Posts Tagged ‘cocktails’

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

643 North is welcome addition to Chinatown

Don't Drink This cocktail at 643 North

Don’t Drink This cocktail at 643 North

Chinatown is the new downtown.

That’s what it certainly feels like, with newcomers such as Chego, Starry Kitchen and General Lee’s making their way into the historically low-income neighborhood just north of its rapidly gentrifying big brother, downtown Los Angeles. And now comes 643 North, a restaurant and bar from Los Angeles native and owner of Michael J’s Catering, Michael Ourieff.

643 North, named for its address at 643 N. Spring St., is a new concept for Chinatown. It serves non-Asian food, for one. But unlike its neighbor across the street Spring Street Smoke House, which specializes in barbecue, 643 North offers a full menu ranging from a pickled beet salad and a lamb burger to a roasted eggplant pizza and ossobuco ravioli. And there’s a full bar with a decidedly drinkable cocktail menu.

Chef Oz Ramuco (Dar Maghreb, Caffe Opera and Bistro, The Roosevelt Hotel) helms the kitchen here, and Bar Manager Adam Acuff (Blue Palms Brew House, Far Bar) designs the cocktail program.

Some menu standouts include the mini grilled cheese sandwiches with roasted pears, white and yellow cheddar, wild arugula, honey mustard and white truffle oil, which thankfully aren’t heavy on the truffle oil. The beef sliders come perfectly cooked — which is no small feat, mind you — and are made with grass-fed beef patties, pickled red onions and white cheddar on brioche. When it comes to the mains, the seared diver scallops are buttery and come on a bed of parmesan farro and asparagus tips.

Mini grilled cheese

Mini grilled cheese

Beef sliders

Beef sliders

Scallops

Seared diver scallops

Do not skip dessert here; get the butter cake, which arrives at your table warm, topped with vanilla sugar, chantilly crème and raspberry coulis. So simple, yet so good.

Butter cake

Butter cake

As for the cocktails, first and foremost I have to applaud Acuff for having a menu dedicated to building your own martini or manhattan. This is brilliant. On the regular drink menu, try the Don’t Drink This (pictured above) made with Evan Williams Single Barrel bourbon, maraschino liqueur, Dolin sweet vermouth, Fernet Branca and fire. The seasonal Go Figure, with Avion reposado, Benedictine, Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, fig thyme syrup and pinot noir, is an interesting combo, especially with the addition of the wine.

Go Figure cocktail

Go Figure cocktail

There’s also a happy hour available Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6:43 p.m. (cute, huh?) with discounted bites, including the beef sliders, and $3 draught beer and $5 wine, martinis and manhattans. How can you beat a $5 manhattan?

So next time you’re in the area on your way to a Dodger game or just want to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown proper, pop in to 643 North. They’ll treat you right.

Note: This meal was hosted.

18

12 2013

Black Friday hangover cures: happy hour at The Backyard, afternoon tea at BLVD 16

Sausage, sauerkraut and mustards at the W Los Angeles' The Backyard

Sausage, sauerkraut and mustards at the W Los Angeles’ The Backyard

After all that Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping, consider kicking back with some brews and bites at W Los Angeles‘ new happy hour at The Backyard, or cocktails and afternoon tea at BLVD 16 at Hotel Palomar.

Featuring beers from L.A.’s own Angel City Brewery and Bavarian-inspired comfort food from Executive Chef Dakota Weiss, The Backyard’s happy hour — offered Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. — is set poolside in a cozy, heated tent at the W hotel in Westwood, creating a winter beer garden for us Angelenos.

Waffle with short rib

Waffle with short rib

Here’s the menu:

*Beer nuts ($3)

*Potato pancakes with sour cream, chives and sweet mustard ($5)

–With Kobe hot dogs ($8)

*Waffle bites ‘n stout herbed gravy ($6)

–With duck confit ($7)

–With short rib ($8)

*Daily sausage with trio of mustards ($6)

*Housemade pickles ($3)

Everything is made in-house, including the mustards. Make sure to try the sausage special (the house made mustards are great), waffle with one of the tender meats, and potato pancakes with the Kobe beef hot dogs.

Potato pancakes with Kobe beef hot dogs

Potato pancakes with Kobe beef hot dogs

At BLVD 16, also in Westwood, take an afternoon break with some tea, mini sandwiches and sweets, available from 3 to 5 p.m. with 24 hour notice ($27 per person).

Afternoon tea at BLVD 16

Afternoon tea at BLVD 16

*Sweet & savory sandwiches

–Cucumber: cream cheese dill aioli, watercress salad, lemon vinaigrette

–Prosciutto: sliced red onion, avocado, fig aioli

–Peanut butter: house marmalade, banana

*Pastries and sweets

–House seasonal scones with clotted cream, fruit preserves

–Butter tea cookies with house marmalade

–Chocolate covered strawberries

*Selection of Mighty Leaf teas

*Choice of bubbly ($10)

The scones are nice with clotted cream, and the prosciutto sandwich offers a nice savory balance to the sweetness of the cookies and marmalade.

Afternoon tea snacks

Afternoon tea snacks

If you’re here on a Tuesday, check out the Trees on Tuesdays cocktail menu ($9 each) featuring Greenbar distillery spirits. For every drink sold off this menu, Greenbar will plant a tree.

*Sittin’ Pretty: Tru vodka, Fair goji berry liqueur, Marie Brizard triple sec, fresh lime juice

*Barbados Winter: Crusoe spiced rum, Velvet Falernum, Aperol, fresh lemon juice, pineapple juice, clove syrup

*Herbal Remedy: Tru gin, green Chartreuse, Bar Keep lavender bitters, lavender flowers, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup

Barbados Winter

Barbados Winter

Note: These tastings were hosted.

02

12 2013

Ricardo Zarate’s Halloween parties at Picca, Mo-Chica & Paiche

Mo-Chica's Pisco Sour

Mo-Chica’s Pisco Sour

If you’re anything like me, you’re not that into Halloween. But if, like me, you like a good party with good food and drink, then Chef Ricardo Zarate’s restaurants, conveniently located through Los Angeles, will be the places to be.

Picca
9575 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
310.277.0133
9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

*Welcome shot for those dressed in costume
*$20 open bar for those who enjoyed dinner earlier in the evening; $25 open bar for general public (includes Pisco Halloween Punch, Peruvian beer and house wines)
*Costume contest, “Thriller” dance competition, bobbing for apples, receive 20 percent off New Year’s Eve dinner, “Spooky Gift Bags,” and surprise grand prize

Mo-Chica
517 W. 7th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90014
213.622.3744

11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

*Welcome shot for those dressed in costume
*$25 open bar including Peruvian Pisco Halloween Punch, Peruvian beer and house wines

2:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

*20 percent off entire bill during happy hour
*Costume contest, dance competition, gift certificates and “Spooky Gift Bags”

Paiche
13488 Maxella Ave.
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
310.893.6100

2:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

*$25 open bar with special-themed cocktails, beer and house wine

9 p.m. to midnight

*666 menu featuring 6 dishes for $6 each
*Raffle, costume contest, one-hour mixology class with Mixologist Deysi Alvarez, one-hour cooking class with Ricardo Lopez, and more

30

10 2013

Churchill, Hudson celebrate anniversaries this week

Westside Negroni at The Churchill.

Westside Negroni at The Churchill. Photo by Annabelle Abouab.

On Thursday, Oct. 17, stop by The Churchill on West Third Street for a combined celebration in honor of the restaurant’s 2nd anniversary as well as The Hudson’s 4th anniversary. Starting at 10 p.m., you’ll be treated to passed appetizers from Churchill Executive Chef Michael Bryant, half-off fall cocktails from mixologist Karen Grill and sounds from KCRW’s Garth Trinidad. With Bryant and Grill behind the eats, this is sure to be a tasty affair.

Set to be on the passed-app menu:

*Ahi tuna with cucumber and harissa aioli
*Mini tacos with fresh snapper ceviche, pico de gallo and guacamole
*Beef tartare
*Roasted market veggie kabobs
*Parmesan gougères
*Angus beef sliders

Grill’s new fall cocktails will be half-off at $6 and include:

*24th 1/2 Century: scotch, Punt e Mes, cacao, fresh lemon juice
*Mezcalifornia Dreamin’: mezcal, Cointreau, sage liquer, fresh lime juice
*Westside Negroni: London Dry gin, east india sherry, Aperol, lemon zest
*Caipeira: cachaca, pear brandy, lime segments, Peychauds bitters
*High Tea: tequila, earl grey tea, rhubarb liquer, orange bitters, fresh lemon juice, soda
*Tiki-Tiki Tembo: aged rum, Cynar, pineapple juice, orgeat, lime, grated nutmeg
*Churchill Manhattan: rye whiskey, vermouth, Angostura bitters
*Lily of the Valley: gin, aloe liquer, agave rose soda, fresh lime juice

Bryant recently took over for chef Bruce Kalman, who left to start his own pickle company, and Grill has taken over for Mia Sarazen. I recently tried both Bryant’s food and Grill’s drinks (the 24th 1/2 Century was my favorite, followed closely by the Westside Negroni, which is less bitter than traditional negronis) and can attest to their quality. Should be a good time!

The Churchill
8384 W. 3rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
10 p.m. to close

15

10 2013

A tiki bar to end all tiki bars: Tonga Room San Francisco

Pineapple Royale at the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar

Pineapple Royale at the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar

If you’re a fan of tiki bars and haven’t been to the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar in The Fairmont San Francisco hotel, then you don’t know tiki bars.

This Polynesian paradise, or “the greatest place in the history of the world” per Anthony Bourdain, is the perfect combination of kitsch and upscale dining. Not only can you get a ridiculously large, sugary and potent drink — preferably aflame — but you can also get contemporary takes on Asian and Polynesian cuisine while dining alongside a pool, periodic rain showers and a live band on a floating stage.

When it comes to strong drinks, this is the place. The Pineapple Royale, a huge portion of aged rum, brandy and fresh pineapple juice served in a hollowed out pineapple, is dangerously good (and fun!). You could easily share this with someone, and you might want to just to split the $17 cost. The Singapore Sling ain’t no slouch, either, with Tanqueray gin, Cointreau, cherry Heering, fresh lemon and pineapple juices, Angostura bitters, and a Benedictine mist.

The Quintessential “Pu Pu” Platter, with BBQ Kona pork ribs, shiitake egg rolls, chicken skewers, and coconut prawns, is a good bet, and the restaurant’s inventiveness comes out in dishes such as the Forbidden Blend Fried Rice, which features forbidden black, white jasmine, Bhutanese red and jade pearl bamboo rices.

Quintessential Pu Pu Platter

Quintessential Pu Pu Platter

Forbidden Blend Fried Rice

Forbidden Blend Fried Rice

The well-known Huli Huli Chicken — boneless fire-roasted chicken, grilled pineapple, red onions, sweet peppers and scallions — was too sweet for my taste, but it was cooked nicely.

Huli Huli Chicken

Huli Huli Chicken

Check out Bourdain and Chef Chris Cosentino’s visit to the Tonga Room for “The Layover” to see some of the tiki drinks and the rain storm in action.

Note: This meal was hosted.

29

07 2013

‘Gramming it at Cliff’s Edge for some grub

The back patio at Cliff's Edge

The back patio at Cliff’s Edge

Cliff’s Edge, the Silver Lake gem of a restaurant and bar tucked away at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Edgecliff Drive, is holding an Instagram photo contest. Through July 31, the image with the most likes will receive a $40 gift certificate. Just make sure to tag your photos with #cliffssummernights and #cliffsedgela. With beautiful and tasty creations from Chef Vartan Abgaryan, formerly of Public Kitchen & Bar at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, and Wednesday night guest bartender Matt Biancaniello, formerly of Library Bar also at the Roosevelt, getting a good shot shouldn’t be too tough.

Abgaryan’s agnolotti with English peas, mascarpone, morels, ramps and parmesan cream is a good choice, as is the skate served with fennel, lemon, capers, brown butter and marcona almonds.

Agnolotti

Agnolotti

Skate

Skate

When it comes to drinks, Biancaniello’s Hanky Panky, made with Bols Genever gin, lovage, page mandarins, Aperol and ghost pepper salt, is a show-stopper. But watch out — it’s pretty spicy!

Hanky Panky

Hanky Panky

Note: Photos are from a hosted meal.

08

07 2013

Marina Del Rey’s taste of Peru: Paiche

Yuquitas at Paiche

Yuquitas at Paiche

Paiche, the newest in Chef Ricardo Zarate‘s mini Peruvian restaurant kingdom, is his most ambitious yet. Located in Marina Del Rey just steps from the Pacific Coast Highway, its focus is seafood — a paiche is a South American tropical freshwater fish, after all. But I’m weird, OK? My favorite dishes at Paiche had nothing to do with the myriad fish and shellfish items on the menu.

The Yuquitas, yuca beignets filled with manchego cheese and topped with grated parmesan, were light and airy yet delightfully chewy. The creaminess of the cheese went well with the salty fried goodness of the yuca. I could eat these all day long.

Out of all the dishes I tried — and I had the uni shrimp toast (didn’t like it texturally) and the blood clams and uni risotto (too fishy tasting) — the Ceviche de Pato, confit duck in a ceviche stew and lima bean rice, was my favorite. It was super savory and hearty.

Ceviche de Pato

Ceviche de Pato

As for the Deysi Alvarez-designed cocktails, two stood out to me. The Last Ice Age, with Porton pisco, Hakushu whiskey 12 year, Asian pear, shiso, organic egg white, lime, lemon, evaporated simple syrup and Fernet Branca drops, was just my kind of drink. I always go for the whiskey-based drink, and this one didn’t disappoint. The Last Ice Age was a nice combination of sweetness, tartness, bitterness and frothiness.

Last Ice Age

The Last Ice Age

The Bernard Devoto AKA The Master of Intoxication, with Sino reposado tequila, Christian Drouin calvados brandy, yellow chartreuse, Benedictine and Angostura bitters, was also a highly drinkable — and potent — choice.

Bernard Devoto

Bernard Devoto

Note: This meal was hosted.

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05 2013