Al Fresco in Arroyo
As midsummer beckons, you can have your cake and eat it too at one of these outdoor dining destinations.
By Bradley Tuck 09/01/2012
It’s hard to stroll down Colorado Boulevard without noticing the abundance of sidewalk tables surrounded by chattering shoppers, bags at their feet, sipping wine or pushing a fork around a plate. And that’s a great thing. We have glorious weather to warm the skin and pretty architecture to soothe the eyes. The mercury might climb a little high sometimes, but there’s usually some shade to offer respite, along with iced tea. Dining and drinking outside is one of life’s great pleasures. The Europeans have known this for a very long time, café culture seemingly woven into their DNA. Even rain-sodden London now has a wealth of pavement tables. And the pleasures of an al fresco meal can be enjoyed in more than just restaurants and cafés. Parks and other public open spaces are ideal venues for breaking out a fresh air feast. So here are a few Pasadena plein air pointers:
Breakfast at The Raymond
We’re going to say it: The Raymond has our favorite patio. The wisteria-clad space behind the bar is particularly lovely at night—the perfect spot to nurse a meticulously made cocktail. Breakfast, however, belongs to The Raymond’s middle patio. With tables nestled under a timber arbor that affords just the right amount of shade, it’s possible to tuck into a splendid breakfast—not brunch, but actual breakfast—without actually becoming toast. They open at 9 a.m., a time when some civilized folk like to be up and about, and serve breakfast until 2.30 p.m. Highlights are the blueberry pain perdu, a lovely French toast to which we’d advocate adding some smoked bacon, and the cheddar and herb cakes—a cheese-and-herb pancake with smoked ham, white mushrooms and an egg. Throw in a Raymond bloody Mary to cure what undoubtedly ails you, and you’re good to go.
The Raymond Restaurant & 1886
1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 441-3136 • theraymond.com
Lunch at Nicole’s Gourmet Foods
Nicole’s is the kind of market/café every town wishes it had. An incredible cheese selection, wonderful sandwiches, house-made desserts and all manner of French gourmet goods are on offer in this little slice of France that lives quite magically in South Pasadena. A seat at one of the umbrella-shaded sidewalk tables at lunchtime will make you feel as though you’re on vacation. Another plus is that it’s a minute’s walk to the Mission Gold Line Station. So you could go car-free, and enjoy a glass of wine or two with your lunch.
Nicole’s Gourmet foods
921 Meridian Ave., South Pasadena
(626) 403-5751 • nicolesgourmetfoods.com
Dinner at Sushi Roku’s Red Sun Beer Garden
Sushi Roku has been bringing a bit of Hollywood glamour to Pasadena’s One Colorado since 2000. It’s glitzy without being trashy, and the food and service are perfectly pitched. Great for dates or for a night out with good friends, it's not cheap, but the fish is excellent, as are the cocktails. There’s a small patio in front, but the real al fresco treat is their new Beer Garden Saturdays. Between 5 and 10 p.m., they set up 30-odd tables in the big brick courtyard of One Colorado and serve a menu of appetizers, sushi, sashimi and robatayaki skewers, grilled over an open flame on binchotan charcoal from Japan.
33 Miller Alley, Pasadena
(626) 683-3000 • sushiroku.com
DIY AL FRESCO
Sometimes you want to enjoy the simple pleasure of a picnic—spreading a blanket on warm grass and breaking out a mobile meal to share with friends. Of course, it can be as simple or elaborate as you wish. A warm sandwich pulled from a plastic bag is all that’s needed sometimes, but if you want to make a festive occasion out of it, here are a few things to help you pack a memorable picnic:
Williams-Sonoma Wicker Picnic Basket
Beautifully detailed and packed with all the accoutrements of sophisticated outdoor dining, this picnic basket will send any nearby plastic plates scuttling to the dumpster. Porcelain plates, hand-blown wineglasses, napkins and silverware are all nestled snugly in an English-style natural willow case lined with cotton. Even PBJs would look sophisticated in this.
Hermès Giant Avalon blanket
At 87 +by 102 inches, the Giant Avalon is a major piece of fabric real estate. Yes, it’s outrageously expensive. But even if it just inspires you to find your own, less expensive Avalon equivalent, we’ll have done our job. Imagine the aforementioned wicker basket nestling on this huge sheet of Merino wool and cashmere, while you pop the top of a British Maldon Water and stroke the sumptuous weave of your blanket, blades of grass tickling your toes. You get the idea.