Thursday, December 06, 2012

Recipe + Giveaway: Whole Wheat-Ricotta-Almond Pancakes

Ever since I got a new two-burner griddle a few months back, I've been obsessed with pancake making. So when Hodgson Mill held their Have a Grain Holiday contest, there was no doubt what my entry was going to be.

While it's not as winter festive as, say, gingerbreads or fruitcakes, these whole wheat-ricotta-almond pancakes are not only delicious but also incredibly easy to make--perfect for the morning after that labor-intensive holiday feast (or honestly, any time of year!) The whole wheat flour gives it a hearty texture and a distinctly "wheaty" flavor while the ricotta cheese keeps the pancake moist, fluffy and tender, and sliced almonds in the batter gives it that pleasantly soft whisper of a crunch.

Whole Wheat Ricotta Almond Pancakes
Ingredients (for approx. 10 palm-sized pancakes):
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (as part of the contest, Hodgson Mill provided me with theirs)
2 oz. sliced almonds plus an additional handful for garnish
2 Tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
8 oz. ricotta cheese (I used Angelo & Franco's)
3/4 cup full or reduced-fat milk
3 eggs, separated
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract

Flipped Pancakes
1. Whisk/beat the 3 egg whites until soft peaks form, set aside.
2. Preheat griddle/skillet to medium heat
3. In separate bowls, combine the dry ingredients (flour, almonds, sugar, salt, baking powder) and wet ingredients (milk, cheese, egg yolks, extracts) in separate bowls before mixing them together.
4. Gently fold in the whipped egg whites.
5. If your griddle is not non-stick, lightly grease it with cooking spray or oil before each batch.
6. Using a ladle or large spoon, drop palm-sized dollops of the batter onto griddle.
7. When the edges of the batter start to bubble (approx. 2 minutes) flip them with a spatula and let it cook for another 1-2 minutes.
8. Garnish with sliced almonds and serve with your choice of syrup or compote (I'm partial to my express raspberry syrup, which is simply combining roughly equal amounts of frozen raspberries & maple syrup and heating - on stovetop or microwave - until the berries give off their juices--sometimes I blend it afterwards for a smoother texture.)

Pancakes w Syrup
In addition to generously providing me with the flour for this recipe, Hodgson Mill is also holding a contest for 50 lucky folks to win a "Holiday Gift Pack" assortment of their flours and baking mixes.

And in an almost infomercial-esque fashion "But wait, there's more!"

U.S. readers of this blog get an additional opportunity to win a Hodgson Mill assortment (valued @ $25) by commenting here with your e-mail. I'll randomly draw a winner for this giveaway by Saturday, December 8, at noon PST.  

And even if you don't win, Hodgson Mill has a $1 off coupon towards any 5 lb. package of their flours.

Good luck!

Friday, October 12, 2012

No. 224: Towne (Downtown)

While the L.A. Live area is not devoid of decent dining options, the choices are a bit limited. There are places like Rivera, which can get rather spendy, and then there are spots like Bar & Kitchen or Corkbar, which are great but I almost always order food as an afterthought to drinking there. So I was happy to check out Towne upon receiving a media invite and scanning through its menu & profile. Alas, a casual-chic sit-down spot for dining.

Upon entering, the restaurant layout had a Bottega Louie feel to it, with distinct areas for bar/lounge, dining room and a to-go café and patisserie. But thankfully, the actual decor is a lot less gaudy and the room's acoustics are way better, so I don't have to scream to carry a conversation with the PR rep and my dining companion, One More Bite.

Towne Drinks
Between the three of us, we pretty much ran the cocktail menu gamut; there were many solid choices but my favorites are definitely the Clover Club (a classic that's prepared solidly here) and the South Park (essentially a Rum Manhattan, but I love the balance between the rich, sweet-smelling Zaya Rum against the not-quite-sweet Punt E Mes, rounded out with the Peruvian Chuncho bitters.)

Pretzel Rolls
I rarely comment on bread service at restaurants, but the jointed pretzel rolls here with mustard butter were a standout. I would've wolfed more of these down except I know there are likely many more courses to come!

Watermelon Salad
Being a lover of greens, I'm glad we got to try the Greek watermelon salad, refreshing and vibrantly flavorful at the same time. Compressed cubes of sweet melons are complemented with equally cooling cucumber slices and crunchy mixed greens, offset by the intense briny bits of olives, crumbled feta cheese and vinaigrette dressing.

Seared Scallops
Another starter-ish dish I enjoyed was the seared dayboat scallops, eclecticly prepared with figs, pickled radish, tender bok choy -- all floating in a seasoned coconut broth. Like One More Bite's comment, the aromas evoke Thai curry, but actual flavor is so much lighter, more delicate and not spicy at all. And while this isn't bland, I do appreciate the injection of sweet, tart and bite offered by the fig & radish.

Crab & Sea Urchin Spaghetti
Pasta-wise, the spaghetti with crab and sea urchin was superb. It was rich but not-too-heavy and even in this savory dish, you can taste the sweetness (and 'the sea') of the seafood in every bite.

Of the meat dishes, while I enjoyed the glazed beef cheek pot roast (wonderful with the slightly charred gnocchi!) and the whole roasted branzino (crispy skin and firm & flavorful meat, need I say more?), they paled in comparison the glory that is the Crispy pork shank for two.

Pork Shank Being Carved
And it really could've easily fed 3-4 (maybe more if there are other courses,) I absolutely love the contrast between super-crispy skin and the meltingly-tender meat that practically falls off the bone!

Crispy Pork Shank
Also appreciated is the mustard spaetzle and sweet & sour cabbage to sop up all those delicious juices (and to make the dish a slightly more balanced meal.)

Towne Desserts
Of course, despite being beyond full from all the savories (and we actually wound up doggy bagging quite a bit of the spaghetti & pork shank to go,) my second stomach opened up for their desserts. After our heavy fare, I was hoping they'd send out lighter sweets (like the macarons) but the majority of them were on the rich & dense side. Having said that, I'm glad I got to try the butterscotch pudding that's topped with blueberry gelee and mini meringues and the peanut butter crunch bar with ginger-caramel ice cream, since I love the eccentric accompaniments to these otherwise 'typical' desserts.

Overall, I'm impressed with Towen's offerings. I know the term New/Contemporary American gets tossed about a lot, but I do really enjoy their modern twists and updates to classic-sounding fare. And while the price point is slightly above an "everyday" joint, it is definitely reasonable for a casual get-together with friends -- which I'm planning to do so I can try more of their fare (while re-ordering that shank!)

What Do Others Say?
- ShopEatSleep said it's the place to go for diners who desire "an upscale dining experience but also want comfort food."
- Gourmet Pigs noted that some creative touches "may seem gimmicky to you, but when they're done well, why not go along and have fun with it?"
- e*starLA said "There really is something for everyone whose mission is to taste and drink beautiful, delicious things."

Additional photos on flickr set here

709 9th Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

No. 223: Observations & Tips for The Taste LA

It's been three weeks out and I still can't get over the sheer gluttony & indulgence at The Taste LA, the three-day, five-event L.A.Times-organized extravaganza highlighting the amazing bites & sips this city has to offer.

Taking place over Labor Day weekend, The Taste was a series of events structured around different themes, from the family-friendly Labor Day Picnic on Monday to the more spirited Cocktail Confidential to profiling SoCal's signature eats with Flavors of L.A.

Overall, I had a fun time, from . . .
Huckleberry Sweets 
. . . tasting dishes from some of my favorites around town, from Huckleberry's baked goods to the mini lamb burgers at Haven Gastropub to the Autumn Maple beer from The Bruery.

FigOly Crab Gazpacho 
. . . to trying new fare, like FigOly's crab-topped gazpacho, lobster rolls from the Terranea resort and beer cocktails made with Hangar 24's Orange Wheat by the Golden Gopher.

Beer Cocktails Demo 
. . . to attending the demonstrations & presentations, such as this one on beer cocktails with LA Times' Betty Hallock and The Beer Chicks.
Zahra Bates   
. . . to, of course, meeting the chefs, bartenders, proprietors and fellow bloggers & writers in-person and upfront (which, frankly, is too many to list unless I want to turn this blogpost into a NaNoWriMo production!)
The Taste 
That being said, like most other food events in town, there are always room for improvement--while The Taste was held on the lovely Paramount Studios set, it had a dearth of devices to deal with the crazy heatwave that weekend; fans, misters, or an A/Ced room would've been much appreciated. (I was, however, plenty thankful that Icelandic Glacial provided plenty of cold bottled water to the hot & parched masses.)

Then there are mishaps typical at most food fests, oppressively long lines at some stalls, vendors running out of foods/drinks way early into the event, not enough seating for demos/discussions and some tables turning into a precarious garbage Jenga (the trash cans aren't that far away, people!) 

And in anticipation of The Taste's comeback next year, here's some handy tips to keep in mind to maximize your fun at this event:

1. Buy tickets early. A no-brainer, but especially worth mentioning here - the price from it's initial pre-sale to day-of purchase went from $50 to $75 a person, a 50% hike! Also, Flavors of L.A. completely sold out ahead of time.

2. Strategize & prioritize. Study the map and note which restaurant/bar/vendor are must-trys and hit those up first to minimize the chance of them running out by the time you get there.

3. Buddy up. While one of you wait in that uber-popular (and ultra-long) line, the other(s) can go hit up the shorter lines in adjacent stalls, making that wait a lot less grueling (and a lot more tasty.) 

4. Share your plates (at least for the first run.) The small sampler portions are deceptive, but they add up and before you know it, you're beyond full and not even halfway through the venue. Divvy up that first plate with your line buddy, and if you really like it, go back for your own seconds. It also helps cut down on the food waste.

5. Swaps and subs are a no-no. Generally, what you see is what you get, so don't break the cadence of the production line (who are already swamped enough as is churning out hundreds, if not thousands, of dishes & drinks) with special requests.

6. Get to demos/discussions early. Like, by 10 to 15 minutes -- even if they are running behind schedule. Those seats fill up fast!

7. And, if they are not in a rush cranking out orders, chat up the vendors. These people are definitely passionate about the places they work or the products they represent, and you might even get the scoop on an insider tip and be the cool cat who knows about the off-menu dish or upcoming changes. Or even a gift card/coupon for a future visit.
Bricia & Fernando Lopez 
Just a few things to keep in mind for next year's Taste, which I look forward to checking out again!

Disclaimer: My admission to the Taste events was hosted.

Additional photos on flickr set here

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

No. 222: Passporting My Way Through Santa Barbara's Urban Wine Trail . . .

I'm no stranger to Santa Barbara, but in past years, it's really a pitstop city where I go to grab a quick bite, admire the coastal views, and then move on for my final destination (whether visiting friends in UCSB, actually a little further north on the 101 in Goleta, touring & tasting my way through the Santa Maria & Santa Ynez wine countries or steadily making my way towards Monterey, Santa Cruz and the Bay Area.)

But last month, my friend had a summer wedding in nearby Carpinteria, so I took the occasion to spend a weekend in Santa Barbara and really check it out.

Little did I know that it was also Passport Weekend in the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail, where for $50 I can taste my way around the city's 15-20 wineries and tasting rooms from Friday to Sunday (and getting my passport stamped along the way,) along with a glass to keep & 10% discount off bottle purchases. Considering a flight at each of these venues run $10-20, it sounded like a great deal, so I snapped up a ticket  and took myself on an urban hike & sip.

And while I only wound up checking out a dozen wineries over the three-day period, I did discover some new favorite spots, including:

Kunin Wines

Kunin Tasting Room 
I loved the clean, sleek look of its tasting room and that it's one of few to offer an all-white/rosé tasting flight (much welcomed after walking around in 90-degree heat.) The pourer was also remarkably friendly, offering me locals' pointers about other places to try (and avoid!)

Kunin Wines 
My favorite of the five was its 2010 Alisos Vineyard Gewurztraminer, which has a sweet, floral, peachy aroma but is rather dry on the palate and just a hint of richness from a few months in oak (but far from being the crazy-buttered-toasty mess associated with California Chardonnays.) It was also one of two bottles I actually snapped up.

Municipal Winemakers
Municipal Wine Tasting Room 
In short -- the hipster paradise of wineries in Santa Barbara. And I don't mean that in a bad way, it's simply impossible to not walk into this space without the H-word screaming in your face. (In my best Stefan voice) the hottest place in town is MUNICIPAL - walk on in and you'll see tank-topped, tattooed pourers dishing about Instagram photos, wines-on-tap dispensed from a trophy, tasting glasses stored in filing cabinets, and look over there, is that a yeti? No, it's a guy coming in for his bottle order with his unshusky. What is an unshusky, you ask? Unshaven husky, and boy is it panting hard after coming in from the heatwave. *Ahem*

That being said, the space is wickedly fun change of pace from the typically stoic tasting rooms. And if you got a group of friends (hipster or not,) it's a great place to mellow out and drink away--they let you bring food in and their tasty wines-on-tap are reasonably priced by the glass or liter-sized carafes. Their red-on-tap of the moment, MSG (a blend of Mouvedre-Syrah-Grenache) is my fave, easily drinkable on its own but also great with a burger or nicely-charred grilled foods.

Deep Sea Wines
Deep Sea Wines 
I've checked out their wines before @ their events down in L.A. and do like some of their offerings, so I already planned on visiting them. But what really made me ecstatic is that their tasting room is right out on Stearn's Wharf. Coupled with their late-ish closing time, it gave me the pleasure of wine-tasting to a coastal sunset.

Of the flight, my favorite were the Flower Rosé and Central Coast Viognier, both delicate, crisp wines that exhibit lovely sweet fruit aromas, but with a remarkably dry and almost-minerally palate--perfect for summer sipping!

Whitcraft Winery
Whitcraft Winery 
Ok, while I wasn't WOW'd by any of their wines, the flight here does offer a fun & educational experience. Specializing in Pinot Noirs from various regions, I love the flight highlights the terroir's influence on the grape -- since we tasted the same varietal from Mendocino, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. Alas, my favorite of the set turned out to be the Grenache, which has soft tannins and an acidity that's bright without being puckery.

Cottonwood Canyon Winery
Cottonwood Canyon 
This is likely my favorite find since it's so hole-in-the-wall compared to the other wineries & tasting rooms. And they also offer a myriad of bites to go with their wine flights (which changes regularly, depending on what estate bottle(s) the pourer feels like opening that day.) It could be a bite of cracker and cheese to go with an older-vintage Chardonnay, some of their spicy housemade pickles alongside their peppery Pinot Noir, or a chocolate truffle with their Syrah & dessert wine.

But despite all the specialty, estate offerings being poured, my favorite (and the other bottle that I actually bought) is their standard line Bistro Classic Chardonnay, which upon immediate tasting I've deemed an 'oyster wine' because of its slight effervescence and a fantastic combo of lemon-citrus and stoney-mineral notes, plus a medium body that I'd imagine to be perfect  with the oyster's creamy-rich flesh.

And while tasting the wines was a big part of the fun, I also loved that it gave me the chance to hike through Santa Barbara and really explore its city, from the main drag of State Street . . .

SB Farmers Market 
. . . to its vibrant farmer's market, where I snapped up some incredibly-sweet and beautifully garnet-hued pluots . . .

Walking Along Shore 
. . . and up and down its picturesque coastline . . .
Dusk @ Stearns Wharf 
. . . finishing off at Stearns Wharf, where I treated myself to a view and some great seafood from Santa Barbara Shellfish Co.

Of course, I also tasted some incredible bites throughout the city too, but that'll be for another post in the near future.
Urban Wine Trail Sign 
And I hope Passport Weekend (this was its inaugural year) makes a comeback in the future too.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

No. 221: Trattoria Neapolis (Pasadena)

Whereas some neighborhoods are known to be dining meccas or going through a culinary renaissance, Pasadena can't quite seem to shake off its reputation of being a dine-out "food desert". Sure there are a few gems here and there in the 'dena (Intelligentsia for a good cup 'o joe and some quick bites, Raymond/1886 for some fab cocktails and a lovely brunch, and Haven for my tastiest lamb burger in So Cal, as well as my occasional Tender Greens excursion when I want something quick and wholesome,) but the heavy traffic areas of Old Town, South Lake District and the Paseo (which I still remember as the all-indoors Pasadena mall from earlier times) is generally marked by "just OK" restaurants and a slew of chains.

Interior 1
So I received Trattoria Neapolis' arrival to the scene with both excitement and skepticism... on paper the menu looked great. Heck, I was enthralled enough by drinks alone, with its cocktail program by Copa d'Oro's Vincenzo Marianella, beers curated by The Beer Chicks, and wines selected by 4th level sommelier Diego Meraviglia. Pair that with a creative Cal-Italian themed menu (incl. items such as lobster aracini with Eureka lemon aioli, grilled summer vegetable lasagna and wood-grilled Wagyu flatiron with a porcini BBQ sauce) and you got got one very intrigued diner.

I had attended a media preview dinner, which went well (Gourmet Pigs captured that experience here) but I really want to capture in true action after its opening. Thanks to a pair of birthday events in July with fairly adventurous diners, I was able to make two return trips here.

Simply put, they really live up to their claims and I'm thrilled for its presence in the Pasadena dining scene.
Interior 3 Interior 2
To start off, they made a phenomenal use of the space -- with an semi-outdoor garden area out front (that's wonderfully lit by the skylight and would be great setting for a daytime meal), an interior corridor of a dining area with great views of the bar and fairly open kitchen (centerpieced by its behemoth of a wood-fired oven) and an upstairs private dining area flanked by bottles of rare wine.) The multiple-spaces in one set up kind of reminds me of the decor at Campanile and the Strand House, and is actually rather smart from an aesthetic and functional viewpoint (the designers even soundproof the ceiling tiles to avoid the overly loud acoustics associated with other high-ceiling restaurants, that I'm deeming "the Bottega Louie effect".)
Beer, Wine, Cocktails
And true to the respective beverage directors' reputations, the drinks here--beer, wine and cocktail--were superb, which personally astounds me since it's incredibly rare for the find a place that does all three well, and within a reasonable budget too (here's their standard drinks menu w prices, for those with posher pockets -- here's the full drinks list with more decadent beverages, including a $85 Arroyo Seco made with 25 year-old Highland Park Scotch and a $125 Tactical Nuclear Penguin beer double barrel-aged in Scotch casks and clocking in at a crazy 32% ABV.)
As for me, while I like their Millionaire cocktail (Appleton Extra with Marie Brizard Apry, Lime Juice and Sloe Gin) and Bootlegger's Golden Chaos Ale, may favorite is easily . . .
Port O' Call
. . . The Port O' Call, a dessert cocktail whimsically named after the San Pedro village and combining Port wine with fino sherry, Diplomatico rum and orange bitters. Despite being listed on the after-dinner drinks menu with the desserts, this cocktail is not particularly sweet-tasting at all, the texture and actual flavor is more like a smooth Manhattan (maybe with a hint of wine notes from the port and sherry,) it only smells sweeter and fruitier.

As for the food, they were all on the scale from decent to magnificent. And that's taking into the factor that I'm usually not a big secondi person (and still found the aforementioned grilled steak, along with roasted black cod with charred corn and manila clam broth, heavenly.) Having disclosed my biases, my favorites are definitely on the appetizer-pasta-pizza realm, including:
Salumi Platter
Assorted Salumi Platter ($13) - I simply loved the variety that you get for the price, with 4-5 different meats (at least one of which is made in-house) along with some tasty accompaniments, such as a sweet-tart cherry compote to balance the saltiness of the meats, and warm gnocchi friti that tastes like a savory doughnut, all brightened up with some frisee and housemade pickles.
Roasted Garlic Gnocchi w Pork Shoulder
Aragosta ($19/32) & Gnocchi ($9/16) - I love that half-orders are available for most pasta dishes here, since that lets my table companions and I to try a lot more in one sitting. And the aragosta & gnocchi are very different dishes, but equally delicious. The former features perfectly al dente bucatini with tender chunks of lobster, tossed in a bright and zesty blend of tomatoes, chilies and lobster sauce. On the other hand, the gnocchi has a lot more grounded, rustic flavors, the fluffy pasta themselves are infused with roasted garlic, and it is accompanied with smoked pork shoulder, asparagus and artichoke. The vegetables are crisp and flavorful, but it still provides a more homely, earthy character -- especially when compared to the Aragosta.
Funghi Pizza
Prosciutto Pizza
For the pizzas, while my friends are gaga over the Funghi--which I do like too--I personally love the Prosciutto ($13) one a lot more, which is topped the ribbony meat alongside smoked mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes and wild arugula (and some shaved parmesan to boot). It made for a festive flavor combination in my mouth, a little tang here, a tinge of cheesy smokiness there, an occasional peppery bite and a good dose of luxurious ham too--all enhanced by a crust that's delightfully crispy & barely charred outside, quickly giving way to a chewy-yet-tender interior.
Non-Traditional Tiramisu
Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta
Of course, given my sweet jaws, there is no holding back on ordering desserts (even if I did order the Port O'Call) -- the ones I liked best were the Not-So-Traditional Tiramisu and Greek Yogurt-Honey Panna Cotta (both $9), both being fresh creative spins of familiar Italian-y sweets. The former swapped out the coffee elements with roasted peach, caramel and pecans -- and I liken it more to a caramelly peach shortcake than anything else, and it's a great lighter, seasonal spin on a dessert that's usually more heavy. Likewise, while panna cotta is already kind of light, it was further brightened with a infusion of tangy Greek yogurt, apricot granita and a basil sauce. One almost feels healthy eating this (ok, maybe the candied hazelnuts made it just a tad sinful...)

So there you have it; at last, a spot in Pasadena for great drinks and eats (I personally can't wait till they launch lunch & *crossing fingers* a happy hour,) here's hoping this is the start of a restaurant renaissance in Pasadena!

What Do Others Say?
- Thrillist called it an "awe-inspiring, two-story ode to Italy, with a crazy-diverse interior"
- Gastronomy noted that "while the pastas were mostly good, it was the pizza that really made the night for me."
- Pasadena Now predicted that "residents can expect Trattoria Neapolis to be a welcome - and unique - addition to the local dining scene."
- Oolong milk tea was surprised, noting she "definitely did not think I would like it as much as I did . . . Props to Neapolis for getting it right during the 1st week of their opening!"

336 S Lake Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 792-3000

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

No. 220: Southern California's Zombieland

For me, there are few cocktails as fascinating as a zombie. Asides from being deceptively potent nature, it's got an interesting past, quite a few different recipes, and ominious warnings, with many bars explicitly noting they serve a two-zombie maximum per customer. There are a few variations on the origin of that cap, often relating to a guy who had a few and caused all sorts of mayhem and mishaps, from simply blacking out for the night to starting a raucous bar brawl to causing a traffic catastrophe while drunk-driving.

Regardless, zombies are definitely making an invasion in Southern California. Once limited to the confines of Tiki-themed places (Trader Vic's, Don the Beachcomber, Tiki-Ti) or rum-focused establishments (Cana, La Descarga, Sunny Spot), I've seen them surfaced in quite a few unexpected places. 

Naturally, I consider it a blogger duty to put a damper to this assault. So here's a roundup of a few surprise spots where you might spot a zombie... so be prepared to run (and drink!)

DOWNTOWN IN A SCHOOL!!!! (@ Public School 612*)

Zombies @ Public School 612
Ok, granted -- this was from a one-time event (Tiki 101, part of their '101' series of events where they educate on assorted libations, with a drink-paired multi-course meal to boot) but I was told the zombie may be making a comeback on their summer menu so keep your fingers crossed!

Asides from the Tiki totem cups (which attendees get to keep at the end of the night, by the way) this zombie variation stood out in that it used papaya puree to give it that tropical flair (in addition to pineapple juice.) While I usually don't care for its slightly musky smell, it did add an interesting note here. That aside, this zombie is one of the boozier-tasting ones I've tried, with the rums front & center.

But what I loved even more than the zombie itself is the creativity in the food presented in this class . . .

Spam Two Ways
We had spam two ways (a traditional musubi, and a not-so-traditional kimchi slider)

Ahi in a Coconut Shell
Tuna-mango poke served in a coconut

Zombie w Loco Moco
And, paired with the zombie & my favorite of the night, a mushroom gravy loco moco with the egg poached, breaded in panko then fried! And just like the zombie itself, I hope some of these items get rotated onto the 612 menu.

But... just in case it does not make a reappearance anytime soon, the 101 classes do provide recipe cards of everything they make, so here's the one for their zombie.

Zombie Recipe
Yes, I know papaya puree is hard to come by (PS612 made their own!) and I would probably swap it out for something more readily available, like mango nectar/juice.


The zombie here is also served in a tiki themed glass (but this one's not for taking home,) and it intrigued me because it definitely stands out for this restaurant and especially its cocktail menu, where most other drinks have some sort of Middle Eastern / Mediterranean touches.

Johnny's Zombie
And alas, as unique looking as it was on the cocktail menu and in the themed cup, it didn't exactly wow me. Not that it's bad, but my thoughts were "I taste rum & I taste juices" and that's pretty much it. It suffices for a tropically drink (say, by a poolside hotel or a coastal bar) but lacks that extra oompf.

On the other hand, my zombie expedition did lead me to try some other drinks and bites that are much more impressive...
The Wanderer
Such as the The Wanderer, a tequila based cocktail with rosewater, a triple-play of hibiscus (in the syrup, flavored whipped cream and hibiscus-lavender bitters) and topped with sumac. And that final ingredient really made this something special, its tartness complements that of the hibiscus, but it also provided a kind of woodsy, kind of earthy note that balanced the flowery aromas and sweet flavor profile of this drink.
Sweetbread Shashouka
And this drink overall paired extremely well with the sweetbread shashouka, a comforting, spiced tomato stew with crunchy chunks of sweetbread, toasted pita strips, creamy yogurt and runny egg. The whipped cream worked nicely with the richer egg, sweetbread & yogurt while the tart & light portion of the drink cuts into that richness and complements the tomato the same time.

I also loved the subsequent Jam Fizz featuring bergamot jam and their housemade black lemon+ginger bitters. So while I am not particular fan of this zombie, I'm thankful that it led to me this gem of a place--which I look forward to returning again.

PASADENA IN THE DAYTIME!!!! (@ 1886 Bar / Raymond Restaurant*)
GourmetPigs w Zombie
NOOO, Gourmet Pigs!!!!!!

And it's the first time I ever saw zombie featured as a brunch cocktail. For me, it was a welcomed change of pace from the bloody marys, mimosas and bellinis. 
1886 / Raymond Zombie
Even though the cocktail is known to be potent, this zombie made for a surprisingly great daytime drink. It's light and cooling thanks to the crushed ice, has a wonderful fruity-boozy flavor profile from a nice balance of rums, juices and syrups (three rums, demarara & passionfruit syrup; lemon, lime & pineapple juices), and amazing aromas from the sprig of fresh mint and sprinkling of sweet spices on top.
Savory Cheddar Cakes
Equally lovely is their recently-revamped brunch menu, and I particularly enjoyed my stack of cheddar & herb griddle cakes layered with spinach, mushrooms, smoked ham and topped with a poached egg. It's indulgent and delicate at the same time; I simply loved how the fluffy, mildly-savory pancakes offsets the stronger flavors and textures of the other components, making for a midday dish that satisfies without really weighing down (in guilt, and possibly on the scales.)

320 Main Zombie
Ok, so it's Rumdood tending the bar so it's not a huge leap that a zombie would surface here (though, you might want to avoid ordering this when the bar's swarmed, as Rumdood calls it a P.I.T.A. drink to make.) And of course, I wouldn't expect anything short of Zombie purism from him . . .
Zombie Shaking
. . . down to the shaking duration that he timed on his smartphone (one minute, to be exact.) After seeing the recipe and witnessing his pours with all sorts of odd ratios & measurements, I can see why he considers it a PITA.

Like the Raymond version, I love its balance and complexity of aromas and flavors. There's fruitiness without being too tart or sweet, some spicy-bitterness but not overboard with it, and a pleasant, cleverly-cloaked backdrop of rum. And while I might not consider it worthwhile to make my own zombie with this recipe (All the ingredients I have to buy/make! All the dirty jiggers I'd have to wash afterwards! All that arm workout!) it was definitely worth the wait at 320 Main.
Animal Flatbread
And to wash it down, their special-of-the-day Animal Flatbread, which really tasted like the deconstructed version of the In-n-Out burger. Like the Tiki 101 food items, I hope this makes a comeback (or better yet, find a permanent place) on their menu soon.
Last but not least, this zombie expedition also allowed me to buy Bananawonder a Bridey Mai Tai!

And so, there you have it -- four very different zombie experiences in four atypical locations, but all with relatively happy endings. Which is more than I can say for most zombie apocalypse films. 

*Disclosure: Public School 612 & Raymond tastings were from hosted events

Public School 612
612 South Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 623-1172

401 North La Cienega Boulevard 
West Hollywood, CA 90048
(310) 657-4103

The Raymond / 1886 Bar
1250 South Fair Oaks Avenue 
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 441-3136

320 Main
320 Main Street 
Seal Beach, CA 90740
(562) 799-6246


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