Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jones Coffee Roasters

I'm no coffee snob, but I like a good cup of coffee. Recently, when shopping at Whole Foods in Pasadena, I noticed they featured beans from local coffee roaster Jones Coffee. I admired the packaging, but didn't buy any. Then, a few days later, Rich and I ate breakfast at Triple D North End Caffe in Manhattan Beach, and wouldn't you know, they were brewing up Jones coffee there. I seriously think it was the best cup of coffee I've ever had at a restaurant. I drank three full cups (it was decaf, but I don't exactly recommend that amount of coffee before a two mile walk on the strand!).

Anyways, so... after that I was driving down Raymond in Pasadena on a different day, and guess what I passed? You guessed it, Jones Coffee Roasters. Not that I'm into omens or anything, but I knew I needed to go there, check it out and get some coffee beans. With Shepherds' Conference coming up, I thought it would be the perfect time to try a few varieties. I like to treat my house guests to things they don't get at home.

So, finally today, I stopped in. It happened to be lunchtime, so I added a beautiful pain au chocolat to my decaf coffee order. Ahh, white flour, butter and chocolate, what a treat. The coffee was simply divine. I didn't watch carefully, but I think the Barista made it like an Americano because it had crema on top. One sip, and I felt all happy inside.

Anyways, backing up, this is the kind of place that when you drive up, it just looks interesting and inviting. Well, I should say, I did have to drive around the block a few times first because they only have a small amount of parking and it was full. I wasn't about to give up, and finally I got a spot and went in. It's really kind of like a warehouse, a large light and airy space, with the entire front open. It looks cool with a vintage neon sign and an interesting decor and layout of furniture. In the back, they are roasting beans and the smell is intoxicating. Gotta love that.


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View from parking lot

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Entrance

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Looking out into the parking lot.

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The roasting area in the rear.

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This big, cool neon sign just makes the place.

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When I asked, "where's the cream?" I was directed to a close-by glass door refrigerator full of choices. Help yourself, put it back. Love that.

I really loved the way this place feels- it's got a nice vibe. Not a hip
Intelligentsia kind of vibe (if you know what I mean), but a hip, genuinely friendly, kind of vibe. I was helped by a nice and helpful gal who guided me in my selection of three types of bold coffee beans (they have some unique blends as well), and also helped me pick out some apricot loose leaf tea for my tea-loving son. I then got myself a cup of decaf and the aforementioned warmed pastry (which happened to be from one of my favorite bakeries in Pasadena, Euro Pane) and left. I had an appointment, otherwise I would have stayed and enjoyed the atmosphere for awhile. It seems like a great place to hang out or meet a friend.

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My three new coffees to try.




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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Amazon Prime



Have you heard of Amazon Prime? I think this is one of the best deals around. I've had it for about two years now and LOVE It. I figured it's about time that the e-wife should blog about it!

First of all, if you aren't buying on Amazon.com, shame on you. It's the biggest store online, with the best prices. You are wasting time and money if you don't! I literally buy everything and anything I can on Amazon - you'd be surprised how much they have. Just this past week I bought razor blade refills, tinted lip balm, knee supports (I'm suffering from a case of runner's knee), and swimming goggles (gotta swim when I can't run). Our joke is that there is always an Amazon box at the gate! Amazon saves me SO much running around.

Amazon Prime is basically this - a membership program through Amazon.com that offers you free 2-day shipping for $79 a year. It is an amazing deal if you order on Amazon as much as I do. But there is more - you can also enjoy free instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows. And, if you own a Kindle, thousands of books are available to read for free, including NY times bestsellers. And, if you have a college student, click here for an even better deal! It's only $39! Wow.

OK, so here's how it works. When I shop Amazon for any item, I narrow my search to Amazon Prime items.
That way, whatever I select will be free shipping. Not everything from every seller is Amazon Prime qualified, but I have never not found what I wanted offered through sellers who are on Amazon Prime. I have my settings set up for 1-click purchasing, so it's super fast and easy to buy anything. Pop it in the cart and buy it all in 1-click. Love that!

I even have the Amazon.com app on my iPhone - so I can buy anything quickly on my phone as well. Here's how convenient the app is: the other day I was vacuuming and spot cleaning my carpets. I realized I was getting to the bottom of the bottle of my favorite cleaner, Folex. So, I whipped my phone out of my pocket, tapped my Amazon app, searched Folex, added it to my cart and purchased it with 1-click. In a matter of 20 seconds, I had purchased a new bottle that would arrive in two days, with free shipping! Let me ask myself: would I rather do that, or make a stop at Home Depot or Lowe's to get some more? Hmmm, let me think about it. Uh, Amazon Prime - that's a no-brainer. Wish this had been around when I had three kids under age 4. I could have done without taking kids in and out of the car to get one thing at a store!

If you still aren't convinced, read this!

Happy Shopping!

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WDW - Chard with bacon and apples

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Often I get chard in my weekly farm box. The first time I got it, I had NO idea what to do with it, but knowing that dark leafy greens are super healthy, I wanted to learn how to prepare them in a tasty way. Since then, I've learned to saute them with a little garlic and olive oil or add them to veggie soups. But, I really wanted a good, go to recipe to use with chard. I went onto Whole Foods website (my favorite place to get new recipes) and searched for a recipe. When I saw this one, I knew I just had to try it. The ingredients just sounded so delicious. I still had some of that yummy, smoky bacon we brought back from Tennessee, and I always have fresh organic apples and onions on hand. Be sure to use a nice smoky bacon - we like applewood smoked, and I always buy nitrate free bacon (Trader Joe's has a good one).

Well, I made it tonight and it couldn't be easier! And it was so delicious that we ate the whole pan, just Rich and me. I didn't even use the seasoning it called for, as the bacon I used was already cured with salt and pepper. I served it with boiled red potatoes (also from the farm box) and some sauteed chicken tenderloins, which I seasoned simply with lemon pepper. I have to admit, the chicken and potatoes actually took a back seat to this wonderful dish. Winner dinner! I can't wait to make this again.

Chard with bacon and apples

Ingredients

3 slices bacon, diced
1 small yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 organic Gala apple, cored and diced
1 bunch (about 3/4 pound) organic chard, well rinsed
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Method

Place a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain all but about 2 tsp. bacon fat. Add onion to the pan and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in apple and cook a few minutes.

Meanwhile, cut off the stems of the chard and discard. Chop the leaves. Stir chard into the skillet along with the onion and apple, and add back the bacon, salt and pepper (if necessary). Pour in 2 tablespoons water; cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until chard is tender, about 6-8 more minutes.

Nutrition:

Per serving: 70 calories (25 from fat), 2.5g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 5g cholesterol, 380mg sodium, 11g total carbohydrate (3g dietary fiber, 6g sugar), 3g protein

NOTE: This was SO good, I made a half batch for my lunch the next day using purple kale that I had on hand. DELISH!!

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pickled Beets

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I LOVE beets. Most people say they don't like them - but it makes me wonder if they have ever really eaten a FRESH beet or they are thinking of those julienned rubbery things in a can. I wouldn't eat those in a million years.

When I was a little girl I developed a taste for fresh beets because my grandpa grew them in his garden. He would often pickle them, and to this day my dad and I love beets, especially this way. And, if you don't know how healthy beets are, click here. They provide antioxidants and detoxification, and much more. I actually love to juice raw beets (they are healthiest raw) with carrots, but then again, I'm a vegetable freak.

Don't be afraid of beets!
This couldn't be easier. Simply twist or snip off the greens, wash thoroughly, wrap in foil, and bake for one hour at 350 degrees. Or, you could steam them for about 15 minutes. Once cooled, peel and slice them. You can eat them just like that - oh how I love beets, orange sections, and goat cheese on my dinner salad - or you can go a step further and kick them up a notch by pickling.

Any color beets will work for this recipe, but don't mix them - the colors bleed. This week I chose some lovely organic golden beets at Whole Foods.

This recipe makes a couple of pickle jars full. Like my exactness? These are a bit spicy because I like 'em that way, but if you don't, simply omit the fresh jalapeno.

The hardest thing about this recipe is WAITING for them to be done. They really need at least two weeks in the fridge, three is better.

Refrigerator Pickled Beets

Ingredients:

6 large beets, roasted, peeled, and sliced thick

1 large onion, sliced

1 large jalapeno, sliced (seeds included)

6-8 garlic cloves

Peppercorns

Brine:

2 cups apple cider vinegar
3 cups water

1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
2 cups granulated sugar

To make brine:

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add apple cider vinegar, water, sugar & salt. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar melts. Reduce heat and let the pickling brine simmer approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let brine cool.

Layer beets, onions, jalapenos, garlic, and peppercorns into a large jar (or use two smaller jars). Pour cooled brine over the beets and gently stir. Place, covered, in the refrigerator. Best flavor after two weeks.


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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Awesome kids books!


Many of you may already know that a godly woman named Delphine Bates led me to Christ 28 years ago, when I was 18 years old (go ahead, do the math, I'm almost 46.). Since that time, she has been a dear friend and a spiritual mother to me. To say she has had a big influence in my life would be an understatement! We even named our daughter, Emma Leigh, after Delphine's mother, Emma Lee Branon.

Delphine has been in Children's ministry at our church for at least 3 decades, and she is the reason I am in Children's ministry today. She makes the rounds playing piano and leading music for several Sunday school classes each Sunday morning, and back then she encouraged me to work in a 2nd grade class when I was newly saved. I thought I was going to be a "craft helper" but somehow got my own small group of kids! They actually knew more about the bible than I did - seriously. It was just a bit intimidating. I'd like to say we screen helpers a little more efficiently these days. :-)

Anyways, Delphine has always been great with children - after all she has had lots of practice as she raised four of her own. She also has 14 grandchildren whom she takes a very active role investing in spiritually. I wish she was my grandma - she is full of energy and lots of fun! She seems as young and energetic as when we first met.

She recently produced three wonderful children's books (wrote and illustrated). Delphine has such a unique and effective way of ministering to children (and sharing the gospel with anyone for that matter). They are so cute and so well written - I highly recommend them to all - they would be a great investment in your home library to be enjoyed again and again. I wish we had these books when our children were growing up. I am keeping the set she gave me for my own grandchildren some day!

You can buy Delphine's books here on Amazon. I know you'll enjoy them!




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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nashville!

We had the extreme pleasure of visiting our friends the Hoffmans, in Nashville last weekend. Dave and Erin (and their 7 children) were dear friends of ours when they lived here in California, but they moved back home about 5 years ago and ever since we have missed them so! Dave wanted Rich to do a Children's ministry seminar at their small church, so they flew us (and Emma too) out for a visit. It was so fun to be reunited and be a part of the large Hoffman clan which now includes two daughter in laws and one baby grandson!

They live in the country about 30 minutes away from Nashville, in a small town called Greenbriar (or Coopertown). Here is their ginormous 3 story house:

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Oh, the beautiful houses you can get here. This house is perfect for them.

Dave and Erin graciously gave up their own bedroom suite for us. It was so pretty and had floor to ceiling windows of the countryside. It was such a pleasure to wake up and look at the beautiful scenery. And I must mention that they have a king size tempur-pedic bed with lots of fluffy comforters. Ahh. We felt so spoiled.

Well, backing up, we arrived Friday afternoon and Erin had lovely homemade hummus and other snacks and coffee for us. We talked for awhile, and then Dave, Erin, Rich and I went to a wonderful restaurant for dinner called Brick Tops. What a menu! As soon as we were seated Dave proceeded to seemingly order one of everything. In a matter of minutes we were greeted with this unusual appetizer:


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Yes, that's deviled eggs and BACON strips! Sugared bacon strips to be exact. Oh mama.

Then came not one but TWO orders of some of the best sushi I've ever tasted. Then an unbelievable crabcake. Then dinner. Not just my own dinner but sharing Dave's seared fresh Ahi and Erin's best-ever barbecued ribs. Oh, and of course, a side order of their famous stuffed potatoes which was as big as my face. Oh my word it was good. Here's my entree - Chilean sea bass. It was marinated in some Asian flavors, topped with panko and pan fried. It was delish.

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Here's a blurry picture of the four of us after our fantastic meal. Apparently our waiter didn't have the steadiest of hands. :-)

After dinner, Dave drove us by some incredible historic hotels we went inside to get a peek. Here are a couple pics I took:

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This shot is actually a mens' room. Rich took the pic for me - :-) Cool vintage Art Deco.

After that, we enjoyed a walk through hoppin' downtown Nashville. It seemed like one after the next Honky Tonk joint with live music blasting. We walked around, met up with some of our kids for ice cream, and even had the added surprise of Dave getting his car towed from where we parked. Thankfully, we were able to retrieve it quickly, and we all learned not to park in the Kinko's parking lot even if you go in and buy candy so you can be a 'patron.' Ahem.


On Saturday we awoke to the smell of coffee and Erin cooking up some righteous blueberry pancakes. Yum. The men then set out for the seminar at the church, and Erin took me antique shopping and to the BP for a pulled pork sandwich. Yes, the BP is a gas station but they have some awesome pulled pork. Because of my love for vintage stuff and vintage glassware in particular, I was in heaven when she took me to this huge antique shop - we stayed 2 hours and I really could have stayed all day. I picked up two pieces of depression glass as souvenirs and Erin found a cool candy dish.

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This photo just doesn't do this pork sandwich justice. It was soooo good.

Later that afternoon, we met back up with everyone at the house and Erin and I began preparations for our fried chicken dinner. She had set all the chicken in buttermilk that morning, and she made a simple breading of flour, salt, & pepper in a bag to shake the pieces in. What surprised me was that she didn't "deep fry" per se, but just cooked the chicken in about 1/2" of Crisco. She used cast iron skillets, which she said are a must. She made mighty fine biscuits as well. Unfortunately, Erin doesn't follow a recipe so I cannot even try to make her biscuits. She just laughed when I asked her what proportions she used. I do know she used shortening, butter, coconut oil, self-rising flour and buttermilk - beyond that only she knows the secret. They were so flaky and flavorful.

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Youngest daughter Rainey cut all the biscuits out.


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It was torture waiting for the chicken!

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Rich making the mashed potatoes. He's always made perfect ones.


It was really fun helping Erin and most of all watching her. The Hoffmans don't eat Southern food often but they blew out all the stops for us. Erin is actually really into eating healthy - normally she juices, serves raw milk to her family, and gets organic groceries at Whole Foods (where two of her sons work).

As we all sat around their large dining room table relishing our fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, sauteed apples, and biscuits, all anyone could say was how good everything was. I don't think we had regular conversation at all for at least 10 minutes into the meal because everything was just so good and everyone just kept saying so. But there are always lots of laughs to go around at the Hoffmans. We shared many good memories and laughed until we cried. The Hoffmans are super special people who love the Lord and people intensely, and we relished every minute together.

After dinner, the three older boys, Zach, Max, & Alex, a/k/a Lazar Lazar
went to their music room for a jam session. We ended up hanging out with them for well over an hour listening to them play. It was great fun and they even played some Boston for Rich. :-) Rich and I even got up and danced. Good times.

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This is a bit blurry - Alex on left and Max on right. The guy on keyboards is a friend.


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Oldest bro Zach on drums.


The next morning, we went to their church. It's always a unique experience for us to go to a small church! The Hoffmans lead music, of course. After a nice time of communion and a message from Romans 8, Dave and Erin got up to do the closing song. I looked up at the overhead and saw the hymn go up "It is well with my soul." My heart stopped; and then I just lost it. It was so special because eight years ago, Dave and Erin had sung that song at Brady's memorial service (so beautifully with just a guitar). Ever since that day it has been a super emotional hymn for me to hear and sing. Rich held me tight and tears kept streaming throughout the whole song but it was such a blessing. It turns out that Emma had put Dave and Erin up to that just for us, as a heartfelt surprise. It was so sweet, and I'll never forget it.

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After church, sadly it was time to pack up our stuff and head to the airport. But, one last stop was in order- late lunch at a great little deli in East Nashville called Mitchell's. Dave and Erin spoke of their BLT's as being super good - and they surely didn't disappoint. Everything about the sandwich was perfect - the roll, the bacon....in fact we loved the bacon in the sandwich so much (6 weeks cold smoked, no nitrates) that we bought two pounds of it to take home! Yes, only I would have bacon in my airline carry on. It was worth it, believe me. I also bought some local made butter and extra dark chocolate - yum!

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My bacon getting sliced up for the ride home.
:-)

It was so sad to leave Nashville and the Hoffmans. Part of me could totally move there ... we'll have to see someday!

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Easy Trader Joe's dinner


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We all love Trader Joe's. Here are some of my must-haves of late: whole grain tortillas, fage yogurt, lots of fresh berries, brown rice cakes, avocados, and unsalted creamy peanut butter. They sure do have a lot of things that I really feel like I can't live without! What are your favorite TJ's items?

Anyways, oftentimes when I'm doing my weekly shopping, I might have a notation on my list that says "need 3 dinners." Sometimes, I just pick up fish and veggies to fulfill that requirement, but sometimes I feel creative and combine several items to create a new dish. This week I made an easy and nutritious pasta dish that I'm excited to share. I've made impromptu pasta dishes before, but the combination of ingredients in this one is really good.

First of all, just know that I don't do the whole wheat pasta thing. As healthy as I like to eat, my family and I just don't like it. We don't eat pasta much, but when we do, we eat the regular kind. I do look for ones that contain semolina flour, which is the next best thing to whole grain.

So, any pasta will work for this, as long as it's a short shape vs. strands. I used the following ingredients:

1 package TJ's chicken pesto sausage
8 oz. penne rigate pasta
1/2 bag fresh organic baby spinach
1 bag frozen fire roasted bell peppers and onions
fresh pesto sauce

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I just noticed the fire roasted peppers and onions in the freezer section, and boy are they convenient!

The dish is super easy and fast and will easily serve 4-5. It's really a one dish meal too, just add some crusty bread if you like and you've got dinner.

First, put on a pot of water to boil. Slice the sausage into bite sized pieces. In a large skillet sprayed with non-stick spray, saute the sausage for a few minutes (they're pre-cooked, so just to brown them a bit). Next, add in the frozen peppers and onions. Drizzle on a little EVOO to moisten. Keep on low, stirring occasionally. No need to season, there is already a lot of flavor going on here.

When the water boils, cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and dump in the skillet with the veggies and sausage mixture. Turn off the heat. At this point, you can add the spinach and toss a bit to wilt it. Finish the dish by stirring in a few tablespoons of pesto sauce. Voila! It's yummy!

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Technique Restaurant

My friend Alik had been telling me how wonderful Technique restaurant is, and I finally got a reservation to try it. It's the restaurant that is run by the students of Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. They offer a seasonal gourmet menu of three courses for only $10. This is why it's so hard to get a reservation - whattadeal! You have to go on their website the Monday of the week before you would like your reservation. I tried for awhile before I landed a table for two at noon today for Rich and I.

The restaurant is located on Colorado Blvd. just east of Old Town. Here's the entrance:

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The restaurant is housed in a very cool old renovated Pasadena building, and the inside is painted stark white and is very chic. Here is the view I had from our table - it was fun to watch the students and instructors prepare the food. There is a lot of hustle and bustle in the restaurant.

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You get to choose three courses from their menu and believe me, it is hard to decide. Everything sounds so appetizing and fresh.

We each ordered our own different three course meal, but shared each course. That way we could taste more! We do this by eating half the food on the plate and then switching plates. :-) (Yes, I eat as much as my hubby. Always have.)

The first courses we ordered were the Nicoise Salad and the Caprese salad. The Nicoise salad had a twist - seared Ahi for the traditional canned tuna. Raw or rare ahi is my weakness in life. :-) The Caprese salad also had a twist - the mozzarella was breaded and fried - yum! Here are some pics of the first courses:


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We then moved on to our main dishes - Rich ordered the lamb shank on risotto and I ordered the snapper and shrimp. Both plates were amazing. The fish had this yummy crispy skin and was cooked perfectly and the succotash of sweet corn and fresh fava beans was delicious. The lamb was cooked perfect as well and was fork tender and moist. There were actually two shrimp with the fish, but I couldn't resist eating one before I took this pic. And yes, there's a bite out of the risotto too. :-)

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Ahhh... then the dessert. Rich ordered the salted caramel pots de creme and I got the pear and cranberry fruit crumble with vanilla ice cream. Both were to.die.for. I just love fruit desserts and the pots de creme was so unique. Just look at the presentation of it:

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Me and my date. Rich always tucks his tie into his shirt when he eats -he's cute.

The restaurant is pretty much reservations only, but they also have a cute little walk up cafe inside the restaurant with tables to sit at. They serve panini and other sandwiches, salads, pizza and adorable desserts and coffee. It's definitely worth a try if you find yourself nearby with no reservation.

So, if you want adventure and good food, visit Technique sometime. Pasadena has great shopping in nearby Old Town as well. I love Pasadena, and this experience reminded me how fun it is to live in the Los Angeles area. I'm always discovering new fun things to do here.


Technique restaurant at Le Cordon Bleu
525 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
Note on parking: Street parking is only 1 hour. You can find extended parking for $1.50/hour on Madison Ave. nearby in the Pasadena Playhouse parking lot.

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