Friday, November 10, 2006

Foodventure #14: Red White + Bluezz (Pasadena)

Ever since Red White + Bluezz opened earlier this year, my interest has been piqued every time I pass by this place (much of it attributed to their clever naming - it's a wine bar that also features live jazz music, thus the reds, whites, and blues!) It sits on the south side of "Old Town" Pasadena area on Raymond & Green, where there is a growing wine presence in the area, with another fairly new Bodega wine bar in the Paseo, the Nose wine cellar in Playhouse district & the upcoming Vertical wine bistro in the northside of Old Town.

(sorry about dim picture - will see if I can make an improvement on this later.)

Anyways, I was promptly seated and given a large one-sheet menu, one side devoted to all its food - the reverse, to all its wine flights & cheese flight pairings. The prices don't look too bad for what they are, and the menu(designed by Gabriel Contreras, a cordon bleu graduate with cooking experience at Marriot Hotel & the
Parkway Grill) is full of interesting items, familiar foods with a definite twist such as fried mac'n cheese with sun dried tomato fondue, maple-mustard glazed halibut with grilled pineapple, and a pasta carbonara with craisins, pinenuts and applewood-smoked bacon. I think it's a nice mid-way, nothing too boring for adventure-seeking tastebuds, nothing too scary for the conservative eaters.

With blues being a big component to this restaurant, I definitely expected nice decor - which it delivered, the dining area looking like a contemporary villa bistro - accented with brick walls, large oil painting and lighting that's dimmed but also warm and inviting. And of course, groovy jazz music in the background (on Thurs-Sun. they boast live performers in the nighttime.) Very versatile - good for business colleague, group of friends and a date. The hostess was very attentive as well, very open about her preferences on the menu & since dining room is not packed, giving parties option of seating from the quieter corridor to the more bustling bar area, or the window tables for those wishing to peer out into the city streets. (there is also a back area where the jazz musician plays with a limited selection of food served - alas, no performances when I was there.)

Of course, going to a wine bar - I have to check out some wines. Here I decided upon one of their pre-arranged flights (they have 8, ranging from $12-$18) - the one I ordered in particular was the full-bodied blondes:

which includes a French Rosé, a California Chardonnay (Santa Maria) & a Paso Robles Viognier in 1.5 to 2 oz. pours in miniature wine glasses that I first thought was cute, but later discovered to be an impediment to me smelling the wine. I was also mildly turned off by the tasting notes on the wine placemat - relatively experienced wine folks know what to expect and probably prefer evaluating them w/o pre-conceived notions, and I'm sure less-experienced tasters would appreciate the actual waiter or sommelier coming over and briefly talk about it as opposed to reading it off the wine placemat. But having said that, all the wines were good - nice peachy and pineapply flavors (and of course, the buttery toastiness from the Chardonnay).

Along with the 3 wines, I got my appetizer -

Maryland Blue Crabcakes with a Mango-Papaya Chutney & Passion Fruit Aioli - jeebus this was yummy - lightly breaded (my guess would be with panko), full of lightly seasoned crabmeat and barely any mayo or filler, interestingly accented by the fruity chutney & aioli (which has more passion fruit taste than garlic.) The dish paired very well with any of the three wines -- a close-up inside look below:

Wanting to save room for dessert (not to mention some waistline inches and greens in the wallet), I opted for a salad as my main course. At the hostess' and waiter's suggestion, I dove for the:

Watermelon & Maytag Blue Cheese Salad with balsamic-tossed baby greens & a Tahitian vanilla honey drizzle - their signature salad, one of the few that I actually felt worth shelling out money for (though later I discovered that Gabriel disclosed the salad's not-so-secret recipe to Pasadena magazine Arroyo Monthly.) So many different textures and tastes - cool refreshing melon, the sweet wild honey, crumbly and slightly briny blue cheese and the sweet-tart leaves. A perfect summertime salad, even in November (in SoCal.) and went especially well with the Rose wine.

With neither course being too heavy, I felt less guilty about getting my week's worth of sugar, coming in the form of:

Black Forest Cube - with dark and white chocolate mousse over devil's food cake with a cherry within & on top. The wickedly sinful cube is then enrobed in chocolate and covered with sauce (the menu said caramel, but it tasted more like fudge.) The red syrup didn't have much taste (esp. after tasting the cake first), but I suspect that it's made with the maraschino cherry liquid - sticking with the dessert theme.

A peek inside -

A great dessert, just rich enough and very chocolately (though the white chocolate mousse definitely took a backstage to all the other dark components of the dish.) My only regret was not getting a cup of coffee to go along with this - it's just one of those sweets that cries for a caffeinated pairing. And so concludes my mainly-light and mostly-positive dinner at this jazzy joint.

The bill:
Crab cakes - $9 ($10 on menu)
Salad - $8
Dessert - $7 ($5 on menu)
Wine flight - $14
Pre tax/tip total - $38

The ratings:
Decor: 4.5/5 (this atmosphere works for me - there's not much of an outside view, but the combination of music and decorations keeps my attention to the interior.)
Value: 3.5/5 (I felt it was OK to good in terms of value, but I dined on their lighter dishes (which is around the $10 range) - not sure how money-worthy are their heavy entrees, priced around $20-$30.)
Service: 8.5/10 (Overall nice and knowledgable staff, the waiter was however slightly heavy on upselling)
Food: 18.5/20 (Yummy, delicious, Mmmmm...., Wowzers - how many different ways can I put this? nothing I had was disappointing in the slightest - only downer was the small wine glasses for the flights.)
Bonus/Demerit: -1 for actual prices differing from the listed menu ones, and no warnings about such change prior/during ordering.
TOTAL: 34/40 (A few minor miffs here and there - but definitely will be back.)

Other notes:
- Street metered and public parking available - usually not hard to find a spot on the street, so just bring some coins.
- Live jazz starts at 9pm (sometimes earlier, check their schedule) Thurs to Sun.
- They also feature 2 hour wine flight classes with sommelier doing wine lessons (I believe there's also some food served) - ranges from $40 to $60 per person.
- Also a good selection of cow/goat/sheep cheeses available, they even have cheese flights selections ($14) that correspond to their wine flights.

This wine bistro experience is a pleasant one, and while I look forward to other foodventures with other places - this seems like a reliable back-up place to bring out-of-towners or friends who want something a little different.

Red White + Bluezz
70 S. Raymond Avenue
Pasadena, CA


Anonymous said...

For help with the dim interior shot (and for low-light restaurant shots in general), try using a water glass to balance your camera and shooting without a flash. That's how I get a lot of good shots even in low lighting.

Chubbypanda said...

Also, use the slow shutter speed option on your camera. You'll need to have a very steady hand or base, but you'll pick up more ambient lighting that way.

That Black Forest Cube may be a reason to drive to Pasedena in and of itself.

- Chubbypanda


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