We’ve all heard plenty of people say, “you can’t have any classy fun without a lot of money.” So I took up the challenge, and invited a friend along on what I dubbed “Cheap Dates in a Chic Pasadena .”
I told her to bring $20, comfortable walking shoes and a great sense of adventure, for a lovely Monday afternoon outing.
We started at around 11 in the morning with a casual drive to Arcadia, California, enjoying the view of the gorgeous San Gabriel Mountains to the north. When we arrived at the Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, the morning was already starting to heat up, so we were glad we had worn hats and sun block on our cheap date in Pasadena.
The Arboretum covers a total area of 127 acres, including a tropical forest, an herb garden, the Kallam Perennial Garden, and a tropical green house. There is every type of greenery and flowering plant that you can possibly imagine. A veritable plant lovers dream, they have the grounds organized by geographical plant groupings.
Our cheap date in Pasadena wound up educational. Education is very important to the Arboretum, so they feature an historical section exhibiting California history from the time of the native Tongva/Gabrielino dwellings to the 19th century landmark buildings; including the Hugo Reid Adobe and a 1885 Queen Anne cottage and coach barn.
Rounding out their offerings with a magnificent library filled with volumes on horticulture, botany and natural history, they also offer classes, lectures, plant exhibits, art displays and other special events. I’ve especially enjoyed their huge annual gourd festival hosted by Welburn Gourd Farms.
The Grounds- A Perennial Playground for Adults
Once inside, we chose the long meandering walk past the Australian section and African sections, stopping occasionally to admire the form of a particular tree or flower. We’d stop to inspect some tall, funny looking, pink flowers with no identifying name plate.
Along the way we found a place where the new peacock families hung out together. There were several average-sized, brown feathered peahens, each with their two or three baby chicks following them around, scratching in the leaves for seeds.
The proud, boldly colored papa peacocks would approach us looking for bits of food. Of course, it is strictly against Arboretum policy for the public to feed the birds, but the peacocks still persistently come up and beg.
Monday is a quiet day at the Arboretum, we only saw a few couples here and there, as we happily strolled the grounds. There were quite a few young families there enjoying the crafts programs that are offered year round.
Everywhere you looked, you could see well tended plants, both exotic and common, for the pleasure of the eyes and all the senses. While we strolled past tall eucalyptus trees the sprinkler system was giving them their daily bath. I stopped to deeply inhale the fresh scent of camphor coming from the eucalyptus trees. It was invigorating!
A Tibetan meal with the Buddha
With all that exercise we were more than ready to dig in to a good meal. But what to eat? My friend is a vegetarian who doesn’t care for spicy or hot foods, and didn’t feel like going to a soup and salad place. I suggested she take a chance on an unusual restaurant that I had found on Holly Street in Pasadena, the Tibet Nepal House.
Nestled at the top of the Himalayas, Tibet reflects the two diverse cultures that flank its borders, India and China. Nepalese food incorporates elements from both Indian and Chinese cuisine, with a few specialties all their own.
Serving authentic Himalayan cuisine has since 2001, the Tibet Nepal House uses fresh herbs and spices, including black cardamom, jimbu, garlic, ginger, cumin, ajwain, timboor, saffron and sesame. The chef, Karma Tenzing Bhotia, is a Nepali of Tibetan descent from the Mt. Makalu region of Nepal. Mr. Bhotia has worked as a chef in Austria for six years preparing sumptuous European cuisine, and has traveled Asia extensively.
His experience and excellence are presented with simplicity and relish, featured in his Nepali Set menus, Phaley (traditional Tibetan dishes for festivals, picnics and feasts), and specially prepared dishes called Sekuwa, meaning “clay oven roasted.”
The cuisine of Tibet include such east Indian favorites as Paloongo Saag, a fresh spinach dish sautéed with garlic and Himalayan spices, reminiscent of Saag Paneer. Or you can order their version of Biryani Rice, called Jogi Bhaat, a lightly spiced Basmati rice stir-fried with vegetables.
You’ll find familiar appetizers like the cheese or vegetable Pakora (deep-fried cheese or vegetables battered with chickpea flour.)
They’ll serve you Naan, Indian flat bread, and Papadum, thin crackers seasoned with anise and ground pepper, and for dessert, Kheer, a sweet rice pudding topped with almonds, walnuts and raisins.
The Tibet Nepal House also offers several dishes only found in Tibet; Tsampa, a roasted wheat or barley flour consumed as a paste, Mo-Mo (Tibetan dumplings), and Phing, a long, transparent bean-flour noodle served with sautéed vegetables and Emma (timboor, a Sichuan pepper.)
The all-you-can-eat lunch buffet is $7.95, including salad, appetizers, rice and lentil dishes,
Naan, oven roasted chicken, steamed vegetables and dessert. The entrées from the menu ranged from $5.95-$10.95 depending on what you ordered.
We got out of there, happily satiated and each had spent less than $9.00 each. My friend enjoyed her first excursion into Tibetan cuisine and is looking forward to going back for more.
As a topper for the afternoon, we visited “Dreams of Tibet”, their gift shop located two doors down at 20 East Holly Street. Browsing is encouraged, and we found a wealth of unique imported skirts and blouses, scarves, handbags and accessories at reasonable prices.
The scents of sandalwood and musky incense filled the air, as the gentle strains of a new age music CD lilted quietly in the background. At our leisure, we checked out the small selection of books, music, cards and other small gift items. I found a lovely lavender handmade box, filled with cone incense and a small incense holder, for $4.95.
Although we could have window shopped for longer, our **90 minute free parking was about to expire, so we made a mad dash for the parking garage, giggling like kids.
We made it! Not only did we get back to the parking garage in time to clock out for free, we each spent less than the allotted $20.00 (my bill for the afternoon came to only $18.45!) and had a great afternoon on our “Cheap Date in Chic Pasadena!!!”
The Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden
301 N. Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia, CA 91007
Hours: Open daily from 9am to 5pm
Seniors, age 62+ $5.00
Students (with ID) $5.00
Children, 5-12 $2.50
Children, under 5 Free
* free parking
FREEBIE: 3rd Tuesday of each month
Tibet Nepal House- Cuisine of the Himalayas
36 E. Holly Street
Pasadena, CA. 91103
Hours: M-F 11:30am-2:30pm and 5pm-10pm
Sat 11:30am-2:30pm and 5pm-10:30pm
Sunday Dinner Only 5pm-10pm
** 90 minute free parking at Raymond Avenue public parking garage.
Dreams of Tibet
20 East Holly Street
Pasadena, CA. 91103
Call for store hours.
Gifts, music, clothing, handbags, books, incense & more, from Tibet.