The Weekend Brunch At Malo

Egg Tostadas (green onion, tomato & cheese scrambled eggs with black beans, tortillas & Oaxacan sauce)

There’s another brunch option in town – and it’s at Malo in Silver Lake. If tequila cocktails with your eggy entree and sides sound like a choice accompaniment, this brunch will be worth your trek. For one, Malo has that spicy burnt habanero salsa that always does a solid for your pre-appetizer chip indulgence. (Because I’ll be the first to admit I’m always the one at the table who eats too many chips and has to take her meal home.)

Bloody Maria

Try ordering your Bloody Maria “extra spicy” and the bar will oblige. (I did. Twice.) In between the Bloody Marias was a Medicina Latina for that smokey kick (El Jimador Reposado, fresh ginger, agave nectar & lime w/Mezcal mist) as well as a La Paloma Fizz (made with El Jimador Reposado, fresh grapefruit juice, lime juice & grapefruit bitters) for that refreshing-but-sour morning cocktail. Or if you’re feeling the wake-up coffee more, go for the Malo Cafe, with Grand Centenario Anejo, Kahlua dark creme de cacao & coffee and topped with whipped cream. Delicioso!

Tres Leches Cake

Favorite dishes of mine included the Egg Tostada – with the eggs still wet, the way I like it. I even found myself appreciating one of their Vegan Breakfast Burrito, which was simple yet delicious enough, with tofu, potatoes, spinach, pinto beans, mushrooms, avocado and pico de gallo – though maybe the trick was that I dumped a whole bunch of red-orange salsa on it. 😉 The Tres Leches cake was my favorite dessert. The slice was perfectly wet but not soggy and oh-so-milky. If you’re feeling like an all-around sweet breakfast, try the Mango & Banana French Toast, made with sweet bolillos, warm piloncillo and cinnamon syrup.

If you’re looking for a little twist on your typical ham & eggs brunch, Malo’s a good place to start. The tequila in your morning cocktail will spice things up in many different ways – so your lazy weekend day will be sure to get kicked off to a great start.

Weekend Brunch:
Saturday – Sunday, 9 AM

Brunch Menu (including cocktails)

4326 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90029-2112

Red O By Rick Bayless: Modern Mexican With The Ambiance To Match

Sonoma County Lamb - ancho & guajillo chiles, roasted garlic, cumin in Chile Colorado, black beans

If it’s one thing I’ve learned to appreciate during my tenure in California, it would have to be Mexican food. Los Angeles has opened my eyes to probably the best Mexican food in the country – so when I heard Rick Bayless had decided to expand in our city, my interest was piqued. It’s not a restaurant that is Bayless’ so much as one that has consulted him on the menu and brought a lot of the elements of his Chicago restaurants directly to Melrose – but good enough. It has his name on it; I’ll take it – and thank Executive Chef Michael Brown in the meantime.

Dining room with heated floor

When I travel to Chicago, Mexican food and seafood are cuisines I flat-out avoid (celebrity chefs aside). I was curious to experience first-hand his approach to it, however, and I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint. In fact, the food was inspiring – a large part made possible with the quality ingredients that I imagine are much more accessible than in Chicago – and the ambiance of the natural, modern space completed an overall enjoyable dinner. Price points were reasonable, save for the “Mexico’s Celebrated Seven” – which, if you should want to get committal at Red O, include an achiote-marinated Gleason Ranch suckling pig, a spicy green chile-marinated Creekstone Natural rib-eye.

Gleason Ranch Pork Belly Sopes - black beans, salsa negra, sesame

But the important thing was that the flavors were as vibrant as Mexican fare should be. Dark sauces, light sauces, pork belly, chicken, duck, steak dishes were all solid – but you might laugh if I told you that the tortillas were good. Don’t, because this ground level ingredient is so often overlooked, and Red O passing the test allowed me to appreciate the actual dishes with a keener eye.

The pork belly sopes were the sweet kind of delicious, with the salsa negra giving it good depth. I could see myself at the bar with a tray of these, washed down with their Topolo Margarita (Sauza Conmemorativo tequila, Gran Torres orange liqueur and limonada) – the only straight-up cocktail on the menu at the time of our visit. The cocktail menu is actually being revised right now, which is a good thing since I thought every other drink was too easily bruised by the ice, having started off with not enough flavor. Or, perhaps, liquor.

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Tequila Mixology Contest at Ortega 120

Tequila Cocktails at Ortega 120

Ortega 120 in Redondo Beach, where you can order LA Weekly’s Best Classic Margarita of 2009, will also be the site for an inaugural “Toma Tequila” Mixology Contest. Amateurs will compete for the grand prize of a $250 gift certificate to the restaurant, an editorial feature in Mutineer Magazine and, of course, have their winning recipe on Ortega 120’s cocktail menu alongside Chef Thomas Ortega’s imaginative dishes.

No professionals allowed – only amateurs are eligible to compete. To enter, submit your best tequila-infused recipe. Judges will narrow it down to a final three, which will have been chosen on a set criteria: taste, creativity, visual presentation and mixology practicality. And you should be excited (or intimidated) to find out who the judges are, including Ortega 120’s Demi Stevens, Mutineer Magazine Editor-in-Chief Alan Kropf, Carole Dixon of FEAST LA, Hadley Tomicky of Grub Street LA and Josh Lurie of Food GPS. Selected finalists will compete live at the restaurant on the evening of May 3rd.

Other events going on at Ortega 120 for that week include:

Sunday, May 2 – Sister Cities International Charity Fundraiser
Monday, May 3 – Ortega 120 “Toma Tequila” Mixology Competition Finals
Tuesday, May 4 – Tequila University
Wednesday, May 5 – Cinco de Mayo Grand Fiesta with folklorico dancers

May the best tequila cocktail win!

Finals: Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Entry form

Submit to ortega120contest [dot] com.

Ortega 120
1814 Pacific Coast Highway
Redondo Beach, CA 90277


Las Perlas: Tequila & Mezcal In High Style, Casual Atmosphere

The Bar at Las Perlas

There may or may not be enough places to eat or drink in the block on 6th Street in Downtown Los Angeles. The problem: Where is the bar in all of Los Angeles specializing in tequila at which the drink menu isn’t automatically reduced to a range of flavored margaritas? Las Perlas – which only last Tuesday has joined the neighborhood of Must Bar, Nickel Diner, The Association Bar, The Varnish and Cole’s – is the answer to all your tequila and mezcal needs. The gag-inducing reputation tequila ill-earned with you during college thanks to all those discounted bottles of Jose Cuervo is light years away.

400 Rabbits (I have no idea)

In this latest Cedd Moses (Seven Grand) venture, the space is comfortable and the atmosphere is casual yet festive. But the most important part – the elaborate drinks are made with utmost precision and the drink menu, written in marker on construction paper, is small but has something for everyone. The green backlit bar is impressive while the colorful plastic covering the tables retains that cantina feel. Pop in a few quarters in the personally-approved, brand new jukebox for the perfect, smoky mezcal-sipping soundtrack. Or play a round of pool on a table as brand new as the bar itself (I’m 2 for 2).


Though I’m unsure how often the drink menu changes (I’m inclined to think hand-written infers somewhat regularly?) – the first installment seems to show Julian T. Cox (Rivera) and Raul Yrastorza (El Carmen) have in mind all the corners of your palate. My Jalisco was made of El Jimador Anejo Tequila, Carpano Antica Vermouth, orange bitters, Liquor 43 – complete with a brandy cherry at the bottom of my coupé glass. It brought me back to my most favorite cocktail I consumed my last trip to New York at Mayahuel. It was delicious and complex – appropriately complimenting the anejo-aged tequila – and contrasted the sweet 400 Rabbits (Antiguo Reposado tequila, blackberries and port wine floated with pinot) that Fiona ordered. Certainly, the cocktail I will order on my second visit will be the Pablano Escobar (Sombra Mescal, muddled poblano chiles, pineapple) – a drink I witnessed being made for my neighbor at the bar and which seemed the most complicated recipe including the most garnishes. A spicy cocktail? I’m in – again and again.

Further reading:

Las Perlas Flickr Set

Las Perlas, Cedd Moses’ Mezcal & Tequila Bar Opens in Downtown LA – LA Weekly Food

Q&A With Bartender Raul Yrastorza – Food GPS

Las Perlas
107 E. Sixth Street
Los Angeles, CA

Trek to Redondo: Ortega 120 Tasting

I don’t usually touch the South Bay. Yeah, I’ve said it. It’s tough to find occasion when there’s so much to explore north of LAX. I may have found that occasion now.

Ortega 120, located in Redondo Beach, is a good reason to visit. Maya of ShopEatsleep and I attended a tasting there and every corner I turned, I found a fresh, unique perspective in each bite. Their margaritas were some of the best I’ve ever tasted thanks to real juices and Partida tequila; each bite tasted a little bit like home. (I am not Mexican.)

I’ll say this off the bat: Ortega 120 know how to do media dinners. The margaritas, courses, cocktail courses and the like kept coming. Cofounders Demi Stevens and Thomas Ortega were on hand to give our meal a personal feel – and somehow I can believe that they’re around to do so with all their guests.

We started with a Taco de Atun Crudo (above) which was filled with Ahi Poke yellow fin tuna, roasted corn, mango, cilantro, roasted red peppers, chili oil and chili crema fresca and topped with guacamole. It was an appropriately light starter and I thought the guacamole brought out the flavor in the poke pretty nicely. The taco was paired with the a pomegranate ginger margarita – and although we all had at least a full glass of the house margarita still, our apéritif – I honestly think these margaritas could be paired with any dish since they were all so fresh. Only juices, no sweet & sour. No sugar, only agave nectar – which doesn’t give you that wired nor crash & burn feeling like sugar. 

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Wild For Rosangel Tequila

Flor de Maria by The Liquid Muse (recipe)

It was an intimate event on the second floor of Malo Restaurant on Sunset Blvd. in Silver Lake where Gran Centenario Rosangel tequila would be launched. The lady mixologists started off the night on a positive start – showing everyone they have just as much as the guys (if not more) – of what it takes to mix the best drinks in Los Angeles. My guests and I were the lucky ones to get the first drinks specially made for the night by mixologist Natalie Bovis-Nelsen a.k.a. The Liquid Muse. It was called the Flor de Maria and was delicious, potent and a perfect note to start off the night.

Once the ladies were done with their showcase, the competing mixologists took their individual stations positioned throughout the bar. Names of their concoctions included Angel’s Apiary (Mark Blackhart) and the Ramos Rose (Jason Bran).

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