Mother's Day in the park
Ginger will help make Sunday a day to remember
By Erica Wayne 05/08/2013
Wiell, here it is again — Mother’s Day. And everybody with a mom is running around like crazy trying to arrange a brunch or dinner that will please the little lady. I’ve been there (on both the giving and receiving ends) and sympathize. The occasion is especially trying if you’ve got young kids. Dress them up and sit them down in a confined space and you’re asking for trouble. Sooner or later, they’ll start to fidget and forget to use their inside voices. Whining is next, especially for the littlest ones. Then it’s under the table, repeated trips to the loo and, if worse comes to worst, perhaps a mild tantrum while mum is still finishing dessert and opening her gifts.
So I’ve got a suggestion for Pasadena families who’d really like to avoid the whole restaurant scene: Ginger Corner Market on South Michigan Avenue, right across the street from Grant Park (south of Green Street and east of Hill Avenue), walking distance to both Pasadena City College and Caltech. Open for about a year in the vintage bungalow that used to house Eddie’s Market (whose name is still stenciled in fading paint on the exterior of the building), Ginger’s is a wondrous place to put together a movable feast that you can unpack only a few steps away at the park picnic shelter.
Let’s start with the basics: Ginger’s salads and sandwiches. Most of the ingredients foodies love show up on the menu, like salads fashioned from beets with oranges, sunflower seeds and goat cheese with balsamic vinaigrette; kale with golden raisins, roasted carrots and almonds with orange vinaigrette; and arugula with fennel, apple and walnuts and shallot vinaigrette (each $7).
Sandwiches appear at first to be standard (for instance pastrami, tuna and grilled cheese), but check the details. Turkey ($6.50) is laced with apple, sharp cheddar and Dijon aioli. Roast beef ($7) is paired with arugula, Swiss cheese, red onion marmalade and horseradish aioli on squaw bread. The grilled cheese ($6) is sharp cheddar on a fabulous fruit and nut bread. And a marinated veggie salad ($6) includes Portobello mushrooms, roasted peppers, zucchini, goat cheese and pesto.
All the sandwiches come with a rotating choice of side salads. Aside from the expected potato and seasonal fruit, you may find a cuplet of dressed orzo, lentils, couscous or quinoa mixed with chopped peppers, onions and carrots sharing your platter. Greek, broccoli, gigante bean and watermelon-jicama salads are also possibilities.
Although Ginger may not rival Starbucks for coffee choices, they provide a perfectly adequate selection, including the usual espresso/milk mixtures, mochas, caramel lattes, hot chocolate and a variety of teas ($1.75 - $4.25). And their lemonades (only $2) change herbal flavorings daily. I’ve had both lavender and nectarine-basil. But it’s the go-withs that make Ginger an absolute must for those of us who can’t resist sweets.
Every day there’s a dizzying array of freshly baked and ever-changing pastries. I dropped in last week and left with two gorgeous brownies (a misnomer since only one was decadent fudge, the other intense lemon), a generous portion of orange-scented bread pudding fashioned from the fruit and nut bread mentioned above, a pair of hockey-puck sized scones (one studded with plump raisins, the other with crystallized ginger) and four large cookies (oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, pecan shortbread and chocolate chip), setting me back a total of only $18 for the nine-piece lot.
Alas, although I’ve read reviews by Yelpers that wax poetic about rhubarb pie and coconut cake, I’ve yet to be there when either of those desserts was on display. But other specials, like the pot of chicken vegetable soup simmering on the stove on my last visit (I got a huge bowl, chock-full of tomatoes, carrots, diced potato, other veggies and herbs, including fresh thyme, for $5.50) and a luscious two-inch high chicken salad sandwich ($6.50), are always worth checking out. A good way to sample both is Ginger’s $8 soup/half-sandwich deal.
But wait, as they say in the TV ads. That’s not all. Once you’ve selected all the menu items and pastries, there’s time to wander around the “corner market” part of Ginger. Here you’ll find a dizzying array of stuff, ranging from unusual edibles (vintage candies, unusual jellies, jams, preserves, relishes, pickles, artisan breads, loose teas, coffee beans and granola) to even more unusual chilled beverages, both alcoholic and non (craft beers, wines and sodas). They also carry paper goods, knick-knacks and even toys.
Which brings me back to Mother’s Day, dear readers. Buy a Frisbee or a hula hoop (no kidding!) and lay out your holiday meal across the street while the kiddies burn off excess energy with those gadgets or on the Grant Park play equipment. Perhaps mom would like to try a friendly volleyball match while dad joins a pickup game on the basketball courts. Pack tennis gear in case a court opens up. And the whole family can test their luck at horseshoes.
As long as it doesn’t rain (and when does it in May?), Ginger and its adjacent park provide the perfect alternative to a stuffy indoor Mother’s Day meal. But should the weather prove at all inclement, Ginger is open all day (every day) for informal indoor dining, WiFi-ing and browsing. One caveat: Even though Ginger sells a fascinating selection of beer and wine to go, they aren’t allowed to serve it on-site. And city regulations rule out consuming alcoholic beverages in the park. So tempted though you might be to spike your lemonade, you’ll have to wait for that toast to mom until you get back home.
217 S. Michigan Ave.,
Beer and wine to go only