Descanso for best tailgate barbecue

The flowers are blooming. The butterflies are flitting. Spring is definitely here. What better way to celebrate than with a picnic under the trees at Descanso Gardens? The best part is that you can leave the cooking to the skillful chefs of Patina Catering.

Every weekend until May 8, Descanso has added another option in al fresco dining, this one just outside the main entrance. Patina’s chefs are serving up a brief menu of barbecue favorites and a few special extras. I have to say their pulled pork sandwich ($8.95) is one of the best I’ve ever had. The side of pork roasts from the early morning hours in a huge, portable smoker. A half-pound or so of the succulent meat is pulled off, mixed with a dark ale barbecue sauce and mounded into a long, soft roll. The smoky, sweet flavors mix well with the R&B on the sound system and the checkered cloths on the long tables. It’s like a real Southern barbecue right here in La Cañada Flintridge.

The good food doesn’t stop there. My daughter adored the chicken fajita sandwich ($7.95). Moist chunks of grilled chicken, marinated overnight in citrus juices and spices, nestle into a bun with cilantro, roasted peppers and Provolone. Not one drop of sauce is needed.

The burgers are made from high-quality Angus beef and grilled to a perfect medium rare. Though cooked on a propane grill, somehow they are imbued with that wonderful smoky taste. Big fat tomatoes, fresh lettuce and onions top it off. You can get it with cheddar cheese ($7.45) or without ($6.95), or really go for it and get the rancho burger ($10.45), which has the added thrill of a giant, grilled Portobello mushroom. The woodsy taste is well-suited to the ambience under the trees.

Side salads are tasty but small for the price. They add quite a bit to an already steep bill. We argued over our favorite salad, but the coleslaw, with raisins and chunks of pineapple ($3), won in the end. There’s also a Mediterranean pasta salad ($3.50) and a nice wild rice salad ($4) with yellow squash, red peppers and green asparagus.

Wash it all down with a tall agua fresca ($2.50). The colorful glass dispensaries holding cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon and pineapple refreshers look as good as they taste.

The Tailgate Picnic, as it’s called, can be taken away. Items are available for catering in your own backyard, or enjoying right there in the gardens. So come on down for a pulled pork sandwich and celebrate spring.

Lisa Dupuy is the designated griller in her backyard and knows a good barbecue flavor when she tastes one. She can be reached at


What: Spring Tailgate at Descanso Gardens by Patina Catering

Where: Descanso Gardens picnic area outside the main gate, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through May 8

Prices: No admission charge. Hotdogs, burgers and sandwiches, $3.50 to $10.45; side salads $3 to $4; agua fresca $2.50

Contact: (818) 949-4200 or (213) 864-2221

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