Let me take this first post in almost one month to deliver some pertinent upcoming event news. It’s now summer and thus, event season, here in sunny Southern California. Now that I’ve somewhat psychologically recovered from a huge picture-data dump from spilling a homemade cocktail all over my non-backed-up laptop, I’m finally ready to move into this crazy part of the year.
So here’s a rebirth of sorts; it’s an intentional start to the summer by tallying up the essential food events continuing into the fall (L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade is in September). One focuses on cocktails. One focuses on tacos. One focuses on ribs. Three are on the same day; thus, yes – I do wish that these were spread out, more. But practically all of them feature world-class chefs. So without further adieu, here’s where you need to be this summer:
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…
It’s that wonderful time of year when it’s time to indulge in one of the true delicacies of the world. Forget the artificial truffleoil (redundant) of the ’90s – the real thing has a season and the time to enjoy white truffles is now.
Of course, at two to three thousand dollars per pound, it’s quite easy to break the bank while partaking. Fortunately, I’ve got a lot of options in different forms (cocktails! tasting menus! burgers!) and price points that will ensure you’re able to get your fungi fix.
Let’s start out with a cocktail by Matty B, why don’t we?
When I learned through the presses Twitter that Krista Simmons, my one-time (OK, one issue) editor, would be a judge on the upcoming season of Top Chef Masters, I was ecstatic that someone that I know, love and respect would get her enormous food TV cred. Wednesday night was a special night dedicated to her current Bravo Top Chef Masters stint, and pretty much the entire food community was there to support. The love was not lost on our star:
“I’ve wanted to have a cooking show ever since I was a little girl, so the experience of taping Top Chef Masters was sort of surreal. Getting to work with James Oseland, Ruth Reichl and Francis Lam really helped me grow as an on-camera personality as well as in my writing. But the best part of the whole process has been receiving the outpour of support from the LA food community. I can’t believe how many people came out last night! I feel so lucky to be part of such a talented group of industry professionals here in LA.”
Truth be told, I missed the boxing-themed episode with Sugar Ray Leonard also as a judge at the “viewing” party. Of course, it was because I relied on my DVR to pick up the slack while we caught up with old friends and celebrated with new cocktails from Library Bar and bites from Public Kitchen. Good thing she’s on plenty of episodes this season (the more space on my DVR dedicated to friends’ appearances, the better) – so be sure and catch her on Top Chef Masters Season 4!!
Los Angeles loves the Australian finger lime. I’m no expert on the little doodads but I do know a curious fruit with spritely packagesÂ when I see one – especially when theÂ cylindersÂ pop up in multiple places across different applications. And I do know how to Google. Citrus australasica, yes,Â came to the States from Australia over 100 years ago, yetÂ “only in the last six years have disease-tested, legal budwood became available to nurseries for propagating the trees” (LA Times’ Market Watch).Â They’ve reached my palate only recently – but in a small span of time.
The source ofÂ inspirationÂ in ourÂ local kitchens goesÂ undisputed.Â In an age where a commonplace gastronomic trend is to make little spheres of everything, these round, dense bursts of flavor are naturally occurring and sold by James Shanley at the Santa Monica farmer’s market. Laura Avery recently talked to him on KCRW’s Market ReportÂ and David Karp gives the skinny on the fruit with the “gherkin” exterior in LA Times’ Market Watch.
Personally, it started out with a dinner at Cube on La Brea. The picture doesn’t capture one of my proudest photography moments but what was memorable were the little citrus caviar scattered across the delicate crudo. It was the perfect way to highlight and accent the fresh flavors of the fish.
Next, came the amuse bouche by Matt Biancaniello at The Roosevelt Hotel’s Library Bar. For the record: If it were anyone’s cocktails that would warrant an amuse, it would certainlyÂ be Matt’s. He cut the 2-inchÂ cylindrical fruitÂ in half, injected a bit of cachaÃ§a into the vesselÂ and instructed me to squirt it andÂ the little roundlings into my mouth. The sweet-tart combo beautifully awakened my senses and it was extraordinary to experience what an onomatopoeia like “pew pew pew” (in the non-lolcat sense) might literally taste like: Lazrs.
Finally, during my most recent trip to the Sunday Hollywood Farmer’s Market, I stopped by one of my favorite booths – Valerie Confections. The label on one of their preserves caught my eye – a Pomelo & Finger Lime Marmalade. At this point, it was none other than a sign, so IÂ had to pick it up (and it’s already almost gone.) Â The sour twists of the pomelo and finger limesÂ brought out more ofÂ the peel in the deliciousÂ marmalade. Tiny lime finger slices were imbued inÂ the lightÂ orange preserves – and with the help of crackers and goat cheese, the marmalade was a delicious way to snack at work.
I have my eye onÂ these marvelous citrons. I can’t wait for more kitchens andÂ bars to creatively incorporate them into more recipes. Oh – and as far as “food trend” – it may have to wait until next year since we’re already past season, which ended in December. Regardless, restauranteurs, artisans and mixologists have a new fruit with which to experiment.
Mentioned in this post:
Cube 615 N. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Didn’t manage to fanagle your way into the Oscars? For all us commoners – or those who didn’t pass the background check – the next best thing is to corral friends together for a viewing party across the street. The Roosevelt Hotel will be setting up screens in the lobby, Dakota and 25 Degrees for your viewing pleasure. And before I send you intoÂ theÂ flustercluck that is Hollywood on Oscars night, just be aware of the street closures in the area and be sure to carpool or Metro it on in.
The best part is most definitely getting to try special Oscars-themed cocktails dreamt up by the famous Matt BiancanielloÂ – all for $12 each. Typically drinks at The Library Bar run $16; call it an incentive. (Edit: Unfortunately, Matt will not be there personally as he’ll be on the other coast for a national mixology competition – but the recipes he leaves behind will tide us over until he comes back. )
“Up in the Airâ€ Aviation – Gin, Maraschino Liqueur, fresh lemon juice and Creme de Violette
â€œThe Hurt Lockerâ€ Breeder’s Cup – Hendricks Gin, cucumber, lime, agave, beet horseradish and salt
â€œPreciousâ€ Strawberries on Fire - Patron Silver, lime, lemon, strawberries, agave and jalapeno
â€œInglorious Basterdsâ€ 10 Cane Old Fashioned – 10 Cane Rum, sugar, bitters, lemon and orange peel
â€œAvatarâ€ Saving Grace - Basil Hayden’s bourbon, lemon, mint, Grand Marnier and ginger
They all sound so delicious, I’m going to have an extremely hard time not trying the whole menu. Metro, indeed!!
And to soak up all of Matt’s mixology magic, take a peep at the menu that will be served in the lobby – after the jump. (Or, head to 25 Degrees for a burger or Dakota for an entree – if that’s more your steez.)
Because all the studying necessary for a good time has been taken care of by the man behind the bar.
This much is true: If you’ve ever had a basil tree garnish in your Bloody Mary, it’s highly doubtful you’d ever want to go back to a celery stalk. Ever. Because who wouldn’t choose a fragrant drink, if one had the choice? I took that as one sure sign of the establishment’s passion for fresh ingredients and the value placed on using them. Matt Biancaniello – the resident mixologist of The Library Bar inside the Roosevelt Hotel – is no stranger to that concept for starters and what’s more, he revealed to us that he goes to the Farmer’s Market 5 times a week! Now that’s fresh.
I had the privilege of joining Caroline on Crack and Neil of Food Marathon for a hosted tasting. We had everything from the mojito to bourbon cocktails and even – yes – the bloody mary as above. And I could really taste the freshness in each drink and all the attention to detail in Matt’s passion for mixology. It was great to sense the energy with which he described his own creative processes in concocting each drink. This is a good thing – since it IS The Roosevelt and the cost of a drink at this gem will set you back $15 each.