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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mi Piace - Pasadena (Old Town)

Should I zoom in straight to the food? Or zoom out and give you a story? How many of you just look at my pictures, and how many of you actually read what I write? :P Should I start the story back when lil' sis was actually little and all about Disney, and one of my friends gave her an Aladdin tape? Or when she got hooked on my parents' Paris by Night videos and developed a crush on Don Ho, so my college roommate sent her a postcard with his picture? (No, not the Hawaiian Don Ho, but the Vietnamese American Don Ho.) Or when she was in elementary school and studying whales, so one of my college friends, who was volunteering at a wildlife conservancy that summer, sent her pictures of a whale tail and spout he saw off the coast of Brazil? Needless to say, I find it very touching when my friends are not only good to me, but to lil' sis as well. So I thought it was a very nice gesture when Henry Chan's Food Videos invited lil' sis out to dinner with us at his favorite restaurant, Mi Piace in Old Town Pasadena. I should zoom out just a little bit for this story as well. A few months back, lil' sis came home from the gym and said she thought she saw my friend Henry but wasn't sure so she didn't say hi. He said, "A wave would work wonders." And sure enough, the next time they ran into each other, he waved madly. She, however, was slightly embarrassed since she said she didn't know him. Actually, she said she doesn't consider it "knowing" someone until she's eaten with them. Well, saying that to a food blogger is sure to get you a dinner invite. Which is exactly what happened. On that night, lil' sis and I had barely woken up from our naps 15 minutes before we were due to meet Henry for dinner. Luckily, he was running late because: Groggy + hungry = a very, very grumpy lil' sis. She perked up when the free focaccia bread came out. By the time Henry showed up, the two of us had polished off the whole bowl. We were slightly chagrined. He just laughed. We also told him we picked two pasta dishes and he needed to pick a meat, and might we suggest the grilled half chicken? Oh yeah, we're shameless. But after asking if he could look at the menu first, Henry gamely went along with our choice. Good move. Here's the free focaccia bread. Was this the first, or the second bowl? Henry ordered an Arnold Palmer, half lemonade, half iced tea. Only one refill with this drink. I never knew Henry Weinhard made root beer! And I call myself an Oregonian? Gourmet soda. Draught style head. Can you feel my anticipation as lil' sis poured it into a frosty glass? Now that's stylin'! It was yummy! The ingredients listed vanilla extract and honey essence. A little less vanilla and a little more sassafras and it would have been perfect. The menu description said thin cut fries with cayenne pepper, garlic, oregano, and rosemary with spicy ketchup and honey Dijon mustard for $6.50. Sounded good. But really, except for seeing some red pepper dust, I couldn't taste any of those flavors. And the ketchup was not spicy. They were good as far as fries go, but if I had known they were going to be so ordinary, we would have chosen a different appetizer. The side-view lets you see how high the mound of fries truly was. Remember what I said about zooming in and out? Mi Piace is the type of restaurant that serves their food on gigantic plates. I ordered the ravioli al burro e salvia, otherwise known as ricotta and pumpkin ravioli in brown butter with sage and parmigiano for $11.95. Here's the close-up. Mmm. I love pumpkin ravioli and have never encountered a bad batch. The sage leaves were fried and crispy. The pumpkin was slightly spiced (as in pumpkin pie spiced and not chili pepper spiced) and still sweet. Lil' sis didn't much care for the sweetness, so Henry and I ate the remaining two. Lil' sis chose the gnocchi di spinaci e ricotta salata, housemade potato, spinach and goat cheese gnocchi with shaved roasted ricotta in a tomato, spinach, roasted garlic and basil sauce for $12.25. See what I mean about big plates? The gnocchi were light and fluffy, just perfect. Was it me or was it lil' sis who recounted the story of my one and only attempt at making spinach gnocchi? I boiled the spinach and potatoes and there was so much liquid I had to keep adding more and more flour and ended up with a very rubbery mess. No one could eat it, except my cousin's wife, who loved it so much she attempted to make her own. Lil' sis also peppered Henry with stories about how I "abandoned" her when she was only 5 years old, ie. I left for college. Meanwhile, Henry asked her what I call his Biggest Menu questions. The conversation went a little like this: Henry: How do you get cravings? Lil' sis: I dunno. Henry: How do you decide what you're going to eat? Lil' sis: I dunno. I look at Biggest Menu. Henry: Really? How often do you go onto the site? Lil' sis: Haha. I don't. Henry: How do you figure out where you're going to eat? Lil' sis: I call my cousins or friends and ask where we're going and tell them to call me back once they decide. Henry: What would make you take pictures of and upload pictures of food? Lil' sis: I don't. (This said with a facial expression that indicated the two of us were losers for doing so. Hehe.) The nice part about eating with familiar dining companions is that we've got our sharing routine down pat. So when my, er, Henry's grilled chicken came out, he promptly carved it up for sharing. This is the polla al prezzemolo, grilled half chicken stuffed with fresh herbs and garlic, served with sliced caramelized garlic and lemon sauce and parmesan mashed potatoes $15.50. The chicken was wonderful, crispy skin, juicy, lightly lemony and herby. The veggies were still crisp. I hate mushy veggies. The other side shows the creamy mashed potatoes. I had forgotten how much I like Italian food. Since it's so easy to make, I rarely go out for it anymore. And really, I don't know why people would opt to wait 90 minutes+ for a table at Cheesecake Factory, when they could just cross the street for a very nice meal here. We were stuffed to the gills and though we glanced at the dessert menu, lil' sis had her eye on something else that we noticed had just opened in Old Town. Before we left, we had to ask our super nice and very attentive waiter, Michael, what Mi Piace meant. He said it was shortened from the Italian word for "passion" and slang for "I like it." Or something like that anyway. Other posts about Old Town Pasadena: Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant - Pasadena (Old Town) Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ Dining - Pasadena (Old Town) Old Pasadena Film Festival - Pasadena (Old Town) Pinkberry - Pasadena (Old Town) Mi Piace 25 E. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91105 626-795-3131


  1. Henry: How do you decide what you're going to eat?
    Lil' sis: I dunno. I look at Biggest Menu.
    Henry: Really? How often do you go onto the site?
    Lil' sis: Haha. I don't.


  2. Tania,
    Can't you just picture lil' sis acting like that? :)

  3. LOL!!!!

    great times!

  4. haha i never knew i was so entertaining...but i have to admit reading it from someone elses perspective is a lot different! haha and besides...i cant help it if your friends like to give me gifts!

  5. I love butternut squash raviolis in that sage butter sauce. I had it a couple years ago and it's become a true favorite.

  6. Henry,
    Lil' sis says she wants to do it again.

    Lil' sis,
    You're not that entertaining. ;)

    Oooh, butternut squash ravioli sounds good too.


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