California Vacay: Pasadena


Our vacation began in Pasadena.

Wait, do you remember THIS poll?

Yeah. Well, we didn’t end up going to any of those places. Our goal is to travel internationally every year. However, the back surgery I had this year drained much needed vacation time and funds for such a trip.

So when I found out that my friend Erika was getting married in Pasadena, I said to my husband, “That’s what we are going to do instead!” Not only could we celebrate the special occasion with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time, but we could also get a taste of Los Angeles and then drive down to Temecula Wine Country.

Why Temecula?

I’ve been to Sonoma. We’ve been to Napa. It was time to try something new. And a friend suggested Temecula because she said it’s more laid back than the other two well-known wine regions. But we’ll get to that tomorrow – on Wine Wednesday!

Our first day started out by waiting in this 1 hour and 45 minute line to get our “reserved” rental car:

014It was followed by another 15 minutes to stand in a line with our paperwork to get said car. While I could complain, the rental cost us half the amount it did when we rented for the same amount of time for our wedding in Pensacola in 2010. I told Rob that instead, we should think of it as them paying us $150 for standing in line for two hours.

Then, there’s the traffic. At first, we didn’t understand what all of the fuss was about. But time lost due to the rental car line and a little bit of traffic kept us from stopping in Chinatown on our way to Pasadena. We wanted to check out the Phoenix Bakery, which the groom’s family owns! #fail

But we were going slowly enough that Rob made me take a photo of this exit sign:015~

That night, we spent catching up with friends from Milwaukee who just moved to L.A. this year! It was a gorgeous night sitting outside at the Yard House. There’s an excellent selection (over 50) of beers on tap, which is pretty remarkable for a growing chain restaurant. We had to try a few pints of California beers and maybe a couple from out of state that we can’t get in Minnesota. I personally thought it was fun to try a Youngberry Chocolate – half Lindeman’s Framboise, half Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. It appears we’ll be getting a Yard House in St. Louis Park in 2014. I’ll only go, though, if they put some local stuff on tap and support the little guys!

Rob was quite pleased with his food, too. He ordered a burger or some sort and upgraded to the truffle fries. {Surprise, surprise!} He also ordered a side of Shiitake Garlic Noodles to split. I tried a few different street tacos. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of these because, fortunately, we focused our time catching up with our friends. It was the perfect place to do that! Great find, Juan!


The wedding was absolutely beautiful. It made me so happy to see Erika so happy! We had a long lull between the wedding (10:30am) and the reception (6pm), so we went to lunch with our friend Lisa to one of Craig & Erika’s favorite restaurants in Pasadena – The Green Street Restaurant. It was highly recommended by Erika to order the Dianne Salad, but I didn’t because I thought I wanted something more substantial. All we had for breakfast was the Starbucks Coffee in the hotel room. {Yay, Westin for that perk!}

Here’s what we ordered instead:

Pimento Cheese Bacon Burger with an upgrade to the Potato Chips with Carmelized Onion Dip

Pimento Cheese Bacon Burger with an upgrade to the Potato Chips with Carmelized Onion Dip

Rob really enjoyed this burger. The chips were really good, too!

Caprese Sandwich - La Brea Bread grilled with olive oil topped with fresh mozzarella cheese, roasted tomatoes, tomato-caper spread and pesto with a side of fruit

Caprese Sandwich – La Brea Bread grilled with olive oil topped with fresh mozzarella cheese, roasted tomatoes, tomato-caper spread and pesto with a side of fruit

This sandwich was good, but it didn’t knock my socks off. I really should have just listened to Erika! I mean, in college, we used to go to Perkins late in the night to order those Bread Bowl Salads and talk until the wee hours…


Before entering the restaurant, I saw a wine shop next to a cheese shop right across the street. Ding Ding! Knowing that we’d have more time after lunch, I begged Rob and Lisa to stop there afterwards. Maybe we could find some wine to pick up for later? The Wine Detective indicated that there was a tasting going on. I didn’t have to beg them too long. 😉

But I was wrong.

This wasn’t a typical wine shop where you buy bottles of wine. It’s more of a… Wine Tasting BAR! Have you ever been to one of these before?

033Here’s how it works. First, you get a card with a $50 credit. They take your credit card to start your “tab.” You take your card to the stations which consist of 16 white and 32 red wines. Let me just say, these are high end wines. They are wines that you probably wouldn’t be able to get a glass of or taste unless you were at the vineyard, at a specified tasting or bought an entire bottle.

Then you insert your card into the slot of the station that corresponds with the wine you want to try.

The red numbers indicate the cost for a one ounce tasting pour. If you want to try it, just push the button for the machine to dispense the wine from the bottle. I photographed this one because it was our favorite. There was a Chateauneuf-du-Pape that came in 2nd place for us. {Can someone say graham cracker flavors?!}

The Wine Detective just opened for the day when we arrived, so we had the place to ourselves. However, there is space to sit and relax and enjoy happy hour or time with friends like you would at any wine bar. For the wine above, you could enjoy it by the glass for $12, if you’d like. I think the employees would need to dispense that for you though? Or maybe you’d dispense it four times for four ounces? We didn’t get that far! We were too busy tasting. We also learned that the price per bottle was for here {corkage} / to go.

When you are done tasting, you bring your card to the front and the amount you used from your $50 card is charged to your credit card. At first I was a little nervous tasting $2 – $4.50 one-ounce pours so quickly. I thought we’d rack up a hefty bill. But then Rob pointed out, “Look at all of the expensive wines we may have never had the opportunity to taste unless we bought a whole bottle!” POINT. We did enjoy a nice taste of Brunello. 😉 I don’t think any of these wines were under $30/bottle. But then again, we only tasted reds.


Before the reception, Lisa and I got to be flies on the wall at the Tea Ceremony. As explained to us by one of the groom’s uncles {I think}, this is a Chinese tradition in which the groom’s family officially accepts the bride into the family. Each couple in the family comes up to formally sip some tea and pass the couple a red envelope with a {generally monetary} gift. The groom’s mom often offers a piece of jewelry, sometimes one that has passed down within the family. It is done with every married couple in the family, starting with the grooms parents and then from eldest to youngest couples. There was a lot of joking around going on! While I know it is tradition, I loved seeing that everyone was having fun with it, too.


The reception, too, was beautiful. Look at these gorgeous centerpieces! I loved the tradition of each of the fathers introducing their families that were present.037Overall, we had a great time in Pasadena. Who knows when we will be back? Perhaps for a Rose Bowl game? My high school band played there in 2012! In fact, Erika was at that game and texted me when she saw them!

In any case, we know we have friends in the Los Angeles metro area, so it’ll be a great destination whenever we want to get away from these Minnesota winters. 😉

Have you been to any unique wedding ceremonies or witnessed cultural wedding traditions?



5 responses »

  1. Yep, I’ve seen those wine pours – they were actually at a high end movie theater that my step-son worked at in Austin, but it didn’t go over very well, and they got rid of it. It is a great way to try some cool wines though!

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