Review: Zona Rosa Cappuccino (Zona Rosa Caffe, Pasadena CA)

Nov 24

Given the amount of Starbucks stuff on this site, you might think I do my coffee drinking exclusively at one of my many local Starbucks locations. This isn’t true. I go there a lot, because it’s the closest coffee joint to my house, but living in Pasadena I do have a large number of independent coffeeshops available to me, and I visit them when I can.

So, in the spirit of Small Business Saturday, here’s a review of a beverage from one of those local, independent coffee places.

Zona Rosa Cappuccino

Zona Rosa Caffe is a great little shop in the Playhouse district. I’m linking to the Yelp page, because their website is one of those Flash monstrosities with autoplaying music. That tasty-looking drink in the picture is a Zona Rosa Cappuccino.

The first thing anyone with barista training will notice is that it is not, in fact, what we would normally call a cappuccino — there is far too little foam. Given the ratio of milk to foam, and the presence of chocolate, this is more of a mocha. But Cappuccino is what it’s called on the menu board, so that’s what I’m calling it here.

The Zona Rosa Cappuccino is a mix of espresso (their own roast), steamed milk, and Mexican chocolate (probably Ibarra). Usually there’s whipped cream on top, but I’m avoiding that particular temptation these days. Like a Mexican hot chocolate, the Cappuccino has a hint of spices like cinnamon that give it a distinct and delicious flavor.

It’s not too sweet and it doesn’t hit you over the head with cinnamon — the balance of chocolate, spices, and espresso is damn near perfect. It’s a great drink for sipping on a nice cool day. (Well okay, currently it’s 86 degrees F around here, but let’s pretend.) You can also get it decaf if you’re watching your caffeine intake.

If you happen to find yourself in Pasadena, give this drink a shot. It’s a nice departure from the heavily sweetened fare at most coffee chains.

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How Blinkie completely lost her groove

Nov 23

One thing has become abundantly clear to me as I’ve spent time staring at a blinking cursor over the past couple of months — my writing flow is pretty much gone.

I’ve been making sure to update this blog a couple times a week, but each entry just seems to be a bunch of disorganized thoughts haphazardly blathered into the text editor. There’s no hook, there’s no logical progression, there’s no flow to anything. My non-Starbucks stuff pretty much only gets traffic via pityclicks from friends, but that’s no excuse for being boring. Plus, I’m not exactly gonna get any new readers with these yawnfests.

Likewise I’ve got a monthly podcast stalled out mid-script, because I just can’t get any momentum on it. I’ve got ideas, but I just can’t get them into words on the screen. And I find myself spending much more time going “I need to write something” than actually writing.

The usual recommended cure for this sort of thing is more writing, which for obvious reasons is easier said than done. Or maybe I need to spend more time planning things out, so that when I do start making words they’re in a logical order.

Or maybe there’s just something missing somewhere that’s throwing me off. All I know is, it’s taken me forever just to write a blog entry about how I can’t write these days.

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The Bland Rolls of Blandness

Nov 22

In my last post, I mentioned that my Thanksgiving menu included Pumpkin Pull-Apart Rolls. This is one of my favorite recipes — they’re easy to make and they come out perfect and delicious.

Basically you mix all the ingredients, let the dough rise for an hour, make them into balls and stick them in pans, let it rise for another 40 minutes, then bake. Having mapped out my cooking down to the minute for today, I noted the two easiest options for baking — do everything the night before, or do the mixing the night before, stick the pans in the fridge to slow the rise, then throw them in the oven while the turkey is resting (it’s tired, poor thing). For simplicity’s sake, I decided on making them last night.

So there I was, balling up the dough and putting it into the pans. As I pulled out the canola oil to brush the tops, I thought to myself “Hmm, why wasn’t this out already? I thought there was oil in the dough …”

Realization dawned. I looked at the recipe, and yup. I had gotten so spaced out watching my Kitchen-Aid dough hook do all the wrist-breaking work for me that I had completely forgotten to put half the ingredients into the dough. Salt, sugar, and oil.

They rose perfectly fine, or I would have realized earlier. There was no way I could just mix those in at that late stage. So I decided to put them in the oven anyway and just see how they came out.

Result: Pretty much the blandest rolls ever. Texture is fine, they’re not dry or burned, they just … don’t taste like anything.

Lucky for me, I had enough materials to make a second batch. So I got up early this morning to get that rolling, and the first batch is going into the stuffing, where it can steal the flavor from butter, onions, and spices.

There was also the matter of a late-night turkey advice phone call to my mom (“How do I get the doojobbies out of the middle if it’s still mostly frozen?? What’s this big fleshy thing under the drumsticks? How do I get the wire thing off?”) but hey, it’s only my second Thanksgiving.

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Eat all the eats!

Nov 20

For most of my life, Thanksgiving dinner has been lovingly cooked by my mom, for my immediate family plus whatever strays we happened to pick up. Last year, sometime during the summer, my dad tactfully observed that they hosted a fair number of family dinners and barbecues, and wouldn’t it be nice if someone else hosted something for a change.

One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was volunteering to host Thanksgiving at my place. And despite small emergencies like the cat coughing up Lovecraftian horrors the night before, I managed not to eff it up completely. That may have been a tactical error, because now I’m pretty much on the hook for Thanksgiving until the end of time.

This year I started pondering the menu partway through October. By the beginning of November I had a menu planned out. Two weeks in advance I got the turkey and a bunch of the ingredients. Once my brining plans were finalized I got the rest and mapped out my time with military precision. I’ve got one oven, two slow cookers (one on loan), a five-burner stove and a fridge so big I keep feeling like I should attempt no landings on Europa.

On the pretense that you care, here’s what’s on the menu this year:

And while everyone is watching me fret around the house flailing over food, we’ll enjoy some crockpot Maple Pumpkin Spice Lattes, made with my self-concocted pumpkin pie spice.

And the best thing? The turkey carcass goes home with my parents. No weeks of leftovers for me!

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Maybe I was bitten by a radioactive trivet.

Nov 15

As some of y’all are aware, I have an unusually high resistance to heat. I enjoy 100 degree weather. I never notice getting sunburned until I’m in lobster territory. Touching hot things only rarely leaves a mark.

I call it a superpower for a reason.

You may scoff at my hyperbole, so let me tell you a little story that happened to me today: I was making chicken for lunch. Used a potholder to take a pan out of a 400 degree oven. Upon inspection, it was clear the chicken wasn’t done so I’d need to move the pan out of the way and finish it in a skillet.

I actively thought to myself, That pan is still hot from the oven. I need a potholder.” And lo, I put a potholder on my hand and moved the pan safely like a motherfucking adult.

Not five goddamn seconds later I thought “I’d better move it over a little more” and sure enough, I grabbed the pan with my bare hand — potholder still on my other hand! — and moved it.

End result of grabbing a 400 degree pan? A brief pain and not a single mark on my hand.

Doesn’t sound like a superpower? Consider the fact that I do stupidass things like that all the time, and I still have full mobility of all ten fingers. I’ve grabbed a hot pan hard enough to hear my skin actually sizzle — didn’t even have a mark to show for it afterward. That ain’t normal, man.

My mother thinks it’s because I was born (as she loves to recount over and over) right before a historic heat wave. I’m not discounting gamma rays or ancient curses, though. Maybe an alternate universe is involved?

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