Chillin'  out

Chillin' out

Fine food and smooth sounds soothe fevered brows at redwhite+bluezz

By Erica Wayne 08/29/2012

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It seems we always wind up at redwhite+bluezz in the heat of summer. And, even though the official start of autumn (such as it is in Southern California) is less than a month away, two Sundays ago, the thermostat on our front porch read 106 degrees at 4 p.m. It wasn’t any cooler inside, since the A/C had failed on Saturday and we were on a long waiting list for repairs that had been promised by mid-week.
 
Luckily, both redwhite+bluezz and our friends, Andy and Kathleen, were available that evening to provide comfort and sympathy. We met at 6:30 and started our evening in the cool, dark-wooded, dimly lit restaurant with iced teas and cold beers, warm bread and the opportunity to regale our friends by describing our new sleeping arrangements, which involved ice-packs on our bellies and fans blowing full-blast. 
 
As we chilled, we perused redwhite+bluezz’s menu, which is filled with tempting items: tasty flights of cheese ($21) and charcuterie ($4), nifty appetizers, intriguing entrees, rich desserts and fine wines and spirits. But, despite two glasses of iced water and one tea, the only dish I could focus on was one of the salads: watermelon, Maytag bleu cheese, micro intensity mix and honey mint vinaigrette for $8. 
 
Kat and I ordered one each while the guys went for creamy garlic Caesars ($9), with house-crafted dressing, shaved parmigiano reggiano, garlic croutons and (most important) anchovies upon request, which they did. Caesar dressing here is way better than the glop most other restaurants try to pass off. You can really taste the lemon juice, garlic and a soupcon of crushed anchovy.
 
But, good as the salad is, it pales to insignificance beside the glorious construction of the watermelon — contrasting chunks of sugary, ice-cold ruby and gold melon, stacked like blocks into a three-layer pyramidal wall, sprinkled with a light snow of cheese and drenched in an herbal honeyed dressing that is out of this world, especially on a heat-baked summer Sunday with no respite in sight.
 
I could easily have ordered a second salad and made an entire meal of melon, but the soothing effect of cool water, tea, salad and the piano-bass duo playing softly as backdrop restored my interest in warmer and heavier food. My mate, as he almost always does, ordered a Kobe burger ($19), while the rest of us went for “New Orleans” fried chicken ($19), catch of the day (barramundi for $23) and grilled salmon with chimichurri ($22). We also ordered the mac and cheese appetizer ($9) to split.
 
The mac and cheese recipe doesn’t seem to have changed much since rwb opened over half a decade ago — the tomato in the béchamel is gone, and they’re using frosted instead of plain corn flakes for coating. But, alas, the number of perfectly fried, panko-coated triangles has definitely decreased. They’re still crisp outside, molten inside, crunchy, buttery, peppery — in a word, magnificent. But three is hard to divide by four, and there was a minor struggle at our table to capture the biggest share.
 
The burger is always good — rare inside, run-down-your-arm juicy, the pedigreed beef is paired with pedigreed bacon, aged white cheddar, crispy onions and an excellent house-made barbecue sauce with plenty of fire but little smoke. The brioche bun is toasted and pleasantly yeasty, while the accompanying sweet potato fries are just fine.
 
I’m partial to fried chicken, but rwb’s didn’t quite hit the spot. The two breast pieces were a little dry, the coating heavy, and there wasn’t near enough of the black-eyed pea puree. The collards, however, were perfection. The chef came to our table after Kat requested the recipe. I caught at least five or six spices, champagne vinegar and, I think, caramelized onions, before I realized I wasn’t going to try to replicate them as long as redwhite+bluezz stays in business. The platter comes with a rectangle of rough-hewn cornbread and a dollop of delightful serrano chile-red bell pepper jelly.
 
The barramundi was pan-seared and served on a bed of forbidden (black) rice, with a spring vegetable stir-fry in a puddle of miso broth, seasoned again with herbal micro intensity mix. The salmon comes with sautéed spinach and roasted garlic mashed potatoes. The rice was definitely al dente (I didn’t mind the extra-chewy texture), but both fish were perfectly cooked and seasoned, and the other vegetables were great.
 
Our server tried to tempt us with dessert, but the offerings seemed too heavy for the ambient temperature outside. Carrot cake, with the tease of candied carrots, tres leches cake with heavy cream and dark rum, New Orleans beignets with warm apple compote and brown butter ice cream, a fudge brownie stack with chocolate pot de crème and butterscotch pudding flavored with Glenlivit and Kahlua ($7-$9 apiece) all sounded like magnificent finales.
 
Since the duo was on break, we reluctantly paid our bill and headed out into the humid dusk. At home, we found our cats sprawled out like miniature animal-skin rugs, legs splayed and bellies planted to the coolish floors. After a couple of hours of suffering, we headed upstairs to bed. With ice-packs again in place and fans churning tepid air over us, we finally fell asleep, and I dreamt I was climbing a fragrant scarlet and yellow watermelon mountain with a refreshing mint and honey waterfall rushing by my path. 
 
redwhite+bluezz
70 S. Raymond Ave., 
Old Pasadena
(626) 792-4441
redwhitebluezz.com
Full bar/Major cards


 

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