Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Cafe 86, Pasadena

Ube.  Taro. Yucca.  Plantains.  I love these things, and need more of them in my life.

Cafe 86 is a Filipino cafe in Pasadena, offering up a slew of ube treats.

Its a small place, mom and pop style, with clearly a small baking facility.  The menu of ube baked goods is *amazing*, but, each item is only offered 1-2 days a week, with only ~3 items per day.  And they sell out.  Fast.
Ube All The Things.
I went twice, both times failing to get an item I really wanted. 

My first visit was on Thursday seeking out the ube tres leches, which, I got to see ... but not try, as the guy before me, literally, bought THE LAST ONE!  "Oh, you have a tres leches left?  Excellent!  Its got my name on it."  I almost begged him to split it.

So I went back the next day to see the Friday lineup, and settled on a truffle.  It wasn't a great choice.

I really, really, really wanted that ube bread pudding, as I adore bread pudding so much, but I was not in town on a Sunday, the sole day it is offered, so, it was a non-option.

Setting

Cafe 86 is located in Old Town Pasadena, down a side alley off Colorado Boulevard.
Storefront.
There is not much curb appeal, and it would be easy to walk past, but I knew to seek it out.
Lure me in!
I did laugh at the "Ain't your ordinary cafe" sign out front, with colorful milkshakes topped with plenty of whipped cream.

The purple one of course is the signature "Ube Monster", displayed here with the cookies n cream inspired "Kouki Monster" (say it outloud), the Matcha Monster, and Thai Tea Monster.  If the weather were more appropriate, that Ube Monster had my name on it.
Seating.
Inside feels like a comfortable welcoming cafe, with concrete slab floors, exposed brick and wood walls, exposed pipes in the high ceilings.  Tables, a few couches, and free public wifi passwords on display.  They clearly welcome folks coming to hang out, even though the space isn't large.
Counter Seating.
Along the high full windows is a few counter seats, for individuals or those just quickly grabbing something.
Barista & Register.
All food is ordered at a register, which is also where drinks are made, staffed by a single person.

It doesn't move quickly, but that goes along with the feel of the place, folks here are not in a rush, they are there to enjoy.

Food & Drink

The cafe, although known for the rare ube offerings, is actually more focused on drinks, than the baked goods I was after.
Menu Board.
The menu is hand written on an appealing chalkboard, filled mostly with the drink offerings (iced tea, hot tea, milk tea, milkshakes, slushes, espresso beverages, lattes).

Food offerings here only include 3 sandwiches, and 2 desserts that are always offered, and then a couple ube items daily.  The menu also includes a helpful note on "What is Ube?", to educate those unfamiliar.

So, take note.  If you want the Ube Crack Cheesecake, go on Monday or Thursday. Ube Leche Flan Cupcakes?  Wed and Weekends.  Ube Tres Leches?  Thursday only.  Ube truffles? Exclusive to Fri and Saturday.  And the coveted ube bread pudding? Alas, only Sundays.

I hear Ube and Turon pop tarts show up from time to time, as does a "Ube Crack Pie", but I'm not sure when.
Baked Goods Display Case.
The baked goods are in a display case, none labelled with what they are, nor prices.

On this day, a Friday, the case contained Ube Crack Cheesecake, Ube Truffles, and Red Velvet Flan Cupcakes.
Red Velvet Flan Cupcakes.
On other days, they also offer an Ube version of this ridiculous creation, yes, a cupcake, with a flan on top instead of frosting.

Interesting.
Ube Crack Cheesecake.
The "Ube Crack Cheesecake" is a ube cheesecake, topped with some ube frosting, and crumbs of some sort.  It looked interesting, but I wasn't in the mood for cheesecake.
Slutty Brownies.
The brownie/bar selection changes often, but I believe this was the "Slutty Brownie", with an Oreo brownie base and chocolate chip cookie bar top.
Ube Bundt Cake, Cookie.
The ube glazed bundt cake wasn't interesting to me because i don't really care for bundt cake, and I"m not sure what type of cookie this was.
Ube Truffle.
I opted for an ube truffle, not seeing anything else I really wanted that much, sadly.  Just, bad timing.

It was huge, and came in a special plastic container that looked meant to hold a cupcake or muffin (which helps give an idea how large it is).
Ube Truffle: Glimpse Inside.
I didn't actually know what it was, as "Truffle" can mean so many things these days.  They seemed to mean "cake truffle", like the ones I had at Momofuku Milk Bar, and just like those, require refrigeration if you want to keep them a day or two.  They are however at least 3-4 times the size!

Anyway, the truffles are cube cake mixed with white chocolate, rolled in Oreo coating.  From the outside, the color is dark brown from the Oreo crumbs, and only once you cut/bite into it can you find the purple ube.
Ube Truffle: Cross Section.
I ... didn't really like it.  It wasn't *bad* but I also just didn't get the ube hit I was looking for.

But mostly, I just don't like Oreo crumb!  Any time cookie crumb shows up on things these days I dislike it.  I love textures, but it always just feels gritty and wrong to me, and I don't actually like the taste of Oreo cookies at all.  So for me, that texture and flavor dominated the ube, unfortunately.

When I did just take a bite from the center, the texture was interesting, and it was sweet, but again, not much ube at all.

I'd still like to return on a day when they have an item I want!
Cafe 86 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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