Friday, July 31, 2015

Coming Up: The New Taste of San Pedro and Bow & Truss' Wine and Cheese Pairings

The New Taste of San Pedro One night only
The New Taste of San Pedro is back on Saturday, August 1st after a three-year absence. The revamped culinary event will feature 20 San Pedro and Peninsula area restaurants and lots of wine, craft beer, and spirits. I'm particularly excited to visit The Museum of the American Cocktail's (MOTAC) booth wherein they'll be featuring SoCal-made spirits including Ascendant Spirits, Greenbar Craft Distillery, and Stark Spirits.

Every hour features a new live band, and there will be fire dancers, jugglers, and other entertainers throughout the event. The New Taste of San Pedro goes from 5 p.m. - 10 p.m., and tickets are $55 for five tastes of food and three spirits. The $85 tickets for ten and five tastes were already sold out at the time of this writing, but additional food tickets are available for $5 each or three for $10. Additionally, there's a "Happy Hour" with unlimited wine tastings from 5 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Saturday, August 1, 5-10 pm 
CRAFTED at The Port of Los Angeles
112 East 22nd St, #10 
San Pedro, CA 90731
Ticket info click here

Wine and Cheese Pairings at Bow & Truss Recurring event
Bow & Truss kicks off their wine and cheese pairings from around the world on Monday, August 3rd. Wine expert Chuck Novak will guide guests through the tasting every Monday at 7 p.m. through November.

Bow & Truss
11122 Magnolia Blvd. 
North Hollywood, CA

Friday, July 3, 2015

The End of the World

This beautiful and sacred spot is often overlooked by people visiting The Big Island. One section of it is commonly used for cliff jumping, and I read somewhere that it's called "The End of the World" because it looks to jumpers like they're going off the end of the world. More likely,  Kuamo'o Bay is so nicknamed because of the terrible battle there nearly two centuries ago that brought an end to the ancient Hawaiian way of life.

Shortly after the first King Kamehameha's death, Kamehameha II wished to abolish the kapu system. In a nutshell, here's why: MANY things were kapu (men and women eating together, for instance) and punishable by death. If the offenders weren't killed, then the gods would be angry and punish the offense themselves with things like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, you get the picture.

Cut to Captain Cook arriving with his band of merrymakers (okay, so maybe it wasn't quite like THAT, but the lads definitely participated in some kapu activities). Hawaiians took notice that these guys are breaking all kinds of laws, yet punishment is not being meted out by the gods in any discernible way. So the old ways were questioned - but quietly - because Kamehameha I was an indomitable badass (meant in the best possible way) and nobody would dare mess with him and his stalwart upholding of the ancient ways. Almost immediately upon his death, however, Queen Regent Ka'ahumanu and his son, Kamehameha II decided to put an end to the ancient laws of kapu.

Well, that didn't sit well with Kam II's cousin, Kekuaokalani, and he led a traditionalist rebellion to battle at the behest of Chiefs from around the island. What followed was the largest battle seen on the island, wherein over 300 warriors were killed, including Kekuaokalani and his wife, Manono. With them died the old ways, hence "the end of the world." It's worth noting that this happened before the Christian missionaries came to the islands, but they arrived very shortly thereafter and were quite successful at filling the the "spiritual void" that had resulted from the end of the old religion.

The dead from the battle are interred among the rocks, so enjoy the beauty, but tread lightly and clean up after your dog (loud hint to those people with the big dogs crapping on everything).

It's a perfect place to meditate, enjoy the scenery, check out the tide pools, and cast a fishing pole. Many say it's a great place for cliff diving, though just as many believe it's disrespectful to do so at the mass grave site. Whatever you do there, remember ho'ohanohano- conduct yourself with respect and honor the dignity of others.

The End of the World (Kuamo'o Bay)
Turnoff just south of Kaleiopapa Street off of Ali'i Drive 
Keauhou, Kona, Hawaii

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Captivating Cocktails at San Diego's US Grant

The dream that would become the US Grant Hotel began at the dawn of the 20th century when Ulysses S. Grant, Jr.'s wife, Fannie Chaffee Grant, purchased the Horton House. What had been San Diego's first major hotel was torn down and - after years of changed and stalled plans owing to money trouble, poor health, and the San Francisco earthquake - it was finally opened as the US Grant with much fanfare in 1910.

It was not only elegant, but by the standards of the day it was huge and technologically advanced: the 437 room hotel featured classic architecture and the first electrically lit fountain, designed by architect Irving Gill. 

Today, the hotel remains a luxurious and very conveniently located destination for visitors to San Diego within the historic Gaslamp Quarter. But what I'm really here to tell you about is their unique cocktail program headed by Jeff Josenhans

Jeff is a cicerone, sommelier, AND mixologist, which means he gets pretty darned inventive with what he serves up. At an intimate gathering in Los Angeles, lucky attendees had the opportunity to enjoy his creative concoctions. 

The catalyst for all of this was a collaboration in 2009 with High West Whiskey to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the hotel. Mr. Josenhans worked with the distillery to create the 100 Day Barrel Aged Centennial Manhattan, so you can get a perfectly balanced Manhattan in a bottle. Yum.

Then a few years ago, Jeff thought to create celebratory sparkling cocktails as champagne alternatives for special occasions. The result is three bottle-conditioned Cocktails Sur Lie, of which we tasted two.

The Mule (vodka, fresh ginger, cascade hops, fresh muscat grape juice, and champagne yeast for fermenting), pictured here rimmed with freeze-dried honey dew, cascade hops, and sanding sugar, is the lighter of the two with the grape juice and ginger offering a nice, bright flavor. 

Le Grenade is a delicious blend of hibiscus tea, pomegranate juice, bay leaves, and black peppercorn fermented with syrah yeast and sweetened with cognac.

Another of his delightful creations is the Génépi Americana, wherein Jeff uses local, organic botanicals and honey to devise his own version of Chartreuse. 

Beer lovers will appreciate the newest addition to the US Grant's signature bar portfolio: their very own Grant Grill Imperial Manhattan Rye Red, made in collaboration with Mission Brewery. The Imperial Red Ale is made using rye and infused with cigar-smoked (yes, for real…they smoked a bunch of cigars to make it happen) Luxardo Maraschino cherries. It is aged in their US Centennial Manhattan seasoned barrels for at least three months. Another winner. 

US Grant Hotel
326 Broadway
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 232-3121

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