Pera Cocktail, made with pear-infused cognac, from Drago Centro
With 2009 coming to an end, I have definitely been thinking about the 11 months that already passed. If I had to distill all those experiences into a single word, it would probably be Thankfulness. I suppose that's not a rare emotion to have this time of year, with Thanksgiving memories still lingering and all the anticipation of the holiday celebrations with close ones afoot. But it is very much a genuine feeling; thus, I dedicate December's posts to all the things I am thankful for in 2009. Starting off the dedication, I'll commemorate last month -- where, despite my announced blog hiatus, I've still been invited to numerous events, meeting wonderful new folks while reconnecting with friends I already know, all over many great meals, snacks and drinks.
November began as a total trip, literally! Thanks to winning PhishFest tickets from a LAist contest, e*starLA and I embarked on a trip to Indio over Halloween weekend for the three-day, eight-set performance by the jammin' rock band.
Not only do I have a whole new sense of appreciation for their music (really only having listened to them in passing before,) I also discovered some tasty treats out in the Inland Empire, including the Beer Hunter Sports Pub & Grill (boasting over 250 beers by the bottle and a sizable tap of ~30 brews.) And, since an A&W was within reach, we got fried cheese curds and root beer floats too (with some fried chicken, since this fast food stop was a hybrid with KFC!) Oh did I mention I got a brownie sundae that wound up pwning my butt? Even with Esther's help we left about half of it untouched!
Immediately following PhishFest (literally - we drove direct from Indio to Venice Beach to make the event), Esther and I headed to a Zeno Supper Club with fellow bloggers Caroline on Crack and Gourmet Pigs. We were invited by Citysearch but there was a $20 suggested donation at the door, but I thought what the hey -- there's an open bar and the foods served looked promising. And grub was certainly worthwhile, a delightful mishmash of gussied-up comfort foods (cassoulet, a "Thanksgiving" sandwich with turkey, cranberry sauce and gravy within and fire-roasted oysters from Carlsbad Aqua Farms!) and nice sips (namely, beers from Stone Brewing Company.) Who would've thought that this food-packed weekend is merely a preview of many more to follow in November?
Two days following, I met up with almost-common-law-spouse Esther again to taste cocktails from the new menu at Drago Centro, followed by the Secret Whisky Society at 7 Grand, which was highlighting Irish whiskys from Cooley Distillery, and then snacks and ANOTHER cocktail from Bottega Louie across the street. Obviously my memories of that night is a bit blurry, but I was definitely in bliss and can ID some of my favorites of the night: the Fumo e Fuoco ("Smoke and Fire") at Drago Centro, the silky-sweet-smelling Port barrel-aged Tyrconnell and Bottega's Manhattan, echoing Caroline's sentiment.
A few days later, I packed my bags and drove up to San Francisco for the first annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival, celebrating - obviously - foodblogging! The three days were jam-packed with lots of eats and drinks, from casual SF street food to a chic farm-to-table five-course affair inside a produce warehouse, not to mention the numerous "samplings" we had along the way. And once again, I'm just floored by the fresh, seasonally-driven fare that's the soul of SF cuisine.
Of course, I squeezed in a little extra time too between events and took an extra day off to enjoy some of my favorite NorCal food and drinks and to discover new ones too. Of course, the likes of Alembic Bar (chocolate-bourbon pudding OMG!) and Tartine was in the itinerary, but I was also thrilled to discover new places such as Rickhouse and their crazy punch bowls (~$30 and it can easily serve six w refills too), Anchor Oyster Bar's succulent and sweet shucked shellfish and shooters and Ad Hoc's casual but well-prepared four-course meal.
And on the way back, I swung by the Chez Panisse Upstairs Café for simple, sinful farewell-to-NorCal lunch. Their green goddess dressing for the gem lettuce & beet salad was divine, as was the pink lady apple and sour cherry tart with clove ice cream. Finally, the autumn vegetable couscous was just as tasty the day after returning to LA.
Speaking of bringing stuff down, no surprise to anyone who knows me, I brought back a lot of edible (and mostly sweet) souvenirs, along with all the Foodbuzzy schwag!
I also had my share of fun outings with other actively writing blogger pals too, such as a long-anticipated trip with Gourmet Pigs to JTYH (which I'll call Justin Timberlake's forever and ever thanks to Cathy) for their knife-cut noodles, moo shu "cat's ears" and dumplings. It was solid stuff, but I think all the recent blog raves are a tad overhyped. But a great, affordable lunch/dinner option in the SGV.
The following weekend, I met up with some of my Blogger Prom committee pals over a beachside brunch at Casa del Mar, taking advantage of their $29.95 for a three-course brunch with a dessert buffet, and bottomless brunch cocktails if you text them. While the brunch and the service was lackluster, the company was definitely great! You can read Maya's ShopEatSleep blog report for the mishaps, I won't say much asides from the fact that we had to hail the manager at least three times to our table.
And despite my announced hiatus, PR folks were still sending me invites to check out restaurants and events. From a lovely, casual dinner with an amazingly inexpensive wine and cocktail list at Allston Yacht Club in Echo Park (can't wait to check out again) to ten-course meal at Animal paired with assorted Samuel Adams beers along with a tasting of their 27% ABV Utopias (and they weren't skimpy with the portions, the steak was as big as Caroline on Crack's face!) Read her blog for the full lowdown on this beer and food filled fest. And somehow I still managed to talk her into going to Golden State with me to share a float made with Requiem Espresso Stout and Scoops' Salted Caramel gelato.
But Bouchon's grand opening party takes the cake as the glitziess event from that first half of November, between the celeb sightings (Julia Louis-Dreyfus! Gilles Marini and Star Jones! Ryan Seacrest, Pierce Brosnan and Fred Savage too!), the tour through their vast kitchen, and of course, plenty of tastings galore, bottomless alchy, meeting Chef Keller and of course, mingling with Eating LA's Pat, FoodGPS' Josh, Grubstreet LA's Hadley, LAT Daily Dish contributor Krista Simmons, Pleasure Palate's Abby, Juli B contributor Ket, Eater LA contributor Daniela, Tasting Table's Lesley Balla, Choisauce and numerous others. I was thrilled to have a chance to sneak peek the restaurant before opening, and looking forward to a real meal there in 2010 after the typical restaurant opening kinks and dust gets settled.
And this is only half the month of foodventures-in-blogging-absentia, more to come about the rest of November in a future post! In the meantime, enjoy the photos from my flickr!