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Cos & Pi

Jun 26, 2017

Almost too beautiful to eat. That was my initial reaction when the young woman set down the plate, delivering our order of Cos & Pi’s salmon toast.

Of course, you’ll have noticed the leading word is “almost,” because, of course, for food enthusiasts, nothing is too beautiful to leave untasted.

Toasted dark rye is loaded with a layer of avocado, pickled red onion, chives, goat cheese, slices of jalapeño, and an impressive mound of chopped smoked salmon. Dotting the landscape are edible pansies. The overall effect is one of color and whimsy; it’s impossible not to smile. The pickled onion isn’t too sour, yet adds a bite, as does, naturally, the jalapeño. We eat one slice, but slide off the others as, to our palette, the heat overwhelms the milder salmon and cheese. We especially enjoy the salmon chopped into small pieces (instead of the usual slices) as it’s easier to eat—and the amount of salmon used makes the $12 price tag seem more reasonable.

 

 

Inquiring about the cheese with the particular taste, we’re told it’s Humboldt fog cheese, which causes a squint and head tilt—this is definitely a name of which we’ve never heard. The texture is creamy, the taste is buttery like St. Andre, but with a sly hint of blue. Unequivocally delicious.

I looked up Humboldt fog cheese and found it’s made by Cypress Grove Chèvre of Arcata in Humboldt County. Humboldt Fog “is a mould-ripened cheese with a distinguishing layer of edible ash.” 

 

 

Next to be set before us is the buttermilk waffle ($10), looking pretty as a picture. Filling the plate, it rises a good 1-inch high and is topped in the center with sweet butter and wild berry compote, the whole ensemble (including the plate) sprinkled lightly with confectioners powdered sugar. The waffle is strikingly light and airy. The butter is fresh and soft, and the compote’s sweetness, tartness, consistency, and warmth evokes visions of a good long cook on the stovetop, inducing alluring aromas. Only nitpicky comment: less butter (I shock myself writing this, butter-lover that I am) and more compote. Remove a dollop, add a dollop.

 

 

My girl, pulled from slumber by the promise of breakfast before heading off to a late shift at work, opts for the bacon and sausage “main” dish ($14). Two pieces of thick, crunchy, delicious, long applewood bacon are set atop two plump pork sausages and Cos & Pi’s version of a hash brown. Potato, onion, and a hint of cheese are a creamy, gooey mess held together by a seriously strong and crunchy crust. I’ve read rave reviews of this dish and do enjoy it, though I would advocate for a measure of sharp cheddar or parmesan to pop the flavor, pump it up a notch.

 

 

A thick slice of brioche is toasted (seemingly on the grill) and sliced in half. Over this are draped two eggs over-medium.

“Whoever cooked these eggs knows what they are doing,” Isa says, digging in. Correct timing when cooking an over-medium fried egg is imperative for people who shudder when confronted with an over-easy egg (the egg white’s not completely cooked, ew!) or shake their head when cutting into one that’s over-hard (where’s the essential runny-egg-yolk factor?) Many marvelous elements exist in Cos & Pi’s Bacon and Sausage breakfast, but be warned, it’s a lot of food. (Additional note: the raspberry jam served with this order—try dipping in chunks of waffle; divine.)

My latte made with Jones coffee is smooth and an effective wake-up beverage. Isa sips her hot chocolate, which is made with unsweetened cocoa powder, resulting in a refreshingly cocoa-focused flavor (rather than what usually amounts to no more than chocolate sugar).

 

Real, heavy duty knives—love this.

 

The staff is welcoming, friendly, and efficient. We arrived around 10:15 a.m. on a Friday morning and the place was pretty empty. A long bar extends down the right wall. Simple, slightly beat up paper menus sit on the bar near several pedestal and domed servers holding pastries. We sat to look over the menu, then got up to order at the bar. Then we were directed to the back corner to get our utensils and napkins. I—internally—jump with glee to see black pepper grinders available as I’ve become a freshly ground black pepper snob, so thank you, Cos & Pi. Diners also have a choice of plain water or cucumber-infused water. Our hot drinks were delivered to the table right away and the dishes came out surprisingly soon after that, though one after another rather than together (which is no problem, just notable). By the time we leave an hour later, three people are sitting at the bar, several tables are taken outside, and six or seven people are perusing the menu, standing at the bar and clogging up the doorway—the beginning of the lunch crowd, we assume.

 

 

The design of Cos & Pi leaves us bewildered; we can’t figure out what overall effect is desired. From the outside, Cos & Pi looks sleek in a casual sort of way with a black and white theme. The awning and upper part of the outside wall are both black. The framing around the windows and front door are white, as are the outdoor tables and chairs. The chairs are Marais-style—first designed by Xavier Pauchard in 1934 and found in traditional bistros across France¹—and placed with matching galvanized steel tables. The front door is shabby chic, the bare wood competing with years and layers of paint, mostly white with undercoats of green and yellow. The door feels like a style shift that doesn’t quite compliment, though we do like the nautical-style light hanging overhead with the ribbed glass.

 

 

 

Inside, the walls are high and along with the ceiling are painted a dark grey. Simple industrial pendant lights drop low to illuminate the darkened interior. The Marais-style furnishings continue here inside, along with bar stool versions. Tables for two and four dot the interior with an abrupt change in the middle: two button-upholstered, white barrel chairs face a dark wood coffee table and a couch of the same button-style against the wall.

 

 

 

The white tile behind the bar, Isa thinks is especially egregious, looking like institutional bathroom tile. Oh yes, and there are four massive TVs, two above on the bar side, and two on the opposite wall. Is this a sports bar? A café? A lounge? Parts of Cos & Pi’s design make it feel like a casual bistro, other parts like the neighborhood bar where you throw back some brews while perched in front of one of the TVs, rooting on the Dodgers as they blow out the Mets, and other elements suggest a sophisticated evening spot for quiet intellectual discourse and live jazz (the gentle flickering of votive candles, de rigeur).

 

 

 

 

Cos & Pi is owned and operated by brothers Casey and Kyle Wiele and Casey’s wife Xochilt Perex, director of pastry. The eatery’s “about” page states that the philosophy is to “let the food speak for itself, with a focus on cooking done right.” So though the overall design of Cos & Pi leaves us underwhelmed and more than a tad confused, the food does speak for itself: ample ample and scrumptious.

Prices are not for the faint of heart. Our two 12-ounce drinks and three entrées cost $43.50 + 20% tip. On the other hand, we won’t need lunch.

Cos & Pi, 303 Pasadena Ave., South Pasadena 91030. Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.; Monday, closed. Breakfast served all day “subject to availability.” Ph: 1.626.460.6030. CosAndPi.com.

Parking is along the street and if you come during a rush it may not be easy to find a spot close by. It’s located on Pasadena Avenue right where Monterey Road sort of hits it and turns south (while Pas. Ave. hits Monterey and kicks north parallel to the Arroyo).

 

 

 

The story of Humboldt fog:

Back in the early 1980s, Mary Keehn chased some goats, luring them with grain and patience, and began her journey to becoming a creator of goat cheese and founder of Cypress Grove Chevre. She initially tried and tested on her own, perfecting her first goat cheese, but she eventually traveled to France to learn from the masters.

“Full of great cheeses and bursting with ideas, Mary was eager to get back to her kids and her goats who were all eagerly awaiting her return. As she slept on the long transatlantic flight home to Humboldt County, a prophetic vision danced across Mary’s imagination. She awoke with a clear image of a new kind of cheese: a cheese accented with a thick line of ash reminiscent of the fog often blanketing the expansive Humboldt County coastline— and the idea of Humboldt Fog was born.”

 

Humboldt fog goat cheese; photo by Cypress Grove Chèvre.

 

 

~~~

¹ Source: IndustryWest.com/Marais-a-side-chair.




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