Author Archive

Lauded barman Damian Windsor brings craft cocktails to the Salon in North Hollywood

The Salon is located upstairs at The Federal Bar (5303 Lankershim Boulevard) on the north side of the NoHo Arts District in North Hollywood. Walk past the art school kids you’re going to park by, skip the crowd at the main bar downstairs, and tell the host you want to go up to The Salon for some honest-to-goodness handcrafted cocktails. Go through an Employees Only door, up a flight of stairs and you’ll find the entrance to The Salon, a cocktail hideaway tucked into the second floor. Opening up quietly at the end of 2016, but four years in the making, Damian Windsor (The Roger Room, Warwick) created a drink menu that’s both accessible and finely tuned with a focus on classic and craft cocktails.

Crafty cocktails

You have drinks like the Montgomery Martini, which is just a really good martini. But you also have the popular Horse’s Neck that features Lairds Applejack, ginger beer, Angostura and citrus oil. If your friends are just getting out of plastic bottles and into cocktails, chances are they’re enamoured with those mules in copper cups. The Horse’s Neck will be familiar and is the drink you’ll indoctrinate them into The Salon with. Be careful, though, because you most likely won’t be able to get away with just one round of these.

Horse's Neck cocktail at The Salon

Horse’s Neck

Maybe your friends just graduated from Jameson blackouts and now they only drink Old Fashioneds. The Fransisco San [sic] is right up their alley. Taking inspiration from Japanese whisky and San Francisco (as the name implies, despite the curious spelling), this cocktail features Suntory Whisky Toki, Punt e Mes and D.O.M. Benedictine. It’s a bright take on a whisky drink that goes down easy while still remaining respectable enough for Bill Murray to toast while wearing eyeliner.

Fransisco San cocktail at The Salon

Fransisco San

 

Double dazzle

Fortune Favors the Bold is ironically probably the least bold cocktail on the menu. Double Cross vodka, Carpano Antica Formula, Manzanilla sherry, Cointreau and Spanish Queen olives combine into a smooth but powerful, not delicate, taste. The vodka, vermouth, sherry and triple sec serve to heighten the Spanish Queen olives, making them more than just an accent. What this drinks holds back in adventure, it gives you in unrestrained flavor.

Fortune Favors the Bold cocktail

Fortune Favors the Bold

When you’re ready to commit to a new cocktail experience, go ahead and do yourself the favor of ordering up a Tequila Por Mi Amante. While the pickled watermelon dazzles your tastebuds, the Pueblo Viejo tequila blanco and Chamberyzette dry vermouth await your commitment. The watermelon cubes are more than a garnish; this is closer to a pairing in a glass. Salty, fruity, refreshing, boozy. This is what I started my night with, and it set the bar high. I could most likely drink more rounds of Horse’s Neck on any given night, but the Tequila Por Mi Amante was my favorite.

Tequila Por Mi Amante cocktail at The Salon

Tequila Por Mi Amante

 

Welcome to The Valley

The Salon has limited operating hours, generally Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8 p.m. until late, but it would be wise to call and check ahead as there are sometimes performances (comedy, music) in adjacent showrooms. The walls upstairs are not very soundproof, so activity in the other room would be definitely noticed. Nevertheless, The Salon is a welcome addition of handcrafted cocktails in an intimate atmosphere that you frankly don’t always find in The Valley.

19

03 2017

Chef Tara Lazar brings home cooking to Chi Chi Palm Springs

Chef Tara Lazar Chi Chi Palm Springs

Chef Tara Lazar

I met Chef Tara Lazar in the lounge of her restaurant Chi Chi Palm Springs in the Avalon Hotel. It was a slow night. Palm Springs is a resort town at the mercy of seasons and travelers.

But all is not what it seems: Lazar was also overseeing three simultaneous catering jobs as owner of Foundation 10 Creative Group. In other words, getting her food out to the people.

She cares deeply about what she’s feeding people. Beyond the execution of the dishes, Lazar is in charge of sourcing the ingredients from local farms, keeping everything within 100 miles of the restaurant. Maintaining freshness and nutrient integrity of proteins and produce makes a true difference in her dishes, and she does not compromise in the quality of her farm sources.

Lazar is most intrigued by home cooking, something cooks and chefs crave to eat themselves. Small, particular tweaks that their grandmothers might do to make dishes their own can make all the difference, and she loves the realness and care in that.

The realness carries over to Lazar’s menus. At her popular brunch establishment Cheeky’s, the menu can change weekly. At Chi Chi Palm Springs, the menu is more consistent, but the dishes on offer always account for the seasonality of ingredients. It’s understood that certain boxes need to be checked to get a popular draw from what’s in demand (see: cauliflower and kale), but that’s just the gateway to introduce people to food that’s more loving than trendy.

Keep reading

09

04 2016

Getting fancy with Hennessy VS summer cocktails

Hennessy

We were invited by Hennessy to its Essential Summer Cocktail tasting at Commissary at the Line Hotel. An early evening affair on a Wednesday in Los Angeles, the airy restaurant was the perfect setting for the tasting of three spotlighted drinks using Hennessy VS: Coca Mule, Carrot and Splash.

The Coca Mule is a take on a Moscow Mule with the interesting ingredient of Agwa de Bolivia coca leaf liqueur, rounded out by Hennessy VS cognac, lime and ginger beer. Whenever I order a mule, I hope for the fancy copper cup, so I have to confess being a little biased when I get a mule not in one. But the Coca Mule is an inviting drink, especially to come in from the sun to. Adding more than a strong hint, whether you’re partial to ginger beer will determine if this drink is for you. Also, if you’re partial to copper cups or not.

Coca mule

Coca mule. Photo by Eros David.

The Carrot was my personal favorite. No, it did not taste like carrot juice. With the striking flavor coming from the agave nectar and passion fruit, this cocktail has a smooth yet full-bodied taste. In a funny way, the consistency is somewhat reminiscent of carrot juice, but I did wonder if they meant to spell it “Carat.” Both satisfying and refreshing, it walks the line between business and casual. You can kiki about money or your love life with this one.

Carrot cocktail

Carrot cocktail. Photo by Eros David.

The Splash has more of a citrus appeal, with lemon and a flamed orange twist. The mint and creme peche add extra layers of taste experience by adding fragrance and softening the acidity, but ultimately this is a cocktail that will have you shaking the ice in your glass before you expect. This is a safe choice when deciding whether to barhop or stay put.

Splash cocktail

Splash cocktail. Photo by Eros David.

I typically drink gin cocktails in the summertime — a gin and tonic while at a BBQ watching the sun set, or even at home eating BBQ-flavored potato chips while enjoying the A/C. Just kidding, I don’t use my A/C (are you trying to run up my electric bill?!). Hennessy VS provided an alternative to my usual summer cocktail, and I was not mad. When I think of Hennessy, I think of my uncles sippin’ yac at family parties. The drinks at this tasting showed me that Hennessy didn’t always have to be Hen-dogg. These drinks were full-bodied and delicious, grown but not old-man. Sure, there were fruit accents (we are talking summer cocktails, after all), but they were far from fruity drinks. Your typical college spring breaker would not be guzzling these down while being Snapchatted by their friends in Hollister hoping to draw the attention of the guys whose boat they’re on.

Hennessy server

Instead, you’ll want to sip these drinks while conversing with good friends about your life’s current events and how they fit in your overall journey. (Not to be confused with overalls journey — I hear they’re making a comeback.) You won’t hop out of the pool wanting these drinks for a #hydrationsituation, rather you’ll be more likely dressed in your high-level summer fashion for a sophisticated discussion about how early or late you sleep, or how unwilling you are to settle down with someone. But, hey, it’s summertime. We all know cuffing season is in winter. Cheers to that!

Hennessy toast

Note: This tasting was hosted. All photos courtesy of Hennessy unless otherwise noted.

04

08 2015

Introducing putxero on Mondays at Smoke Oil Salt

Putxero at Smoke Oil Salt

Putxero at Smoke Oil Salt

Adding Monday night to its business operations, Smoke Oil Salt is introducing Monday Night Dinners with a proud salute to Chef Perfecto Rocher’s childhood in Valencia, Spain.

Served in a trayed fashion, his Putxero Valencia Amb Pilotes is made with lamb, beef, pork, pilotes, chickpeas, cabbage, potatoes and short noodles. The ingredients can vary with what is available in the region it is made, but the pilotes is the main attraction of this traditional Spanish stew. Large oval meatballs made with minced meat, egg, parseley, cinnamon, pinenuts and light seasoning with salt and pepper are cooked in broth and wrapped in cabbage. If this meal were the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, the pilotes would be Shaquille O’Neal winning the Finals MVP.

What makes everything on the platter great is that all items are seasoned subtly and perfectly. You’ll notice you won’t be immediately overpowered by flavors trying to beat you into submission. Rather, your taste buds will welcome their new best friends for the evening and ask them to stay a while, getting to know one another slowly but surely.

The fried chicken is very inviting, and the texture of the skin is so crisp and light you almost want to shed a tear of praise when you realize the meat comes off the bone with very little coaxing. All those years of letting drivers change lanes in front of you and holding elevators for people have finally paid off. At last, good karma has come back to you in the form of stupidly delicious, almost-too-easy-to-eat chicken wings.

It’s recommended you take bites of everything as you go rather than finishing each item one at a time, and it makes sense. Although they are separated by tray partitions, all the components go together. Like its cafeteria lunch brethren, putxero is meant to be a complete and balanced meal. While the cafeteria style serving is a nod to Chef Rocher’s childhood, this is leagues beyond a basic TV dinner or anything Red might serve you on “Orange is the New Black” (sorry, Red!). These Monday Night Dinner trays are proud presentations of tastes, techniques and history.

Monday Night Dinners launches Feb. 16 and putxero platters will go for $35 each. Wine and dessert will be available à la carte. The restaurant will be open from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. every Monday night, making it now open seven days a week. Smoke Oil Salt is located at 7274 Melrose Avenue in the Fairfax District.

Note: This meal was hosted.

Further reading:

Smoke.Oil.Salt Review: Spanish Tapas in West Hollywood by LA Weekly

Jonathan Gold reviews smoke.oil.salt by KCRW

Smoke Oil Salt by kevinEats

09

02 2015

Waffles and beer at The Iron Press in Orange County

A beer flight at The Iron Press

A beer flight at The Iron Press

The Iron Press in Costa Mesa is the food party lovechild of co-founders Jeremy Saenz (Lucky Habanero Salsa) and Leonard Chan (California Shabu Shabu). Tucked into the once furniture store-dominated shopping plaza South Coast Collection (SOCO) next to the 405 freeway, the restaurant specializes in waffle sandwiches and top quality, California-brewed craft beers. Whether you come for the beer or come for the waffles, you’ll stay for both.

Let’s start with the waffles.  Most items on the menu are waffle sandwiches. I was very tempted by the prosciutto and gruyere waffle sandwich and the country madame, but elected to order the country style buttermilk fried chicken. This actually wasn’t a sandwich at all, but rather fried chicken tenders topped with gravy, sitting on a freshly pressed Belgian waffle. Being the breakfast food fan that I am, I threw on extras of bacon and a fried egg on top. Traditionally, this comes served with a side of maple syrup (it did), but to kick it up a notch, I was also given jalapeño maple syrup to pour on my chicken and waffles dish. Even though there’s just a subtle difference, the spiced up version is definitely the way to go.

Country Style Chicken and Waffle

Country Style Chicken and Waffle

Though everything works together, if I had it all to do again, I would have elected to forego the gravy. It’s fine in and of itself — smooth and creamy — but I would have liked to let the crispy texture of the fried chicken get more appreciation. This was no fault of the dish; I can only blame my mind for adopting the attitude of “did somebody say gravy!?” The egg yolk didn’t run as much as I usually expect from fried eggs, but then again how much liquid does one want on his waffle?

On the side and begging to be shared were the Imperial IPA Irish Nachos. A beer lover’s take on one of the heaviest snacks ever, the Iron Press version actually tastes light and fresh. The cabbage, prosciutto and jalapeño are simmered in an imperial IPA before being placed on waffle fries and topped with lager cheddar sauce and sliced avocado. Between the sauce and the simmering, they actually manage to sneak almost a whole beer into these nachos. What makes the dish feel lighter are the crisp waffle fries that aren’t overly oily as their drive-thru counterparts usually are. The cheddar sauce is used sparingly so as to not make the fries soggy, and everything is fresher when you add avocados! Ketchup is provided on the side, but you won’t need it.

Imperial IPA Irish Nachos

Imperial IPA Irish Nachos

If you’ve conquered your waffle sandwich and skillfully shared your nachos, you’re ready to move on to dessert. There’s a Cap’n Crunch Berries-infused waffle and a S’mores waffle just ready to complete your ascension into food coma heaven. On this occasion, the Wookie called to me and I answered. Using the in-house cookie dough, a waffle-shaped chocolate cookie comes warm off the iron and is topped with ice cream. Again going the extra mile, I got mine topped with strawberries and bananas and drizzled with chocolate. Say what you want about me being fancy, I have no shame. This dessert can feed a bigger group than one might expect, though it gets a little tricky gathering your bites together on the plate. The cookie is crunchy rather than chewy, since it’s cooked thin on the waffle iron, so it’s brittle and breaks apart easy.

Wookie waffle

Wookie waffle

Opening in 2012, the place quickly became known for their events and evenings focused on breweries and craft beers. Every month, the bar hosts a Tap Takeover Tuesday with local brews, including many exclusive and limited varieties. In October, the bar featured Mother Earth beers from Vista, California. This is the night where the beer big boys bring their A game.

The Iron Press recently opened a newer location at the Anaheim Packing District, spreading its loaded waffle point of view across Orange County.

Note: This meal was hosted.

02

11 2014

Get ready for Barberia restaurant

Expanding from the Barbershop Ristorante pop-up into a permanent space in downtown Los Angeles named Barberia restaurant, Chef Walter el Nagar (Il Grano, La Botte) has been hosting a run of tasting menu evenings to preview what is in store for the new restaurant. As the location on Hope Street downtown nears completion, these tastings are being hosted in Brakeman Brewery, a gallery space off of Jefferson Boulevard along the Metro Expo Line.

Barberia preview at Brakeman Brewery

Barberia preview at Brakeman Brewery

With a wonderful sound system, cozy bar and golden sunsets to die for, we recently dined on the outdoor patio area at dusk.

After being greeted by a bar inside, a carefully prepared meal was our treat outside. First up to say hello was duck tartare with shaved foie gras and anchovy on sailor bread. The laws in California don’t prevent consumption of foie gras, but the ban on the sale of foie did make this dish a pleasant surprise for many at the table. The theme of pairing these items together is appreciated, but let’s be real: you’re excited about the foie.

Duck tartare with foie gras

Duck tartare with foie gras

In a nod to the sea and barbershop, up next was an uni sponge cake in tomato broth presented in a sea urchin bowl atop a stone with a barbershop pole etching. The taste was subtle, as most of the dishes in the evening would be, and was a refreshing follow-up to the tartare on a warm evening.

Uni sponge cake

Uni sponge cake

The prawns aguachile was quite interesting. It was like a prawn enchilada in green sauce but wrapped in avocado slices instead of tortillas. I would probably prefer this as a snack rather than a dinner course, but I definitely enjoyed it. As always, avocados remind you that you’re in California.

Prawns aguachile

Prawns aguachile

The linguine alle vongole was my favorite dish of the evening. Using wheat germ pasta cooked in clam juice and fresh clams, there’s a kick at the end of each bite thanks to the chili in the spicy sauce that the pasta sat on rather than being coated in it. I could have had three more helpings of this dish, gladly.

Linguine alle vongole

Linguine alle vongole

The abalone and porcini mushroom risotto was a real hit, and for many their favorite dish of the tasting menu. Everything combined perfectly, and each bite had a great taste to it. Seaweed was also used for flavoring in this dish, and it was spot on.

Abalone and porcini mushroom risotto

Abalone and porcini mushroom risotto

Dessert came with a message: “Tomato is a fruit.” That’s literally what the dish was called. A sweet tomato in a bowl with strawberry syrup, topped with white chocolate ice cream and vanilla foam, the message was loud, clear and delightful. This wasn’t a decadent dessert, full of sin and scandal; it was more like a peaceful agreement between good looking people who never really wanted to fight each other. This will be a popular dessert for the summertime.

Tomato dessert

Tomato dessert

Overall, this peek at what’s to come for Barberia restaurant definitely shows promise. You can experience this preview (last pop-up takes place Oct. 17) and decide for yourself by making online reservations on the Barbershop website. No word on when Barberia restaurant will open, but there will be quite a few people in the food world interested to see how this joint venture with Adam Fleischman, of Umami and AdVantage fame, will turn out.

Note: This meal was hosted.

29

09 2014

Next Door Lounge debuts new menu

Next Door Lounge

Next Door Lounge. Courtesy of Next Door Lounge.

There are times when you need to catch up with a friend, but you aren’t in the mood to go to a club and it’s too late for coffee. Where do you end up? A bar, of course! You might be coming from work, in your work clothes and not trying to deal with over-served rambunctious patrons at a sports bar — you just want a classy place where you can take the edge off with a drink, comfortably talk with your friends and maybe even grab a bite should conversation run later into the evening.

Having been named Best Speakeasy by LA Weekly, Next Door Lounge looks to fit the bill perfectly for these occasions.

ShopEatSleep was invited to dinner with Chef Nikki Martin, who showcased the new menu and carefully concocted cocktails. The Food Network star crafted the new menu with the 1920s speakeasy in mind and put the restaurant’s wood-fired oven to good use.

Keep reading

26

08 2014

ArcLight Hollywood introduces new cafe menu

This post is by ShopEatSleep contributor Eros David, an e-commerce professional on the everlasting quest for the perfect animated gif response. Having lived in both California and New York, he is no stranger to street food and streetwear. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramGoogle+ and Tumblr.

ArcLight Cafe

ArcLight Cafe

With the release of the food culture-centric film “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” ArcLight Cinemas on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood took the opportunity provide a preview of the upcoming menu for its ArcLight Cafe, including courses from the new menu as well as dishes inspired by the film. Using the classic dinner (with drinks) and a movie formula, I was taken on a group date with ArcLight and didn’t even have to text a friend for a rescue.

To shake off the LA traffic on the way to Hollywood, I was greeted with an ArcLight Sour — skillfully made and topped with an ArcLight “A” on top. It was a fine “hello” and a refreshingly light version of a whiskey sour with bourbon to help welcome in the evening’s courses.

ArcLight Sour

ArcLight Sour

The Spicy Southwestern Bacon Cheeseburger was the star of the new menu items. First off, the obvious point: you can’t go wrong with a burger. Secondly, this burger performs the balancing act of being casual enough to order at a movie theater cafe, yet still quality enough to actually make you want to go to the movie theater cafe to eat. For this Southwestern version of the burger, the fresno chili was a great choice to add a kick without overpowering the juicy beef patty. Let’s call it a gentle kick – a kind greeting from your future food baby. Southwestern flavor accents run throughout, but they aren’t used as a crutch as compared to some burgers that tend to rely on the toppings more than they should.

Spicy Southwestern Bacon Cheeseburger

Spicy Southwestern Bacon Cheeseburger

Keeping with a beef theme, the Beef Bourguinon a la Hassan is a dish from the movie inspired by the main character’s take on the French dish. Using a red wine sauce along with pearl onion and mushroom, no one was left hungry after this course. I actually halted conversation to focus on eating this. Of course, conversation picked right back up when we were deciding what to choose for the next round of drinks.

Beef bourguignon

Beef bourguignon

But first, dessert. We ended the night with Banana Cardamom Creme Brulee. The crisp top cracked open when lightly struck, and the custard underneath was the perfect consistency. There will be other fruit choices on the new menu, but it was banana’s night to shine.

Banana creme brulee

Banana creme brulee

ArcLight’s take on the Dark ‘n Stormy, the Perfect Stormy, was my companion for the movie. The local-made bitters and specially selected ginger beer are the highlight of this white rum cocktail. I grabbed a carton of popcorn, sat in my seat next to my alcoholic (beverage) date, and enjoyed the tale of an Indian family learning about Michelin stars in France.

Perfect Stormy

Perfect Stormy

The new menu debuts at the ArcLight Cafe in September, and while “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is in theaters, you can order select dishes inspired by the film.

Arclight MovieMenu sizedNote: This event was hosted.

10

08 2014

A favorite daytime meal: Break of Dawn

The Skillet, with roasted new potatoes, bacon, cheddar poached eggs, gucamole and chipotle sour cream.

Located in a small shopping plaza behind Laguna Hills Mall in Orange County, Break of Dawn is a local gem of a restaurant for breakfast and lunch. With the entrees divided into the two main categories of Traditional and Savory, Chef Dee Nguyen uses bold flavors and Asian influence to take his dishes to the next level at accessible prices. The result is not simply fusion food, but rather a hearty Asian and American meal.

Keep Reading

10

08 2010

Healthy Japanese food: Fukada

This is the first post from ShopEatSleep contributor Eros David, a long-time friend and like-minded blogger. You can follow his work at Clement & Co. and on his Tumblr.

From Eileen T. on Yelp

Healthy, organic Japanese food. Buzzwords may draw a crowd to Fukada in Irvine, but the delicious taste keeps them coming back. Because it’s in the same plaza as a 24 Hour Fitness, it’s not uncommon to see the same people frequenting both locations. Tucked away in a small plaza on the outskirts of town across the street from the Verizon Amphitheater, Fukada is not really the type of place you just come across randomly; you’ll most likely have to be introduced. There is also a “2 Go” location in north Irvine, not far from the UCI campus, with a slightly different menu.

Keep Reading

Related Posts with Thumbnails

18

02 2010