Pasadena, CA: Pop Champagne and Dessert Bar

The 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau made its much-anticipated debut at a special wine tasting and dinner at Pop Champagne & Dessert Bar organized by the Alliance Française de Pasadena on Sunday, November 22 from 4:00 to 10:00 P.M.    Alliance director Fanchon, shares that the organization is very old and one of the first in the Southwest dating back to 1924.  The French school opened 15 years ago and is located across the street from the restaurant.  Fanchon describes the event as  “…just an excuse to have fun.”  If fun is what you are looking for then Pop Champagne and Dessert bar is the right place.  They have an extensive wine and champagne list to accompany your small plates. 

 

(Scallops Cordon Bleu)

My meals were from a prefix menu for the event.  Everything eaten except for the ice cream was paired with wine or champagne.   Chef Ray Velasquez is wonderful in balancing flavor and has a since of humor when it comes to food.  He told us that his mother always told him not to play with food.  Among his unique creations are scallops Cordon Bleu and popcorn ice cream.  Yes, popcorn ice cream is on the menu.  What does it tastes like?  It has the smooth flavor of kettle corn.   In the picture below give us a unique approach to serving poached pear on a tart.

Pop Champagne and Dessert provides a romantic and fun environment for an evening out.

Photos by Crystal Johnson

Review by Crystal Johnson Restaurant Critic, Los Angeles Examiner and the Valley Scene Magazine

Advertisements

A Brief History of Haitian Cuisine-A True Multi-cultural Experience (by Monica Johnson)

Freshly caught fish served on a leaf.

Freshly caught fish served on a leaf.

Looking for African influences in the Caribbean? Look no further than Haiti, where most of the population is of African descent. When the first Europeans came to settle in the land of the Arawak and Taino Indians, they brought oranges, limes, mangoes, rice, and sugar cane with them, but that’s not all they brought. They also brought African slaves and left them to work the sugar cane plantations.

“How did this come about?” you may ask. Well if you recall there was a man named Christopher Columbus who had a little something to do with the history of the Americas. Remember how Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, well guess where else he landed? Quite the busy little beaver, the explorer discovered the already inhabited land and claimed it for Spain. Spain called it Santo Domingo, but Columbus named it La Isla Espanola (The Spanish Island later to be called Hispaniola).  By the year 1520, the native Indians were almost completely wiped out from the hard slave labor the Spanish imposed  upon them and the revolts of the people leading to executions by the Spaniards. Sadly the Taino’s have no tangible legacy in the form of an existing people in Haiti; therefore, Africans were shipped over to the island to work on the sugar cane plantations.

The Africans introduced okra, ackee (red and yellow fruit), pigeon peas, taro (edible root with a nutty flavor). By the year 1700, the French had taken control of Hispaniola and with the African slave labor still in place, they expanded their commerce to include coffee, cotton, and cocoa. Haiti went on to win their own independence in 1804 becoming the first African-American led republic in the New World.

Haiti, originally  named by Taino Indians for its high ground, shares  Hispaniola with their spanish-speaking neighbor, the Dominican Republic. Occupying just the western third part of the island, Haiti still remains highly influenced by the French in its language, culture, and food. French cheeses, breads, and desserts have been integrated into the Haitian lifestyle. Haiti’s cuisine is often considered French or Creole; however the Spanish, African, and French influence make for a smorgasbord of flavor and a truly historical and  multi-cultural experience.

The difference between Haitian and other Caribbean cuisine in a word: Peppery

Method of cooking: Often slow coked and wrapped in banana or plantains and leaves for several hours. An African method of cooking is still employed today, using coals and placing them in a hollowed-out area of the ground. The food is then placed atop the coals with the leaves covering it for ultimate slow cooking results.

Try this at home: In the mood for a Haitian creole specialty, click here for a recipe for Haitian griot (fried pork).

Click here to become a fan of the Multi Cultural Cooking Network  on Facebook