Enchanted Forest of Light Debuts at Descanso Gardens, Pasadena


God knows, we all need a little fantasy in our lives these days. That’s why we made a bee line the other day to beautiful Pasadena.
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After a blissful day relaxing at The Langham Huntington, the only place to stay if you seek great comfort and style (http://www.langhamhotels.com/en/the-langham/pasadena/,) we headed at sundown to the Descanso Gardens in nearby La Canada Flintridge where we took in their Enchanted Forest of Light. This is the first year of what we all hope will be an annual event.
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Now, Descanso by day has its own green and leafy charms on 160 acres, but when night falls, the real magic begins. Starting November 25 and running until January 8, 2017, Descanso celebrates its many plants and places, its live oaks, camellias, Japanese garden and lake, its meandering streams and all of its natural beauty with a dramatic light show worthy of a detour.
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We wandered and marveled at eight attractions: Flower Power with its dazzling lighted tulips, Rainbow Sycamore with their stately bark ghostly white, Lightwave Lake—a statement of playful colorful lighting, Symphony of Oaks bathed in bright white light, Fantasy Forest with its breathtaking camellias, Luminous Lawn featuring a whimsical pool with interactive water lilies, the ferns, cycads and conifers of Ancient Forest and, finally, the Garden of Good Fortune a traditional Japanese farm house with pond and stream bedecked with glowing red lanterns.
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This is a experience the whole family will like, and the mile long walk is not strenuous. The sounds, play of lights, and oneness with nature in the dark is beguiling. Along the way, you can stop for hot cocoa and cotton candy. Prices start at $24. We are assured this experience is just as good during the daytime. Tickets at EnchantedLA.com, (818) 952-4390.

In need of sustenance, we headed for Maple, the Joachim Splichal restaurant on the Descanso grounds that is open for dinner nightly exclusively for Enchanted ticketholders. Descanso Gardens is fortunate to have such a celebrated chef like Splichal overlooking their restaurant. We recommend you start with a Maple Moscow Mule, a potent mix of vodka, Vermont maple syrup, lime and ginger beer to warm up.

Maple is a casual indoor-outdoor spot serving soups and salads and a delicious jumbo lump crab louie, shared bites like charcuterie, crab and avocado dip and shrimp cocktail, and well-prepared entrees like mesquite grilled hangar steak with rosemary chimichurri, pan roasted free-range chicken, herb crusted salmon with cranberry couscous, harvest pot pie with seasonal game hen, osso bucco with creamy polenta and orecchiette pasta in a béchamel sauce.

There are tasty desserts like pumpkin pie, apple tart and chocolate pretzel bread pudding.

Service is professional friendly and the pricing reasonable given the high quality of the cooking. An excellent wine list of Champagnes, roses, whites, reds and beers will not break the bank. It is most unusual to have the talents of a Joachim Splichal team cooking with such care at a public venue like Descanso Gardens and we are all the beneficiaries. We are told Sunday brunch at Maple is an affair to remember and very popular.
Visit mapleatdescanso.com, (818) 864-6435.

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