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At Agnes, the vibe is a respectful homage to Midwestern culture

Various foods are displayed in dishes on top of a table.
At Agnes Restaurant & Cheesery, entree platters meant for sharing concentrate on meats cooked on the open kitchen’s roaring hearth.
(Maggie Shannon / For The Times)

What to order at Agnes Restaurant & Cheesery in Old Pasadena? In this week’s restaurant review, critic Bill Addison points to “the dish that best embodies its rhythm and wit: loaded baked potato dumplings,” adding: “The dumplings are gnocchi, the kind shaped like firm pillows that dissolve into clouds as soon as they hit the palate. In their wake come texture after texture and flavor after flavor.”

Married chefs Thomas Kalb and Vanessa Tilaka own and operate Agnes. Kalb, who runs the kitchen, is from Iowa and “uses a populist sort of white Midwestern culture as a springboard for his eclectic menu, though more in respectful homage than spoof.”

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Tilaka has organized a “robust cheese case, full of small orbs with fetchingly chalky or wrinkly rinds and larger pale wheels hacked in ways that resemble models of the moon in various phases.”

Agnes is a market as well as a restaurant, so you may end up doing a little shopping while you’re there. And if you’re thinking of dinner, plan ahead. Agnes is often booked weeks ahead.

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— Angelenos are making and consuming Halloween-themed food and drinks across the city. At the Mystyx Kafe coffee cart, Stephanie Breijo reports, “the owner whips up black-metal-inspired cold brews, lattes and Inferno Teas that are flavorful, strong, and a nod to the barista’s love of goth culture and metal, year-round.” Elsewhere, there are Halloween-themed ice creams and cocktails, and an experiential pizza night with an immersive, vampire-themed game. We are especially excited about Don Bugito’s Creepy Crawly Critters, with toffee-brittle-covered mealworms and chocolate crickets in matcha ice cream — at Salt & Straw.

A fake skull decoration sits between two iced drinks in plastic cups.
White magic coffee (a.k.a. Horchata Coffee), left, and a chai tea latte are on the menu at Mystyx Kafe.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
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— In other food news, Stephanie has updates on two new restaurants from A.O.C. founders Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne within the Proper Hotel in downtown L.A. — and a new “bar within a bar” at LA Cha Cha Chá in downtown’s Arts District.

— And now, let’s talk about cooking and, just for a moment, try to erase the words “pumpkin spice” from our short-term memories, turning our attention to other classic foods of fall. One of the most delicious is apple butter. Cooking columnist Ben Mims explains how to make it in his next installment of L.A. in a Jar, a series that’s all about preserving fruit at home. Apple butter is “basically just puréed apples cooked with sugar into a preserve,” Ben explains. “It’s smooth and luscious and contains everything there is to love about this time of year in a spoon.” And you can make apple butter with almost any apple — like the Pink Lady — that is “really tart and has a fragrant aroma that you love.”

An illustration of several apples.
You can make apple butter with almost any apple that’s tart and has a fragrant aroma that you love.
(Marianna Fierro / For The Times)


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