My 2-day crash course in all restaurants Casey Lane was a bit of an accident. I scheduled a business brunch at Tasting Kitchen on Venice’s Abbott Kinney while not realizing that a media lunch at his new, cross-town joint, The Parish, was to take place the next day. But I found no coincidence in the fact that both places serve stellar food – Downtown Los Angeles should be so lucky to receive such an addition by Casey, who brought the concept of farm-to-table to fruition before the term got hackneyed. (Soon, Melrose will get their own dosage in Itri, a pasta shop.)
While I missed the one-month-ago opening since it was during Tales of the Cocktail, I was lucky to have gotten my first taste at a Glenrothes Scotch Whisky lunch. (As this was a special event, The Parish isn’t open for lunch – but it seems as though they are aiming for breakfast service in the near future.) What a treat it was to have tasted The Parish’s stellar food alongside one of the top three Single Speyside Malts in different vintages: 1998, 1988 and, ultimately, the 1978.
We started out with a Scotch Lace, John Coltharp’s variation on a whisky sour, but utilizing Glenrothes Select Reserve with a splash of Rose. It was super refreshing (especially since I had Metro’ed and biked there) without much tartness at all.
I love a delicious, complex cocktail as much as the next guy but sometimes you just want something that’s a little more simple. Rugged. Or even rough.
Thankfully, I live in Hollywood so I have plenty of selection to suit my needs and desires of the moment. And yeah, I was craving something a lot less maintenance than a $14 hand-crafted cocktail plus an easyÂ snack that would satisfy my belly. So I decided to check out Frysmith’s new cover band, Loaded Rock Bar on Hollywood Blvd, which serves up their menu without the gas ‘n go truck and with the stationary bar seating, lone flatscreen andÂ nostalgic-to-the-80’s, rocker-esqueÂ soundtrack.
Beautiful. The fries were of a perfect crisp and the kimchi was more respectable than I’d honestly give a rock bar credit for.Â It would be hard to say if they’d be even better if cooked on the original truck. Thank you, Loaded, for proving me wrong. It’s apparent that the place provides its customers with a solid bar-going experienceÂ without the BS. They also have a cheapÂ food menu besides theÂ Frysmith menu, which I have yet to try, but which also comes with little risk ($5 for a burger on Hollywood Blvd? Wow!). But if you’re not hungry, count on Loaded for the whiskeys and bourbons – including evenÂ Death’s Door White Whiskey, Woodford Reserve and Basil Hayden ($7 ea). Or Macallan 12 for $8, if you were thinking something sweeter. Highland Park 12 and even Balvenie 12 are even $8 per pour.
ThinkingÂ about fitting in? A $5 PBR 24-oz pounder should be right up your alley. If you want to play middle-of-the-aisle, they also have $4 bottled Red Stripe. Are you a daytime drinker? All drinks are 2 for $1 more from 11 AM – 7 PM. Whoa.
Not bad for a rock bar with fake Marshall Loaded ampsÂ lining the back wall.
Loaded 6377 Hollywood Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 323.464.5623
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of joining Dan of Thirsty in LA, Caroline on Crack and John of Social Domain LA in taste-testing Hemingway’s Lounge Director of Cocktails Alex Straus’ new winter cocktail menu. Alex’s renditions of winter cheer did not disappoint.
For one, my favorite drink on that menu has to be the Hemingway’s Nog, made with Atlantico Rum, Licor 43, creme fraiche, Tiki bitters, grated nutmeg and love. It’s the perfect adult nog that is extra comforting to your palate yet won’t give you that stomach ache like you got at your grandmother’s after too many glasses. Atlantico, a blend of Dominican Republic small batch rum, is the perfect spirit and the creme fraiche is the perfect substitute for the milk and cream. The cocktail is so light yet savory to the froth.
If you’re looking for something more aromatic and English, go with the Chamomile-infused Gin Martini, made complete with chamomile-infusedÂ Junipero,Â Dolin Blanc vermouth, Reganâ€™s Orange Bitters and flamed orange. The florals are accentuated nicely by the citrus, making this particular gin martini another one of my favorites on the new menu.
Feeling like a hot toddy? The Whiskey Warmer is most excellent. Made with Elijah Craig 12, St. Elizabeth allspice dram, maple syrup, fresh lemon juice, hot water and ground cinnamon, the warm drink takes me from Hollywood to Mammoth in one sip. In fact, I believe I’ll be bringing more than my snowboard on my next trip up and will try to re-create this deliciously comforting, soothing cocktail.
Speaking of favorites in general, there were so many other cocktails that were superbly made for us – like the Moveable Feast (rye whiskey, sage, berry, honey, lemon and The Bon Vivants Tomahawk Bitters) and an impromptu cocktail with Coruba Dark Rum, Appleton Estate Reserve, Smith & Cross, lemon, lime, pineapple and and St. Vincent’s Orgeat – but I really have to cut to the chase. We all had to have a Manhattan, and it was my first time having it made with Whistle Pig Rye. It was incredible, and I’ll leave it at the fact that I have had it 3 times since this tasting.
I’d be remiss to omit that Hemingway’s Lounge is a rather unique space to enjoy great cocktails for all the wrong reasons. Okay, here’s one right reason: The interior is beautiful, with books and typewriters lining the walls straight up to the ceilings. Here’s another: Muriel Hemingway expressly gave the bar her blessing to use the family name, giving credence that the bar is an appropriateÂ tribute and not a knock-off.Â And now for the rest: It’s on Hollywood Boulevard, where no drinking establishment is exempt from patrons who willingly line up 5 deep to order “vodka-sodas with a splash of Red Bull” (I personally witnessed this on a Saturday night I was seeking some entertainment in the English language on the day I had flown back in from Taiwan). But Alex Straus is a mixologist-bartender who thrives in this industry and environment – even when it’s 10 deep. After all, one’s shaker arms can only take so much. As one who avoids reservations and bars in general on Friday and Saturday nights (amateur hour), I have to say that it is completely worth it to see Alex or one of his guys on the weekday (Tuesdays, Wednesdays) and/or as early in the night as possible. For beer drinkers, Hemingway’s has only taps, no bottles – with a non-Hollywood price point ($5-6), to boot (list). The bar’s soundtrack is solid, with classic rock, funk and even jazzÂ dominating the playlist. Impressive.
If someone told me that my new favorite neighborhood cocktail bar would be on Hollywood Blvd., I would have scoffed at one point. But for the first time since moving to Hollywood (and luckily walking distance to Hemingway’s), I felt that the people in the 20 foot line outside this bar were sitting on a goldmine – and not just another joint pumping out spicy tuna at 180 BPM. It’s not my fault if they don’t recognize it; save those shaker arms for me, please!
Engage her only a little, because you might get her worked up. Leave soon, before you find her trying too hard to keep you there. Know her for her strengths, be cautious of her weaknesses – of which there are many. If there were a list of those weaknesses, it would be the majority of her menu.
She was up-front. The featured quote on her website is by Coco Chanel: “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.” Though Coco undoubtedly valued substance, the focus of First & Hope is on appearances – starting with the intent to impress, overcompensating by talking too much – as if the ingredients in her dishes were names in entertainment.
Like the amuse bouche we were provided: A simple fingerling potato with creme fraiche was executed well, but as with all bad romances, beginnings are ever so misleading.
…And as you escape to the opera, or the L.A. Philharmonic – remember the style and class First & Hope Supper Club exuded, as that would be her heavily weighted strength. Remember the deftly chosen Mac ‘n Cheese flight – another of her few strengths, and by a landslide. How the Triple Cream Brie pot was so deliciously rich and the natural honeycomb cut across it so well. Remember how the Aged Goat flavor contrasted well with the inherent creaminess of a well-bakedÂ mac ‘n cheese. How deliciousÂ it was to wash down the sharpness of a cheddar mac withÂ dark Porter.Â And how through it all, you basked in the high-class essence ofÂ the blue-tinged light…
Like all those who give way too much, however, you’ll have to stay disciplined for the both of you. If there ever were so blatantly brandished a trump card like foie gras, know that when combined with even high-quality ground chuck to make meatloaf, itÂ will not work. Even the blackened bacon which wraps it cannot save it nor the green beans which accompany it. Back away; she tries too hard and the results are disastrous.
Back to the menu, where she starts byÂ talking too much. What a tiny little and unremarkable crabmeatÂ “pot pie” (where the pot was, I’m not exactly sure) she serves up for $13. The significance of the buttery french toast topping was lost on me. And there’s nothing “grits” nor popcorn about the Popcorn Shrimp & Grits ($17). Truth be told, I didn’t see what her point was in either of these and felt rather underwhelmed by the prospect of paying so much for small dishes that didn’t deliver…for free.
If there were one other strength at First & Hope, it would certainly be the Duck-Duck-Goose. Tender, juicy and yes – even sweet, the rich bird was cooked well and evenÂ complimentary to its natural characteristics. Avoid the Nenaw’s Picnic Basket – the deep-fried buttermilk hen was extremely dry and straight-up bland.
The curious thing that everyone in my party could not ignore was that there were many a fingerling potato used as garnishes throughout the dinner…let me rephrase.Â Make that: …There were many a raw fingerling potato that garnished our dishes. How could she fail to cook potatoes correctly, or at all? The devil is in the details, girlfriend. But like I said, engage her for her strengths – and that would be the duck, mac ‘n cheese flight and bubbly cocktails (OK – and the LAPD Donut Shakedown, which was rather heavenly, actually,Â for dessert). Let’s not harp any further on her weaknesses, shall we? After all – luxury and class don’t preclude feelings. Hopefully she includes desire to improve upon substance to match.
I can always use a lesson in single malt Scotch – it’s a chance to widen my experience and palate, and let’s face it: I’m partial to it. A few weeks ago, I tried Balblair – the distillery of which dates back to 1749 – for the first time. So did many other Americans since it just got introduced to the U.S. market. It was a privilege to be amongst the first to partake and celebrate. Incidentally, I met a few members from the Los Angeles Whiskey Society. Indeed, whiskey – or more specifically Highland Single Malt Scotch – brings us all together.
Balblair is a Highland Single Malt and the only that is all-vintage (older than 10 years). The 1991 ($129.99) and 1997 ($64.99) are the first two vintages available here, and needless to say – I thought the 1997 was very good but was very impressed by the 1991 vintage. Both have an ABV of 43% and are full-bodied. In the 1997, I experienced a rather spicy nose as well as a few citrus notes. The taste gave off much oak as well as spice – and some vanilla. The 1991, on the other hand, was a bit more sweet on the nose as well as taste with warmer notes overall than the 1997, even giving off the essence of toffee. Very delicious.
If I had occasion to give a generous gift to a seasoned whiskey drinker – I’d certainly pick up one of these bottles. Since it’s new to our market, your giftee will appreciate both your expertise and good taste. 😉 If you want to sip here in the city, try The Edison, Checkers andÂ The Thirsty Crow (thanks to Maya of ShopEatSleep for that tip).
We seem to love animals here in Los Angeles. So much perhaps that we tend to project our own longings and qualities upon the poor creatures when anthropomorphizing animals on the internet naming our food and drink establishments. There’s a Hungry Cat, a Surly Goat and now – The Thirsty Crow.
As long as the drinks are solid and the space has character, I can get behind almost any name. Fortunately, The Thirsty Crow – a bourbon bar from Bobby Green (1933 Group: Bigfoot Lodge, Bigfoot West, The Little Cave, Saints & Sinners) – manages to do both. This is a far cry from Stinkers and skunk butts, mind youÂ – andÂ comprises more “hip” than “hipster” in this Silver LakeÂ neighborhood withÂ The Crow’sÂ upscale, quality $12 cocktails. It may be a bar, but it’s now more La Mill (especially withÂ their new liquor license) than Cha Cha Lounge, though PBR alsoÂ is available here. The last timeÂ I saw an ice ball machine was not even in-house, but duringÂ the traveling Macallan presentation. ClienteleÂ with cocktails chilled with the rounded iceÂ benefit from the surface area in their Old Fashioned glasses slowing its melt rate – upscale, indeed.
At the media preview, we could taste anything and everything from the menu, and I found myself especially impressed with their classics. I started off with a Mint Julep – made with Maker’s Mark – and it was quite good. Despite the presence of confectioner’s sugar, it wasn’t too sweet, had a good muddling of mint and was appropriately complimentary to the bourbon composing the drink. It was a good pour.
The Sazerac made by Don was also very good – a delicious, aromatic classic blend with a clean finish. Made with Jim Beam, Peychaud’s bitters, Grande Absinthe, a touch of sugar and flamed lemon peel. I’ve never been to New Orleans, but I like any city that has popularized this (albeit originally cognac)Â cocktail.
The popular drink of the media night, however, seemed to be the bar’s namesake cocktail.Â Gin with ginger beer renditionsÂ may beÂ prevalent all around town – but the Jim Beam Rye at the center of the Thirsty CrowÂ (which Lindsay and Daniel ordered) made for good spice in combination with the ginger beer, bitters and citrus.
I love that there is a Manhattan section on the menu – and in turn loved their Black Manhattan. It was dark and delicious. I would caution against the Mole Manhattan, however, as Caroline had understandably ordered it because she had expected it to be influenced at least in part by the Mexican ingredient. Not quite – the drink was more chocolatey sweet than Mole Poblano.
I’d always been a vodka-tonic kind of person. Clear has been where it’s at. Like so many others, I started with the sweet, girly drinks (Amaretto Sours in college, anyone?) and when I finally realized there’s a better part of me that experiences narcoleptic tendencies I naturally stuck to the clear drinks unless absolutely special. No juice and therefore sugar. It was the safe bet with nil “crash agents” in the ingredients.
Having only one drink regardless of where you go is like having a one-track mind. You could be missing out on really good stuff by people who knew what they were doing. It was my turn to learn the goods. Time to grow up.