Sunday, August 21, 2011

Foody Field Trip - Old Town Pasadena

First off, I would like to wholeheartedly thank my good friend, V, for this awesome birthday gift she got hubby and me. Two gift certificates to a foodie field trip. How awesome is that??? I first heard of the concept of a food tour from one of my Facebook friends when she did her foodie field trip of Downtown Los Angeles. Its basically a walking tour to a few restaurants in the city and you get a sampling of their specialties. It typically lasts 3 1/2 hours and covers about a 3 mile radius of the city. What a great idea to sample dishes in restaurants you would probably be intimidated to go in to. This particular company, Foody Field Trips, tours 2 cities: Culver City and Pasadena (but I believe they'll be opening up a 3rd tour soon). There weren't that many restaurants on the Culver City tour that caught my eye. Pasadena is a city we often visit, but we never really venture out to different restaurants. So I decided on the Pasadena tour. Besides, I dread the drive to Culver City. Its the worst of the LA traffic.

With our daughter in tow, Hubby and I met up with our group of 6, bright and early at a corner just south of the hustle and bustle of Colorado Boulevard. Those familiar with the city of Pasadena know that Colorado Boulevard is where its all at. After checking in with our tour guide, we were given our complimentary bag and an itinerary for the day.

Our first stop was at Pappa Rich. Its a small bakery/coffee shop that specializes in specialty buns. This shop is the only one of its kind in California, and I believe its the only one in the country. Its a specialty in Korea, where they apparently have numerous branches because they're so popular. Lucky them. We were each given a half of this warm mocha bun. And it was amazing. It tastes like a mix of a soft, warm brioche bun, topped with a sweet, crunchy crust of mocha, with warm melted butter on its center. I thought to myself, "oh, I'm really gonna love this tour." This was a great start of what was yet to come.

After having our delicious bun, we took a short walk to our next stop, Chado Tea Room, to help wash it all down. We were informed by our tour guide that this branch was strategically built by the owner, away from the hustle and bustle of Colorado Boulevard to maintain the calm and quiet atmosphere that a tea room should have. We entered a cute little tea room decorated in lovely china. You can tell that they really try to preserve the quiet and elegance of a tea room. We were given a short presentation and a small sampling of their specialty teas. And then we were served with a sample of their scone with devonshire cream and apricot marmalade. Delicious.

After our morning tea, we got down to the nitty gritty of this food tour. The real meal. We headed on over to Chozo Mama, a Peruvian restaurant and bakery. Chozo Mama is a family-owned restaurant which literally means "Mom's House," with the owners paying homage to their late mother who always dreamed of owning her own restaurant. Sadly, she was not able to see her dreams come to a reality, but her children made sure her dream would come true and started Chozo Mama.

As we entered the restaurant, we were welcomed by numerous Inca art pieces hanging on the wall. We were served with a small family-style meal that consisted of Seco de Cordero, Lechon Adobado, Peruvian Beans, and my new favorite, Aji de Gallina. This was all served with a side of rice and 3 of their signature sauces. I have only recently been into Peruvian food ever since I made my Lomo Saltado. Since then, I've been on a Peruvian food kick and I was so excited that it was part of our tour. Because we are definitely coming back to this restaurant. Hubby and I already decided :)

After the heavy sampling of Peruvian food, we lightened it up by heading over to a vegan restaurant, Green Earth Vegan Cuisine. I have to admit that this was not something I looked forward to. I mean, Vegan? Really? I just pictured everything to be green and taste-less. BUT, I was willing to give it a try. If I really am a foodie, I have to at least give it a try. So I came up to this cute little restaurant with an open mind and an open stomach. It also helped to know that this was a Vietnamese Vegan restaurant. I love Vietnamese food, so I was good. We were first served with the Vegan version of a spring roll (though I thought a spring roll was already vegan/vegetarian. But what do I know). It was pretty darn good and pretty darn close to a regular spring roll.

Our next course was a vegetable soup with eggplant, Japanese squash, mushroom, bell peppers and tofu. It was quite tasty, but I could do without the eggplant. Not a huge fan of eggplant. But the overall flavor of soup was quite pleasant. Not at all what I would expect from a vegan dish.

I'm glad this was part of our tour because it gave me a taste of what a vegan restaurant was really about and it helped to clear up my vision of what a vegan restaurant really is. Not always about being green and taste-less :)

Our next "big meal" stop was an Argentinian restaurant, 1810. Its aptly named after a date that commemorated a patriotic day in Buenos Aires, which has become and Argentinian holiday. I was so looking forward to this, because I so love Argentinian food. Give me the meat!

We started off our meal with their crusty bread and famous chimichurri sauce. My fave! It was served with a small sampling of their house Pinot Grigio. After we gobbled up the bread and chimichurri sauce (or should I say, my daughter gobbled up the bread), we were served with our next course of appetizer, the spinach and mascarpone cheese empanada. Yum! This was the best Argentinian empanada I've ever had. The crust had the perfect crunch and it was filled with their ooey-gooey spinach and cheese.

Paired with their house red wine, Argentinian Malbec, (which I didn't have because I had enough of the white wine. What a light-weight!), we were then served with their signature Entrana Skirt Steak with Argentinian salsa. Oh, I was in heaven. The meat was so tender and flavorful, and the salsa really complimented the meat well. I have to apologize for the photo below, however. The lighting was really low in the restaurant, so the picture came out a little blurry.

Before we headed to our final stop, we took a short-cut through alleys behind Colorado Boulevard to find some gems of the city. There is a rich history behind Old Town Pasadena that we were introduced to and we would never have known about had it not been for this tour. Our tour guide gave us little tidbits of history about some of the buildings we passed by.

And finally, our last stop. Dessert. Cupcakes. Enough said. You know me and my cupcakes. I was so excited. My daughter was excited too.

Sugar Fix had a cute story behind it. It all began when the owner was a young child, baking out of her Easy-Bake oven. My kind of girl.

I gave my daughter the honor of selecting my cupcake and she chose the Vanilla cupcake. I think it was because of the sprinkles. Hubby chose the Marble cupcake. Both were quite good, but nothing out of the ordinary. However, my daughter enjoyed the frosting, as she always does.

Our overall take of this tour was really pleasant. Not only did we get tidbits of the foods that Pasadena had to offer, we also learned about the rich history of Pasadena. Our tour guide was very energetic and very informative. We had loads of fun and look forward to more foodie field trips in other cities.

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