The long walk up the driveway of the famous Laurabelle A. Robinson House already encompasses more real estate than most people will own in their lifetime. Experiencing many of Pasadena’s finest restaurants serving up signature dishes across this breathtaking property, however, takes food festivals to a whole new level. There’s sometime truly special about biting into braised short rib whilst looking out over a private infinity pool and onto the sun setting behind the canyon.
This sense of allure has allowed the annual Festival of Fall to go 45 years strong, bringing together some of Pasadena’s finest for an evening of extravagant food and drink in the historic Laurabelle A. Robinson House (read: one of the grandest mansions you will ever see). This fundraiser event, which begins with a food festival and leads into a live auction, benefited AbilityFirst, a nonprofit organization dedicated to programming and support for children and adults with disabilities.
Circling around the mansion’s front entrance were Mi Piace, with decadent truffle mac ‘n’ cheese, Sushi Roku, with an intriguing tuna hand roll that incorporated fresh arugula and Parmesan, Celestino Ristorante with excellent Bolognese and Bone Kettle, serving impeccable fried rice. Walk through the mansion’s vast garden, which includes a blissfully fitting pumpkin patch, and arrive at a built-in outdoor bar taken over by Golden Road Brewing. Serving alongside them were Lawry’s and Tam O’Shanter, serving their iconic cuts, as well as NOOR with melt-in-your-mouth ravioli.
Another stroll took you to the basketball court, occupied by the likes of Roy’s Restaurant, El Cholo Café, Julienne Fine Foods & Celebrations, Gale’s Restaurant, and one of the night’s true standouts, Bacchus’ Kitchen, whose fried chicken tacos were truly something else.
A nature walk past the putting green and over a manmade stream took you to the main stage, where tables for 500 were set up amidst one of the grandest views in Pasadena. After a fun liquid nitrogen demonstration by SuperCool Creamery, emcee Jeff Michael of CBS2News took the mic for the live auction to begin. An opening donation of $15,000 kicked off strong support for AbilityFirst that continued through the night’s end, raising more than $260,000 in total.
The event honored LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger with the AbilityFirst Champion Awared, and included testimonials from numerous AbilityFirst participants and their families. Auction items included everything from experiences with the night’s participating restaurants to Tuscan getaways and yes, even a live puppy.
Festival of Fall will undoubtedly continue its momentum to 2020. For more information, visit AbilityFirst.org/events/festival-of-fall.
Fall means Oktoberfest across the beer world, and few are more prepared than The Dudes’ Brewing Co., known across Southern California for their myriads of ever-changing beers that stretch the boundaries of drinkable imagination. To bring in the season and celebrate Oktoberfest in their own right, The Dudes’ has released a seasonal fall beer selection that pays homage to German tradition.
At the helm of the release is Lead Pilot Brewer Marco Leyton, a well-built and well-bearded army veteran who began his brewing career while stationed in Germany. Leyton was quick to note that the fall beer lineup was absolutely a team effort, though it certainly couldn’t hurt to gain influence from Oktoberfest ground zero.
The beirhalle hefeweizen starts off the lineup, light in color with a mild finish but strong in depth and character. Certainly the kind of beer that lives up to its namesake, where with each sip one can visualize the endless communal tables in beer halls across Munich (or Stuttgart, which Leyton notes is as the German Oktoberfest that has far more locals and fewer tourists). Same goes with the Oktoberfest, which has a crisp, clean mouth feel primed for enjoying many times over the course of a day (or four).
The Dudes’ pumpkin ale is the newest edition to the famed juicebox fruit series, and everything that a pumpkin spice addict could ever want in a beer. It’s equally smooth as the rest of the beer lineup, so no overpowering hints of clove or nutmeg, but enough pumpkin essence to easily make the point. And to round it out, you’ve got grandma’s pecan brown, an always-loved icon at The Dudes’.
Each of these beers finds an excellent pairing with The Dudes’ expanded food menu, which is now way beyond the original pizza, salad and pretzel concept that they debuted when first deciding to add a kitchen to select taprooms. The Dudes’ takes as much care in their food as they do their beer, making virtually everything from scratch. House-made bruschetta pairs nicely with the hefeweizen while their pretzels, complemented with an addictive beer cheese sauce (made with The Dudes’ own beer, of course), are a natural fit with the Oktoberfest. The pumpkin ale goes with a house-made burrata and the pecan brown with some excellent steak chimichurri bites.
Pizza remains a staple, with specialties like the sausage mushroom white and the margherita going well with just about anything from the extensive beer lineup. And while beers and food vary by location, The Dudes’ continues to expand with huge plans for new locations. Stay tuned for new opening announcements. TheDudesBrew.com
Old Town Pasadena put on a clever spin on food events, melding together the city’s restaurants together with its boutique retail shops for an intriguing walking food tour. WinePas was designed to showcase some of the town’s quaint and tasteful (in more ways than one) highlights while raising money for the Pasadena Educational Foundation, which supports grants for the city’s teachers.
Some of those local teachers doubled as guides for this special evening, donning pastel-orange shirts and leading small groups through narrow corridors just off the Old Town’s iconic Colorado Boulevard. It was a new discovery of the area, even for the most seasoned Pasadena locals.
While most food tours lead groups through restaurants, WinePas took a different approach by bringing restaurants and guests alike into local retail shops. The first stop took people into Gold Bug, a specialty trinket store with exotic merchandise sourced from across the world, where amidst gemstones and faux cow skulls stood a booth for Bone Kettle, who served their papaya salad and steak tartare.
The process repeated five times, where patrons got a new tandem dining and shopping experience each step of the way. Maestro’s ceviche and take on Mexican street corn, The Pan’s everything pizza, and Fish Wives’ crab cakes were some of the additional culinary highlights, hosted in retail shops Finn + Willow, Fresh and Sugarfina respectively.
The tour ended at The Celler, an alluring ‘hidden’ wine room in the heart of Old Town. Michael Calderon, regionally acclaimed as “Mr. Pasadena,” served as the event’s Title Host and Sponsor and was present to spread jubilance throughout the experience. Calderon played a large role in planning the event as well as funding it, and spoke to combining retail and food as a means to expose patrons to the community in a new way.
All proceeds from WinePas go directly to the Pasadena Educational Foundation. Whether this becomes an annual festivity is to be determined, but it was undoubtedly met with great enjoyment for all who participated. For more information, visit WinePas.com.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.