Semolina artisanal pasta

Three Artisanal Tastes of Pasadena

Students attending the Institute of Culinary Education’s Los Angeles campus can experience local flavors at these food and beverage destinations.

Semolina Artisanal Pasta photo by Jules Exum

Pasadena is known first and foremost as the host of the Tournament of Roses Parade, Rose Bowl Game and Caltech. Though students at the Institute of Culinary Education know that it’s as compelling of a food destination.

While the greater city of Los Angeles is known worldwide for its restaurants and diverse cuisines, Pasadena has become a hotbed for culinary artisans. Here are three to experience near our campus.

Grist & Toll

Where Arroyo Parkway, a commercial boulevard lined with grocery stores and gas stations, ends and the 110 Freeway begins, there’s an unexpected flour mill called Grist & Toll tucked inside a small industrial complex. Here, Nan Kohler produces eight flours and grains made from locally sourced and sustainable wheat, corn, barley and teff. It’s a favorite purveyor of “Top Chef” alum Bruce Kalman, who prepared his famous spaghetti alla chitarra for students and first let us in on this secret as a big a fan of the brand’s polenta. Grist & Toll is a must-stop for aspiring bread bakers and pasta makers, who can shop craft baking tools and gifts and learn more about whole grain, stone milling from the knowledgeable team, Wednesday through Saturday.

Grist & Toll, 990 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena, CA 91105, @gristandtoll

Semolina Artisanal Pasta

Food & Wine recently called Semolina founder Leah Ferrazzani the “woman at the center of L.A.’s big, beautiful pasta movement.” That movement is centered in Pasadena, where she opened her 850-square-foot pasta production factory at the end of 2017.

“I moved [to Pasadena] for a sense of community,” Leah says. “I needed an environment where I could make the pasta and connect with my consumers, and this location does all of that.”

Leah sources certified organic durum semolina grown primarily in North Dakota and Montana. The pasta is produced in small batches with a cutting process superior to larger commercial pasta manufacturers. She dries her pastas low and slow, preserving the natural wheat flavor and achieving a rough exterior that holds sauce well. Neighboring restaurant Lincoln serves the pastas as well as L.A. chefs like Matt Molina at Hippo, Nancy Silverton at Mozzaplex, Chris Feldmeir at Love & Salt, and Ted Hopson at The Bellwether.

“Our chef relationships are a huge part of our success,” Leah adds. “Our entire fresh line was born out of our relationship with chefs, working to deliver something with the depth of flavor of dried but a faster cook time to accommodate a restaurant’s need for a fast pickup.”

The shop is open Monday to Saturday, and visitors can see pasta being made through an enormous window while browsing the organic, small-batch selection.

Semolina Artisanal Pasta, 1976 Lincoln Ave, Pasadena, CA 91103; @semonlinaartisanalpasta

Semolina Artisanal Pasta in Pasadena
Semolina Artisanal Pasta in Pasadena. Photo by Jules Exum

Stark Spirits

The first microdistillery to land in Pasadena — and only the second since Prohibition in metro Los Angeles — is the award-winning Stark Spirits. Inside the 1,200-square-foot space, husband-and-wife team Greg and Karen Stark handcraft small-batch whiskey, gin, aquavit, rum and Sunshine, a unique brandy made from Valencia oranges grown in nearby Simi Valley and Ventura County.

“Sunshine is not sweet, it is a balance of the sweetness of the pulp with the bitterness of the rind,” Karen explains. “One visitor described it as the soul of the orange — and we like that description!”

Students can contact Stark Spirits online to arrange a weekend tour of the facility and tasting of the spirits.

“It’s gratifying to introduce ICE students to the intricacies of the distilling process, which is little-known by most people,” Karen says. “They leave knowing that Stark Spirits aren’t just something to drink: Our heart and soul are in every bottle we make. It’s always heartening to see young people invest themselves in a career and meet people who are choosing the culinary industry as a second career.”

Stark Spirits 1260 Lincoln Ave #1100, Pasadena, CA, 91103, @StarkSpirits

All of these artisans’ products make ideal gifts for fellow food lovers this holiday season.

Schedule your free tour of ICE's campus in Pasadena.

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