Friday, September 2, 2011

Dining In The 'Dena: Chefs Center's Friday Food Fair

No doubt food trucks have re-defined the local food scene with their mobile munchies. But not everyone can run a food truck -- there's gas and mechanical costs to add to the overhead. One of The Militant's operatives was considering buying a truck for his food/catering business but was instantly turned off by the exhorbitant cost of purchasing the actual vehicle...Yet there is a burgeoning scene of "artisan" chefs who want to provide the same types of unique menus found in foodtruckland.

Some of them can be found at our local weekly farmer's markets. The Militant certainly has his favorites, and makes them part of his FM shopping ritual.

Another place is a unique weekly event at a unique sort of place in Pasadena. The Chefs Center of California, located on San Gabriel and Colorado, is a nonprofit social enterprise that provides facilities for start-up chefs trying to make their mark in the local food scene. Every Friday night (hey, that's like, tonight) is their outdoor Friday Food Fair and Artisanal (art is anal?) Marketplace event, which attracts an ethnically and generationally diverse crowd of mostly SGV locals who want to sample some great grub
The event is free, save for the price of food, which is purchased from each vendor. It's basically like a farmer's market, but with food stands only. Yes, there are about half a dozen food trucks, most of them SGV-based like the Rosemead-based Slammin' Sliders, but the real attraction here are the food vendors, who set up tables in the parking lot and hawk their wares.

The Militant checked out the scene last week (it changes slightly every week, but most of the vendors are there weekly) and sampled some Brazilian meat pastries and Yucca fries (pictured right) from Caju Catering. He couldn't get enough of their mildly-spicy sauce, which goes well with everything they serve (you can ask for refills).

Other vendors served everything from Mediterranean dishes to gourmet mac and cheese. There's also a large number of baked dessert vendors representing, like The Goodie Girls cupcakes (which will be opening up a brick-and-mortar store in Glendale by the end of the month) and Mondo's Morsels, who sells a cookie called the Midnight Bliss, consisting of chocolate and cabernet (yes, as in the wine) that blew The Militant's mind.

Though the food is described as "gourmet" and "artisanal," the prices aren't like way out there or anything. Most items go for less than $5 each. Best of all, just about all of the non-truck vendors offer free samples of their treats, so you can check 'em all out.

You can dine both outdoors and indoors, inside the Chefs Center facility, and it's a total unpretentious, laid-back local SGV kinda vibe there.

The Friday Food Fair at Chefs Center of California is on every Friday evening from 6 to 9 p.m. and lasts until mid-October (you got another month to enjoy this, so don't sleep!). Chef's Center of California is at 45 N. San Gabriel Blvd, just north of Colorado. Street parking is plentiful and free in that part of Pasadena, and, Militantly speaking, the (M) Gold Line Sierra Madre Villa station is just a mile east of there (a short bike ride or a hop on the Metro Local 181 bus).

So check it out tonight! You may or may not find The Militant there!

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