Friday, April 18, 2014

Blogger Barhop 4: Hotel Pools Edition

Once again, the illustrious L.A. Blogger, Caroline Pardilla of Caroline on Crack, and legendary cocktail barman, Aidan Demarest, put together an epic evening of food, libations, and fun for a lucky handful of writers. This year's Blogger Barhop was generously sponsored by Los Angeles' very own Mezcal El Silencio with Victor Amezcua as our El Silencio rep, and the esteemed attendees included Lesley Jacobs SolmonsonLanee Lee, Jason Horn (The Messy Epicure), Esther Tseng (e*star LA), Aaron Tell (The Savory Hunter), Daniel Djang (Thirsty in LA), and Matthew Kang (Mattatouille).

The evening started beautifully in the skillful hands of the new Beverage Manager at Sunset Marquis, David Whitton (of Villain's Tavern fame). He eased us into the evening at Tiki by the Poolside- which cleverly becomes a detoxifying juice bar in the morning- with a Cruciform (Smith and Cross Navy Rum, Selva Rey Blanco, Fresh Lime, Bartlett/Anjou Syrup, and Salted Pear). He then brought us into Bar 1200 (aka The Whiskey Lounge) for two delicious versions of an Old Fashioned: the traditional Old Fashioned (Eagle Rare 10-Year-Old, Organic Sugar, Bitters, Lemon Oils, and Orange Oils), and Bittersweet (Elijah Craig, Organic Sugar, Angostura & Grapefruit Bitters, Lemon Oils, and Grapefruit Oils).

Fortified, we moved to the hotel's restaurant, Cavatina, where we were treated to scrumptious bites from Chef Roger Eggleston's (pictured above right, with Dave Whitton) menu including Crostini with Homemade Ricotta and Truffle Honey, and Grilled Spanish Octopus with Black Chickpea Puree, Fresno Chiles, Olives, and Parsley. At this point, I was pretty much just enjoying myself and failing to take notes on exactly what we were eating, but there was burrata with greens that made me do a little happy dance, a really savory pea soup "shot," something wonderful with large chunks of a sea creature with claws, and fabulous cauliflower. I stopped short of the little burgers they brought out, but the sounds of happiness around me let me know that they were tasty, as well.

 The deliciousness was complemented by an array of cocktails off their newly launched menu, like Cayland (El Silencio Mezcal, Fresh Lemon, Tumeric, Ginger Root, and a pinch of Cayanne), Tobacco Road (Stolen Coffee and Cigarettes Rum, Rittenhouse 100, Blackberries, Cranberry, Fresh Lemon, and Smoked Lemon Oils), and Eyeowa (Templeton's Rye, Basil, Fresh Citrus, Sugar Gum, Peychaud's Bitters, and a bramble of Strawberries topped on a bed of shaved ice). I think I speak for everyone when I say we would have happily stayed there all night, but other good times awaited. At last Dave could stop making our fabulous drinks and enjoy some with us elsewhere.

From Sunset Marquis, we ambled over to Petit Ermitage. Suffice it to say, we've all had excellent experiences there, but this wasn't one of them. Moving on...

Ubers whisked us away to The Standard, which ended up being way more fun than I could have anticipated. Not only did we get to inhabit the poolside teepee and have our way with the pingpong table, but the El Silencio Silent Devil (El Silencio Mezcal, Tomato Juice, Muddled Red Bell Pepper, Ginger Liqueur, Tabasco) they made us was quite enjoyable, as were the fried goodies we had to eat. Winning.

Cut to a most entertaining Uber ride, with an aging Eastern European driver who sorely misread the crowd and started "bumping the beats" so loudly my teeth rattled. "I think I'm in hell," whispered the writer beside me (or maybe she yelled it, I couldn't tell), which kept me laughing all the way to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Oh here, enjoy some hotel pools:
sunset marquis (top) and the standard

We headed to the Tropicana Pool Bar where Aidan demonstrated some surprising dance moves and I practiced the robot...poorly. It was at this point in the evening, while shooting El Silencio out of plastic cups, that I realized I needed to stop drinking. A shame, really, since the next stop was the exemplary cocktail bar, The Spare Room. At least it's a beautiful space that's easy to enjoy even while throwing back waters. And there, the dance party continued.

That was the last official stop, and from there people scattered. I was one of the 'early' returners, getting back to the Marquis around 1:30 in the morning. I was also one of the hangers-on...Caroline, Lesley, and I shared a room while Aidan and Matthew shared another.

The room, incidentally, was beautiful.

The next morning brought those of us who remained to a lovely brunch at Cavatina followed by a rejuvenating visit to the juice bar by the pool where we went ahead and tried pretty much every juice they had available. My favorites were the AWAKE (Kale, Ginger, Beet, Lemon, Carrot, Himalayan Salt) and ENERGY (Carrot, Apple, Ginger, Celery, Olive Oil). That ought to cure what ails you.

Read Lanee's account of the evening by clicking here.

Our Itinerary:

(Home of Cavatina, Bar 1200, Tiki by the Pool, and the juice bar)
1200 Alta Loma Road
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 657-1333

8822 Cynthia Street
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 854-1114

8300 Sunset Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 650-9090

(Home of Tropicana and The Spare Room)
7000 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 466-7000

Monday, March 10, 2014

Doughnuts for Dinner at Glazed Donut Bistro

In the heart of WeHo, Chef Gena Lora has put together a delightful doughnut menu with both sweet and  made-to-order savory offerings. I went with a couple of friends who had already started working their way down the menu on previous trips. Go with people who like to share so you can taste more. Their coffee program is strictly Stumptown, so you know it's good. If you're looking for a different kind of buzz, they also serve champagne, wine, and beer.

Each sweet treat comes with your choice of dipping sauce, and the savories with a choice of fries or salad.  Sweet sauce selections abound, and include things like Mexican Chocolate, Salted Caramel, Raspberry, and Vanilla Créme Anglaise.

We did our best to eat as many doughnuts as possible. Here's what we tried.

Shrimp Roll- Their take on a New England Lobster Roll. A shrimp salad made with FAT pieces of shrimp and lovely fresh herbs served on an only slightly sweet long john doughnut. Quite scrumptious.

Fried Chicken Beignet with Honey Maple Dipping Sauce- Yup. They make fried chicken and stuff it in a beignet. Delightful.

Monte Cristo- Black forrest ham and gruyere put inside doughnut dough, fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and served with black currant dipping sauce. If they did one with turkey instead of ham, I'd be all over it. The cheesy bite I had was a soft and warm mouthful of joy.

I'm Shipping Out to Boston Cream- One of the two best Boston Cream doughnuts I've ever tasted (the other being at The Donut Man all the way out in Glendora). I like this one's proximity.

S'More Please- Forget everything you think you know about marshmallow fluff. Their house-made version is the bomb.

Tres Tres Leches- Vanilla cake doughnut soaked in three milks flavored with cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon. It's then topped with Chantilly cream and fresh fruit. I highly recommend getting the Tres Leches dipping sauce and dumping it all over the top. OMG.

I'm not sure what this one was called, but it's got a fantastic coffee cream center. It's hard to go wrong with that.

The blueberry lemon doughnut with cardamom glaze (pictured above left) is the most unique doughnut I've ever tasted (in a good way), and the banana fritter is as good as it sounds.

My only word of caution is that you shouldn't think you'll be saving money by having doughnuts for lunch. Savory choices run from $7-$14 and sweets are $3-$4. A little steep, but these are not your run-of-the-mill doughnuts.

Glazed Donut Bistro
8807 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 360-0222

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Winter Cocktails at Del Monte Speakeasy

                                                                                                                             photos by Jaime Torres

The Del Monte Speakeasy, one of the oldest bars in Los Angeles, is a great place to head for some seasonal cocktails. I've always enjoyed the drink menus that beverage director Brandon Reynolds-Ristaino puts together, but this latest is my favorite to date. Every one of them's a well-balanced winner. Here they are in the order in which we enjoyed them:

Chai Wallah~ London Dry Gin, Chai, DolinVermouth, Rouge Liqueur, Lemon, Nutmeg
This is one of those dangerous drinks that's got a lovely light quality to it that makes you just want to sit around and drink it all day. The spices remind you that it's winter, but the lightness is perfect for a summer day (as our weather would imply).

Kingston 52~ Aged Rum, Jamaican Rum, Belgian Strong Ale, Lemon, Ginger, Honey
This, too, is a drink spiced for the winter but light enough for summer. At least, it TASTES light...There's a whole lot of rum in there, and the beer is over 9%, so this cocktail is NOT messing around. It's a definite crowd pleaser.

Spice Market~ Provincial Herb Infused Rye, Maple Syrup, Del Monte Bitters Mix
This spectacular cocktail was created by Dorian Bey. The proprietary blend of organic herbs add a fresh and unique flavor to this delightful drink. It was loved by all.

Menotti's Cocktail No. 2~ Guyana Rum, House Made Menotti's Coffee Liqueur, Orange Bitters, Demerara
Named for Caesar Menotti, a character who originally owned the Townhouse and helped keep Los Angeles wet during Prohibition, Menotti's Coffee Shop opened last year. They serve San Francisco's Fourbarrel Coffee (which is delicious and works like crack), and the good folks at The Del Monte used some of it to make a coffee liqueur. That, in turn, is put into this delectable alcohol-forward cocktail to great effect. Perfect for coffee fans who need a stiff drink.

A Sign of the Times~ Bourbon, Apple Brandy, Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Bitters, Orange
This is another drink that doesn't hide it's booze. The ingredients blended well and I remember enjoying it. Admittedly, by this time....well, we'd tasted all the others, ya know? 

Yellow Caballero~ Mescal, Yellow Chartreuse, Amaro Nonino, Grapefruit Essence
The herbaceous flavors of the Yellow Chartreuse and Amaro Nonino really complement the smokiness of the mescal. A must for mescal lovers.

Dorian Bey pouring some yum. 

Get in there to try these cocktails before winter is over!!

The Del Monte Speakeasy
52 Windward Ave. 
Los Angeles, CA 90291
(310) 392-4040

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Some Valentine Stuff Around L.A.

Eugene Lee making something delicious at last year's prom

As a terrific alternative to the crowded restaurants with fixed-price dinner menus you'll find all over town, Big Bar at Alcove has been doing a "prom" of sorts for Valentine's Day over the last few years, and this year's theme is Carnival Cabaret! Treats include a Pernod-Ricard cocktail menu designed by Dan Long, Absinthe Cotton Candy, fortune telling, magicians, tests of strength, and more. No cover to get in, just stop by and have fun! Cabaret/carnival outfits encouraged.

If you want some sweet or snarky conversation heart cookies ($2.50 each), head across the street from the Alcove to Little Dom's. Ann Kirk, their pastry chef, is baking sentiments onto cookies for those you love, or for those who need to "get the message," as it were.

Like it a little louder? Go rock out with Sabrina Antoinette at the W Hollywood from 9PM-Midnight as she promotes her new EP, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Perhaps you're not interested in spending much time in public but want something a little, you know, Valentiney. Well then, rent a movie, order some take-out, and grab a Valentine Macaron from Café Röckenwagner. Two oversized macaron cookies filled with passion fruit cream and fresh raspberries then topped with a chocolate heart sounds like a delightful dessert. Call one of their four westside locations to make sure they're not sold out.

Big Bar
1929 N Hillhurst Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 644-0100

Little Dom's
2128 N Hillhurst Avenue
Los Angeles, CA90027
(323) 661-0055

W Hotel
6250 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 798-1300

Café Röckenwagner for locations 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Play Review: Christopher Plummer's A Word or Two

A Word or Two is spectacular. Legendary actor Christopher Plummer takes us on a journey through his life as it relates to literature... or perhaps it's a journey through literature as it pertains to his life. Either way, you're in for a treat.

Both deeply personal and strikingly universal, this one-man show meditates upon birth, death, and all of the important things that happen in between. Plummer deftly escorts us through his wonderful story, transitioning effortlessly between himself and a myriad of characters, weaving his own words with those of a cornucopia of literary greats from A.A. Milne and Oscar Wilde to Byron and Shakespeare. 

At once hilarious and profoundly moving, A Word or Two is a celebration of love, life, and family, but more importantly,  it is a celebration of language and the acute impact that it has on our imaginations. 

In short, you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll fall in love all over. Go see it. 

January 19- February 9
601 W Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 628- 2772

Monday, January 13, 2014

Get to Know a Booze Brand: Mezcal El Silencio

It has been around for hundreds of years, but tequila's smoky cousin, mezcal, is finally hitting the big time. Over the last few years it has been showing up in more cocktails and bars. If you haven't tried it yet, hop on the tasty bandwagon.

The newest one I've tasted is Mezcal El Silencio. Having only been on the market since last year, it's already making a name for itself and is being served in some of the finest bars and restaurants in Los Angeles, including Picca, Mo Chica, Soho House, Montage Beverly Hills, Neat, and The Spare Room, among others.

How did partners Fausto Zapata (pictured above) and Vicente Cisneros get the ball rolling? "It's one of those things we always talked about...we've got to start a mezcal label! The same way that somebody in San Francisco has a few glasses of wine and says 'We've got to start our own wine label!'" explained Zapata. Except unlike most who talk about it, they actually did it. Almost accidentally.

In putting together a fundraiser for The Chase Foundation, a hospitalized children's charity, they decided to make a mezcal for the high-profile event. With the flavor profiles they wanted in mind, Zapata and Cisneros went to Oaxaca and enlisted the help of palenquero Pedro Hernández. Their mezcal was a hit, demand was instantaneous, and the rest is recent history.

The bottle is beautiful and makes a lovely addition to any bar, but more importantly, the mezcal joven (young or unaged) is delicious, with notes of citrus and a light smokiness.

For the moment, it's only a local L.A. treasure, but this year they'll begin slowly branching out to the rest of California and then will take it from there.

To find out what bars, restaurants, and stores carry Mezcal El Silencio, click here to visit their web site.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Winter Cocktails at Trattoria Neapolis

If you're looking for someplace to take visiting family members...or maybe to get away from them...Trattoria Neapolis is always a good choice. Though still relatively new, this spacious Italian eatery has already made a name for itself in Pasadena with its terrific food and exemplary cocktail program. They invited some food writers out to try their new Winter Cocktail Menu (put together by Kris Doyle) and paired the drinks up with some spectacular bites. Here's what we tried.

FIRESIDE- Appleton Dark Rum, Matusalem Light Rum, Butter, Cloves, Vanilla, Cinnamon, & Orange Zest
served with

Their version of Hot Buttered Rum is among the best I've ever had. It was so comforting and delicious I just wanted to sit by a fire and drink it all night. I'm not a beef eater, but I had a bite of the Manwich in the name of research, and it was delicious. Their focaccia is soft and scrumptious.

DARLING CLEMENTINETito's Vodka, Fresh Clementine Juice, House Made Cranberry Ginger Chutney, Combier Triple Sec, Fresh Orange & Lemon Juices
served with
ITALIAN HOT WINGSMary's Organic Chicken, House Hot Sauce

Darling Clementine was excellent and well paired with the chicken in the sense that it cooled some of the heat from the wings, though once I had that spiciness on my tongue, I lost some of the flavors in the cocktail. But I can't really complain because, as I said, the drink was excellent and those wings...let me tell you about those. 

I think the name and description do a great disservice to these wings because if I simply read them on a menu, I would probably never order this dish. However, now that I have had them, I may never be able to enter the restaurant without eating some. They were some of the best wings I've ever had. Even my sister, who HATES eating things with bones and is not fond of wings, wanted more. The thing that the name and description of the dish fail to convey is the fact that the wings are both crispy and juicy, and the sauce is the perfect combination of sweet and spicy. My mouth has literally started watering like one of Pavlov's dogs as I sit here and recall the taste. I want some now.

ITALIAN NECKTIETempleton Rye, Carpano Antica Vermouth, Maria al Monte, Chocolate Mole Bitters
served with
PUMPKIN PIZZARoasted Pumpkin, Fresh Mozzarella, Gorgonzola Dolce, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (though it wasn't on the menu, they added prosciutto)

I love a well-balanced, boozy drink, and this was one. Perfect for those who appreciate spirits, not for folks who don't want to taste the alcohol. The pizza was as good as it sounds.

SANTA'S LITTLE HELPERHouse Made Eggnog, Bourbon, Fresh Pear, Cinnamon, & Grated Nutmeg
served with
TIRAMISU (non-traditional)- Roasted Bartlett Pears, House Made Ladyfingers, Mascarpone Crema, Buttered Pecans, Pear Moscato Sorbetto, & Salted Caramel

I'd like to call this course amazing, so I will. I'm more into savory than sweets as a rule, but this was an exception. The pear in the eggnog is inspired. It just adds that little something that makes you go 'hmmm.' Of course, it went perfectly with the pear-based tiramisu. Mind you, that tastes NOTHING like tiramisu as we know it, but more like if tiramisu had a light, fluffy, creamy, fruity sibling. Soooo good. 

Trattoria Neapolis
336 S. Lake Ave. 
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 792-3000