What’s better than a documentary about Mezcal accompanied by free-flowing Mezcal and Oaxacan antijitos (street food dishes, if you will)? Probably the setting – which will be the iconic La Guelaguetza in Koreatown.
Viva Mezcal, a film directed by Pedro Jiménez, addresses the current state of the Mezcal industry, complete with interviews from biologoists, agronomes, ‘maestros mezcaleros,” researchers, distributors, bartenders and experts. Following the film, tasty treats by Chef Rodolfo Castellanos will accompany a Mezcal tasting.
The bites are the kind of thing where you warm up to a beautiful place with just the right ambiance. The tastes are deceptively good. Then, you proceed to order more and more, ultimately staying for what accumulates to an all-out meal. I am a grazer, not a gorger; I love bites.
Crab Cake Crostini, Chicken Liver Mousse
Now, a great place to do exactly that is Whist at The Viceroy in Santa Monica – a place where the indoor dining options are just as charming as the outdoor, with the latter coming full circle thanks to poolside and cabana options. Chicken liver mousse with pancetta on crostini? Heavenly. Dungeness crab cake with yuzu on crostinis? Refreshing. And of course, it’s not enough to put just uni on crostini, but to add lardo? Indulgent. And perfect.
The real problem is that if you don’t have a few camarades with you on this little dining adventure, you’ll probably get real full before you either: 1) Get to try all the bites you wanted to, or 2) Get to any of the also-solid main dishes available. After all, you can’t forget about the juicy, flavorful Lamb Kafka Meatballs, topped with orange, pistachio and yogurt. Nor the beautifully cured hamachi with rhubarb “ponzu,” cucumber, radish and celery.
All this, while having to avoid getting full on their extraordinary corn bread, which Chef Tony DiSalvo makes with three different renditions of corn to achieve that robust flavor. Oh, and that perfectly prepared Grilled Octopus with romesco, potatoes and charred wild leeks. It’s the kind of octopus dish that converts all those naysayers who’ve assumed octopus, by nature, is chewy. The tentacles are tender and flavorful, yet finished with a crispy exterior.
But of course, I must move on to the mains, a favorite of which was the Broiled Halibut. The filet came perched on a bed of deliciously smoked potato-miso puree and paired with crispy asparagus and ginger. It was a surprising winner – simple but a perfect combination of flavors. The smoke was a nice and unexpected touch.
And as for some other mains, sweetbreads lovers will love this version prepared with morels and fava beans in sherry. But if you’re looking for something a little lighter than that, the potato gnocchi are just as much a treat (and doubles as a vegetarian alternative), with asparagus and morels rounding out its buttery essence.
If I were to pick the one essential dessert at Whist, it would be the Rhubarb tart with its buttery crust and walnut crumble on top. Of course, it comes a la mode with vanilla ice cream. Just try it. It’s just one of those desserts where if you thought you were full before, you’ll realize you do have enough room for dessert. All of it.
So check out Tony DiSalvo and Chris Crary’s new bites, served in their chic dining room or outdoors. The tastes are just too fabulous to allow you to get too distracted by the hotel, pool or any of the beautiful views and ambiance they afford.
Vampire Shark | 5yr aged rum, Luxardo morlacco cherry, Mr. Zoggs sex wax tincture - by Julian Cox at Sotto Fall Cocktail Preview
I need few reasons to return to Sotto. Alas, I may be in trouble since tonight’s launch provides two new reasons to return – daily (okay, Tuesday through Monday, to be exact).
Sotto is launching both an Aperitivo Hour and a Digestivo Hour. You’ll get to choose from a few hunger-inducing cocktails by Julian Cox during this hour for $9 each as well as from a variety of bar bites for $3 each, like Ceci Fritti, Season Crostini, Calamari Fritti, Lupini Beans Sott’aceto and Arrosticini.
The Aperitivo Hour runs from 5:30 – 6:30 PM from Tuesdays through Sundays and includes cocktails like the Sazerac Rusticum, with wild fennel infused Aperol, Grappa, herb-infused Vermouth and a Sambuca rinse; or the adorably named Rome with a View, with Campari, Dry Vermouth, fresh lime and soda. Since I’ve been loving the Negroni, lately, the Aperitivo hour may be my very own adult candy store.
Digestivo Hour runs from 9 – 10 nightly, also from Tuesdays through Sundays, where you’ll also get access to $3 bites but these particular $9 cocktails will be aimed at being a nice little nightcap, like the Il Cattivo – made with Holland gin, Italian vermouth, Branca Menta and lemon peel.
These are all available at the bar, only, so I’d recommend getting there as close to the start of the hours as you can. See you on the Westside.
Tuesdays – Sundays (closed Mondays)
5:30 – 6:30 PM
9 – 10 PM
Sotto 9575 W. Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90035
It’s not next door, but I can’t exactly argue with two-blocks-away-and-around-the-corner, either. So named because it’s adjacent to Hollywood Corner (a diner featuring healthy offerings), Next Door Lounge is easily a stand-alone destination with speakeasy stylings.
Not the least of reasons to visit Next Door Lounge is Joseph Brooke, a name any L.A. cocktailian would formerly associate with Copa d’Oro and The Edison (and for you reality TV contest junkies, Joe was also winner of On the Rocks: The Search of Americaâ€™s Top Bartender). After a few test runs, Joe has now designed at least half of the two-page menu, with some being riffs off old classics and others coming straight out of the manual. The cocktailÂ menu ($12-$14)Â reads something like a punchy phrase book from earlier times.
I have to admit, it’s nice not having to do battle at the bar to reach Joe as in his previous high-volume bar downtown. Next Door Lounge has a nice, intimate feel for its high-profile locale. My favorite cocktail happened to be one that was just perfected at the time, called the Volstead & Vice. Made with Illegal Mezcal, Pernod Absinthe, cucumber water, agave nectar and lime juice, I’ve never had such a gracefully smoky cocktail. The mezcal was nuanced while the natural juices in the drink subtly sweetened its aftertaste.
The bar’s signature cocktail, The Dame Next Door, may be familiar to if you’ve been to The Roger Room on La Cienega. Canadian Club 12 year is the base of this cocktail, with dry vermouth, clove-infused pineapple gomme syrup, pineapple juice, pasteurized egg white for froth and angostoura bitters for that oomph. You can’t miss it with the nutmeg key stencil sprayed on top. It’s a perfect flagship cocktail for the bar, as it’s extremely palatable and thankfully, not too sweet.
There are a few drinks with Prosecco in it for that extra lift. And Joe does a great job creating favorites at the bar. The Clover Club was as refreshing and deliciously frothy as any I’ve had – especially in the summer heat. The Ward 8 made with Bulleit Rye really highlighted the fresh juices used at the lounge.
Pickled Beet Bruschetta
If you want a simple tequila cocktail, the aptly-named Tequila Daisy will certainly float your boat. Don Julio Silver is shaken with orange curacao and served up with a lime wedge. All these drinks are a testament to a cocktail menu that is perfect for what’s left of the summer heat.
The bar bites are no slouch. Beware, though, because you just might get addicted to their highbrow version of beernuts: Fried spaghetti. Yes, crispy straight noodles really are addicting! But if you’re looking for something a little bit more substantive, go for one of their flatbreads or bruschettas with pickled beets, goat cheese and basil.
What I love about the decor are the little touches that give the spaceÂ a bit of authenticity. The owner, Ferris Wehbe,Â is a bit of a Hollywood community manÂ and really wants theÂ lounge to be a neighborhood hangout. Joe showed me a bit of the barware that came straight from the Beverly Hills Hilton in the 40s – so there indeed is a little bit of history at Next Door Lounge.
There’s a new cocktail bar and eatery on Maple Drive in Beverly Hills, and the employees of MySpace and surrounding internet biz office buildings are rejoicing. Valerie of Red Vines for Breakfast, Daniel of Thirsty in LA and I had the opportunity to take a sneak peak at what exactly the new cocktail program and newly-relocated kitchen at MÃ¤ni’s on Maple were up to – and I have to admit, I was completely surprised. Though I never became familiar with MÃ¤ni’s on Fairfax – except for perhaps a late-night cappuccino with a friend – it seems, save for the healthful cuisine angle, there is something completely different going on at their location in Beverly Hills.
Now at the site of Patina’s failed sushi experiment, Paperfish (even with its interior intact), MÃ¤ni’s is huge. And now they serve cocktails. From 3-7 and 9-11, a selection from the cocktail and appetizers menu will run only $6 each. Organic and house-made ingredients are touted, and rightfully so as whatever is sweet about the drinks is subtle andÂ natural. Of the happy hour options, my favorites were the Daquiri and Ward 8. The bites are also solid, and of all the available bites in front of me I found myself coming back to the vibrant Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta again and again.
Bees Knees â€“ Fresh lemon & honey with gin. A prohibition era cocktail named after a popular saying, meaning â€œThe Height of Excellence.â€
Fresh Lime Daiquiri â€“ Not the blended version so often found, this is a classic, straight-up cocktail invented outside the United States.
Ward Eight â€“ Classic cocktail out of Boston, named after a famed election district. House made organic grenadine, lemon & a touch of orange with bourbon.
Moscow Mule â€“ A mixture of ginger, Smirnoff and lime created in 1941 at the Cockâ€™n Bull Bar on the Sunset Strip. A classic.
Padreâ€™s Margarita â€“ A classic, on-the-rocks margarita with a cinnamon stick, no salt.
Classic Pimmâ€™s Cup â€“ Wimbledon classic with Pimmâ€™s No. 1 â€“ a gin flavored with fruits & herbs â€“ ginger ale or lemon-lime soda and cucumber.
Gin RickeyÂ or Original Gin Rickey â€“ Named after famed lobbyist Joe Rickey in 1893, the Rickeyâ€™s defining characteristic is the refreshingly tart omission of sugar. The original, and the more modern with a touch of sweetness, both come up with a splash of soda.
Splash & Dash â€“ Pick a spirit & a mixer: Vodka Soda, Rum & Cola, Gin & Tonicâ€¦
Charmoula Marinated Skewers with Whole Wheat Pita â€“ Tofu with Butternut Squash OR Beef with Yoghurt Mint Sauce
Sliders â€“ Grain/Nut, Moroccan Lamb, BBQ Short Rib, Turkey, or Beef
The new MÃ¤ni’s is worth checking out – especially if you’re local during rush hour or late night and can take advantage of the $6 happy hour. It’s a good chance to give their cocktail program a shot. The drinks would surprise you and won’t leave you with that sugar crash when it’s time to go home. The produce in the bites are fresh and it’s a great way to catch that light bite.
Soon, you will do this too | Photo credit to sifu_renka on Flickr
Ohhh, I love pickles. I may even love certain vegetables more after being pickled, depending on my cheek puckering mood. Kraut, beets, peppers, onions, radishes – give ‘em all to me. It’s one of the preparations that so many ethnicities share while differing in the processes themselves.
Fortunately, it all doesn’t have to be completely lost on us. Chicks with Knives will be hosting a “Pop-Up Pickle Shop” at the one and only Starry Kitchen in Downtown LA this upcoming Sunday, September 12th in the late morning.
It’ll cost you just $5 for entry, which includes a cooking demo at 11 AM by the gals themselves, and you’ll get the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned. Pickling mix ($2) and pickling kits ($20) will be available for purchase. And if learning to better consume pickles is what it’s about (I’m raising my hand here), there are also a variety of pickles for sale ($6-8).
The complimentary apps and drinks that will be available during the Pop-Up Pickle Shop are reason enough:
Golden Beet & Goat Cheese Bites
Curried Asian Pear & Grilled Chicken Skewers
Mini Mac n’ Cheese with Fennel/Flower Pickles
Since there are limited quantities, I recommend getting there early. Just remember: These pickles are indeed “perishable” because these veggies aren’t hot-processed nor canned and should be consumed within 2 weeks. Guess the canning workshop will have to wait.
Welcome to the real Melrose Place. Aaron Spelling is nowhere to be found, and sure, Area – an SBE nightclub – is just a block away, but you’d never have guessed it from inside Bastide’s enclosed, quaint and olive tree and garden lined patio. In fact, dining at Bastide is somewhat like dining at someone’s artistically appointed home, complete with a top personal chef. If it really were someone’s home, you’d leave the dinner party while vowing to get that raise so you could buy the house with the patio that everyone else would envy.
You can come to Bastide early on a Monday for their $15, 5 – 7 PM special, when you’ll get to enjoy the patio over passed bites that are perfectly executed. Their yellowtail tartare is refreshing, the pork rillettes topped with cashews and pickled cherry are savory and their corn soup has a surprising twist thanks to curry oil. But since I’m prejudiced against all soju martinis, their wine or bubbly will accompany my bites just fine, thanks. I also enjoyed all the wine pairings that came with each course at dinner. Dario Dell’anno, who doubles as the manager and sommelier of Bastide, has a nice touch.
When we sat down for our meal at our table, which was appointed not with just salt and pepper, but with Fleur de Sel de Guerande and a peppercorn grinder, I found the house-made butter that accompanied our warm bread so indulgent and yet so light. It was practically gone before our first dish came. The watermelon salad with fried chicken was ever season-appropriate with its tomato, feta, mache and aged sherry emulsion. I never considered fried chicken to be a starter, but here it was. It was paired with a delicious 2008 Ã‰ric Texier Condrieu OpÃ¢le, which was refreshing with melon notes that went perfectly with our first few entrees.