Thursday, May 21, 2009

Scarlet Tea Room in Pasadena

I know it's approaching Father's Day, but I have to go back and do a post on my whereabouts on Mother's Day. This year, I was kid free for Mother's Day lunch. It was heaven. My cousins and siblings wanted to take our mothers to an afternoon tea (and for my father's birthday), and after realizing how expensive the buffet at the Huntington Library was, we settled on the Scarlet Tea Room in Old Town Pasadena. At $38 dollars a person for the Mother's Day Tea, it's far from being a bargain (and also a reason why the kids were absent), but we thought it was a nice two hours of pampering.

The room is quite small but quaint and dainty, with various pretty ceiling decor, everything a little tea room should be. In terms of the menu, I've been here once before for a bridal shower, so I knew what to expect. The five course tea ceremony is their speciality and is essentially what the Mother's Day Tea menu is. There are also other options available too if you want to just come in for tea and a quick bite, or for a nice dinner or lunch.

As soon as we were seated, our party was able to order our choices of tea. You can get a pot per person, but as suggested to keep things simple, we ordered three pots at first for the entire party and then added a fourth. We chose the Fiji green tea, the organic passion green tea, a tropical tea with a long Hawaiian name, and if I remember correctly, one of the berry infusion teas. The last three were alright, but the Fiji green tea was very aromatic and delicious. The teas were brought out in dainty pots and served in little cute cups. The servers continue to fill your cups whenever you run out, so we drank a lot that day.

The strawberry sorbet was our first course. This was light and simple and good because we were starving.

We were also served almond mimosas (non-alcoholic if requested). I couldn't really taste the almond in there.

Scones were then brought out with an assortment of sandwiches. I thought we were suppose to order a choice of four types of sandwiches per person, but I guess to make it simple, they just brought out the whole lot. This then forced our party to pick and choose and divide so we could all have a taste of the good ones. We were disappointed in this aspect. The savory sandwiches were very good, but we had a hard time finishing up the sweeter ones, like the cranberries and citrus ones. In fact, the kids got to eat these as leftovers when I reunited with them.

The scones were excellent, very light and airy. The ginger scones were good although a bit bland, but the pumpkin ones were moist and so very delicious, especially with the cream that was served with them. I didn't care much for the lemon curd or the strawberry perserve that was also brought out for the scones.

Spring petits fours (mini-cakes) were then brought out along with miniature cupcakes and berries. By this time, we were all quite full, so a lot of these desserts looked way too sweet to even attempt and ended up in the kids' tummies, but I did try both of them. Yep, the mini-cakes were too sweet, but the cupcakes were quite moist and delicious.

Then to end everything, little plates of strawberries romanoff were brought out. These were so-so, but thank goodness the plates were small.

It was then time for potty breaks and the huge bill with the 20 percent tip added and the expected complaints from our Asian parents about why this was so overpriced and not worth it and how for less than this price you could go to nice buffet in Vegas. I still think they enjoyed the experience at least. I agree, this is overpriced and we could do this at home for a fraction of the cost, but the goal was to feel pampered, and I think the Scarlet Tea Room accomplishes that. I haven't been to afternoon tea anywhere else to be able to compare, but my cousin liked her experience at the Ritz-Carlton better because you don't have to divvy up the sandwiches, but I think we had to due this do to our large group. Overall, this was to me a very enjoyable tea experience, but only for special occasions.

Scarlet Tea Room is located at 18 W Green St in Pasadena, CA (626) 577-0051

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wolfgang Puck at Sam's Club

You know, it's tough having kids in LA. Lugging around a carseat with a fat baby in it for 15 minutes while hubby tries to find parking in near 90 degrees weather is tough. And thinking you're ready to leave for a gig but having the baby barf all over your clothes at the last minute is tough. Such was my morning on the way to interview Wolfgang Puck at the El Monte Sam's Club grand reopening. Have you ever been to Sam's Club or Costco on a weekend? Try a grand reopening. Well, I'll just leave it at that.

You probably know Wolfgang Puck as the celebrity chef who caters to the stars on Oscar night or as the owner of famed restaurant Spago in Beverly Hills.I was given a grand opportunity to meet with the renowned chef while he was there promoting his cookbook, knife set, and cookware set. I was very happy I got my questions in, although the questions had nothing to do with any of the products he was promoting.

Me: Hi, I'm so and so with a locally based food blog. Can I ask you a few questions regarding your food products?

I left out the name of my blog because he'd probably look at me like I was nuts if he heard Shaved Ice Sundays.

Wolfgang: Sure.

Me: I was actually curious as to how you decided to go from Spago and catering to marketing food in a warehouse setting like Sam's.

Wolfgang then told me that he actually got the idea from those times when his patrons took food from his restaurants home.

I was thinking "really?" I thought that it would have been a bit more complex if he had had a revelation in his dreams or something from the Sam's Club gods.

Me: So Sam's didn't approach you at all with this idea?

Wolfgang told me it actually was his idea to approach Sam's Club.

Me: Can you tell me what the involved steps are when it comes to going from having this idea in your head to actually getting the finished product marketed and out to the people?

I guess Wolfgang did not want to go into a lengthy answer regarding all the nuisances that goes into creating a frozen food product, but he told me that being in the restaurant business, he has so many connections that it was an easy process to get it done.

Me: In the planning stages of creating a recipe for a frozen food product, do you have to take into special consideration the various ingredients and whether the quality would withstand the freezing process and packaging process? Do you feel like you ever have to compromise?

Again, I was thinking he'd come up with some foo foo answer, but he gave a very honest answer that surprised me, stating that he always tries to use the best quality ingredients possible in coming up with something and then hopes for the best when it goes through the process. He states that essentially you never know until you try it.

Me: I would get your book and knife set but I actually don't have a membership to Sam's.

Wolfgang asking a Sam's Club guy nearby, "Do you need a membership to purchase these?" The guy answers yes. Wolfgang says that someone can help me get a membership. I did not have time to wait in the huge line to get a membership, but I really wanted to get a signed cookbook for a giveaway drawing for my loyal readers. You know who you are. Of course, I couldn't let this chef get away without a photo with yours truly, and so I offer and he accepts kindly.

Me: Thank you so much for answering my questions!

Wolfgang: You're welcome, my dear.

I was very impressed with how this world famous celebrity chef was so down to earth and really didn't mind that I dragged him away from his commercial duties to talk to a foodblogger who mind you, is not even a year in the making. Thank you to the folks at Sam's Club for making this happen and for making Wolfgang so accessible, no matter how short a time. I'm just so glad that a little baby barf didn't stop me.