See You at Northstar California!

Photo by Chris Bartkowski, Vail Resorts
Photo by Chris Bartkowski, Vail Resorts

It’s December! I’m super excited about this month every year because it means snow in the Sierras — and that means snowboarding — but for the 2016-17 season, it’s extra special. I’ve been designated an official ambassador for Northstar California, a Vail resort in North Lake Tahoe.

This means that you’ll see me at Northstar quite often this season. I’ll be getting to know the resort as well as nearby Truckee. Whether it’s tearing up the slopes, aprés ski, on-mountain dinners with a winery, off-mountain hot spots, festivals like the Burton Mountain Festival, or night time entertainment, I’ll be sure to get a taste of it all.

Along with a handful of other influencers, I’ll be blogging twice or so per month at a dedicated content blog on the Northstar site, which will launch sometime soon — so keep up to date with my social media channels to learn what that is. I’ll also be doing two instagram take-overs on the @northstar_california handle sometime this season, so you can bet I’ll be trying to catch all the best angles while I’m out there.

I am so excited! See you on the slopes!

*My partnership with Northstar California includes a season pass, stays and compensation. All opinions are still my own.

Twenty-One Reasons to dineL.A.: January 19 – February 1, 2015

Lobster Roll – Blue Plate Oysterette

DineL.A. is back and it’s time to scour the menus of participating restaurants all over town. I’ve come up with some reasons to jet to a particular dining establishment near you, whether for lunch or for dinner. Some restaurants offer exclusive dishes to dineL.A., others are offering a particularly enticing lunch and/or dinner menu. There are also participants that might normally be out of your price range or sense of adventure, but dineLA might just be the right occasion to give them a try.

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My Top dineLA Restaurant Week Picks for Winter, 2013: January 21 – February 1

Braised Beef Cheek, Taleggio Pureed Potatoes, Chanterelles

Happy Martin Luther King Day! Also, what a joyous second inauguration day. In this case, it also means the very first day of dineLA Restaurant Week. If you haven’t, already, you best be making your reservations right now – or better yet, take advantage of your day off and find your prix fixe destination for lunch today.

I’ve done a bit of perusing the incredibly extensive list of restaurants and their offered menus around the city and came up with a few categories that struck me. With 3-course prix fixe as the standard, here are some standout menu offerings the week starting today, Monday, January 21 – Friday, February 1:

Best Opportunity to Try New Chef at Venue

Not new chefs by any definition (in fact, the tenure of this group is impressive especially by L.A. standards) – just new venues.

I associate my first experiences with potted rillettes, headcheese and pates in L.A. with Remi Lauvand, and he’s now at Le Ka, having just opened last September. Downtown workers can get their feet wet on the $25 lunch menu, but interesting dinner menu items include escargot cavatelli, lamb’s tongue and scallops with lentils and chicken skin – some things that may be too good to pass up.

With Vartan Abgaryan now serving at a venue in possession of one of the most enviable patios in Silver Lake, I can’t help but simply displace the delicious plates he was just serving at Public Kitchen & Bar and imagine them enjoyed in outdoor dim lighting surrounded by foliage. Sure, he’s changed up a few things, but I’ve always been a fan of his octopus.

Just a week ago, IDG’s RivaBella just started serving dinner in its brand-new, 8,000 square foot space, basically the antithesis of Angelini Osteria. You’ll have to settle for lunch if you want to do Restaurant Week here, but if Gino Angelini’s pasta (such as a green pappardelle in ragu) is part of the 3-course offering, that will always do.

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Favorite Dish: Bestia’s Cavatelli alla Norcina

Cavatelli alla Norcina

(What qualifies as) The Los Angeles chill and corresponding grey skies have gotten me into a pasta mood. You may call them carbs with requisite detachment, but I have nothing but reverence for such sustenance. Fresh, handmade pasta is the stuff of comfort: It’s the thick, wool scarf on a windy day. It’s the down fill in your duvet.

So as I sat down at the bar at Bestia for a taste of the menu – a one-top during one of my reclusive holiday moods – I realized immediately that I’d have to come back. There were just too many things on the menu that sounded too good to pass up. But thanks to bartender Karen Grill, who was working that night, I had the inside on the menu highlights…of which there were many. So of course, the hard part was picking just one.

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The New Winter Cocktail Menu Delights at Drago Centro

Coquettish Angel – Pierde Almas Mezcal, Boudier Parfait Amour, Meletti Amaro, lemon, egg white, Miracle Mile Chocolate Chili Bitters

It’s no secret that Drago Centro is one of my favorite places to drink and eat. And then drink, again. But it just wouldn’t be the same without Jaymee Mandeville at the helm of each seasonal cocktail menu. And the latest is a doozy. It’s inspirational with each cocktail proving their point of view and collectively, it’s her strongest menu yet. Though there’s diversity, each drink is well-balanced, with many even evolving through the end of each sip.

I’ve made some notes, with a pictorial at the bottom to aid you. So get thee to Drago Centro.

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Drago Centro Winter Cocktail Menu Debuts Today – Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rode Duivel | Bols Genever, St. Maria al Monte Amaro, Miracle Mile Sour Cherry Bitters, Dried Cherries

There’s something really exciting going on behind the bar at a certain restaurant in Downtown LA. No, it’s not the craftiness of a Michael Shearin, who has since left for a brand ambassador position – but the hardly rookie beginnings of Jaymee Mandeville as dreamer of the newest winter cocktail menu at Drago Centro.

Grimhilda | Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy, Pama, Chipotle Infused Honey, Lemon

It’s a menu that has really good range, while at the same time having solid representations in each corner. To be honest, there was only one of ten cocktails on the list that I disliked and over a handful that I would easily order for my friends on recommendation of the spirit they preferred or myself based on that day’s mood. There were even more cocktails I was excited about than I shared an indifferent opinion about.

For instance, the Bols Genever-based Rode Duvel lived up to the high expectations I had for it. It’s enhanced with St. Maria Al Monte Amaro, which is a more bitter amaro and goes so well with the Bols and Miracle Mile Sour Cherry bitters. Be sure not to ignore the dried cherry garnish, as your drink only tastes better paired with each bite of the skewer. It was quite the cocktail to reinforce my love of Bols.

Western All'italiana | High West Double Rye, Cointreau, St. Elizabeth All Spice Dram, cranberry and oregano infused molasses, Gala apple

For that friend who may shame you by ordering that Cosmopolitan, order him/her a Grimhilda instead. Made with Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy, Parma, Housemade Chipotle Infused Honey and lemon, its sugar rim is actually an asset and not an obstruction to the cocktail (it has just enough). The chipotle honey does enough to help keep its sugary profile intact but interesting, and you may just wow that craving for cranberry out of your friend.

The every man’s fizzy cocktail would have to be Fated Seeds. This is a cocktail that’s sure to convert former gin avoiders. Persimmons in this cocktail were practically pickled and given a sort of vinegared acidity, without which would’ve made the persimmons evaporate. The basil shrub was a nice aromatic note while a soda topping gave it its effervescence.

Breaking Castagne | Hardy VSOP Cognac, Sombra Mezcal, Bitter Truth Mole Bitters, Housemade Italian Chestnut Syrup, egg white, nutmeg

An unexpected favorite of the night was the Western All’italiana, made with High West Double Rye, Cointreau, St. Elizabeth All Spice Dram, cranberry and oregano infused molasses, and a Gala apple peel garnish. The cocktail really showcases the all spice, cranberry and oregano beautifully. Of course, it goes without saying that I will ever have the double rye in my corner – so while it gets more than its fair shake, I have to stress that all the infused flavors do well to complement.

The Breaking Castagne is Drago’s winter egg nog – only better. The VSOP gives it that warmth and the mezcal just the right amount of smokyness, but the chestnut syrup is, of course, the real, winter-y centerpiece here.

Eve's Demise | Black Grouse Scotch, Belle de Brillet Pear Cognac, Housemade hibiscus apple cider, maple syrup

And then there were the drinks that steadfastly held their corner. The Dead Man’s Tale is the menu’s tiki drink and a play on the Fog Cutter – made with Wray and Nephew Overproof Rum, Bombay Dry Gin, Bertagnolli Grappa, Oloroso Sherry, Bietterman’s Amer Nouvelle, St. Vincent’s Orgeat, lemon, orange and Galliano mist. It was delicious, even though tiki drinks aren’t usually my go-to.

The Remedy X holds its own as the ginger lovers’ cocktail. Made with rosemary infused Bushmill’s Blackbush Irish Whiskey, ginger infused agave and lemon – the rosemary gave this drink a nice, floral twist. And of course, it had the essential candied ginger garnish.

The spicy cocktail of the bunch is the silver Screen Quotations, made with 123 Organic Blanco Tequila, housemade thai chili/cinnamon syrup, red bell pepper, mint, lime and saffron salt. The mint is a nice, aromatic twist that gives the whole cocktail a refreshing take.

But if you’re looking for that quintessential, surprise-me hot toddy, look no further than Eve’s Demise, made with Black Grouse Scotch, Belle de Brillet Pear Cognac, housemade hibiscus apple cider (mmm) and maple syrup. The delicious garnish alone deserves its own double take, but I honestly had a hard time putting this cute little jar-encased hot sipper down.

Fortunately, you can taste all of these tonight at the winter menu cocktail launch for $8 each. Bring the gang, since there’s a drink on the menu for everyone. This delicious menu is sure to delight and satiate your craving for that perfect winter cocktail.

Winter cocktail menu tasting was hosted.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

6 PM – Close: $8 each

$12 each all other times

Drago Centro
525 S. Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071
213.228.8998

Drago Centro Winter Cocktails Preview: $8 Each, Tonight Only

The Barbarossa (from Drago Centro cocktail menus past)

Heads up! It’s that time, again. Time to try out Michael Shearin’s brand new cocktails for $8 a pop (regularly $12). It happens tonight after 5 PM at Drago Centro in Downtown Los Angeles. Here’s a peep at the menu before you go:

  • Unbridled – Applejack, Green Chartreuse, Lime, Simple Syrup, Mint
  • The Watcher in the Woods – Gin, Douglas Fir, Lemon Juice, Nocello, Lavender Syrup, Mint Bitters, Nocello Candy
  • Cusco’s Crown – Encanto Pisco, Pear Puree, Lemon Juice, Angostura Bitters
  • Smoke on the Horizon – Dark Rum, Drambuie, Carpano Antica, Mole Bitters
  • Puro Sangue – Vodka, Solerno, Honey Syrup, Blood Orange Caviar
  • Violet Femme – Reposado Tequila, Maraschino Liqueur, Yuzu Juice, Crème de Violette, Limoncello
  • Morning Courage – Genever, Beet Juice, Lemon Juice, Serrano Tincture, Celery Bitters, Pickled Radish
  • January Jones – Appleton Rum, Demerrara Syrup, Cinnamon Bitters, Butter, Star Anise

This winter cocktail menu sounds delicious. Can’t wait to try them!

Tonight: Thursday, January 20, 2011

5 PM – Close

Drago Centro
The City National Bank Plaza
525 South Flower Street, Suite 120
Los Angeles, CA 90071

Winter Baby

I was born in January. I was told that when my mother was having contractions in the dead of winter, it was during a heavy snowfall and my father had to shovel the driveway before he could drive her to the hospital. I thrive in the winter.

Right.

I am the impostor “winter baby” who picked Southern California to settle down in. Because there is no such thing as “winter” here. The seasons here are “dry” and “drier,” with the most drastic temperature changes occurring between dawn and dusk in the exact same day – what with no humidity in this desert to keep warmth around.

Save for the fact that maybe I just got comfortable with this city after my stint in higher education, I love the fact that I can drive to the snow and then leave it. But I do. At least two weekends per winter month. When I leave Mammoth, I leave the worst forms of snow behind so that they do not exist in my day-to-day life – the slush, the ice and all the road salt they require. Mild temperatures, which means that people wear flip-flops all year round (or Uggs at all) – two of my top fashion pet peeves – are of consequence. Pretending to commiserate with other Angelenos who complain about temps “dipping” into the 60s are another. And that’s okay.

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