Posts Tagged ‘bourbon’

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

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

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

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

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