Posts Tagged ‘bourbon’

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

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.

23

02 2014

The Wallace brings international flair to Culver City

Broccoli

Sprouting Broccoli

From former SBE corporate chef Michael Teich comes The Wallace, a shareable plates concept in downtown Culver City featuring an internationally influenced menu and a respectable cocktail menu from Mixologist Holly Zack, who also hails from SBE.

My favorites here include the sprouting broccoli served with tahini, marinated feta and dukkah (pictured above), as well as the braised pork cheeks with lentils, apple, horseradish and red onion agrodolce. Both pack flavorful punches.

Braised pork cheeks

Braised pork cheeks

The chicken liver mousse with balsamic onions and five spice and the roasted bone marrow with parsley, radish, tarragon and pickled shallots are solid choices, though I wouldn’t say they were the best versions I’ve ever had.

Chicken liver mousse

Chicken liver mousse

When it comes to dessert, if it’s available (I think this was a special when I went) get the house made gelato, sorbet and cookies. The marshmallow ice cream and  ginger cookie combo was my favorite, followed by the cream cheese ice cream and pumpkin cookie. The cherry sorbet with chocolate cookie was my least favorite, but I personally don’t like cherry-flavored things that much.

Ice cream, sorbet and cookies

Ice cream, sorbet and cookies

As for Zack’s drinks, the stirred pleased my palate more than the shaken (though that’s to be expected from me). I liked the Day Rate, made with coffee-infused scotch, cognac, honey syrup and chocolate chili bitters, as well as the Roundtrip with Angel’s Envy bourbon, byrrh, persimmon syrup and sour cherry bitters. I did like the Warm Fuzzies, a shaken drink made with Blackwell rum, cognac, Cynar, egg, lemon and simple syrup.

Day Rate, left, and Roundtrip

Day Rate, left, and Roundtrip

Warm Fuzzies

Warm Fuzzies

I really wanted to like the, ahem, Morning Sex, with bourbon, chai fennel syrup, passion fruit, lemon and Peychaud’s bitters, but it was just a bit sweet for me. It’s pretty, though.

Morning Sex

Morning Sex

While I’m glad to see new restaurants opening up in a neighborhood so close to my ‘hood, I’ve grown somewhat weary of restaurants that offer dishes from a what seem like a myriad of influences made from whatever is in season. Not that I’m opposed to fresh, seasonal ingredients — Teich shops at the Culver City farmers market located just steps outside his kitchen, and I think that’s great — but I sometimes feel like restaurants use this as an excuse to not choose a focus. I’ve read in more than one place that Teich’s menu is influenced by Italian food, but when I see a dish such as lamb with farro risotto, chickpeas, harissa and yogurt on the same page as duck confit with hoisin sauce, noodles and a sesame tortilla, I get confused. I appreciate having many choices on a menu, but it can also be a head-scratcher. To each her own, I guess.

Note: This meal was hosted.

Further Reading:

Vegetables Take Center Stage at Soon-to-Open Wallace in Culver City by Los Angeles Times’ Daily Dish blog

Wallace Serves Up Playful Sustainable Fare in Culver City by Where LA

24

12 2013

Popping cans and pushing carts at The Church Key

Pear and cheese salad

Pear and cheese salad

When you first walk into The Church Key on the Sunset Strip, you might think, in no particular order, “This place is big. And pretty. And it kind of looks like an Anthropologie store. Are those food carts being pushed around? Am I sitting on a couch to eat dinner?” At least, those were some of the thoughts running through my head, which isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy my experience. Because I did, because the food was pretty darn good.

How could it not be? Most of the creative and business team are made up of XIV alumni – Chef Steven Fretz (Top Round Roast Beef, XIV), General Manager Joseph Sabato (The Bazaar, XIV) and Chef de Cuisine Ryan Ososky (XIV, Bradley Ogden) – with Mixologist Devon Espinosa (Pour Vous, ink.) and Pastry Chef Ian Opina (Hatfields) thrown into the mix.

But the dining experience at The Church Key is definitely something new. While there’s the regular food and drink menu, there are also roaming carts serving off-menu specials dim sum style, including frozen-to-order boozy popsicles. This can make for a fun meal, but you can also easily eat too much if your eyes are bigger than what your belly can hold. Also, the cuisine might be best described as “international,” though management calls it “modern American.” Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe. Basically the menu is all over the place, but because most of it is executed so well that it really doesn’t matter.

Popsicle-freezing cart

Popsicle-freezing cart

Boozy popsicle

Boozy popsicle

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11

11 2013

Ring in the New Year with Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Shrimp n' grits

Shrimp n’ grits

The pop-up-turned-brick-and-mortar Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, helmed by Chef Kevin Kathman (Gramercy Tavern, French Laundry), is offering a special New Year’s Eve four-course prix fixe meal for $75. The Venice restaurant, which just opened in October, offers all kinds of Southern foods, and this holiday menu is no exception.

For the table:
Complimentary black eyed peas (a Southern good luck charm!)
Jalapeño cheddar cornbread with pear butter

First course, choice of:
Cauliflower soup, almond, gruyere and brown butter
Smoked trout salad, Meyer lemon, potato, fennel, horseradish and caviar
Kumamoto oysters, lime, cucumber and cilantro

Second course, choice of:
Braised pork belly, chicories, pickled watermelon and spicy mustard
Shrimp ‘n grits, garlic, bacon, shallot and cheddar grits (pictured above)
Caramelized salsify, and roasted, puréed and raw sun chokes

Third course, choice of:
Pan seared venison chop, huckleberries, turnip, onion and potato
Halibut, Maine lobster hash, pickled herbs and root vegetables
Dry aged New York strip steak, mushrooms, fingerling potatoes, shallot and bourbon béarnaise sauce

Dessert, choice of:
Sweet potato pie, cinnamon cream and candied pecans
Warm chocolate cake, vanilla bean ice cream and salty bourbon caramel
Passion fruit panna cotta, blueberry, grapefruit and basil
Plus ginger cookies for the table

Monday, Dec. 31, 2012
Reservations available from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
(310) 392-2425

Daniel Nelson, head mixologist at the Writer’s Room in Hollywood, designed the restaurant’s cocktail program, so you know the special New Year’s Eve drink, the Louisiana Purchase Champagne Cocktail ($12) with Peychaud’s bitters, brown sugar and praline liqueur, will hit the spot. The Car Car, with gin, jicama, ginger, apple, kaffir lime leaf and anise seed, is interestingly tasty, too.

Car Car

Car Car

If you can’t make it to WiSC for New Year’s Eve, then weekend brunch is another good option. The shrimp n’ grits are available then, and don’t miss the pancakes topped with candied pecans, bourbon roasted bananas and maple cream.

Pancakes

Pancakes with candied pecans, bourbon roasted bananas and maple cream

Note: A brunch meal was complimentary.

Further reading:

Good Morning Eats: Brunch at Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing by LAist

 

29

12 2012

Travelogue: Louisville, Kentucky

I’ve been to Louisville before and have even been to the Kentucky Derby. But on this last trip, I tried a bunch of new food, some at old-but-new-to-me places and some at places that have opened since my last trip nearly eight years ago.

First off, I was told that I needed to go to Graeter’s, which specializes in French pot ice cream (dense, custard style). I had both the Bourbon Ball and Black Raspberry Chip flavors, and surprisingly, I liked the Black Raspberry Chip better. Perhaps the best part of this ice cream is the chocolate chips, which are created by pouring melted chocolate into the pot and letting the paddle break up the then-hardened candy into various sizes. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a big piece of chocolate in one of your bites. Since visiting this store, I’ve found Graeter’s ice cream at my local Ralphs, though not all flavors are carried there. They do carry Chocolate Coconut Almond Chip, my new favorite flavor. How can you go wrong with chocolate ice cream dotted with coconut and almond pieces surrounded by those special chocolate chips?

Graeter's Black Raspberry Chip ice cream

Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chip ice cream

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08

08 2012

Chef Ben Bailly’s new menu at Cliff’s Edge

Cliff's Edge lamb cheeks

Chef Ben Bailly shows off his lamb cheeks. Photo by John Ales.

Is third time the charm for Ben Bailly? Bailly recently joined Cliff’s Edge as executive chef, where he was brought on to revamp the menu after stints at Petrossian and Fraiche Culver City. Cliff’s Edge is Bailly’s third restaurant since arriving in Los Angeles, and his food complements the Sliver Lake location nicely. The menu is elevated but not stuffy, which seems to speak well to the discerning hipster neighborhood.

During a recent visit to Cliff’s Edge, I enjoyed both the cocktails and the food. I really liked the Bitter Pill (Zaya 12 year rum, Fernet Branca, brown sugar, fresh lime juice, egg whites, orange oils), which had great depth of flavor. The Gold Rush (Buffalo Trace bourbon, honey syrup, fresh lemon juice, orange oils) and Question Mark (Bols Genever gin, lavender simple syrup, fresh grapefruit and lemon juice, Peychauds bitters, flamed grapefruit oils) were also winners, mostly because I love the bourbon-citrus combo as well as lavender in general.

As for the food, the Whipped Ricotta with lavender (again!), honey and olive oil is a must to start. It’s fluffy, creamy and fragrant. The Crispy Polenta served with mushrooms, egg, and Pecorino Romano cheese, as well as the Seared Scallops with lebne yogurt cheese, cauliflower, Vadouvan spice and salsa verde, are solid savory options.

The Skate Wing served with sunchokes, brown butter, pine nuts, lemon and capers was hands-down my favorite main dish. It was reminiscent of a fish and sunchoke dish that Bailly served at Fraiche that I also enjoyed. The Lamb Cheeks with celery root purée, rapini and hazelnut gremolata is another good choice.

The Chocolate Torta is what you should order for dessert. At once light, smooth and decadent, this cake is one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve had in a while. I don’t normally order the chocolate cake at restaurants, but I would definitely do it here.

Note: This meal was hosted.

 

01

03 2012

Bar bites and drinks at Raphael in Studio City

On a rare visit to The Valley, I recently stopped by Raphael, a Studio City restaurant with a focus on international fare. The menu has been revamped with Asian influences by Chef Adam Horton (most recently of Saddle Peak Lodge), who spent some time not long ago traveling the region.

The items I liked best from Horton were the Asian ones. The Crispy Pork Belly, a kind of deconstructed banh mi made with house-made French sausage, nuoc mam fish sauce, capsicum, herbs and pickles on brioche, was my favorite item off the Bar Bites menu, where nothing tops $12. The different layers of flavor were very satisfying, not to mention pretty.

Crispy Pork Belly at Raphael

Crispy Pork Belly at Raphael

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03

08 2011

Laid back, playful and a little rock n’ roll: MB Post

When we first heard that Chef David LeFevre left downtown’s Water Grill late last year, we freaked out a little. Where else could we enjoy LeFevre’s sublime cooking? And how long would we have to wait?

But almost immediately LeFevre announced that he would be opening his own restaurant, so our fears were allayed. That new place turned out to be MB Post in Manhattan Beach, and it hasn’t disappointed.

Housed in the beach town’s historic post office on Manhattan Avenue, MB Post is much more laid-back than Water Grill. With its rustic interior, bench seating and rockin’ soundtrack (think Elastica, Guns N’ Roses and the Beastie Boys), MB Post is much more LeFevre’s personal speed. But just because the white tablecloths are gone doesn’t mean the quality of the food has suffered; in fact, this menu is interesting, playful, and most of all, delicious.

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19

07 2011

Straight from the farm to my belly: FIG Santa Monica

I had been meaning to try FIG Restaurant in the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica since it opened early last year, so when I was invited to dinner there, I jumped at the chance. The restaurant’s seasonal, farm-to-table concept sounded good — how could a place that places its emphasis on fresh local ingredients not sound good? The good news is this philosophy isn’t just lip service: Chef Ray Garcia knows his ingredients, and his kitchen can really cook.

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22

06 2010