Posts Tagged ‘lobster’

Bruce Kalman elevates dining with Union Pasadena

Spaghetti alla chitarra at Union Pasadena. Photo courtesy of Union.

Spaghetti alla chitarra at Union Pasadena. Photo courtesy of Union.

Chef Bruce Kalman’s Union Pasadena in Old Town is good — not just good for Pasadena, but good for anywhere. That’s good news for Pasadena, but not so good for those of us who live nowhere near there.

No matter. You’ll want to try Union Pasadena’s food in any case. The menu by Kalman (The Misfit, Urbano Pizza Bar, The Churchill) is described as a “seasonally Californian interpretation of Northern Italian cuisine,” but all you need to know is you want all the pasta. Yes, the other dishes are tasty, too — pork meatballs with San Marzano tomatoes, lardo and caper berries, and wild mushrooms over Grist & Toll polenta topped with Pedro Ximenez sherry vinegar — but Kalman’s house-made pasta is where it’s at.

The spaghetti alla chitarra (pictured above), with San Marzano tomato, garlic and fresno chili pepper, is a classic kicked up a notch with a Californian ingredient. It’s simple and satisfying.

But when Kalman starts getting creative, that’s when he really shines. The squid ink garganelli served with lobster, fennel, meyer lemon and truffle butter is holy-moly good. The toothsome pasta sucks up all the flavors, including the richness of the lobster.

Squid ink garganelli

Squid ink garganelli. Photo courtesy of Union.

In keeping with the seasonal theme, some dishes in the pasta section change periodically. One of these seasonal dishes is a duck agnolotti with pickled fiddlehead ferns, another rich dish featuring expertly crafted pasta and two of my favorite ingredients.

Duck agnolotti

Duck agnolotti. Photo courtesy of Union.

When it comes to mains, don’t overlook the pork chops. It’s not a sexy cut of meat, but boy are Kalman’s juicy (that sounded really dirty, didn’t it?). The version I had with mushrooms, root vegetables, Marsala sauce and sage was the best I’ve had in recent memory.

I really wish Union Pasadena were closer to where I live, but that would just be selfish. I guess now I have a reason to make the “trek” to Pasadena.

Note: This meal was hosted.

Further reading:

Bruce Kalman Ups the Ante at Union Pasadena by estarLA

Pasadena’s Union is not your same ol’ Old Town by Los Angeles Times


12 2014

Travelogue: Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort in Scottsdale, Arizona

Fairmont Scottsdale room

Fairmont Scottsdale room

I recently visited Scottsdale, Arizona, and had the opportunity to stay at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort. Located in North Scottsdale, it’s a little out of the way, but that may just be the whole point.

The Fairmont Scottsdale is a sprawling resort complete with multiple pools and eateries, as well as a two-story wellness spa, for maximum desert-style relaxation.

First, the rooms. Our room had ample space, with a walk-in closet, desk, seating area and private balcony. The bed was comfy, and the bathroom had both a stand-up shower and a tub, as well as Le Labo bath products. No complaints.

View from our room

View from our room

Welcome amenities at Fairmont Scottsdale

Welcome amenities at Fairmont Scottsdale

Amply stocked minibar at Fairmont Scottsdale

Amply stocked minibar at Fairmont Scottsdale — with my fave Macallan 12

Fairmont Scottsdale bathroom

Fairmont Scottsdale bathroom

As Scottsdale is known for its luxurious spa experiences, I naturally partook in a treatment at the resort’s Well & Being at Willow Stream Spa, which offers everything from traditional spa treatments and a rooftop pool to aerial yoga classes and nutrition and fitness consultations. I opted for a full body scrub and light massage with natural Body Bliss and Naturopathica skin products, all of which are derived from natural and/or organic ingredients. My provider Mistie made me feel comfortable right away and explained everything to me. And with access to the open-air pool, grotto waterfall, steam room, Swedish dry sauna, eucalyptus inhalation room, Swiss shower, hot whirlpool and cold plunge pool, as well as a full spa cuisine menu, you can easily spend a full relaxing day here. Oh, and fitness classes are included in your booking. Score!

Aerial yoga

Aerial yoga

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06 2014

Where old is new again: Towne Food & Drink

Crispy Pork Shank at Towne

Crispy Pork Shank at Towne

If you’re looking for an upscale dining experience but also want comfort food, then Towne Food & Drink in downtown Los Angeles is your place.

Helmed by Executive Chef Ryan Morrison, who spent time with Chef Scott Conant’s hospitality group, including as chef de cuisine at Scarpetta Beverly Hills, and consulting chef Eric Hara (Citronelle, davidburke & donatella, Chez Josephine, Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel), Towne is a delightful mix of high and low. Its New American menu features a variety of internationally influenced flavors prepared in a contemporary style. This philosophy extends to the dessert and cocktail menus, which are filled with updated versions of old favorites.

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09 2012

The Inland Empire just got interesting with Ra Pour

Lobster "Mac and Cheese" at Ra Pour

Lobster "Mac and Cheese" at Ra Pour

When I think of restaurants in the Inland Empire, chains come to mind. But Ra Pour, a high-end restaurant and bar in Rancho Cucamonga’s Victoria Gardens retail complex, has changed the way I think about dining in the I.E. (there are still a lot of chain restaurants, though).

Ra Pour, the jewel in restaurateur Karim Webb’s crown, is helmed by Executive Chef Greg Stillman, a French Laundry and Patina Restaurant Group alumnus, so right off you know you’re getting a quality meal. However, the combination of a high-end eatery with a club-like after-hours feel, including live music that makes conversation tough, is a bit strange. But given the area’s other options, Ra Pour is probably one of your best bets.

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05 2012

Water Grill Sunday clam bake


Oh, Water Grill. I’ve only been there twice, but what two awesomely lovely meals they were. Every restaurant should strive to be described as “awesomely lovely,” and Water Grill lives up to this term that I just coined.

This downtown mainstay is classic, elegant dining at its best, but without the pretentiousness that can easily accompany such a description. So what you get is a consistently great meal with an inviting, friendly atmosphere that’s hard to beat.

My first meal at Water Grill took place a couple of years ago in the form of a business lunch (‘cuz that’s how I roll). I remember having a vegetarian dish with eggplant, and while it probably wasn’t what I was “supposed” to order at a place that specializes in seafood, it was delicious. I cleaned my plate!

This second trip to Water Grill came at the invitation of the restaurant to try out its Sunday clam bake dinner. Based on my first experience, I expected great things, and I wasn’t disappointed.

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11 2009

Longest brunch ever, and not in a good way: Casa del Mar


Casa del Mar, a 1920s Santa Monica hotel with beautiful unobstructed views of the beach, recently introduced a $29 Sunday brunch, with your choice of an appetizer, entree and all-you-can-eat dessert buffet. Sounds great, right? I thought so, too, so I invited a bunch of my friends to try it out yesterday. Boy, were we disappointed.

It wasn’t so much the food, which was fine for the most part, though some of it had its problems, too. It was the extremely slow service that really got us. Since I made the reservation for the meal, my experience with the hotel started before anyone else’s, and it didn’t start off well.

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11 2009