Thursday, May 7, 2015

Gran Centenario Tequila presents Angels in Training

You know those unsung heroes of the community who do great work to help those less fortunate and get little or nothing in return? Those are the exact sorts of people being sought out by ambassadors of good will for Gran Centenario Tequila for the next week and a half, so they may be honored for their good deeds with a big ol' party.

Amid much fanfare, The Angels in Training program launched at Blue Plate Taco in Santa Monica on May 4th. Since then,"angel seekers" have been enlisting the help of food banks, local community groups, churches, and the like to seek out those who have made positive impacts on Latino communities around Los Angeles.

The angel search culminates on May 19th with the public recognition of these local heroes at Skybar with the Angels in the Sky party. Their stories of virtuous service in the community will be celebrated by Gran Centenario, celebrities, and invited members of the community.

A big thank you to all of you working hard in our communities, "recognized" or not. We couldn't do it without you!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Blogger Barhop (818) Edition

Under the auspices of local cocktailian legends Aidan Demarest and Caroline Pardilla (Caroline on Crack), our wayward crew, garbed in '80s regalia, wandered around the (818) courtesy of Maeve Gordon and Ken Baranda, two fabulous ambassadors for Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Well, technically, we started just over the hill in the (323) at the newly revamped Powerhouse in Hollywood. The iconic dive bar was transformed into a cocktail lounge late last year, and Damian Windsor had a fine selection of Jameson cocktails awaiting us at the bar, including delectable Irish Coffee and the super-yummy Weeski (Jameson, Cocchi Americano, and Cointreau).
We then Ubered on over to Idle Hour to enjoy drinks in the giant barrel. There we got to try shots of the new Jameson Black Barrel - an extra-aged, super-smooth version of the beloved whiskey -  and threw back some Jameson Old Fashioneds. This was where I had to remind myself to go slow....thank goodness they have some tasty snacks like giant pretzels and deviled eggs to help soak up the booze.

Right across the street, at what is possibly the most awkward corner in the world for pedestrians to access, is the classic Italian restaurant with the awesome old-school sign, Little Toni's. This stop was exciting for two reasons: 1) FOOD and 2) This is where Aidan Demarest will soon be opening his new cocktail lounge, Toni's Bar.

We got a peek at the bar space, then sat down to dine. My favorite thing they fed us was Toni's Special Fettuccine with gigantic, perfectly cooked scallops and shrimp swimming in a delightful Alfredo. I think it goes without saying that the cheesy garlic bread is a champ.

From there it was a quick amble over to Tiki No, where we enjoyed their lovely tiki decor while sipping giant, flaming bowls of deliciousness (including, of course, Jameson) through colorful straws.

It seems that every barhop needs one less than stellar experience. In this case, it happened to be our second tiki stop, Tonga Hut. I generally like this bar, but that night was the exception for a number of reasons. Whatever. Leaving there early enabled us to head back to Idle Hour.

So what's the take away from all this? First, Jameson is scrumptious, goes splendidly in quite a few cocktails, and Jameson Black Barrel is really nice for sipping. Second, North Hollywood has really gotten lucky with bars. People by that Lankershim/Vineland/Camarillo clusterf#@* intersection have some wonderful places to walk to. And finally, if you're ever invited to anything hosted by Aidan, Caroline, or Jameson, RSVP yes immediately.

For more information on this year's BBH posse, click on their Twitter and website links here: Aidan Demarest (Tello Demarest Liquid Assets), Caroline Pardilla (Caroline on Crack),  H.C. So (H.C.'s Foodventure), Jason Horn (The Messy Epicure), Elana Lepkowski (Stir and Strain), Lanee Lee (Voyage Vixens), Matthew Kang (Eater LA),  and Ken Baranda.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Delicious Elegance: Continental in Toluca Lake


UPDATE: I was just informed that after only 7 weeks, the restaurant was closed suddenly and permanently. I'm disappointed because it seemed to be a really terrific spot, but read on for a history of the building and what WAS going on there. 

For nearly sixty years, the restaurant space across from Bob's Big Boy in Toluca Lake has been a popular hangout for locals and stars alike. This site was built as the very first International House of Pancakes back in 1958, when they never would have dreamed of shortening the name to an acronym. In the mid-'70s it became Hamptons, the famed celebrity hang-out and original gourmet burger joint. It remained so until 1995 when Jay Sadofsky turned it into Mo's. And now, the restaurant formerly known as Mo's has had a beautiful makeover and reopened as Continental earlier this year. 

Founding partner Jay Sadofsky and his new partner, executive chef Jesse Genovese, kept the restaurant open to feed its varied and loyal clientele while slowly renovating the iconic building into an elegant Arts & Crafts look with gorgeous wood paneling. The artistic piéce de résistance painted by Don Hanson - a large, multi-paneled artist's interpretation of Toluca Lake before the country club and homes moved in - was put up right before the new menu launched on February 26.

The new menu features an eclectic mix of goodies like the super savory Thai Seafood Bouillabaisse (fresh shrimp, scallops, calamari, & vegetables cooked in a creamy coconut, lemongrass, & kaffir lime broth),  Moroccan Chicken (with lentils, sweet potatoes, carrots, and mustard greens with a saffron curry sauce), and vegetarian/vegan fare like Jay Bird (house-made vegan patty, dairy-free cheddar, vegan bacon, and sriracha thousand island dressing). 

You can't go wrong meeting there for a drink…Continental's international wine list is curated by Doug LaGambina, owner of neighboring Spin the Bottle Wine Studio. For lovers of spirits, Chet Abbot's revamped cocktail menu features some terrific drinks like my favorite, the Christopher Oaxacan (El Silencio Mezcal, pineapple juice, lime juice, and agave nectar). Mr. Abbot also ensured that beer lovers will be happy with a craft beer selection that includes nine bottles and fourteen on-tap choices. 

4301 Riverside Drive
Toluca Lake, CA
(818) 845-3009
photos courtesy of Lawrence Moore & Associates

Monday, March 16, 2015

Go Irish with MOTAC

As of tomorrow, March 17, Tuesdays will be a little better with Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC) Tuesday Tastings at The Three Clubs in Hollywood. From tomorrow on, you're invited to stop by any Tuesday between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. for a complimentary tasting and discussion about the spirit.

For the first of the Tuesday Tastings series, Michael Neff leads guests in a tasting of Redbreast Irish Whiskey

If you're not feeling Irish enough, keep the spirit of St. Patrick alive by attending Drinking Hibernia: Irish Whiskey in Cocktail and Song on March 25. 

MOTAC has a wonderfully educational imbibing evening planned for you at the historic General Lee's Bar in L.A.'s Chinatown, where you'll learn not only how to select and appreciate a good Irish whiskey, but also how to distinguish it from its Canadian and Scotch counterparts. Stories will be told, whiskey from the Pernod Ricard portfolio will be sipped, and traditional Irish music will fill the night as you nibble on classic Chinese appetizers. Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the door. 

MOTAC Tuesday Tastings
Tuesdays from 7 p.m.-9 p.m.
The 3 Clubs
1123 Vine St. 
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Drinking Hibernia: Irish Whiskey in Cocktail and Song
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
6:30 p.m.- 8:30 p.m.
General Lee's 
475 Gin Ling Way
Los Angeles, CA 900012
MOTAC event website

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Festival of the Desert

This Wednesday, March 18, the likes of conductor Philippe Jordan, soprano Renée Fleming, ballet dancer David Hallberg, Quincy Jones (who needs no preface to his name), and celebrity chef Cat Cora are coming together for the inaugural launch of Festival of the Desert. Kind of a cultured Coachella, if you will. 

Lovers of the arts will agree that this all-day event sounds pretty awesome: festivities begin at 11:00 a.m. with The Genius of the Émigré Composer concert, and culminate in the evening with a recital by world-renowned opera singer, Renée Fleming, with Maestro Jordan tickling the ivories, followed by a gala reception with Chef Cora promising an unforgettable dining experience. The gala will feature a musical program curated by the great Quincy Jones as well as a dance program featuring acclaimed dancer, David Hallberg. Tickets for each event are sold separately. Visit their website for more information. 

Festival of the Desert
Palm Desert, CA
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Event Times & Locations Vary 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Food Fare: A Delicious Way to Support PPLA

Since its beginnings as a cooking demonstration with Julia Child thirty-six years ago, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles (PPLA) has been holding the fundraiser, Food Fare, annually so that you can support a great cause while eating and drinking to your heart's content. This year, over one hundred of SoCal's finest restaurants, wineries, breweries, and purveyors of fine libations will be presenting gourmet indulgences for your palate's pleasure. 

Brew lovers will be thrilled to chill out in The Beer Chicks' Beer Garden where  beer from nearly a dozen local craft breweries can be paired with all of the deliciousness.  

In addition to all of the dining and imbibing, you can shop to support women's health, as the Food Fare will have many retailers like Andrew Weiss Gallery, Bedhead Pajamas, Tough Cookies, and Two Gems to entice you. Of course, a percentage of each sale will go back to PPLA.  

Want to try your luck? Raffle for Choice will include fantastic prizes for lucky winners including things like a Maui Travel Package for four nights at the Four Seasons, Wine Tasting and Vineyard Tour for 8, and a year's worth of gift certificates from some of Southern California's best restaurants. 

PPLA plays an extremely important role in the health of Angelenos. Their education and community outreach program reach nearly 60,000 men, women, and children each year. Last year, PPLA provided over 270,000 patient visits throughout L.A. County, including cancer screenings, annual exams, birth control, and STD treatment and testing. 

Come on out to Santa Monica's Barker Hangar on Thursday, March 5 to feel good about eating and drinking too much. Bought in advance, the daytime session (11AM-2PM) is $150, and the evening session (6:30-9:30) is $250. Add $25 to each price if you're buying at the door. 

PPLA Food Fare
Thursday, March 5, 2015
11-2 OR 6:30-9:30
Barker Hanger
3021 Airport Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(213) 284-3300

photos courtesy of Ann Flower Communications

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Horn, West Hollywood

The Horn first opened this past October as a steakhouse catering to adventurous carnivores, with an emphasis on American-sourced wild game. Chef Aaron Mitrano's recently revamped menu gives a nod to their former bill of fare with Gator Bites and a Buffalo Burger, but is mostly pretty traditional with dishes like the tasty Salmon with soy glaze, mushrooms, and sesame tomato salsa and Pork Ragu with bacon & white beans, and gremolata.

One of the house specialties is the wood-charred Octopus with black pasta and spicy tomato sauce, and you won't go wrong with the Tuna Tartar appetizer served on a bed of avocado, with wasabi soy dressing and chips (which I would gladly order and eat as my main course).

This elegant-yet-homey restaurant and bar is something different than we've seen on the Boulevard in West Hollywood before. The relaxed atmosphere and refined aesthetic make it a perfect place to get together with friends or romantic interests when you're looking for a place to meet and chat without the "scene" that comes with many West Hollywood haunts. And, I'm kind of in love with their rhinoceros at the host stand. 

At the bar, you'll find tasty classics like the Sazerac and Sidecar, along with some new creations like the Cinema. This combination of Gentleman Jack, Popcorn Simple Syrup, and Caramel Corn tastes best served straight up, with a bit of the scrumptious caramel corn on the side so you can enjoy the crunch. 

If you're an absinthe lover, or just absinthe curious, they are knowledgable about it and have a nice selection.

Weekend brunch here is popular, due in part to the reasonably priced bottomless mimosas. Wednesdays give you 50% off bottles of wine all day long, and I noticed they have a late night Happy Hour, though I didn't peruse that menu.

The Horn
8933 Santa Monica Blvd. 
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 933-6678
food photos taken by me, interiors courtesy of Urban + Allen