Does the idea of an orange chicken, chow mein and stir fried beef burrito entice you? Well, that is one of the many creations you can make at the new Panda Express Innovation Kitchen in Pasadena, a live test kitchen offering customers the ability to customize their meals.

I’ve personally never been the biggest Panda Express fan, but this new customizable concept had me really excited, enough so that when we were invited to check it out, we made the drive up one weekend.

The Innovation Kitchen is quite different from the standard Panda Express set-up. It carries some of their classics like honey walnut shrimp and orange chicken, but it also has new chef creations and an option to mix and match stir fried proteins and vegetables.

Scallion wrap, with chow mein, honey walnut shrimp, stir fried beef and string beans

I’ve known of Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles since I moved to Southern California. The LA based chain is an institution and no chicken and waffles debate is complete without including Roscoe’s in the mix.

I’ve always wanted to try it, but only did for the first time very recently. After hearing so many stories from Mr. K of his fond memories of visits during his high school years, it was pretty exciting to experience it with him, though he was really worried that it may turn out that it wasn’t as good as he remembered, especially having expanded our palates.

We arrived in the early afternoon and of course there was a wait. Luckily, it was only about 20 minutes. Once inside, I was a little surprised by the dark setting, giving you no indication of whether its day or night outside.

While they are most known for their chicken and waffles, the menu actually has quite a few other options as well.

1. SCOE’S (1/4 Chix prepared southern style, 2 waffles, our own private mix)

This was my choice. You get to choose the chicken pieces you prefer, and I chose drumstick and thigh. The large plate arrived, piled with two oversized waffles and crispy fried chicken. Immediately I knew the waffles wouldn’t be good. They were pale and soggy looking and sure enough, they were too soft for my liking. Waffles should definitely be crisped around the edges. There was also a hint of cinnamon to them that I didn’t care for.

The chicken, on the other hand, turned out much better. Crunchy, well-seasoned, and juicy. I often find fried chicken to be too salty, but this was just right. I thoroughly enjoyed my fried chicken pieces.

Bloody Mary Ice Pops

These Blood Mary ice pops turns the classic cocktail into a fun and refreshing treat.

Over the long weekend we were in Los Angeles where temperatures were in the 90s. During the LA Times The Taste event, we had these Bloody Mary popsicles, which really hit the spot in the scorching heat. I’ve always enjoyed the cocktail and I liked it in ice pop form even more.