There’s some fantastic ice cream now on Hillhurst Avenue in Los Feliz and it comes by way of Ohio. It’s Jeni’s Ice Creams first West Coast outpost, and Los Angeles is all the better for it. What I love about Jeni’s is that the flavor combinations are quirky and the ingredients are top-notch, and while they glean ingredient inspiration at every new location they open, there’s still that special Midwest touch to everything they do.
Single or not, you won’t find me exactly chomping at the bit to try any sort of prix fixe menu on, of all nights, Valentine’s Day, only the busiest dining night out all year. A night of fighting the crowds of twosomes to order up one of the multitude of prix fixe menus during a potentially service-distastrous evening is not something I can recommend to you in good conscience, so why pretend? Anniversaries and birthdays are as great as the dates they land on are unique to each couple or person, so when a calendar designates that one particular day is the day everyone is to express one’s affection to his/her significant other, I can’t help but get a little bit apprehensive.
Here are a few fun alternatives to Valentine’s Day that take that icky obligatory feeling out of your profession of love…
I didn’t think much of the space just south of The Greek Theatre when Louise’s, the trattoria chain, occupied the space. It was little more than a place-marker for street parking for those summer concerts. It marked the start of the ascent up Hillhurst from Los Feliz Blvd., the alternative to the stacked parking cattle call that was the official Greek parking.
We all have done it. We all have stood in lines. We may have even stood in lines for brunch, even though it’s our first kick-start of the day and can’t even function standing up in said line without that first cup of coffee.
So when I took my friends visiting from Milwaukee to The Alcove for the ultimate L.A. brunch, I was feeling pretty much like a sucker when I saw the line trail out their cute, tiny cottage door and onto the brick walkway. It was a Saturday morning – brunch time at one of the most popular brunch spots – and I dared think, “I don’t stand in lines.” Luckily, one of the staff caught my “explore other options” vibe and said, “There are seats at the bar in Big Bar, if you want to sit down.”Â I was fast as a rocket: “Is it full menu?” “Yes.” So I sprinted into Big Bar to claim our four spots in a flash.
Bar seating is underrated. I enjoy being a part of the action (the bar at Lazy Ox Canteen is one of my favorite places to eat solo) and witness to what goes into making the food and cocktails I’m about to consume. The best seats in the house were essentially unclaimed before we had arrived. And with Rosie Ruiz and Eugene Lee behind the bar, my friends and I were about to experience a cornucopia of delectable cocktails beyond our already-excellent Bloody Marys made with pureed in-house tomato juice and sinus-clearing horseradish.
I loved my crab cake benedict and my friends (two Jessicas and an Eric) blissfully enjoyed their scrambles and crab cake sandwich. It’s no secret that food is consistently solid at The Alcove, and I was relieved that that was still true even though it’d been awhile since I had returned. Truth be told, we stayed at The Alcove for over 3 hours, thanks to our willingness to be liquid guinea pigs and Rosie and Eugene’s gregariousness and hospitality at Big Bar’s…bar.
I never did sit in front of such a lively pair of bartenders in the morning with zero guilt. Usually, I’d validate morning drinking with a bloody mary – but why restrict it to just one cocktail? Eugene asked me what I wanted to drink next, and I picked gin. And so he put together a beautifully simple cocktail that had just the right amount of kick in it thanks to the jalapeno. Hand-crafted, tailored cocktails in the morning … I can handle that.
But I apparently can’t handle notes during brunch in the morning, since the coveted recipes are nowhere to be found in my phone. (Don’t worry, I can type without looking at my phone, under the bar. Look ma, no touch screen!) One of the lost notes includes the Lifeboat cocktail, which Eugene shared is a Kirsten Dunst favorite – to the point of returning a handful of times and bothering him during his meal to make the cocktail, just to skip out on the check.
Gah. Celebrities. It may not be Hollywood, but there’s no escaping that The Alcove is a scene, a place to be. Deservedly so. Just don’t take my seat at the bar.
P.S. – Eugene’s got tunes on the patio and at Big Bar on Wednesdays, the themes of which change every week. So, be sure to pop in for food and/or cocktails for what promises to be crazy, mid-week funtime. Big Bar itself also has some of the best bar bites I’ve had in town.
All photography by Jessica Kaminski…which is why it looks professional and stuff.
If you were to hear that the guys behind La Descarga are opening up a new bar, it’s high time to put the opening of said bar on your calendar. So, that’s what I did. I was happy to find out in the process that Harvard & Stone is the next-best thing to walking distance from my digs; it’s two Metro stops and a skip away. And when I visited the WWII-esque barÂ last night for the opening, I found out it’s actually across the street from Sanamluang – thatÂ Thai establishment holding remnants of collegeÂ nostalgia andÂ my go-to place for Pad Kee Mow. It’s also open until 3 AM.
I see cocktails and late-night Thai food in my near future.
Back to Harvard & Stone, so-named after the intersection of Harvard and its stone exterior on Hollywood Boulevard: It’s a beautiful space. Though Steve Livigni corrected me about the decor: “Oh, it’s contrived,” I offered that it did a great job pretending that it wasn’t (it’s all in theÂ incandescent lighting). He finally agreed. The distressed walls with exposed brick frame a centralized, rectangular front bar lined with old, hanging metal shelves suspended by chain links. Liquor bottles artfully sit atop them while glasswares hang below. Antique pieces likeÂ obsolete, rusty machinery and light bulbsÂ are scattered along the bar and in display cases on the inside wall. High-top, metal tables with rusty rivets line those cases, should cocktailers want to be near the action but not right in it. By the door is a stage on which Livigni welcomes bands to perform should the “impromptu show” mood strike. Keep an eye on this place for any post-show after-parties. Before Harvard & Stone, industrial never seemed so hip.
In the back corner is an old, rusticÂ fireplace where guests can crowd around and across the way, a private room partitioned off by antiqued, double sliding doors. And I can’t wait to peep the balcony, which wasn’t ready for the opening, but which also extends into the back “Test Kitchen” bar area which is half-open and coded for smoking. (Fortunately, there’s also a dedicated, narrow outdoor smoking patio, Eastside bar-style, for the committed smokers.)
But, oh…that Test Kitchen bar in the back! Every month, a certain spirit (February: Whiskey, March: Gin) will be featured in the cocktails on its unique menu, which is to change daily. Whatever the spirit, American distillates are the focus. According to Caroline on Crack in her LA Weekly Squid Ink article, this bar will also “stock a small menu of tequila, cognac and rum as well as recognizable brands.” For now, you can count on Elijah Craig, Fighting Cock and Evan WilliamsÂ Bourbon to be stocked here.
The cocktail menu earns its Eastside cred with an Appletini Apple Martini made with Original Moonshine (apple syrup, lemon juice, whiskey barrel bitters). If using Moonshine to formulate a normally fru-fru, girlyÂ cocktail isn’t hipster, I don’t know what is (try: being a block away from Jumbo’s Clown Room). You also have a lot of other cocktails to look forward to if you go in the near future – not discounting their inevitably delicious successors, of course. Steve also said that the menu will likely double in size once they get the opening kinks out.
Baby’s First Bourbon: Bulleit Bourbon, St. Vincents Orgeat Syrup, lemon juice, dash of Angostura bitters
Scaffa No. 1: Aviation Gin, Benedictine, Angostura bitters (neat)
Trinidad Sour: Angostura bitters, St. Vincents Orgeat Syrup, lemon juice, root liqueur
Fernet Cocktail: Fernet Branca, Canton Ginger, Carpano Antica, lime juice, Begatta ginger beer
The cocktails are all $8-11 each, which, for the ingredients and labor involved, is a steal once you taste your drink (all delicious on opening night).Â I’m hard-pressed to name another mixology bar that charges less than $12 per cocktail off their regular menu.
So Eastsiders: Rejoice! Harvard & Stone is open for business. You never know what cocktails are in store for you on the back bar menu nor if a band will drop by and play a surprise show. It’s just the place to enjoy a great cocktail in an industrial-chic setting, without the attitude. I cannot wait to make this my neighborhood spot.
Harvard & Stone
5221 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
When Caroline on Crack (recap) asked me to join her and a bunch of bloggers, Plymouth Gin (represented by Erick Castro) and Aidan Demarest on a blogger bar hop, IÂ could not turnÂ her down.Â Lo and behold, the beauty is in the details and what we found out later was that our vehicle would be a half-open-air trolley, which would be used to take us to 5 bars in 7 hours.
Yes, 5 bars in 7 hours. With driving time, this amounted to capping our time at each bar at 45 minutes!
I prepared for the night by drinking plenty of water and ONE Coconut Water (great for electrolytes) during the day – which no doubt aided my endurance for the bar hop. We started out at The Spare Room and again, I got a few frames in (including a few spares – ha!) in between some beautiful cocktails – starting off with a Bloggers Brew (Plymouth Gin, pineapple, velvet falernum, lemon, Earl Grey tea and spices) – and finishing off with a punch bowl. My new cocktail from this bar was an off-menu You Drink Our Milkshake with vodka, cream, coffee liqueur, cacao – essentially a better White Russian. Delicioso.
We crammed into the photo booth to take our picture, polished off our drinks, filled up our score cards (that’s 5 drinks to hit at each of the 5 bars with a bartender signing off) and headed to the trolley for our stop at Big Bar, adjacent to The Alcove in Los Feliz. We also kidnapped a few recruits like Naomi Schimek. We got first tastes of riding in the open air trolley along Hollywood Blvd. on a Monday night while enjoying champagne (and later: PBR and bacon- and fig-infused bourbon bottled up and dubbed “Figgy Smalls”) supplied by Aidan. On board for this adventure were Daniel of Thirsty in LA (recap), Aaron the Savory Hunter, Lindsay of LAist, Josh from Food GPS, Elina Shatkin of LA Weekly Squid Ink, H.C. of LA OC Foodventures and the Examiner. Armed with the hashtag #bloggerbarhop, we set out for some exciting tweets during the course of the night as entertainment fodder for all our followers (Caroline and Daniel do a great job utilizing them in their recaps).
As a writer new to the group had repeatedly stressed at Big Bar, “The drinks were sooo good… Soo good!! Soooooo gooooooood.” The rest of us were just conscientious enough to let our palates enjoy that goodness, but yes. They were good, and so were the bar bites, with my favorite being a slider (yeah, I said it) with pork, avocado and jalapeno. Relief from that jalapeno was provided by heavenly bacon-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed dates, a great lobster ceviche with chips and of course, the gooooood drinks. I definitely applaud Big Bar with successfully completing the task of feeding two handfuls of mostly professional boozers with a superbly executed bar menu in their truly small, cozy bar. I had a really great Aviation here amongst others – like Juan Sevilla’s Merry Widow (dry vermouth, benedictine, bitters & absinthe rinse) and will definitely return for more cocktails. Of course, we kidnapped Juan along with the lovely Mia Sarazen and Rich AndreoliÂ as we left Big Bar and headed for 1886.
1886 is in Pasadena. The 110N is a common way to get to Pasadena.
NotÂ to be deterred by, oh, nighttime Southern California lows or say, freeway-speed wind, and encouraged by a bonus two cocktails on the scorecard, I toughed it out in the open-air, rear section of the trolley while huddling with Lindsay on our wooden bench and the exposed staircase (with Aidan hanging off of it) on our right. After all, how could I cheer for a team that calls the frozen tundra home in the Super Bowl or call Mammoth my second home if I couldn’t handle this?
My fingers were frozen as they held the first cocktail that greeted us at 1886 – the Rose Parade Punch (Plymouth gin, roses, cucumber and soda). Everything else that was served at 1886 was delicious, like their Pimm’s Cup made with tequila and grapefruit soda and their Honey Nut Old Fashioned with peanut-infused bourbon. We even ran into a few industry Pasadena folk, so we knew we were in the right bar for having come so far.
Our kidnapping victim from 1886 was Marcos Tello, who rode the Trolley of Death with us to Downtown LA’s The Varnish via…you guessed it…110S. Score another 2 bonus cocktails as well as re-frozen 10 fingers for me from the trolley ride. I secured a Medicina Latina at The Varnish and it delivered as always. But it seemed that we had barely arrived before we had to leave for Seven Grand – just a few blocks away.
Of course, Seven Grand was slammed as it always is and when we arrived we were 4th string at the already 3-deep bar. Before we skidaddled, though, Daniel was able to sneak in an order of a Whistle Pig Manhattan alongside someone else’s Old Fashioned. I stole a sip. 😉
Five bars, seven hours. …And Tommy’s. I stuck to chili fries since that was basically all I could handle, but it was a great way to soak up some of the evening’s suds. And back to the Spare Room we went. We tallied up our score cards while a member of our otherwise professional drinking group put his forehead to the bar – the ultimate no-no. To my pleasure, Lindsay and I won with a total tally of 22 cocktails (or make that, 18 cocktails + 2 outdoor trolley rides on the 110 fwy)! Free bowling for us!
I’d like to thank Caroline on Crack, Erick Castro of Plymouth Gin and Aidan Demarest for a wonderful time with some fun boozers. Let’s do it again!
The Spare Room at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Big Bar at The Alcove
1927 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
1886 Bar at The Raymond
1250 S Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105
118 E 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
515 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Tommy’s Original World Famous Hamburgers
5873 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Sometimes, it’s not enough that you get a strong pour from the bar. You want that bar to be worth your time as you enjoy your drink. Fortunately, Dominick’s has not one but a couple beautiful bars (a smaller one is just outside on their newly re-done patio) at which you can sip – and it’s a perfect setting within which to try their new fall cocktail menu. Much of what was there in 1948 is still at Dominick’s now, and the place has the charm and hospitality to match.
Is West Hollywood not your speed? No problem – just hop on over to Little Dom’s in Los Feliz, where for the first time, they’ll also be featuring the sameÂ cocktail menu as Dominick’s. I was a latecomer to a preview first started off by Caroline on Crack, Daniel of Thirsty in LA and Aaron, the Savory Hunter, but got some pretty tasty sips in and deemed the Scotch Leaf my favorite original cocktail of theirs.
Find the menu below with their explanations. My notes (if any) follow each cocktail.
- Scotch Leaf ($12)Â with Famous Grouse Scotch, Maple Bitters, Maple, Egg White, Lemon and Orange PeelÂ
It was probably the maple bitters thatÂ really did it for me. The egg white wasn’t too obvious and I love how everything just really worked with the Scotch.
- Domâ€™s ManhattanÂ ($13) with Rittenhouse 100 Proof Rye, Carpano Antica, Angostura Bitters and Amarena Cherry
Not the best executed Manhattan I’ve had (pretty watery) but it paled so much in comparison to the others that I’ll call it a fluke.
- Southside ($12) with Damrak Gin, Cucumber Slices, Basil Leaves, Simple Syrup and Lemon served up with a skewer of Cucumber and Basil (Didn’t get to try, so here are Dominick’s notes:)
This drink was created in the early 1920s by the Mob on the south side of Chicago. The gin at the time was not as palatable due to prohibition, so mint and/or basil and lemon were used to cover up the flavor. Dominickâ€™s version uses basil and cucumber and a very floral gin, Damrak, from Amsterdam.
- Pink Elephant ($12) with Plymouth Gin, Lime, Simple Syrup, Triple Sec and Raspberry served on the rocks with a skewer of Lime and a pink elephant Tiki garnish
Basing my assumption on the color (a bright pink), I thought this would be a sweet drink but I was pleasantly surprised at how nuanced it really was. It had just enough Triple Sec and Raspberry to compliment the juniper in the gin. Delicious. Apparently, it’s meant to replace the Raspberry Lemonade from summertime, and I’d say it’s a great adaptation.
- Italian 75 ($11) with Plymouth Gin, Dimmi (winter wheat spirit w/Nebbiolo grappa infused w/peach & apricot blossoms), Lemon and Simple Syrup topped with Prosecco and a Grapefruit Peel
This would easily be my mimosa replacement at any brunch time. So much more complex and even refreshing, with the absence of weighty orange juice.
- El Matador ($12) with CrÃ¨me Yvette, Ginger, Simple, Lemon, El Jimador Silver Tequila and Orange Bitters, served on the rocks with a flamed Orange Zest garnish
The solid tequila cocktailÂ stalwartÂ of the bunch. Very delicious and a great introduction – you’ll be hard-pressed to find another tequila cocktail that goes down smoother.
So head on over to Dominick’s or Little Dom’s and taste the new fall cocktails we were lucky to enjoy. They’re really good and with the charming atmosphere and neighborhood vibe, you just can’t lose.
Where are you eating on Sunday? Hopefully you’re looking for a spot to brunch or dine at, because this particular round-up is one I can’t take advantage of myself since I’ll be in Mammoth. Whether you’re looking for bottomless bubbly, a buffet, a prix fixe menu or simply special dishesÂ offered for the holiday, there are plenty of options all around town. Though I tried finding spots to represent the LA neighborhoods equally, apparently theÂ Christians live on the westside as most of the specials I’ve found skew toward that side of town. It’s a curious thing, especially to an adoptive eastsider likeÂ myself.
Take a look below for your Sunday feast of choiceÂ on April 4, 2010:
Santa Monica: Whist at The Viceroy
Spend Easter by the beach. Whist at The Viceroy’s Executive Chef Tony DiSalvo (formerly of NYC’s Jean Georges) will be procuring an Easter feast to extend throughout the day but offered as two separate buffet menus: Brunch and dinner. Expect a shellfish station as well as a leg of lamb/prime rib station whether you do afternoon or night, but omelettes and grits in the first half and a risotto station in the second. The best part? The price includes access to the bellini station and house wine. Not bad for a such a snazzy place like Whist…
Brunch Buffet: 11 AM – 3 PM – $55
Dinner Buffet: 3 PM – 7 PM – $55
Children’s Buffet: $18
11 AM – 7 PM
$55 buffet incl. Bellini station, house wine
Whist at Viceroy Santa Monica
1819 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Venice, Beverly Hills & Downtown: Chaya
From 11 AM – 3 PM, Chaya’s all over Los Angeles will be offering a 3-course prix-fixe Easter Brunch menu. It will cost $35 for adults and $15 for young adults (12 and under), who have their own menu. For the adults, though, bottomless mimosas are included – so I’d highly recommend making a reservation right away to secure your slot. You can do this through Open Table.
At Chaya Venice (full menu), who will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in April 2010, guests can enjoy unique selections such as:
- Spring Jumbo Crispy Asparagus with Romesco Salsa
- Roasted Beet Wedge Salad with Bacon, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Blue Cheese Dressing
- Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict with Asparagus and Roasted Potatoes
11 AM – 3 PM
$35 prix fixe incl. bottomless mimosas
110 Navy Street
Venice, CA 90291
Chaya Brasserie Beverly Hills (full menu), pick from an assortment of fresh brasserie-style fare including:
- The CHAYA Classic Tuna Tartare
- Cinnamon Roll French Toast with Farmerâ€™s Market Berry Compote
- Grilled Free-Range Chicken Breast with Apple & Fourme dâ€™Ambert.
11 AM – 3 PM
$35 prix fixe incl. bottomless mimosas
Chaya Brasserie Beverly Hills
8741 Alden Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Beyond Eden is a new art fair celebrating the latest movement in contemporary art in Los Angeles. Held at Barnsdall Park, the two-day affair should prove to be an impressive effort in bringing together local, modern works representing 15 local galleries. An Artists’ Village will showcase live painting in-the-flesh, live screen printing and live performance art. And what is an art fair without food? A few trucks will be in attendance for your culinary (or pure hunger) sensibilities including Nom Nom Truck, Dosa Truck, Green Truck, Coolhaus and Gastrobus.
The featured showcase of the fair is “Heroes and Villains” by Tatiana Wills and Roman Cho with photographic portraits of emerging as well as established figures from the pop surrealist, graffiti and alt-comic book worlds. Throughout the fair, works from artists such as Liz McGrath, Shepard Fairey, Nate Frizzell and Tm Gratkowski will be on display.
On Sunday, there will be a special screening of Scribble08, a 48-minute art doc film featuring Clayton Brothers, Martha Rich, Jeff Soto, Joe Sorren, Camille Rose Garcia, and Kevin Christy from Murphy Fine Art Films. Peep below for the full schedule, or visit the Beyond Eden website. What a great, affordable way to spend your weekend and get involved with the local art movement.
Saturday, October 10
12 – 5 PM Open fair hours and art viewing
7 – 8 PM Opening night kick-off sponsored by MOCA Contemporaries with membership drive (sign up and receive a special ‘gift bag’)
7:30 PM Symposium – A special address from Mark Steven Greenfield, director of LA Municipal Art Gallery
8 PM Lifetime achievement award presentation to Billy Shire
8 PM – 12 AM Opening night gala with cash bar by 1933 Group and Bigfoot Lodge (WOO)
Tunes provided by DJ Mr. NumberOnederful (Bitter:Sweet)
Sunday, October 11
12 – 5 PM Open fair hours and art viewing
2 PM Film Screening of “Scribble08” at The Barnsdall Theater
Admission and parking is free
Add’l parking at Kaiser PermanenteÂ – 4715 Sunset Blvd.
(Park on Rooftop, take the elevator Down to Level 2, cross the street to Barnsdall Park & use the stairs/elevator to Barnsdall)
4814 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Mushroom flan with Gruyere and Crispy Kataifa
Citysearch LA, in their latest Eat, Drink, Learn effort gave us the opportunity to taste gourmet mushrooms prepared with recipes as unique as the mushrooms themselves. The setting was Desert Rose on Hillhurst, normally serving Lebanese fare and the occasion was the launch of Veggie Thing, a website showcasing all lovely things vegan. I am not vegan myself but thought all varieties of the not-plant-nor-animal that were served, however, were delicious – after all, they were gourmet and were provided courtesy of Hotko Kinoko. The “exercise” gave me a real appreciation that funghi can be flavor-packed (and not just because they’re truffles) and perhaps we should come to demand that quality.
Beech mushroom lentil soup with smoked paprika oil and baby spinach
The starter soup was so delicious, I could have requested another bowl. It was a Beech mushroom lentil soup with smoked paprika oil and baby spinach. The smokeyness was subtle yet savory because combined with Beech mushrooms. Lentils were just weighty enough to remind you how good it is for you, with the spinach garnish complimenting the bowl well.
All dishes in the tasting menu were delightfully vegan except the mushroom flan (first picture) – which demonstrated the appeal of having a mushroom-based recipe if one had such dietary requirements. They can also compliment sweet dishes – the lone dish in the tasting of which was Medjool dates stuffed with Maitake mushrooms, walnuts and Daiya cheese. There were a few misses, like a mushroom-filled cabbage roll and a few falafel that I thought were over-fried and a bit too tough – but the hits were savory and a good platform to reexamine the quality of mushrooms.
1700 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027