Now that the Hollywood Bowl season has wrapped, it’s time to consider the current LA Phil season at Walt Disney Concert Hall. From Salonen to Dudamel, Mozart to Stravinsky and Haydn brass to Sibelius on violin and Pink Martini jazz – there’s great diversity in their concert schedule. To sweeten the deal, the LA Phil has also partnered up with a few restaurants for select concerts to offer 3-course, $25 prix fixe meals to keep you sated before the performance.
This summer’s dineLA Restaurant Week commences today and lasts 10 days – over two weekday stretches and one weekend. And since we’ve had a few of these by now, it’s probably time we got smart on maneuvering through the multitude of menus. The trick with dineLA prix fixe is that it may get people through the door, but it may or may not be quite the deal you had in mind. The danger is that you might just be stuck with fewer, albeit recommended, choices for about the same price you’d normally pay.
May I propose lunch? They tend to be better deals than dinner – often true between both offerings of the same restaurant – because there’s more incentive to increase lunch traffic with dinner reservations filling up more readily. So whether you’ve got a 9-5 in the area or are in a certain neighborhood for an audition or client appointment, there’s probably a great dineLA power lunch strategy wherever you end up.
Recently, I had the privilege of attending a blogger dinner held at Rivera in Downtown LA to preview the new menu, a new concept that combines three categories of Chef John Sedlar’s interpretations of Latin cuisines. Sangre encompasses dishes inspired by the Iberian roots of Latin cooking, Samba is comprised of those with South American, Central American, and Caribbean influences and the Playa Bar menu incorporates seafood-themed cuisine inspired by Mexico. Each of them are served in specific dining rooms in Rivera and come complete with “sound bites,” or the explanations and history behindÂ each dish.Â The Conexiones menu is the main menu that is served throughout the restaurant and, overall, emphasizes the connection between those Latin roots and our city. Local Californian ingredients are used, giving each dish its unique flair and that fresh, home-grown touch.
In an interactive spin that’s brand new at Rivera (and probably anywhere), diners who want to know more about particular dishes are directed by the menus to call 1-310-464-6884 and follow the prompts to hear Angeleno Magazine’s 2009 Chef of the Year Chef Sedlar personally explain the history and preparation of each selected dish.
There was a seemingly endless stream of dishes that came in threes this night, and while Chef Sedlar’s cooking is always exciting, I’ll prioritize detailing dishes that topped my list and save you the 15 dish-long play-by-play.
My first and secondÂ favorites hail from the small plates menu.Â I’ve always been a fan of gazpacho, and if this is “traditional” then perhaps I’ve been missing the execution in so many others. I loved that it made with golden tomatoes, decidedly sweeter than any orange variety I’ve had.Â I really enjoyed this cold butÂ indulgentÂ soup. It was interesting to recall the colors as I learned later (through the press release, but diners will learn by calling the number) that before Columbus, gazpacho was white, not red, because it did not yet contain the fruits of the New World: Tomatoes and peppers. The Flan de Elote ($11)Â was another elegantly simple – and sweet – dish, with a light corn custard topped by black quinoa and dressed with squash blossom sauce.
This may not be Kentucky, but if there existsÂ a people who are experts at pretending we’re something or some place we’re not, it’s us, Los Angeles. Celebrate your bets vicariously at the bar with a Mint JulepÂ tomorrow (and today, if you prefer to celebrate early). There are plenty of spots around town to get a good version of the spearmint muddled cocktail.
Dominickâ€™s (West Hollywood)
Dominick’s always brings a solid pour to the bar. Enjoy your Mint Julep surrounded byÂ the ’50’s era decor with tiled floors, dark woodÂ and deep booths. Or, since the wind has died down, sit outside on their pleasant patio while basking in the sunshine.
Open at 6 PM
8715 Beverly Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90048
Thirsty Crow (Silver Lake)
I’ll take any reason to revisit the brand new, 1930’s-themedÂ bourbon far from 1933 Group. In fact, I’ve already had their Mint Julep made with Maker’s Mark, and it was pretty fantastic. Don’t forget to playÂ a song for a nickel on their 1936 jukebox.Â
Open at 5 PM
The Thirsty Crow
2939 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026-2127
Elements Kitchen (Pasadena)
Enjoy the recently-revamped space with its modern decor while you sip your Bourbon and mint. As one of the most exciting places to eat or drink in Pasadena, Elements’ Mint Julep comes from a cocktail program designed by Michel Dozois of Neve Ice. What more could you ask for?
Bar Service 4 PM – 12 AM
37 S. El Molino Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91101
They may serve food under the “Modern Latin” column, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the official Kentucky Derby cocktailÂ from a menu designed by Julian T. Cox. The bar in the subtly-lit, elegant restaurant isÂ the site of one of the premier drinking spots in Downtown L.A.
Open for dinner at 5:30 PM
Late night until 1 AM (Food 12 AM)
1050 S. Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Copa d’OroÂ (Santa Monica)
Whatever the cocktail and whatever the occasion, it’ll turn out top notch at Copa d’Oro. Special order up a traditional version or pick one of Vincenzo Marianella’s gin variations (the Freezing Jess includes elderflower and a touch of absinthe).
Open at 5:30 PM
Santa Monica, CA 90401-2311
Have a great weekend with your mint-muddled cocktails!
There is something about a mint julep.
It is nectar imbibed in a dream,
As fresh as the bud of the tulip,
As cool as the bed of the stream.
There is something about a mint julep,
A fragrance beloved by the lucky.
And perhaps it’s the tint
Of the frost and the mint,
But I think it was born in Kentucky.
Excerpt from: A Drink With Something In It
You may be familiar with my previous Hatchi mentions, with each rendition featuring a high profile chef from around Los Angeles. The series at Breadbar has upped the ante for May, however, and will now be featuring the best mixologists on a monthly basis for, again, one night only as “Hatchi Mix” debuts on Thursday, May 6th.
The menu will feature cocktails priced at $8 each, made by the featured mixologist of the night. Kicking off the series is Devon Espinoza from Abbot Kinney’s Tasting Kitchen, who offers his â€œVive le Cocktailâ€ concept featuring pre-Prohibition libations – like the Sazerac, which is arguably America’s first cocktail, dating back to pre-Civil War New Orleans.Â Also on the menu: The Martinez (gin, vermouth, maraschino liqueur), by the legendary bartender Jerry Thomas in San Franciscoâ€™s Occidental Hotel during the late 1800s; the Manhattan, called the father of the Martinez and the grandmother of the Martini; and The Last Word, a Prohibition-era drink with gin, lime juice, Chartreuse and often with maraschino liqueur.
With a menu like that, it’ll be hard to pass this Hatchi Mix up. But keep on the lookout for future guest mixologists, like Joel Black of the CaÃ±a Rum Bar at The Doheny, highlighting Rum cocktails on June 3, andÂ Julian Cox of Rivera, with a focus on Tequilas on July 1. (Mmm…I hope that includes the Barbacoa.)
Thursday, May 6th, 2010
6 PM – 2 AM
$8 per cocktail
BreadBar Century City
10250 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90067
The thing about these food extravaganzas is sometimes you can expect a lot of piecemeal efforts from restaurants who run the gambit of quality andÂ notorietyÂ and are there to garner publicity because they need it. Not so with Los Angeles Magazine‘s The Food Event – heldÂ at Saddlerock Ranch in Malibu last Sunday and which featured a ton of power players in the L.A. scene. First of all, the setting was beautiful and couldn’t be more fairy tale. Imagine food and wine in a bowl set inside rolling hills with rows of grape vines and a clear blue sky above. Second, I actually regretted not having enough capacity to try everything. If I knew what everyone was serving ahead of time as I perused stand to stand, I could prioritize the space in my stomach somehow. Then again, that would have taken oodles of self-control that – let’s face it – I frankly don’t have.
Highlights that I was actually able to digestÂ included a steak sandwich from Dakota (above), three different tacos including a potato variety from Loteria! Grill, an interesting foie gras-eel sushi roll (yes, the magic was in the foie gras) as well as an astounding lettuce wrap (below) from Wilshire Restaurant, and – I’m sure – tons of other things I eyed with a look only a diner with anÂ overwhelmed yet yearning palate could exude.
Oh – and how nice it was to see the newly-expanded Petrossian in my neighborhood, in Malibu. Their blinis and borscht was one of the smallest bites there but also the most delectable and luxurious. And you’d think I’d never be so excited to see so many sliders, which I’d normally view as fillers. There were so many varieties of meats and perfect buns to accompany them, including Westside Tavern‘s lamb dip.