The Valley Line: A week that started with a rainstorm

I loved Monday’s rainstorm. I lived in Seattle for several years, and while there, acquired a rainy day state of mind. However, last week that fair city was snowed-in. Old friends who still live there said their back yard looked like a winter wonderland. They live on one of Seattle’s many hills, so they couldn’t even get out of their driveway — it was a good thing they stocked up on groceries before the snowflakes started to fall.

I hope that Monday’s storm brought us some snow in Southland’s mountains so the snow bunnies can hit the slopes.


Thank goodness our little storm didn’t hit earlier, or it might have been a very soggy beginning for the Pasadena Showcase House of Design’s popular “Empty House” party last Friday evening.

This year’s design house again is in our community, on the Flintridge side of the city. Since 1966, there have been eight showcase homes here in La Cañada Flintridge, three of them in recent years. The actual opening of this year’s featured property, in all its redesigned glory, doesn’t take place until April 15.

The Empty House event was an opportunity for Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts members and their guests to view this beautiful home, which was built in 1927. The architect was John Winford Byers, a serious student of Mexican and Spanish architecture who lived in Uruguay for many years.

The home was built as a winter residence for Hunter Savidge Robbins and his family, who lived in Michigan. members of the Robbins family could trace their roots to Colonial America and the family fortune came from the lumber industry. The Flintridge estate features 16 rooms, a guesthouse, a swimming pool and a greenhouse.

Greeting guests at the front door were Showcase House members Donna Gotch, benefit chair, and Beverly Marksbury, president of the organization.

Also saying hello to guests were Kathryn Hofgaarden and Marti Farley, who were the “Empty House” party chairs. Hofgaarden, a local resident, was last year’s benefit chair.

The interior and exterior designers showed off their design plans Friday by displaying boards with their concepts of the many different rooms and garden spaces. As I was going from room to room seeing all that the designers will be creating, I by chance bumped into Evan Scott, who lived in the house with his family from 1975 to 1996. He explained to me that the room I was standing in was once his playroom; his electric train was all set up in a pull-down closet-like door when his family lived there.

He loved telling me about life in this grand estate. He also introduced me to his mother Joan, his sister Susan and his wife Bree. His dad was the late Meryl Scott, a prominent attorney in Los Angeles.

It was also fun to chat with Traci Larsen and her husband, Kevin Clark. Traci and her assistant Dawn Busalacchi are designing the reading room.

This party is always a feast of fabulous foods created by Peggy Dark and the Kitchen for Exploring Foods. The signature drink for the evening was a blood orange martini made with mandarin vodka, blood orange puree and a splash of orange juice.

The menu was a movable feast, as guests wandered from room to room. In the living room, guests tasted paella Valenciana, a salad sprinkled with Cara Cara oranges, blood oranges, kumquats, persimmons, avocado and jicama and orange Muscat vinaigrette.

In the kitchen there was an artichoke soup and Romesco tomato soup to sip. A selection of grilled sausages was offered in the family room: Merguez lamb sausage, chicken fiesta sausage, spicy pork sausage, Italian sweet sausage and Andouille sausage.

In the guest suite we were given Basque potato wedges and avocado fries with pimento and chile flakes and crispy calamari with lemon or saffron aioli and Romesco sauce.

The master bedroom was the dessert station, where everyone wanted to be. Just some of the tasty goodies were creme de chocolate with whipped cream and candied orange peel, churros with cinnamon sugar and hot fudge dipping sauce, individual Caesar’s bread pudding with orange caramel sauce, miniature creme brûlée, and ambrosia with blood orange Cara Cara orange, kumquats, pineapple, coconut and orange syrup. The master sitting room offered gourmet coffee, assorted liqueurs, chocolate bits, whipped cream, cinnamon sugars, coffee candies and cinnamon sticks.

Needless to say, the more than 300 guests that attended that night loved the party and its fabulous foods, not to mention meeting the designers and talking about their plans for this amazing estate.

Tickets for the Showcase House are on sale now. The Showcase House opens to the public on April 15 and runs through May 13th. For more information, go to

JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada social scene. She can be reached at

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