Archive for the ‘Drinks’Category

SunCafe ups the ante for vegan fare

SunCafe

SunCafe

ShopEatSleep was invited to try out the expanded menu at SunCafe’s new location in Studio City. Being a total novice to vegan food — my experience with veganism was limited to a vegan burger that I had a great many moons ago — I was curious to see if the meatless offerings at SunCafe could satiate my usually insatiable appetite.

Known for serving up imaginative plant-based cuisine, SunCafe operated out of a modest Studio City storefront for five years before moving to its current home on Ventura Boulevard. With more than triple the capacity, including a spacious outdoor patio, the fully renovated 1920s-era ranch-style house delivers a good blend of old and new, lending itself to a cozy and relaxed ambience.

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12

10 2014

Summer cocktails all year round

Even though summer is coming to an end, that doesn’t mean you can’t drink like it’s summer all year ’round, especially here in Los Angeles. From the herbaceous to the tiki, here are some of my favorite refreshing cocktails.

Headhunter’s Repentance at Sonny’s Hideaway

Headhunter's Repentance at Sonny's Hideaway

Headhunter’s Repentance at Sonny’s Hideaway

John Kelly O’Hare, who heads up the bar at Sonny’s Hideaway in Highland Park, is doing some great things. Aside from the overproof punches and barrel-aged Campari and Fernet, there’s a Tiki Tuesday menu with some of the best tiki drinks I’ve ever tasted. Some real thought went into these cocktails, which also means they’re not cloying sweet. My favorite, which isn’t on the current tiki menu but is available if you ask nicely, is the Headhunter’s Repentance with rye, chai, lime, pineapple and toasted coconut, a combination of some of my all-time favorite things.

Garden Cup at Faith & Flower

Garden Cup at Faith & Flower

Garden Cup at Faith & Flower

The Garden Cup at Faith & Flower is a twist on the classic Pimm’s Cup. With Pimm’s (a gin-based liqueur), basil, citrus and a pickled carrot garnish, this cocktail is fresh-tasting for any time of the year. Unfortunately, the pickled carrot isn’t always available, so when you can get it, consider yourself lucky because that bit of vinegar gives the drink a little extra kick.

Spanish Gin and Tonic at Beelman’s Pub

Spanish Gin and Tonic at Beelman's Pub

Spanish Gin and Tonic at Beelman’s Pub

One of the things that sets the newish downtown watering hole Beelman’s Pub apart is its take on the gin and tonic. Here it’s served Spanish style with a bunch of herbs, citrus and a cinnamon stick, taking the classic G&T to a whole new level. I usually don’t go for a gin and tonic, but throwing in a bunch of aromatics freshens up the cocktail and is sure to make you think of summer any time of the year.

Street Spirit at Wood & Vine

Street Spirit at Wood & Vine

Street Spirit at Wood & Vine

I was going to recommend Wood & Vine‘s Black Star, which I previously described as “summer in a glass,” with its tiki-leaning combo of rum, banana liqueur, housemade orgeat, Angostura bitters, fresh pineapple and lime, but that would be too obvious. Instead, I’m recommending the Street Spirit, with Buffalo Trace bourbon, fresh lemon juice, strawberry balsamic shrub, sherry, ginger beer and lemon peel. The shrub, or drinking vinegar, may not be for everyone, but I think it adds an interesting, funky dimension to the drink. But you’ll need to hurry for this one — the summer cocktail menu will be available for just another three weeks or so.

Note: These tastings were hosted.

07

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.

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26

08 2014

Wood and Vine’s new summer menu is best yet

Burrata and peaches at Wood & Vine

Burrata and peaches at Wood & Vine

Hollywood’s Wood and Vine has gone through a few changes over the years, but the restaurant’s new summer menu from Chef Marc Johnson might be its best yet.

With a sharing-plates concept, you can try many dishes at Wood and Vine — a good thing, considering the high quality of each.

Start with the burrata and peaches (pictured above) served with prosciutto crisps and micro basil. I love stone fruit, so summer is always exciting for me, and the peaches in this dish pair well with the smooth cheese and crunchy ham.

Move on to the braised bacon with fried grits, cheddar, pickled ramps and jalapeno. The pork belly is super tender, and the fried grit balls topped with the pickled veg are an interesting way to get a creamy sourness in as an accompaniment.

Braised bacon

Braised bacon

For your pasta course, get the basil capellini. The basil-flavored pasta topped with charred cherry tomatoes, proscuitto, mushroom, preserved lemon and duck egg yolk is somehow light and substantial at the same time. My favorite part is the lemon.

Basil cappelini

Basil cappelini

The striped bass comes on top of an interesting concoction of nduja (spreadable salami), peaches and cauliflower, and is topped with fresh peppercress. The fish is perfectly cooked with delightfully crispy skin, and its lightness paired with the flavorful meat combo is a pleasant complement.

Striped bass

Striped bass

For dessert, get the butterscotch pot de creme. No question. Its sweet-and-salty combination makes me happy.

Butterscotch pot de creme

Butterscotch pot de creme

Don’t forget the cocktails! Wood and Vine’s bar manager Justin Stidham’s summer drink menu includes some good ones. The Black Star, with House Spirits rum, Giffard Banane (banana liqueur), housemade orgeat, Angostura bitters, fresh pineapple and lime, is summer in a glass served over crushed ice. And the Street Spirit, with its slightly sour combo of Buffalo Trace bourbon, fresh lemon juice, strawberry balsamic shrub, sherry, ginger beer and lemon peel, might not be for everyone, but it is certainly for me.

Black Star

Black Star

Street Spirit

Street Spirit

Note: This meal was hosted.

13

07 2014

Broadway Bites is back in NYC

This post is written by ShopEatSleep contributor Deanna Ting, a New York-based writer and editor who hails from Los Angeles. She is a seasoned travel, lifestyle and fashion writer, having written for publications such as TravelAge West, Luxury Travel Advisor, Los Angeles magazine and WSAToday (a magazine that was entirely devoted to shoes). These days, you can find her working as a managing editor/senior editor for Incentive and Successful Meetings magazines, as well as scouring New York–and the globe–for her next favorite meal. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @deanna421.

Onigiri by Tampopo at Broadway Bites

Onigiri by Tampopo at Broadway Bites

Given the downright nasty winter that New York City endured this year, the return of warmer weather–and all that comes with it–is a more than welcome sight. One great mainstay of summer is the return of outdoor food events like Broadway Bites, a pop-up, outdoor culinary market that occupies a prime location in the shadow of the Empire State Building.

Located at Greeley Square Park, between 32nd and 34th streets on Broadway, Broadway Bites serves up a collection of 30 different vendors selling fare as varied as handmade chocolates (Nunu) and Japanese takoyaki (Mimi & Coco) to Michelin-starred pizza (Roberta’s) and “California street food” (Jicama). If Broadway Bites seems familiar it’s because it’s the work of the same folks behind the wildly popular Madison Square Eats, Urban Space. Last year, Broadway Bites debuted for the very first time in late October and now it has returned with a new summer lineup.

While some favorites have remained–including Roberta’s, makers of that aforementioned Michelin-starred pizza–there are also a number of newbies that are worth a try. Here’s a look at just a few:

Onigiri by Tampopo: Onigiri, a traditional Japanese rice ball wrapped in nori, is deceptively small but incredibly filling. Many onigiri that I’ve had before have lacked in flavor, with a disproportionate amount of white rice overwhelming whatever tiny morsel–ume, salmon, chicken and the like–was wrapped inside. Tampopo’s version is the exception: The salmon scallion onigiri that I had was so flavorful. With each bite I could taste the lightly seasoned rice, flecks of bright green scaillions and fresh salmon pieces; I never had to search for that one tiny morsel–it was already in every bite. A variety of unique flavor combinations are available (ummm cheddar shiso, anyone?), so save multiple visits to try out each one.

PalenqueHaving traveled to Colombia last summer and eaten more than my own weight in arepas while I was there, I’ve longed to find another arepa as good as the ones I had over there. While Palenque’s aren’t quite exactly like the ones I had in Colombia, they’re pretty darn close. Arepas come in three varieties–classic corn, and quinoa and multigrain for the more health-conscious–and, like miniature pizzas, they are topped with generous heapings of Oaxacan cheese, savory sauces and toppings of your choice, like angus beef and marinated chicken. The chicken arepa, composed entirely of white meat, was never dry and was the perfect mix of salty and savory.    

And here’s a look at a few of my favorite mainstays:

Chutney: I love Indian food, and I also happen to love Mexican food, so this mash-up, while a little bit out of the ordinary, really works. The chicken tikka taco was great–really flavorful, with just the right amount of tikka masala and juicy bits of chicken. Bonus points for the fact that all tacos are made fresh to order. There are also two vegetarian options available. One taco is $4 while an order of three, a good-size meal, is $10.

Chutney tacos at Broadway Bites

Chutney tacos at Broadway Bites

Red Hook Lobster Pound: I like to judge my lobster rolls by two main factors–the buttery-ness of the bread and the quality of the lobster itself–and in both of those categories, Red Hook Lobster Pound is a winner in my books. I also happen to love the fact that Red Hook’s lobster isn’t drenched in mayo or any other unnecessary dressings–they simply let the lobster, and the roll, speak for themselves.

There are so many other great finds to be found at Broadway Bites, so do yourself a favor and start exploring. Stop by now through Aug. 1, every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

15

06 2014

National Doughnut Day is better with bourbon

BLD national doughnut day

BLD doughnut. Photo courtesy of BLD restaurant.

Chef Neal Fraser’s BLD is celebrating National Doughnut Day this Friday, June 6, with a special doughnut and bourbon pairing event. I’m not sure anything could sound better.

Pastry Chef Mariah Swan’s doughnuts are amazing, so to add my favorite spirit, bourbon, to the mix is almost too much to handle. But handle it you shall, if you want what promises to be an epic National Doughnut Day experience.

Here’s the menu:

Rocky Road Doughnut: salted caramel glaze, toasted almonds, cinnamon marshmallows, chocolate sauce
Bourbon Pairing: Elijah Craig 12 Year

Spiced Orange Caramel Doughnut: cinnamon and ginger spiced orange caramel, braised farmers market cherry
Bourbon Pairing: Basil Hayden’s

Coffee Cardamom Doughnut: chicory coffee cardamom custard filling
Bourbon Pairing: Crater Lake Rye

Honeyed Chocolate Doughnut: chocolate honey glaze, candied grapefruit peel
Bourbon Pairing: Bernheim Original Kentucky Wheat Whiskey

Butterscotch Toffee Doughnut: muscovado butterscotch custard, chopped toffee
Bourbon Pairing: Evan Williams Single Barrel

One doughnut: $3/$6 with bourbon
Three doughnuts: $9/$18 with bourbon
Five doughnuts: $15/$24 with bourbon

BLD restaurant
7450 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
323.930.9744
Doughnuts and bourbon available 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on June 6

03

06 2014

Not Your Mama’s BBQ: Roadhouse LA

Roadhouse Cornbread Pudding

#cornbreadpudding

Internationally inspired barbecue isn’t what one might expect to find attached to a comedy club, but that’s exactly what’s being served up at Roadhouse LA. Helmed by Chef Kyle Schutte, who has taken over for opening chef Robbie Richter, the Improv-adjacent restaurant offers grown-up cocktails from Dave Fernie (Harvard & Stone, Pour Vous) in addition to what’s being called “modernist global BBQ,” which means reinvented dishes such as root beer-cured bacon, Punjabi Poutine and Creme Brulee Mac and Cheese.

Schutte (Vu, The Corner Door) may be best known as the guy who tried out for The Taste with Chicken Fried Watermelon, intrigued judges Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre, Nigella Lawson and Brian Malarkey, was not chosen to be on a team but was actually really good, and Lefebvre kicked himself for not picking him. And while he laments not being able to get away from the Chicken Fried Watermelon dish, I appreciated seeing it on Roadhouse’s menu. I had first tasted it when Schutte was at Vu, and it makes sense here.

The chef, on the other hand, is focused on the future, retooling the Roadhouse menu and adding his own dessert menu to debut later this month (look out for innovative dishes such as a brown sugar and thyme biscuit served with candied preserved orange, tallow ice cream (!) and verbena meringue).

One of my favorites from Schutte’s menu is the #cornbreadpudding (yes, that is its actual menu name) with roasted jalapeno butter, citrus charcoal, and tequila and cilantro jelly. It’s almost like a dessert, but it’s savory enough to be a great starter. The lamb, served with cucumber risotto croquettes (like arancini), ras el hanout spice and mango yogurt, is some of the best lamb I’ve ever tasted — and I’m not a big fan of lamb. Schutte said he uses Colorado lamb, which is less gamey than other varieties. The Wilted Beet Greens, made with ginger beer and served with dried blueberries, pickled beets and crystalized rose petals, was a good accompaniment. The smoked avocado with burrata, mache, pickled raspberries and sweet drop peppers is another interesting flavor combination of smokey and sweet.

Lamb with cucumber risotto croquettes

Lamb with cucumber risotto croquettes

Wilted beet greens

Wilted beet greens

Smoked avocado

Smoked avocado

Unfortunately, the brisket wasn’t available when I visited. Schutte said it takes days to prepare to get it just right. While I don’t doubt this, I would suggest making the brisket a weekly special instead of a regular menu item so people aren’t disappointed on off days. I will be happy to go back on a day the brisket is ready, even if it’s just to have it with Schutte’s squid ink and black garlic BBQ sauce!

As for the drinks, there’s a respectable list of beer and wine, as well as some house-made nonalcholic drinks, including root beer with vanilla, cinnamon, Chinese 5 spice, lime extract, sugar and Balinese long peppercorn. The cocktails are also nice, with the Jimmy Dalton (chrysanthemum bourbon, hickory applejack, sherry, bitters and citrus oils) and There Can Only Be One (Bank Note scotch, Smith & Cross rum, vermouth, maple syrup and smoked saline) as standouts. Mixologist Fernie is celebrating moonshine all this month, with $12 specialty drinks and $8 shots of Old Smokey available through June 5. The Apple Bottom James, with Ole Smokey Apple Pie, Jameson Irish whiskey, lime, honey and thyme, sounds pretty good!

Jimmy Dalton

Jimmy Dalton

There Can Only Be One

There Can Only Be One

Note: This meal was hosted.

08

05 2014

Sips and bites at Stocking Frame

Mary's chicken tacos

Mary’s chicken tacos at Stocking Frame

The Stocking Frame in downtown Los Angeles is a great go-to no fuss, no muss restaurant and bar. It’s just trendy enough to please modern palates, but it’s not so trendy that it’s a turn-off. The space is large, so there’s plenty of room to enjoy food and drink with friends, too.

I’ve been here a couple of times, and so far I like the food better than the cocktails, which are fine but nothing special. A recent seasonal menu included a nice concoction of Bulleit rye, Nux walnut, Cynar and sea salt, as well as a fun mix of a spiced mezcal punch with lime and mint. The bourbon, Apple Jack and winter spice drink, which I thought I would like, was a bit too sweet for me.

rye, bourbon and mezcal drinks

From left: rye, bourbon and mezcal drinks

During happy hour (Stocking Frame refers to this as “Mid Day”) from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, you can choose from an abbreviated menu that includes the most delicious chicken tacos (two for $4) topped with a spicy mole sauce (pictured above). These are my favorite food offering here, so too bad they’re available only in the middle of the day.

My second-favorite item that I’ve had here so far is the Pig & Egg BLT with maple pork belly and chipotle mayo. It’s available only on the lunch menu.

The SF Pie with sopressata, wild mushroom and jalapeno is a decent pizza, though I wouldn’t say it’s a standout. I had this at lunch, but it looks like Stocking Frame has been tinkering with its menus because now it seems to be available only at dinner. And the beer cheese with crispy chicken skin, which was on the dinner menu last time I visited, is tasty, though it might be a bit on the salty side for some. I wish the pieces of toast that come with this were bigger, too.

Beer cheese with crispy chicken skin

Beer cheese with crispy chicken skin

Stocking Frame seems to be still finding its footing, with menu change-ups and a back room space whose purpose was still to be determined at last visit. Hopefully it figures out its identity soon, as it’s one of the better options abutting the South Park area.

23

03 2014

Loews Hollywood classes it up with renovated hotel

After nearly two years of renovations, the Loews Hollywood Hotel is now sleek and modern. And with the unveiling of its new H2 lobby bar, the hotel is now a legitimate place to relax with a drink away from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood Boulevard, and even the Hollywood & Highland complex located right next door.

Loews purchased the former Renaissance property back in 2012, and it’s a good thing it did. I remember the old hotel, with lots of primary colors (green and orange stands out in my mind) splashed across its walls and carpets. It was not what one might consider posh.

The new version is much improved. I had the opportunity to stay overnight in one of its renovated rooms, which offer lots of space with an average of 400 square feet each. You get free wifi in your room and throughout the hotel (score!), and Loews properties are pet-friendly (double score!).

King room at Loews

King room at Loews

Sofa area

Sofa area

Bathroom

Bathroom

View from my room overlooking Hollywood & Highland

View from my room overlooking Hollywood & Highland and the pool

The H2 lobby bar just opened last week, so its food and beverage menus are still being worked out, but until then, if you tell the bartender what kind of spirit you like, he’ll make you something that will surely please. I got a nicely crafted New York sour, complete with a pretty red wine float.

New York sour

New York sour

I also sampled some dishes that are currently being considered for the bar menu. The pastrami sandwich on doughnut buns was a big hit, and I was pleased to find that the doughnuts were not frosted (because that would be, like, ew).

Pastrami doughnut sandwiches

Pastrami doughnut sandwiches

The lobster pups (mini lobster corn dogs) were some of my favorites, too. It’s fried. It’s lobster. How can you not like this?

Lobster pups

Lobster pups

As part of our tour, I was able to visit the hotel’s helipad and take in the view with a glass of champagne. Ah, the Hollywood life. Word has it that the Loews Hollywood is planning on offering special experiences on that helipad in the future. So if you’re looking for a way to pop the question or celebrate some other notable milestone, the hotel’s helipad might be just what you’re looking for.

Overlooking Highland Avenue from the helipad

Overlooking Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue from the helipad

Note: The visit to the lobby bar and the overnight stay were complimentary.

10

03 2014

East Borough brings amped up Asian food to Culver City

Daikon rice cakes at East Borough

Daikon rice cakes at East Borough

East Borough, which recently opened in downtown Culver City, brings something new to the fast-growing area: Asian food. And not just any Asian food but amped up Vietnamese. John Cao and Chloe Tran, who own a more casual version of East Borough in Costa Mesa, teamed up with Paul Hibler, owner and creator of Pitfire Pizza and Superba Snack Bar, and Jason Neroni, executive chef of Superba Snack Bar, to create this new concept, which focuses on traditional Vietnamese flavors and dishes while also re-imagining some of them.

The menu starts with appetizers familiar to those who know Vietnamese cuisine. The Imperial Rolls made with pork and taro and fried to a bubbly crispiness are flavorful and well-balanced, as is the banh xeo crepe, which in this case is stuffed with lots of crab.

Imperial Rolls

Imperial Rolls

Banh xeo

Banh xeo

The daikon rice cakes (pictured above) served with eggs, shiitake mushrooms, cilantro and spicy soy sauce are dense and kind of a mouthful, but the flavors are nice. Actually, there is a lot of richness at East Borough. The nuoc mam sauce reduction makes the cauliflower and long bean vegetable dish really strong, and the Phocatini, a playful take on Vietnamese pho and Italian bucatini, is almost too rich. The oxtail, hoisin and Sriracha combination nearly make for too much flavor, but it’s still one of the most interesting dishes on the menu.

Phocatini

Phocatini

The cocktails here are serviceable, but I wouldn’t say they were some of the best I’ve ever had. The Mo Bourbon, with bourbon, Averna, St. Germain and apricot was on the sweet side for me, but I do like the mix of bourbon with stone fruit. At least the drink prices are reasonable: $9-10.

Mo Bourbon, left, bourbon sour and The Golden Axe

Mo Bourbon, left, bourbon sour and The Golden Axe

Note: This meal was hosted.

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23

02 2014