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The Amateur Gourmet
A.G. Newsletter #91: Intelligentsia Breakfast, Egg Salad at Europane, Cemetery Movies, The Avalon Hotel, Sotto

Hey Readers,

I had some of the best Chinese food of my life last week in the San Gabriel Valley. So good, in fact, I went back the next day to the same place to eat their food again. Check out my post---Two Days in the San Gabriel Valley: Lunches at Tasty Noodle House.

Remember how last week I went to Pasadena and ate a mediocre chicken sandwich at Europane? Well I decided to go back to give the place another shot and to try their famous egg salad sandwich (which is on L.A. Weekly's Best of L.A. list).

First, though, I breakfasted at Intelligentsia, Pasadena. And it was a very good breakfast indeed.

That's a big slice of banana bread and a cappucchino with a flower made out of milk. The barrista was such a perfectionist that when he made it the first time, he didn't like his work, so he dumped it down the sink and started again. He didn't even say anything about it; I just watched him say "shit" and pour it out and do it again. That's what I call dedication!

So a lovely start to the day in Pasadena.

Then I had the famous Europane egg salad sandwich.

Good people, I know I was hard on Europane last week, calling their chicken sandwich with hummus mushy and unpleasant. I thought Europane would redeem itself with this sandwich, but--there's no kind way to say this: I really hated it.

First of all, it's unwieldy. I tried to lift it to my mouth and got egg all over my face (literally). I had to use a knife and fork.

That would've been ok, if the egg salad was amazing. It wasn't. Yes, the eggs were nicely cooked (that's where all that golden yellow color comes from, properly cooked eggs) but they were way underseasoned. In fact, I'd wager they weren't seasoned at all. They just tasted like mashed up eggs with mayo.

And that's pretty much what you get: mashed up eggs with mayo, no salt, on toasted bread spread with some kind of sun-dried tomato concoction. 

Properly seasoned egg salad can be an extraordinary experience. I've been known to sing my own praises in the egg salad-making department. I've done it with anchovies and sun-dried tomatoes. I even wrote a moving essay about my step-grandmother's egg salad. I know my egg salad. 

This stuff wasn't good egg salad. It wasn't a good sandwich. Europane is now 0 for 2 for me and I won't be heading back any time soon. My apologies to the city of Pasadena (though I enjoy your Intelligentsia!).

This weekend, we did something very cool. We saw a movie at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery! (Here's the info.)

The scene:

Our friend Brendan (on the left) arranged all this and brought along his friend Danny (on the right):

I brought along a roasted broccoli couscous salad (something I may blog about this week) and Bourbon coconut pecan blondies (something I'll definitely blog about this week).

The movie was "Sunset Blvd." and it was projected on to the crypt where silent movie legend Valentino is buried.

We were also a stone's throw from Paramount Studios, a studio that figures prominently in the story of the film. If you haven't ever seen "Sunset Blvd.", you really must. It's so sharp and smart and funny and dark--it has a lot to say about our ability to delude ourselves as we go through life. That Billy Wilder was a talented dude.

On Friday, Craig and I had a date night. We started with drinks at the Avalon Hotel:

This is one of those secret Hollywood hotels where movie stars come because it's lowkey and off the beaten path. We didn't see any movie stars there, of course, but we did eat this plate of meat and cheese while sipping wine:

It was pretty tasty; though the guy who brought the tray, a fidgety fellow, almost had a nervous breakdown when after he described the various meats and cheeses I asked him "what's stuffed into those peppers?" It was as if I asked him for the code to turn off a nuclear missile. I told him it was ok after he'd stuttered and stammered for a full minute. After tasting one, I'm glad I didn't know what it was (I'm guessing eggplant spread): it tasted a little off.

After the Avalon Hotel, it was off to Sotto for dinner. I'd been meaning to go here ever since we were turned away in the fall for showing up without a reservation.

Let me cut to the chase: Sotto is awesome. Just the kind of food I love in a really pleasant, friendly atmosphere.

We loved the female bartender who mixed me this drink, La Pesca Gustosa, with muddled peaches and sage, fresh lemon juice, Cognac, Applejack brandy, Combier and Aperol:

It was a mighty fine summer cocktail.

Once at the table, Craig and I shared these light and flavorful pork meatballs:

A fava bean dip with octopus on top:

Really good bread that the waitress suggested we order (for $3) because it's made in-house in the wood burning oven (they bake it in the residual heat of the oven overnight). It was indeed notably tasty:

Craig loved his pizza of Guanciale, ricotta and fennel pollen:

The crust had really developed flavor from the wood burning oven, though it did get a little soggy the longer it sat.

I loved my fusilli with rabbit ragu:

Though it was bit of a paltry portion for $19. I understand the primi concept of Italian menus--the pasta should be a small portion, traditionally speaking--but that's usually as a first course before a secondi. This is on the menu as an entree and, as such, they should either give you more or warn you that it's not a huge portion.

The only thing that I actively didn't like at Sotto was the dessert: cannolis that were a little too greasy, a little too sweet.

But at this point we were positively stuffed, so we really didn't need dessert to begin with. ("But who ever NEEDS dessert?" I like to say when Craig tries to get me not to order it.)

And that's all for this week folks!

Check out the blog tomorrow and later in the week for that blondie recipe, a post about turning heirloom tomatoes into dinner, and a few other things I have up my sleeve.

Until next time....

Your friend,
Adam (The Amateur Gourmet)

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