Founded in 1982, St. George Spirits turned 30 with a bang last Friday (photos on Facebook). My own visit, however, was a long time coming. I recently visited family for Thanksgiving in those parts and got to steal away for a day. I used that day to tour the distillery of a long well-regarded craft spirits company I’d become familiar with thanks to wonderful cocktails I’ve had in Los Angeles and beyond. Master distiller Lance Winters and Continue reading
Long Beach is that sister city, south of Los Angeles. If you are one who truly loves being an Angeleno – without the irony, that is – you accept The LBC as the L.A. away from L.A. Each block is potentially completely different from the next, and it’s one vast county hosting a cornucopia of cultures and backgrounds.
And then there’s Long Beach-Belmont Shore. At Simmzy’s second location, their corner on the block is bustling with flip-flops, beer and pub food. It’s a true pub without having bowed to the recent “gastro-” trends as of late. Besides, Simmzy’s are beachy places without the beachfront. People sometimes just want good weather, good beer (offered up by two dozen taps), a good time and good food – not groundbreaking culinary trends.
While I tend to think the Manhattan Beach location is a tad small, the Long Beach one also has no problems filling its space to the gills. They’ve got day-of-the-week special, which happened to be the Short Rib & Chocolate Porter Chili on Saturdays – a sweet, tangy treat. Though their crust is not a lot to write home about, their pizzas showcase some original topping combinations, such as a smoked Bacon & Date Marscapone, made with garlic, mozzarella, sage and balsalmic syrup for a slightly sweet treat.
And while I know that Brussels sprouts are a bit of a shoe-in for many places, I can’t say that I’ve had many executed so impressively as their carmelized rendition, with butter, garlic, lemon, anchovies, capers and bruschetta for a succulent yet zesty combination.
There’s a lot to be said about inaugural events and beer festivals – we’ve all had our fair share of either trying to outstretch the growing pains involved. But the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival was a special example of both, and it really is by luck and privilege that I was able to attend the June event in Paso Robles.
First of all, breweries could not send representatives as with a slew of other beer festivals where that would be protocol. Instead, Firestone Walker required each brewery to send two of its actual brewers. Given not only the rise of the craft beer scene in California and across America but also the underground geekery that buttresses the craze, maybe it was only inevitable that the event was sold out after only one month after they even went on sale – in February. Not bad for the first time, and with 2,500 tickets to unload, at that.
The set-up of the event was, in short, impressive. We media folks were lucky to get an extra hour before the others to score some pours, but when the event started at 1 PM, we heard the cheers of queued-up beer drinkers on-the-dot. As they stampeded the Mid-State Fair Grounds, the lines to the rarer beers were to be expected, but overall, it really seemed like there was a perfect balance in the quantity and quality of beer to attendees where everyone got to try the ones they wanted. Each brewery in attendance generally brought a session beer along with a rare beer – with Firestone Walker of course hosting with a larger portion of their repertoire. Well done.
While I love California and West Coast beer, the real treat was getting to try a few of the Midwest breweries that came all the way to Paso Robles to educate and pour a few for us festival attendees. Among them were Bell’s Brewery (Kalamazoo, MI), Founders (Grand Rapids, MI), Boulevard Brewing Company (Kansas City, MO), Revolution (Chicago, IL), Sun King (Indianapolis, IN) and Three Floyds Brewing Company (Munster, IN).
After fellow attendee Caroline and I got the scoop on the rare beers to try, we swooped on in to try Three Floyds’ Dark Lord with Vanilla Bean, a crazy delicious (and super rare) 15% ABV Russian Imperial Stout that was surprisingly and beautifully balanced. The Curmudgeon Old Ale from Founders was a dark, malty beast, since it was brewed with molasses before being oak-aged. Also delicious.
Boneyard Brewing and Full Sail represented the Oregon set, and after awhile I was craving a sour to shake things up on my palate. Boneyard’s Femme Fatale, a raspberry tart brown ale brewed with 14 lbs of raspberries per barrel. Full Sail brought their 2010 Top Sail Bourbon Barrel Aged Porter, which, for all intents and purposes singlehandedly debunked the process of my having had it with over-the-top, high ABV beers. Though there were hints of chocolate, vanilla and oak, I especially loved the figs. It was dark in color yet surprisingly and refreshingly drinkable.
Russian River brought their Supplication, which was another helpful thirst quencher for my sour appetite. Also representing Northern California was FiftyFifty Brewing, with their rare beer being the 9.5% ABV Eclipse Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout being made even more awesome by being aged for 200 days in Elijah Craig 12 Year barrels. So. Delicious. I also think I found my new favorite sour beer in Tiny Bubbles by Hollister Brewing. It’s such a great introductory citrus sour. It’s refreshingly light yet fizzy enough to keep things interesting. Bear Republic Brewery brought their Altered Beast, an Imperial IPA made with two rounds of dry hopping then finished with American oak.The Lost Abbey brought their A-game with 4 beers, not the least being the Lost & Found, a spiced saison style ale, nor the 12% ABV Angel’s Share Bourbon. After all, bourbon aged barleywine in Paso Robles is as quintessential beer-festival-in-wine-country as you can get.
But I’d be remiss not to mention how the Invitational had international representatives. Yo-Ho Brewing flew all the way in from Karuizawa, Japan while the Danish Mikkeller, known as the “gypsy brewer,” travels to different breweries just to brew his 100% collaborative beer selection. I was super excited to try his beers after I learned about him, since he doesn’t even have a brewery that he calls home. His Big Worse, Red Wine Barrel Edition, was a super huge barley wine that was as big as it was delicious. Like crack. (Just don’t ask Mikkel for a business card, as gypsy brewers don’t typically carry, much less make, them. Because then they wouldn’t be gypsy brewers. Duh. Now that you mention it, don’t even try getting in touch with him again at all.)
AleSmith, Ballast Point, Beachwood BBQ, The Bruery, Golden Road, Green Flash, Pizza Port, Stone Brewing and TAPS all represented Southern California in a strong way. It was great to survey the selection of attendees and brewers and realize that there were some hardcore beer mindsets in our midst while maintaining an open exchange of ideas.
The food issue was also handled well, as everyone was provided with a meal ticket good for a bratwurst or steak sandwich. Additionally, local Paso Robles restaurants were on-hand to distribute bites from their menu. Not only were our stomachs properly lined for the brews, there were some positively delicious bites. It was also great to learn that the festival was also beneficial to Paso Robles as a community, since festival-goers booked reservations in town to follow the festival. Bravo!
If this was the inaugural event, I can only imagine the level at which next year’s Invitational will be at. It was a great representation of what the multi-award-winning, mid-sized Firestone Walker Brewery set out to achieve on their home turf: Folks of like mind and spirit sharing a passion for making craft beer by drinking beers brewed by the leaders in the revolution.
And with that, you’re officially on alert for FWIBF, 2012. If you love beer, you might as well follow @FirestoneWalker right now.
Festival admission thanks to media pass courtesy of Firestone Walker.
There is something exciting happening at The Royce in Pasadena. As the flagship restaurant at one of the oldest hotel establishments in the Los Angeles area, they are putting outÂ something so contrastingly nouveau from the kitchen. The long overdue remodel is no slouch, either, with its effortlessly classy and fresh take in fine dining ambiance. The crown moldings are still there, but gone are the drab curtains and dark yellow tinges. What you’ll find instead is a white motif accented by sea and granite blues with just enough florals and art museum-esque flourishes.
Finally, this dining room is creating a dining experience where the food is reflective of its backdrop. But make no mistake, Michael Voltaggio’s year-long run may have generated just the hype The Dining Room needed for its denoument and transition into The Royce, because The Royce is an entirely successful, new entity completely deserving of its own buzz under ExecutiveÂ Chef David Feau’s (Patina, Le Miravile, Lutece,Â trained under Guy Savoy) direction. My dinner took place a few months after he landed back in September, so it’s safe to say he’s settled in here.
My guest and I very much enjoyed the tasting menu, with such beautifully integrated flavors adorning each dish and painting vibrant pictures with central themes. That is, each presentation, though featuringÂ pretty exotic ingredients,Â knew exactly when to stop. Sommelier Eric Espuny’s perfect wineÂ pairingsÂ delightfullyÂ accentuated the nuances of each. If you dine at The Royce, you can expect the perfect marriage of French techniques and Californian ingredients.
I have to say that there was nary a weak component in our tasting experience. Before ordering, I convinced my guest to trust the chef and resist doubling up on the foie gras, steakÂ and lobster, and to try everything in both 5-course tasting menus. I’m so glad we did. Our amuse bouche was a most savory Romanesco cauliflower soup paired with a tiny piece of roast duck breast, beets, apple and celerac coconut calamari. What that set us up for was a beautifully seared scallop with shaved foie gras, rhubarb granite and carrot “salad” (paired with ’07 Schafer Frohlich Nahe Medium Dry Riesling) as well as an artichoke and beet dish with Globe Omaha artichokes, pressure cooked beets, hand harvested mache salad andÂ white truffle vinaigrette (paired with ’09 ChÃ¢teau Guiraud Le G Bordeaux Blanc Sec). The mildly tart rhubarb granite cut the richness of the scallop and foie gras while the carrot salad provided slices of sweetness. The freshness of the beet dish was a great match for the mache salad, featuring the buttery sweet and nutty greens underneath artichokes, all seasoned with a well-balanced white truffle vinaigrette.
The next round of courses yielded a lobster salad with butter lettuce, sweet onion and pomegranate “hot and snow”Â (paired withÂ Â ’06 Domaine Leflaive Macon-Verze).Â The powdery, vaguely sweet snow was an interesting texture to add to the buttery shades of the lettuce and lobster – especially with the addition of the sweeter pomegranate seeds. The salsify prepared four ways (paired withÂ ’98 Kalin Cellars Livermore Valley Semillon), however, was a provocative study of the root. Not only was the vegetable completely new to me, but the diverse ways it was prepared inÂ order to ultimately arrive on the same plate were mostly intense in flavor. The root has been described to taste like oysters. TheÂ dry, complex SemillonÂ wine paired with this was a great way to cut the salty, creamy and robustÂ essencesÂ on the plate.
Probably my favorite farm fresh-themed dish was this combination of tiny vegetables covered in a mushroom veloute (paired with ’07 Aia Vecchia Lagone Toscana). The agnolotti were to die for, adding just the perfect amount of backbone to carry the vibrant flavors of the vegetables through, including the sweet parsnips and herb-likeness of the sorrel leaves. Truth be told, I could sip the veloute on its own. The berry notes of theÂ Aia Vecchia wereÂ a nice added touch.Â The black cod (paired with ’08 Ramey Chardonnay Russian River Valley) in the title pictureÂ was also a standout, having been perfectly cooked and its mild, fatty taste enabled to stand on its own. The kale greens were topped with a white dashi scented milk foam, an ingredient I couldn’t begin to dissect but could distinctly tell it was meant to bring the greens and fish together; it did so successfully. The carrotÂ was aÂ sweet go-between. The fruity Chardonnay the dish was paired with was a nice compliment to the fish and kale greens.
It’s that time of year, again. Last year, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality showing of chefs at The Food Event. In this fifth installment, the line-up looks pretty solid. I also just checked the weather, and it looks like this rain will pass a couple days clear of Sunday (phew).
I can imagine thatÂ Malibu will be beautiful and green by the time The Food Event rolls around. It aims to be the perfect backdrop against which renownedÂ restaurants, brandsÂ and their headlining chefs will glisten. I’m especially excited aboutÂ Akasha, Barbrix, Bulgarini, Eva, The Foundry on Melrose, La Mill Coffee, The Lobster, Loteria!, Magnolia Bakery, Mo-Chica, Palate Food & Wine, The Penthouse at The Huntley Hotel, Sweet Rose Creamery and Westside Tavern. Chefs such as Helene An (The An Group), Mark Gold (Eva), Neal Fraser (Grace), Rory Hermann (Bouchon) and Laurent Quenioux (Bistro LQ) and mixologist Julian Cox (Rivera, Test Kitchen) will be presenting live demonstrations on the stage. Carrie Kommers (Dine LA) and Leslie Bargar Suter (Los Angeles Magazine) will be modering panels.
Of course, you’ll have mostly California wines closeby,Â along withÂ Anheuser’s sponsored beer garden (serving Hoegaarden, Leffe and Stella), Karma Tequila and VeevÂ to help youÂ sip your way through the afternoon. And what’s even better, some research on my end yielded a discount code for $25 off the ticket price – so whether or notÂ you decide to tether it to a $5 yearly subscription to Los Angeles Magazine – that’s a good quarter off the $95 advance ticket price. Take a look below for the code, get your ticketsÂ and I’ll see you there!
It was a lateÂ Sunday morning when I visited the Hollywood Corner for brunch – a lucky, not omnicient, decision though I’d be negligent if I failed to disclose the decision was influenced by the bottomless mimosas (available duringÂ Sunday brunch $14.95).Â Breakfast will keep your bubbly company, however, since it’s served until 3 PM.
The good news is that you don’t have to rely on the bubbly and can count on a solid brunch at this neighborhood spot located just south of Hollywood and Highland. Yes, you heard right: It’s a neighborhood spot in the center of Hollywood. Because you were never the type to shove spicy tuna rolls in your trap to the tune of Ke$ha and would rather save the greasy grub trips to Mel’s for late night. It’s a great way to enjoy a Hollywood Sunday morning, with a casual but pleasant brick wall-linedÂ bar and dining roomÂ that allow in plenty of natural light.
The menu features vegan, vegetarian and heart-healthy items – a decidedly California diner smorgasbord … with pizzas sprinkled on top. And for dinner, they have Turkey Meatloaf, Buttermilk Fried Chicken Breast and yes, a Smac and Cheese (shrimp, Applewood smoked bacon, grilled corn, roma tomatoes, scallions with 3-cheese sauce)Â - the ingredients of which entice me toÂ order on the revisit.
My web designer and brunch companion Roycifer and I were shown a few starters and signature bites that areÂ popular with their loyal clientele – one of them being fried pickles. I could eat pickles every morning if fried to the perfect texture – and Hollywood Corner made the cut. The pickle was still juicy and the breading was nice and crispy.Â Also done very well was their Caprese atop buttery grilledÂ breadÂ with a tangy-sweet balsamic reduction.
But back to the brunch, for which I ordered their version of a Benedict. Not Hollandaise but marinara covered quinoa cakes in lieu of English muffins, spinach in lieu of ham.Â The eggs were perfectly poached andÂ completed the creatively healthy yet substantialÂ and tasty dish.