.  Whether it becomes a regular stop for you will depend on your personal taste buds & budget, of course. On this particular day I had no complaints!

 

Gotta Go: Gotta eAT! Stay Thirsty My Friends

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Zeli’s Coffee Bar & “Bakery’

 

I think it’s about time I wrote about food again.  But first, Happy May Day or May Fools Day!

Now, one of my blogger buddies, renaissance woman Petrea, wrote about her experience at Zeli Coffee Bar, located at Vroman’s on Colorado boulevard, in her endless quest for the best coffeehouse in Pasadena a few years back.  Btw, if you find yourself around Zeli, drop-in to Vroman’s to check out her new book – Camelot and Vine – in the local authors section. 

 

 

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I don’t recall when Zeli’s opened here but I believe the first time I visited was about a dozen years ago. In the intervening years I’ve visited a couple dozen times.  It’s mainly a coffeehouse with a few pastries and premade/prewrapped sandwiches.  Most of my scarce dollars have been placed on their coffee.

 

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Notwithstanding the above, I’m here to talk about their plain & pain au chocolat croissants!  Despite 1st coming here many years ago it was only this year I tried their croissants. We have some of the best ones here at Pasadena’s Euro Pane Bakery & Cafe, so it’s only natural to compare others with those.

In my opinion, a very good fresh croissant, out of the oven or reheated the same day, should be light, feel almost as light, flaky, buttery, a soft crunchy shell on the outside & buttery soft flaky layers and a touch moist inside, and of course, taste fresh. And with the chocolate variety, the chocolate should taste rich, real, and not be solid.  On its best days the croissants from Euro Pane are all the above.  They sell them for only $2.35 & $2.75, respectively.

But this is about Zeli croissants. Actually, Zeli is not a bakery so they’re selling them for whoever does bake them.  Zeli sells their plain for $3 & the chocolate is $3.50.

 

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Above is a Pain au Chocolat, or as unsophisticated dogs like me simply call it – chocolate croissant. It certainly looks handsome and nice as probably any croissant. From the outside.

This didn’t taste as if it were baked the same day. Despite asking for it to be reheated. It was heavy, thick, bready, and the chocolate was still solid, even with the reheating. The taste wasn’t bad but it wasn’t distinctive either –  this was closer to the prepackaged taste you can get at the store.

 

 

IMG_4377This is your basic plain croissant. Again, its a good looking croissant.  Much of our supermarket produce also looks perfect…until you take a bite.

The plain tasted fresher than the chocolate, still, I’ll assume it was baked that morning. And despite asking it to be  reheated it was still heavy, thick, & bready. Again, it wasn’t bad but the taste wasn’t the freshly made that day taste in contrast to the taste of the prepackaged supermarket variety baked whenever.  

I think you know what a croissant looks like from the photos.  To get technical, or you have bad eyesight, you could describe it as a yeast leavened bread/dough roll, buttery, typically crescent-moon shaped.  I’m not sure where the first croissant originated, but today it is considered a French pastry.

Back to Zeli.  Like I said, it’s a coffeehouse – not a bakery. However, if I were Zeli it would make all the sense in the Pasadena world to get their croissants from one of the best bakeries around right here in town – Euro Pane. Or, as that great foodie book, EAT L.A., says is, “the best bakery in the San Gabriel Valley.”  In fact, Zeli is located right between the two Euro Pane’s on Colorado Blvd!  Pray that Zeli inquires about selling their croissants and anything else.

Ok, so croissants may not be a reason to visit Zeli. But it does have other redeeming qualities: interesting music (for those who don’t mind tunes in the background), conveniently between a bookstore & a theater, the frozen hot chocolate drink, TV,  the barista’s are friendly enough, it’s cozy, Free W!F!,  Italian sodas, and carrot cake.

I think it was about time I wrote about Zeli, especially since I first visited many years ago. If you’ve ever been to Zeli, or ever visit, lemme know your opinion! 

 

Zeli Coffee Bar @ 695 E. Colorado Blvd.

Pasadena CA 91101

 

Next:  Women & Cars!

Gotta Grab a Bite! Stay Thirsty My Friends

Pasadena Greetings

Last Minute Christmas Gifts – Pasadena

I don’t have much time to write this up for those of you who don’t have much time to finish (or, start!) your Christmas shopping!

For Christmas I meditate on the true reason for the season:  a day to recognize Love through the gift of the birth of Jesus Christ, rather than stressing out over shopping for material gifts.  Not that I have anything against buying gifts. Some of my very best friends are gift-givers.

But as we see in the world, not everyone is of that same Spirit.  So, with that in mind here are just a few suggested last minute gift ideas to have St. Nick aka Santa Claus add to your list. The common denominator to my recommendations is that I’m acquainted with the people behind these gifts & they all have a local Pasadena flavor.  So, I know about what I speak! 🙂

 

Euro Pane Bakery & Cafe.  Gift cards. Euro Pane are the Pasadena eateries which most often makes the LA Weekly  “Best/Essential” restaurants to visit in the Los Angeles area.  It’s most known wide & far for its Egg Salad Sandwich & Macarons. Chef/Owner Sumi Chang trained at the renowned  Ecole Le Notre in France & then further training and experience from her mentor Nancy Silverton at La Brea Bakery. People come from near & far, speaking many languages, to visit. But here’s a tip if it’s gonna be your 1st time: come as early as possible to get the best, freshest selection. Come too late, and not only might you find what you wanted is sold out but you might also find you’re so late it closed at 5:30pm… and you have to leave empty-handed!

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The Market on Holly.  Gift cards.  A market, bakery, deli, cafe, and coffee, yes, but also beer & wine!  Some of the better & friendliest customer service.  Also known for their S’Mores bars which are the best I’ve had. KNBC Channel 4 must’ve agreed with me since they put them on TV in 2011.  The owners are caring & friendly, which includes the Chef who before she opened this restaurant has been one of the top caterers around.  TMOH most reminds me of a New York city market/cafe.

Century Bookshop.  Gift certificates, books, cards, jewelry, art.  Unique & cute cards prepared by the owners who are professional artists.  They’ve sold their art in places such as the Huntington Library & Museum.   A relatively small selection of quality previously-owned books as well, with a strong Jane Austen selection.  Btw, this month they are celebrating their 1st Anniversary with discounts on select books!

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The Pasadena Star News.  A newspaper subscription. In one form or another, the PSN has been telling us about our city since the beginning of time.  That’s Pasadena time, beginning back in the 19th century.  If you want to continue reading your newspaper on paper I suggest you subscribe to their scribes.  Buy it for the news, read it for the ads and coupons. Plus, despite what you might hear from some folk, as long as they treat me good, from Editor Frank all the way up to the women writers, that’s all that really matters to me!  😉  SUBSCRIBE Here.

A Penny for your Thoughts.   A coffee bar but, primarily, a boutique collectable gift shop.  A friend, renaissance woman & fellow Pasadenan, Petrea, got me to go to this place once. It’s her favorite shop in town so it’s really her opinion I’m following when recommending AP4YT.  Take a look around and you should find a last minute gift here is one thing I remember. Petrea still talks about AP4YT, such as saying the owner is great, so I gotta do a return trip one day.

Webster’s Fine Stationers:  Webster’s has been in Altadena as long as I can remember. They’re local & they support the local creative people too!  Unique, special gifts with custom, personal service.  Cookies & coffee for customers!  A very comfortable little place to shop – in fact, it’s my favorite shop in Altadena! Owners are good people.

 

Now, did someone mention, “books”?  Probably one of my author/foodie friends. I may not be much of a writer, but at least I’m not much of a reader to match. Sadly. So here are a few suggestions for great books I have read – from Pasadena area authors, who also have treated me well:

Dianne Emley: if you love a crime/mystery writing often with a local twist, like me, then this author is for you. The Deepest Cut & Love Kills are the two novels I have read, and I can truly say I loved them!!  Her books are at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena,  through links on her website Dianne Emley, and on Amazon.

Patricia Bunin: Password Senior Moment is the new book from the local newspaper columnist.  Her columns focus on those funny, challenging, & unique moments in the lives of senior citizens.  At Vroman’s , her website Patricia Bunin,  and Amazon.

Margaret Finnegan: her 1st novel, The Goddess Lounge, has received rave reviews by all who’ve read it – including me. Get it at  Vroman’s  or at Amazon .

Mary Mallory: historian/archivist, her first book is on the Hollywood Sign and the Hollywoodland/Beachwood Canyon part of Los Angeles which hosts it:  HOLLYWOODLAND. This historical guide to moviemaking’s most important stretch of real estate chronicles its development from an empty swath of land to the center of the cinematic universe. Old historic photographs, many from Hollywood Heritage the preservation group of which she sits on the board of directors, each one with her short & sweet narratives/insights. If you like local history this is a book to get.  At Vroman’s  or Amazon.

I love books but I don’t have much time to read books – but I read these!  If you buy any of these books and need them signed/autographed, contact the author via their websites.  Or let me know and I may be able to help.

 

Wanna give yourself something? How’s about some Pasadena Heritage and/or History! Become a member of one of these underappreciated organizations.  Today they’re caring about preserving the best of our past for Pasadena’s future:

Pasadena Museum of History                         Pasadena Heritage

 

Gotta Get Outta Here! Merry Christmas, My Friends

Pasadena Greetings