A Penchant for Pasadena

A Penchant for Pasadena – a visit to the City of Pasadena, California

Arabelle De Monceau

MENTION PASADENA AND PEOPLE THINK OF TREE-LINED streets, historical homes, shopping on Colorado Boulevard, and football at the Rose Bowl. But while they will not have missed the mark, they will have distilled but a small essence of Pasadena.

Located just fifteen minutes north of downtown Los Angeles with a population of only 135,000, Pasadena is a microcosm of culture, architecture, history, entertainment and shopping in just a few walkable blocks. Yes, in Pasadena, you can walk. You can also — gasp! — take the bus, and a free one at that!

It’s small wonder that the City of Pasadena delivers over 550 film permits every year. Nestled in a valley at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, Pasadena — whose name, signifying “Crown of the Valley,” derives from the Chippewa dialect — was established in 1886 by wealthy Midwesterners desperate for a retreat from frigid winters. The location had everything to appeal to them: clear air, breathless views of the surrounding mountains and orange groves, a balmy Mediterranean climate averaging 76 degrees year-round, and plenty of land on which to establish vast mansions, Victorian rose gardens, and graceful public monuments. The transplants, who included chewing gum magnate William Wrigley and David Gamble of Proctor & Gamble, spared no expense in building elegant abodes whose grandeur rivaled that of their primary residences.

They invested so much energy and money into the city, in fact, that 1,000 of its buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These include The Gamble House, a masterpiece of American Arts & Crafts architecture designed and built in 1908 by Pasadena architects Greene & Greene; the Pasadena Civic Center District, in which the new Paseo Colorado shopping, living and entertainment complex is located; the Fenyes Mansion, a 1905 Beaux Arts structure that offers a glimpse into the extravagant lifestyle enjoyed by the residents of Orange Grove Boulevard, otherwise known as “Millionaire’s Row,” in the early 1900s; and the Colorado Street Bridge, originally constructed in 1913 and restored in 1994.

Over the years, successive generations of residents and businesses continued the tradition, so that Pasadena also offers striking examples of mid-20th century architecture, like the Wallace Neff Bubble House at 1907 South Los Robles Avenue, and the Richard Neutra Clark House at 1780 Devon Road.

Last but not least, Pasadena is the birthplace of national treasures Julia Child, baseball legend Jackie Robinson, and Olympic champion Mack Robinson. You can admire the larger-than-life bronze sculptures of the two brothers on Centennial Square across from Pasadena City Hall.

Pasadena residents like to say that the left and right side of the brain are equally served in their fair city. Ponder this: Pasadena is home to the California Institute of Technology, an institution of higher learning specializing in space technology and seismology — this is where Charles Richter invented the Richter scale for measuring the amplitude of earthquakes. Its faculty and alumni have received a total of twenty-seven Nobel Prizes and forty-three National Medal of Science awards.

Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the leading U.S. center of planetary exploration for NASA, developed the Mars Polar Lander and the Cassini Mission to Saturn, no less. Among the world’s creative leaders graduated by Art Center College of Design, the nation’s leading four-year college for the visual arts, are more than half of its car designers, to whom we owe, over the years, the Chevrolet Corvette, Cadillac Eldorado, Mazda Miata, the new Volkswagen Beetle and … the Batmobile.

From the winter playground of the very rich, Pasadena has evolved into a year-round haven for the discerning visitor. Spend a weekend here and its vibrant blend of history, culture and hipness will work its magic on you.

For a small city, Pasadena also has an amazing selection of world-class museums and several interesting galleries. To visit them, hop on the free Pasadena ARTS buses, which travel through Old Pasadena, the Playhouse District, and the South Lake Avenue shopping area and keep your eyes peeled for the extensive Public Art Collection of abstract, figurative, analytical and whimsical creations. Hitch a ride at any of the convenient stops along the way and step off whenever you feel like it; the buses run every twelve minutes Monday through Saturday.

Located on the corner of Orange Grove and Colorado Boulevards at the intersection of the Foothill (210) and Ventura (134) freeways, the Norton Simon Museum spans the arts of the ages, from 14th to 18th century masterpieces by Raphael, Botticelli, El Greco, Poussin, Fragonard, Chardin, Canaletto and Tiepolo to 19th century Impressionists and Post-Impressionists Renoir, Monet, van Gogh, and Cezanne and 20th century masters Braque, Picasso, Matisse, Klee and Kandinski. The museum also features an extensive collection of Degas drawings and bronzes, sculptures by Rodin, Maillol, Giacometti and Brancusi, and a remarkable Sculpture Garden highlighting the art of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Until October 20th, noted paintings and works on paper by Ellsworth Kelly, Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland and Fran Stella will be on display in The Chromatic Eye: New York Paintings and Prints from the 1960s. 411 West Colorado Boulevard, 626-449-6840.

The Pacific Asia Museum is a small treasure trove of more than 12,000 objects from Asia and the Pacific Islands. Wrapped around a lovely central Chinese courtyard garden, the galleries house stunning collections spanning 5,000 years of ancient arts including Buddhist sculptures, Chinese jade carvings, Asian textiles, Japanese paintings from the world-renowned Harari Collection, and Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramics, bronzes and paintings. Until September 31st, The Nature of the Beast offers a stunning exhibition of Japanese animal paintings, prints and drawings from the Edo period (1600-1868). In October, explore Myanmar’s music, dance, and crafts during the Myanmar Festival on October 20th. 46 North Robles Avenue, 626-449-2742.

Located on the 207 acre estate of the late Henry and Arabella Huntington, the Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens will enchant you with 18th and 19th century British and French paintings, sculptures and tapestries, a collection of rare books and manuscripts including The Canterbury Tales and The Gutenberg Bible, and wonderful 150 acre botanical gardens offering 14,000 varieties of plants. 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, 626-405-2100.

Back in the heart of town, DNFA Gallery specializes in contemporary American realism, with landscapes, still lifes and portraits by artists such as R. Kenton Nelson, Ray Turner, Sally Storch, Margaret Caldwell, and Steve Huston. Its fall calendar includes a solo exhibition of Francis Livingston and a special exhibit by Nancy Popenoe from September 8th through October 6th and a solo exhibition of oil paintings by Steve Huston along with a special viewing of oil paintings by Jerry Wayne Downs from October 13th through November 10th. 41 North Fair Oaks Avenue, 626-792-5031.

In October, National Arts & Humanities Month, Pasadena comes alive with events celebrating its cultural heritage. October 10th is State Day of the Arts, in which arts institutions countywide host open houses. On October 12th, cultural institutions will stay open and offer free entrance late into the night as part of Art Night, the kickoff for Late Night Pasadena’s program of quarterly late-Friday-night openings and events at museums four times year.

In homage to Halloween, Kidspace Children’s Museum offers its annual Haunted House, a safe and imaginative alternative to door-to-door trick-or-treating. 390 South El Molino Avenue. 626-449-9144. Halloween on South Lake Avenue celebrates the scariest night of the year with free treat bags, costume contests, and a balloon artist.

If you can never get enough of Hollywood, don’t miss Hollywood Comes to Pasadena at the Pasadena Historical Museum from September 23rd through January 12, 2002. The exhibition chronicles the current and past roles of Pasadena and its surrounding communities in the film, television and pop music industries. Among the many historical treasures featured are film footage of Pasadena shot by Thomas Edison and D.W. Griffith between 1989 and 1913, costume designs by Bob Mackie, and a tribute to the work of Disney animators Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas and Ward Kimball. 470 West Walnut Street, 626-577-1660.

Built in 1931, the Pasadena Civic Auditorium plays host to the People’s Choice Awards, NAACP Image Awards, and the Pasadena Symphony, whose 74th season features a semi-staged production of Korgold’s arrangement of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring a full orchestra, children’s choir, actors and soloists, three all-Mozart programs, and an eclectic range of major works by Debussy, Brahms, Rossini, Beethoven, Shostakovitch, Bernstein, Britten and Bartok under the tutelage of Music Director Jorge Mester. Music lovers aged 5 to 17 pay only $5 at the Symphony, which also presents eight free Musical Circus Programs for children. Meanwhile, the Pasadena Civic Auditorium Musical Series features a range of Broadway musicals, ballets, operas and lectures. From October 9th through 14th, your heart will beat for Cosette and Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, followed by Tap Dogs in November and — what else? — The Nutcracker in December. 2500 East Colorado Boulevard, Suite 260, 626-793-7172, ext. 10.

With an entire district named after it, the Pasadena Playhouse State Theatre of California has been home to writers, actors, designers and directors for over 75 years. It was the first theatre in America to produce William Shakespeare’s entire canon of work and has also produced world premieres of plays by Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill and others. This fall, David Mamet’s A Life in the Theatre, a drama about an aging veteran and an aspiring young star, will rivet you until October 21st. The mood will lighten with Plaid Tidings, a musical entertainment for the entire family that will run from November 2nd through December 16th. 39 South El Molino Avenue, 626-356-PLAY.

Pasadena is also home to another institution of a different nature. Since 1960, about three million people have come here to dine on steak, seafood and fettuccine while splitting their sides from the antics of the greatest comedians in the country at The Ice House, the oldest stand-up comedy club in the world. This is where Steve Martin was discovered. Lily Tomlin, Bob Newhart, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld and Billy Crystal have also performed in front of the 200 capacity crowd. Scan the walls for the 1978 framed contract awarding a young David Letterman the princely sum of $250 for eleven shows a week. 24 North Mentor (off East Colorado Boulevard), 626-577-1894.

Everyone has heard of the Rose Bowl, home to college football championship games, World Cup Soccer, and the annual Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl game. If you happen to be visiting on the second Sunday of any given month, wake up at the crack of dawn to catch the best deals at the Rose Bowl flea market, a regular haunt for Los Angeles homeowners.

Finally, if you enjoy outdoor activities, the 132-acre Arroyo Seco is an ideal place for a bike, a hike, a round of golf on two 18-hole championship courses at Brookside Golf Course, or a swim at the AAA Rose Bowl Aquatics Center.

PASEO COLORADO

Pasadena residents and those of nearby Los Angeles are looking forward to the September 28th opening of Paseo Colorado, an urban village set on three blocks along Colorado Boulevard (actually a segment of historic Route 66) in the heart of Civic Center. Located between Marengo Avenue and Los Robles Boulevard and Green Street and Colorado Boulevard, Paseo Colorado provides a vital link between Old Pasadena on one side and the Playhouse District on the other end. It draws a sophisticated audience not only from Pasadena, San Marino, Arcadia and La Canada-Flintridge, but also Los Angeles.

Developed by TrizecHahn Development Corporation, Paseo Colorado’s design, which features buildings in soft Mediterranean colors builds on the ideas of architect Edward Bennett, who designed many of the buildings in the Civic Center in the 1920s. The project’s architects researched Bennett’s original plans and incorporated some of his ideas by reopening the Garfield Corridor (now called Garfield Promenade) that transects the property from Colorado Boulevard to Green Street. Just as in a real shopping district, all the stores and restaurants face toward the street or onto the Paseo, an intimate mercantile alley that bisects the interior part of Paseo Colorado horizontally from Colorado to Garfield. Around the property are 600 potted plants and miniature fruit trees, bistro tables and umbrellas, several fountains (including a pop-jet fountain for kids), and directional signs and directories in the arts and crafts style. Convenient direct-access validated parking is available in three multilevel parking structures with a total of 3,050 parking spaces.

Overlooking the two retail levels are four more levels of residential dwellings, which will be available for move-in in spring 2002. Developed by Post Properties, the studio, one- and two-bedroom rental apartments and lofts will feature unbelievable views of the San Gabriel Mountains, common terraced areas on the third level, and a host of urban amenities.

Anchored by Pacific Theatres, Gelson’s Super Market, and an upgraded Macy’s, this new lifestyle destination and community centerpiece features over 60 shops, such as Cole Haan, Tommy Bahama, J Jill, Coach, Max Studio, Lucky Brand Dungarees, Sephora, MAC Cosmetics, Quiksilver Boardriders, BCBG Max Azria, Ann Taylor Loft and Betsey Johnson, spanning 565,000 square feet of streetfront retail space set along wide walkways. The stores are open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 9pm and Sunday from 11am to 7pm. Some shops, restaurants and services have extended hours.

At the Fountain Court on the second level of the complex, eight sit-down restaurants such as Border Grill, PF Chang’s China Bistro, Cafe Med, and Bice offer outdoor seating under a fragrant wisteria-covered trellis and near a custom-tiled fountain. Visitors enjoy the most recent blockbusters at the Pacific Theatre complex, whose fourteen screen-multiplex with cushy stadium seating, digital sound, and wall-to-wall screens is located in the Cinema Forecourt and accessed by two grand staircases. Across from the movie theater are several quickservice restaurants and plenty of outdoor seating.

One of the most eagerly anticipated stores at Paseo Colorado is Gelson’s Super Market, a grocery store chain whose superb quality, exceptional cleanliness, and superior customer service have turned Californians into epicureans. Here, visitors fill their shopping carts with exotic and hard-to-find specialty items, fresh restaurant-quality foods prepared by on-site chefs, hand-cut meats, fresh-baked pastries and picture-perfect produce, as well as a sushi bar and the services of a full-time dietician.

Paseo Colorado features national brands as well as stores that have chosen the center for their first Southern California location. Located on the second level with windows overlooking Green Street, the beautiful 26,000-square foot Equinox health and fitness club offers a luxury fitness and wellness experience that aims to make fitness an integral part of your lifestyle. Drop off your toddler at the childcare center, change into your exercise gear in a spotless locker room, and head for one of the four fitness studios dedicated to yoga, spinning, Pilates and general fitness. If you’re a lounger, hire a personal trainer who will help you take full advantage of the cutting-edge cardio and strength-training equipment. When the hard part is done, relax with massage therapy, then make up for a few lost calories at the food and beverage bar. This is Equinox’s first club outside of the metropolitan New York area, where it already has eleven facilities.

Therapy is the new flagship store of the mother-and-daughter team of Courtney Page and Pattie Behrens, who also have boutiques in Portland and Santa Barbara. They offer hip, contemporary sportswear at better price points, from Diane von Furstenberg, Theory, Rebecca Taylor, and Isda and Co. to Margaret O’Leary sweaters, funky Tibi sportswear, and Susannah Monaco. Flutter features a range of casual, special-occasion, and contemporary women’s apparel by shoes and accessories by designers such as Votre Nom, Kay Unger, Lulu Guinness, Tarina Tarantino and Charles Jourdan, as well as a large selection of home decor items, table linens, and lamps over a space of 9,000-square feet. B. Luu offers fashionforward contemporary apparel for 20- to 40-year-old women.

Forget big bows and maternity collars. At Japanese Weekend Maternity, pregnant women stock up on creative, contemporary, and functional clothing, like designer Barbie White’s hip-hugger bellbottoms, cropped flare-leg jeans, and gabardine pants accented with gold chain belts. Pregnant or not, stop by the Amadeus Spa & Salon for a full range of hair, makeup and treatment services.

If you like the Elements Furniture and Gifts store in Studio City, you’ll love Laurie and David Turner’s new 12,000-square foot space at Paseo Colorado. Every room of the house is represented, with furniture (look for the clever Hampshire storage ottoman with matching double chair) for adults and children and a sizeable selection of rugs, lamps, pillows, and tabletop accessories.

Since its inception, Pasadena has been the playground for artists and intellects. Hence, Paseo Colorado will celebrate its grand opening on September 28th with a weekend of activities that will bring together the community and the world-renowned cultural institutions that make their home in Pasadena. On Friday, September 28th, a ribbon will be pulled and a drape covering the Garfield Promenade entrance at Colorado Boulevard will disappear to unveil the stunning view of the Civic Center. As people enter, air cannons will blast upward rose petal-shaped tissue discs. Street performers will create a festive village atmosphere.

Throughout the day, various locations in Garfield Promenade, Euclid Court and Fountain Court will display vignettes depicting Pasadena’s dedication to the Arts and Sciences, with participation from world-renowned institutions including Caltech, Art Center College of Design, Tournament of Roses, Pacific Asia Museum, Norton Simon Museum, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Kidspace Museum and more.

JPL, for example, will showcase a one-half size model of the 2001 Mars Odyssey. The Norton Simon Museum will display Andy Warhol’s original 100 Brillo Boxes. Caltech will honor the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize with an exciting exhibit.

On Friday evening at 8pm, Garfield Promenade will offer a free public concert by the Pasadena Symphony sponsored by Post Properties, Inc. The evening will be further enhanced by a dramatic display of world-renowned sculptures brought to life, inspired by the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach.

More than 100 Pasadena Unified School District students, supported by Caltech and Art Center College of Design mentors, were engaged over the summer in The City of the Future a collaborative art and science program. Working in teams, they developed a future image of the City of Pasadena. On September 29th and 30th, the completed projects will be displayed at various locations throughout the center. The festive atmosphere will continue throughout the weekend with live music, street performers, culinary demonstrations and informal modeling.

Throughout the opening weekend, don’t forget to enter opportunity drawings to win gifts from Paseo Colorado stores and restaurants and Pasadena-themed prizes. Tickets cost $1 each and all proceeds go to local charities. Customers who make purchases of $250 or more in a single day during the grand opening weekend will be offered a commemorative note card and pen set. The note cards were designed incorporating artwork from a fountain in the Garfield Promenade; the clip of the pen features a rose pattern from the center’s ironwork.

As a public realm in which people can live, work, shop, dine and play, Paseo Colorado provides just one more incentive for residents and visitors to come immerse themselves in the incomparable Pasadena lifestyle.

OLD PASADENA

Of Pasadena’s main shopping districts, the best known is probably Old Town Pasadena, a restored 20-block historic area lined with two hundred late-19th century buildings and European-style piazzas showcasing over 130 retail stores, galleries, antique shops, and restaurants. After partaking of a fresh-baked breakfast at Pasadena Baking Company (29 East Colorado Boulevard, 626-795-7529), start filling your shopping bag with goodies for the body and home at stores like a.b.s., A/X Armani Exchange, Canyon Beachwear, CP Shades, Banana Republic, Crate & Barrel, J. Crew, Urban Outfitters and Victoria’s Secret.

Even if your idea of a good meal at home consists of ordering in, Sur La Table’s selection of top-quality domestic and professional kitchen gadgets, knives, cookbooks, small appliances and linens over a whopping 5,4000-square feet will make you want to whip up your very own souffle. 161 West Colorado Boulevard, 626-744-9987.

Planning a trip? Head for Distant Lands Traveler’s Bookstore and Travel Outfitters (62 and 54 South Raymond Avenue, 626-449-3220). Considering writing a love letter, a journal, or printing wedding invitations? Mimio offers imported handmade papers and paper products, Italian fountain pens, and custom printing. 38 South Raymond Avenue, 626-685-9090.

Off Colorado Boulevard is One Colorado, a European-style shopping village with a courtyard and narrow alleyways. At Elisa B., you’ll stock up on fun fashions and accessories from Diane Von Furstenberg, Nanette Lepore, Betsey Johnson, Three Dots, Chaiken, and Development suits, as well as on Wasabi’s neo-Victorian amethyst, tanzanite, and Peruvian opal necklaces, Jeanine Payer sterling silver bracelets and B. Frank Style one-of-a-kind belts with vintage broaches, buckles and leather straps. 12 Douglas Alley, 626-792-4746.

Clean, functional designs combined with master craftsmanship and fluid mechanics await you at Waterworks, a haven for the homeowner (if you’re a renter, you can always take your $1000 polished mahogany toilet seat with you when you relocate). Bathroom furniture, bath textiles, furnishings, apothecary and personal care complement the offering. 35 North Fair Oaks Avenue, 626-568-3301.

Show Fido how much you love him with a gift of a fresh-baked pooch pretzel or Springer Spaniel Sprinkle from Three Dog Bakery, or have his name inscribed in carob icing on a Great Big Bone. To support animal charities, pick up Amazing Gracie, the book about a Dalmatian whose anorectic behavior inspired her owners to create this delightful canine eatery. 24 Smith Alley, 626-440-0443.

It’s 4pm and you’re in need of refreshment. Relaxtation tempts you with Asian snacks and iced or hot boba drinks made with huge tapioca beans, commonly referred to as black pearls, that you sip through a huge straw. The most popular boba drink is the black pearl milk tea, but my favorite is the refreshing almond milk tea. 43 North Fair Oaks Avenue, 626-304-9868.

For sustenance, Old Town Pasadena features four of the most popular restaurants in the city, Twin Palms owes its initial fame to the fact that it was cofounded by actor Kevin Costner and his then-wife Cindy Costner, but it has kept its edge thanks to a dramatic outdoor decor made up of two towering twin palms anchoring a well of white canvas sails, white-washed courtyard walls and scarlet bougainvillea and its California cuisine with influences from Southern France, the Mediterranean and the Pacific Rim to the accompaniment of live nightly music. The monthly lineup features an eclectic mix of rock, jazz, blues, funk and other styles performed by the area’s most popular bands. 101 West Green Street, 626-577-2567.

With two other locations in Hollywood and Santa Monica, Sushi Roku lures guests with mouth-watering sushi, hot and cold specialty appetizers like salmon wrapped in Daikon caviar and exotic entrees like baked cod in sweet miso, which celebrities and common mortals alike enjoy in a Zen-like atmosphere of bamboo, chiseled stone and wood or on a patio with a koi pond overlooking the cobblestone alleyways and lovely Art Deco architecture of One Colorado. Add to that a full-service bar, the largest selection of cold sakes in Los Angeles, and Sushi Roku’s own signature Asian martinis and you have a winner. 33 Miller Alley, 626-683-3000.

Along equally exotic lines, gourmet Chinese restaurant Yujean Kang’s (67 North Raymond Avenue, 626-585-0855) and the All India Cafe (39 South Fair Oaks Avenue, 626-440-0309) were recently ranked by Gourmet among the top restaurants in California.

PASADENA PLAYHOUSE DISTRICT

In business for over 30 years, florist Jacob Maarse employs a team of 17 full-time designers who concoct some of the most beautiful bouquets imaginable. The amiable Dutchman’s 32,000-square foot flower shop, rated #1 in Zagat’s 1999-2000 marketplace survey, is a haunt of Hollywood stars and Pasadena’s elite. Homegrown roses from the 2,000 blooming rose bushes on Maarse’s own Sierra Madre property, tulips imported daily from Holland, hydrangeas and orchids (including the heavenly chocolate orchid, which releases a mouth-watering cocoa scent at sundown) conspire to make this a fragrant paradise. 655 East Green Street, 626-449-0246.

Signum shirts from Germany, Torras leathers from Spain, Italian private-label suits and trousers and a great selection of private-label and Pancaldi neckwear have made Mark Piscitelli Men’s Fashions a neighborhood favorite for the past 10 years, since the store relocated here after 20 years on West Hollywood’s Sunset Plaza. 805 East Green Street, 626-578-7382.

To put yourself in a beatific mood, give yourself up to the skilled hands of Amadeus Spa’s estheticians, whose soothing and cleansing ministrations will perk you up for the evening ahead. (Amadeus just opened a second spa at the brand-new Paseo Colorado.) 799 East Green Street, 626-578-3404.

When the time comes to minister to your appetite, sample the menu of Five Sixty-One, the eatery run by the California School of Culinary Arts, which itself is an affiliate institution of the famed Le Cordon Bleu. 561 East Green Street, 626-405-1561.

SOUTH LAKE AVENUE

South Lake Avenue is the financial heart of the city and a prime-shopping destination. At the Commons Arcade, the Colonnade and Burlington Arcade, and Haskett Court, you’ll find fine food stores, imports, toys and flowers. In the avenue’s classic mid-century buildings, national chains such as Ann Taylor, Eddie Bauer, Men’s Wearhouse, Williams-Sonoma, Talbots, and Pier 1 Imports appeal to customers in search of one-stop shopping.

For sustenance, South Lake offers numerous mass-market restaurants, as well as more refined venues. Tuck into a crispy Peking duck or crab pot stickers with mustard-soy vinaigrette at Ducz, whose chef Fred Iwasaki trained under Wolfgang Puck at Chinois (110 South Lake Avenue, 626-792-9999) or live la Dolce Vita over a nice bottle of Chianti at Celestino Ristorante. 141 South Lake Avenue, 626-795-4006.

SAN MARINO

A haven for Old Pasadena families and wealthy entertainment industry executives, this enclave a few blocks east of Pasadena is a veritable little shopping mecca. On four lovely blocks, Mission Street offers an eclectic selection of specialty boutiques including Asanti Fine Jewellers, a high-end personal jeweler that sells exceptional colored stones and is an authorized agent for Patek Philippe, Cartier, Baume & Mercier, Bulgari, Mikimoto, and David Yurman. 2670 Mission Street, 626-403-0033. At Verona, you’ll slip your dainty feet into designs by Florence Girardier, Taryn Rose, Charles Jourdan, DKNY, Robert Clergerie and Lily Pulitzer, pick up a handbag by Francesco Biasia, Mitzi Baker, Mon Sace, Rasi, and Summer Tomkins, and complement the ensemble with hand-made silver and pearl costume jewelry by local artisans. 2533 Mission Street, 626-403-8300. Former production designer and assistant art director Tommy Farmer specializes in custom floral designs for debutante balls and weddings using seasonal flowers from from all over the world and offers a large and continuously changing selection of gifts (such as Williamsburg brass and Staffordshire porcelain), candles, decorative silver accessories, plant containers, and coffee table books. 2451 Mission Street, 626-403-9151.

At Padua, lush furniture, pillows, lamps, and throws cohabit with an eclectic selection of candles, soaps, Quimper pottery, Limoges porcelain boxes, sterling silver gifts, unusual antique art pieces, and oil paintings by Brazilian-French artist Juarez Machado. 2650 Mission Street, Suite 105, 626-441-5061. Impromptu is a great place for holiday-themed gifts (they do a huge Halloween business), Crabtree & Evelyn soaps and lotions, Vera Bradley cloth handbags, April Cornell dresses, rugs and home accessories. The tiny boutique also specializes in folk art. 2575 Mission Street, 626-441-1112.

For breakfast or lunch, relax on the patio of Julienne and enjoy the brasserie’s “soul cooking with a French feeling”, in the words of owner Susan Campoy, who named the place after a Parisian restaurant. Make sure not to count the calories as you sample the heavenly lemon creme brulee scones, the baked creme brulee French toast with fresh strawberry sauce, or the chicken tarragon salad sandwich on rosemary raisin bread. Julienne’s gourmet market makes prix fixe dinners and picnic bags for takeout. 2649 Mission Street, 626-441-2299.

Pasadena features five major hotels and eleven motels and inns. Set on twenty-three landscaped acres in the San Gabriel Mountain foothills, the Mobil Four-Star and AAA Four-Diamond Ritz-Carlton, Huntington Hotel & Spa renovated in 1991 features 392 guestrooms, a Club Level with personal concierge and complimentary food and beverage presentations, two restaurants, a 12,000-square foot fitness center and spa offering virtual reality fitness technology and a full-service salon, three lighted tennis courts, an Olympic-sized swimming pool with bar and whirlpool, and America’s only covered Picture Bridge displaying forty original oil paintings over a gabled roof. 1401 South Oak Knoll Avenue. 626-585-6434.

Located in the heart of downtown Pasadena, the Sheraton Pasadena Hotel offers 317 guest rooms, a Club Level offering complimentary continental breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres, a 24-hour business center, a heated outdoor swimming pool, lighted tennis courts, an exercise room, the new Soleil restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine, and a free shuttle within a five-mile radius. 303 East Cordova Street. 626-449-4000.

From the winter playground of the very rich, Pasadena has evolved into a year-round haven for the discerning visitor. Spend a weekend here and let its vibrant blend of history, culture and hipness work its magic on you.

MAISON AKIRA

Located near the Pasadena Playhouse, owner and Chef Akira Hirose has created an exquisite menu featuring the tastes of French and Japanese cuisine. In this casual but elegant atmosphere, one can experience unique fine dining with an international flair at Maison Akira. Chef Akira takes personal interest in preparing each selection using only the freshest ingredients for culinary delight. Specialties include miso marinated grilled Chilean sea bass and roasted rack of lamb in rosemary sauce. Rated excellent by Zagat 2001.

713 E. Green Street, Pasadena, CA

(626) 796-9501

www.maisonakira.com

JJ STEAK HOUSE

Located on the third floor in Old Town Pasadena, JJ Steak House has ascended to the top as a major player in the Pasadena restaurant scene. Recognized for its outstanding cuisine, exquisite ambience and excellent service, JJ Steak House does not disappoint. Outdoor terrace dining with the San Gabriel Mountains as a backdrop is a favorite. Private dining is a hit with three gorgeous private dining rooms. Dinner only, Tuesday, Sunday, beginning at 5 p.m.

88 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA

(626) 844-8886

CELESTINO

“A great addition to the Pasadena scene.” – Zagat. Refined regional and seasonal Italian cuisine with the Drago flair. Delectable dishes include: pumpkin tortelloni with sage & parmesan, timballo of mushroom with truffle fondue, fresh seafood, poultry, game and the famously lean Piedmontese beef. Indoor and patio seating. Full-bar. Extensive wines by the glass. Open lunch and dinner, pre-theatre menus available. Full-service catering. Restaurant is available for holiday events and private parties. Convenient theatre parking.

141 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena (626) 795-4006

www.celestinodrago.com

TWIN PALMS

It’s been compared to Rick’s (in Casablanca). An atmosphere of easy sophistication for people who know quality and expect it — an experience that encompasses fine dining and live entertainment. Central to Corporate Chef Tony Zidar’s California Coastal cuisine is freshness, a light touch and distinct flavors.

101 W. Green Street, Pasadena, CA

(626) 577-2567

SPENCERS

“If you’ re looking for a great restaurant that sizzles with atmosphere and romance, Spencers in Pasadena is the place to go.” Elmer Dills of KABC Channel 7 News pretty well sums up the way most people feel about Spencers. That’s why the 2001 Zagat Survey rated Spencers “one of the best in the city”. With a full bar, extensive wine list, great steaks, fresh seafood and pastas served by a friendly and professional staff who prepare many items tableside, you can sit back and enjoy the live piano music, knowing you are in good hands. For more information and a sample of their menu, visit their web site at www.spencersfinedining.com.

70 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, CA

(626) 583-8275

COPYRIGHT 2001 Los Angeles Magazine, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group