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.
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.
Taste of Italy will see its 11th year in Downtown Los Angeles, transforming the plaza surrounding the historic El Pueblo monument and across from Union Station into an Italian Piazza for one very special night. Benefitting the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (IAMLA), Taste of Italy is set to bring it a who’s-who of Italian restaurants and wineries from throughout the city.
IAMLA provided a sneak preview of some of the tastes to behold at the festival, with a pairing menu at Hermosa Beach’s Sosta, a Taste of Italy participant. Opening last year under longtime South Bay Italian Chef Luca Manderino, Sosta showcases homey favorites alongside inventive creations. Crudo di branzino, heavenly prosciutto and seared ribeye were a few crowd favorites, but ultimately it was the house-made gnocchi al gorgonzola that took the cake. We can only hope that such velvety, melt-in-your-mouth potato pillows make their way to the main stage.
Wines served included Custodi Belloro Orvieto D.O.C. Classico, 2015; Tenuta Carretta Nebbiolo, 2017; and Cascina Adelaide Barolo, 2013. Expect pours from PRP Wine International, San Antonio Winery, Lyra Fine Wine Importers and Castoro Cellars, among others, at Taste of Italy.
Additional restaurants are set to include Factory Kitchen, Celestino Ristorante, Drago Centro, Colombo’s Italian Steakhouse and Jazz Club, Osteria Cal Mare, Brera and Black Market Gelato, among many others.
Taste of Italy is set to take place from 5 – 10pm on Satruday, Oct. 12, with an expected attendance of 2,500 people. Proceeds go to The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to showcasing the ongoing contributions of Italian Americans in Southern California and the nation. IAMLA is located in DTLA’s Italian Hall, constructed in 1908 and is among the oldest remaining structures from Los Angeles’ historic Little Italy. More information and tickets for Taste of Italy available at IAMLA.org/Taste-of-Italy.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.