Beer, sausages and sunshine. Is there anything in life that goes together better? It's these three components that make up the bulk of the business plan at Picnik, the new restaurant in Pasadena from chef Eduardo Ruiz (also of Corazon y Miel). The restaurant is in partnership with Jack and Karen Huang, the owners of Bar Celona and Sorriso, also in Pasadena.
The property, which sits at the western end of Old Town Pasadena's retail strip, is actually a number of restaurant spaces surrounding a large outdoor patio space. In order to get the most out of this arrangement, Ruiz and crew have come up with an interesting model: to ask other vendors to set up shop in the space Picnik doesn't need.
So around the courtyard, other options are slowly cropping up. Some will be pop-ups, some more permanent. So far there's a Bulgarini Gelato stand (operating on weekends for now), and Zona Rosa Coffee, which began serving over this past weekend. There are also plans for cocktail pop-ups in the small upstairs bar space, beginning in a couple of weeks. The first will bring the bar team from Corazon y Miel on Monday nights for Punch at Picnik, which will feature exotic punch offerings by the glass and bowl. Punch will officially debut in two weeks.
But perhaps most exciting is Ktchn, a breakfast operation from Felix G. Barron, who has been popping up in the Gorbals space on weekends for a couple of years now.
Barron is serving an incredibly inventive breakfast menu in the large space on the opposite side of the courtyard from Picnik, complete with a full bar in back. The food is a welcome change from regular brunch and breakfast offerings. (Seriously, why, in the midst of the food revolution, does brunch continue to be so uninspired?) It's hard to choose from dishes such as duck hash with duck confit, a coddled egg, and duck fat hollandaise; and habanero scramble with goat cheese and pumpkin seeds.
We ended up trying the "peas and carrots," which turned out to be one of the best breakfast dishes I've had in a restaurant in years. Eggs are scrambled with pea tendrils, pea harissa and aged cheddar, then topped with a drift of fresh pea tendrils dressed in a brown butter vinaigrette. The plate comes with a very good brioche roll and a crispy potato hash, and is showered with sweet and salty carrot chips.
We also had "the basic," which is as close as you'll come at Ktchn to a traditional breakfast, with two sunnyside eggs, well-crisped thick slices of pork belly, and that same potato hash. And we fell hard for the apple fritters, which are basically apple doughnuts served with a julienne of tart apple on top. Ktchn is serving breakfast and brunch daily from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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We stopped by later in the day for a look at the menu at Picnik, where Ruiz is collaborating with Michael Puglisi, formerly of Bouchon, to make fresh sausages in-house. There are interesting sausage varieties, like the Malaysian, which was subtle in its chile, citrus and shrimp paste accents. We also tried the sardine and shaved fennel sandwich, which was oddly quite sweet (as in, the fish itself tasted as though it had been soaked in a sugar cure).
There's a great selection of craft beers on tap, and the patio tables - each with a selection of mustards in squeeze bottles - are a lovely place to sit and eat and drink.