Friday, December 17, 2010

Table Manners Quandary...

Table Setting
Table setting @ Melisse

A friend of mine just got a (not so) passive-aggressive email from her
harpy aunt (her words, not mine,) who happens to be hosting the family Christmas party this year. Amongst other ridiculous demands for my friend's side of the family (if you don't know how to roast a prime rib, you could practice one before the party*), it also included:

"Also, hosting any type of party, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, is a thankless task so you should never have to be asked to help clean-up. So [[friend + her brother]], please be prepared to happily help do the dishes and clean-up cheerfully without being asked in all future events."

Condescending pissiness aside, it made me wonder about the default assumption in regards to whether a party host needs help or not (and whether he/she needs to ask.)

Personally I try to be a polite guest and if I arrive a few minutes early or linger a little later, I'll definitely offer to help set/clean up. But even so, my standard assumption is that the host got everything covered and if help is needed, it will be asked and definitely not
demanded. And that's certainly how I operate on the gatherings I throw in my little apartment.

But that's my two cents; and hey, holidays sometimes bring out the worst in families. But curious too as to what you assume are host-guest "duties."

*I kind of laughed at this one; it's a prime rib (a.k.a. pretty expensive cut of meat) and I love how harpy aunt is suggesting my friend's fam to buy double and practice on one. Also, it's also a pretty easy to roast one, so more passive-aggressiveness there about the fam's cooking ability (and if you're that unconfident, why not assign that to another relative?) and doesn't the host usually provide the main course?!? Ok, end tangentrant.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

No. 188: WP24 (Downtown LA)

Drink Menu
"We're traveling out of the SGV for Chinese food?" asks the Gastronomer as we carpooled down the 110. Indeed, I had the same bewildered thought too ~ but how can we resist a chance to check out bar bites & drinks at WP24, celeb-chef Wolfgang Puck's latest resto housed high in the Ritz-Carlton Residences Tower @ L.A. Live.

Of course, longtime Angelenos know that this is not Puck's first foray into Far East fare. That honor goes to Chinois in Santa Monica, which opened in '83 and put some major steam behind the Pan-Asian fusion movement that is pretty ubiquitous, some say overdone, in the urban food scene now. So color me curious as to what else can be fresh and innovative in this realm more than a quarter century after.

View of DTLA
As expected, one of the biggest draw for WP24 is its spectacular view, overlooking the downtown LA skyline and the 110 freeway. Coupled with the modern-chic vibe of the lounge, it's definitely a nice spot to impress a date, out-of-town visitor or business acquaintance.
The drinks we sampled that night all leaned on the fruity side with a slight Asian flair, such as the Pinarita above with Thai basil-infused tequila and pineapple juice and the Pearfect Asian with Absolut Pear, Canton ginger liqueuer & lime. Overall they were a bit too sweet & mellow for me, but I appreciate the slight envelope-pushing aspects of the menu to gently wean the crowd away from the likes of margaritas, cosmopolitans and other vodka-based "-tinis," hopefully over time the bar will develop even more edgier selection for those looking for a real palate challenge worth the ~$16 price tag (maybe pair that ginger with wasabi to clear the tastebuds? how about something with Chinese five-spice to blend with the cuisine? Or an aromatic cocktail with fresh yuzu and jasmine tea? Or better yet, incorporate traditional Asian spirits and liqueurs for a truly fusion cocktail match against the menu!) But for now, Rivera & Cana reign supreme when I wanna get my cocktail on around L.A. Live.
Chicken "Dan Dan" Dumplings
As for the bar bites themselves, it depends on what you deemed acceptable as Asian-inspired fare. My best analogy so far is that this is the equivalent of "modernized, fusion rolls" against traditional sushi (and funny enough, the sushi & sashimi are offered as bar bites here too!) The lounge dishes we sampled included an array of dumpling and spring roll variations, which like the fusion rolly sushi, are very saucy with more richer, more pungent ingredients compared to traditional deal. Symbolic of this is the "dan dan" chicken dumplings we tried, assertive creatures with a one-two-three punch of peanut, garlic and chili -- unlike the more delicate flavors of the steamed, boiled or even pan-fried dumplings that I'm used to. I don't mean it in a better or worse way, just different.
Peking Duck Rolls
Since I easily admit to indulging in the occasional fusion rolls with spicy tuna, avocado, mayo and teriyaki sauces, there were definitely a few not-quite-authentic fusion treats on here too. My favorites included the tiny dumplings that were huge on flavor with its vibrant chili oil and black vinegar combination that delightfully complemented the rich pork belly filling and the above peking duck rolls that was packed with juicy, moist meat and made for a dippable, finger-friendly variation of the original. Too bad I didn't get a chance to try the baby pork belly bao buns, which were in short supply and high demand @ our tables.
Sushi Rolls
The fusiony sushi rolls were pretty decent too, but I wasn't able to ID this one from that given the hasty pace that they were served and how fast everyone devoured them after, giving me little opportunity to determine what I actually ate.

Overall, lounging @ WP24 was a pleasant experience with a surprisingly number of tasty dishes if one can check their authentically Asian expectations at the door and overlook the amusing redundancy in some menu items, such as the Shrimp Har Gow and Bao Buns. I for one, plan on finally feasting on those bao buns while indulging some classic drinks and maybe a delectable sweet bite, all the while soaking up the glittery landscape of the city.

More photos from the media dinner here


900 W Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90015

Monday, December 06, 2010

Recipe 24: Slow Cooker Hot Mulled Wine

This mulled wine recipe is fast becoming my favorite holiday party cocktail to bring to cold-weather potlucks and parties-- steaming hot and bursting with citrus and sweet spice aromas, it's absolutely heavenly to sip on over a chilly night while everyone mix 'n mingle.

And the best part is that prep work is minimal and guests can serve themselves, so you can enjoy the party too rather than obsess about mixing and refreshing drinks. That is until the entire batch disappeared in 30 minutes (which is what happened @ the soiree I brought it to.)

Here's my recipe (adapted from Epicurious' version) that makes about eight five-ounce servings:

1 bottle dry red wine (I used Old Moon Zinfandel from Trader Joe's, retailed for $3.99)
2 lemons, sliced into wheels
1 orange, sliced into half-wheels
1-2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise pods
1.5 cups sugar
1.5 cups water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
3 ounces orange liqueuer (optional, I used Grand Marnier)

1. Prepare the spiced syrup (can be done the night before) by bringing the water to a simmer, then add the sugar, vanilla extract & the ground allspice, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper - stir until sugar is dissolved.
2. Turn on a six-quart slow cooker to the HIGH setting, and combine the spiced syrup with the bottle of red wine, citrus slices, cinnamon sticks & star anise pods. Give it a quick stir, then cover it and let it sit for about an hour (or when it starts to simmer.)
3. Bring the slow cooker down to a LOW or WARM setting, add the orange liqueur and the mulled wine is ready to serve! (Also, the wine-soaked fruit is absolutely tasty to nibble on!)

And for all those designated drivers and others who'd rather not get spirited away -- I'd imagine this formula to be delightful for a spiced cider too. Just use 25 ounces apple juice or cider in lieu of the red wine -- and of course, no liqueur. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No. 187: A return to Kohryu . . . (Costa Mesa)

. . . and it was every bit as comforting as the first time around (and especially welcoming given the cold snap we've had recently.)

Kohryu Shio Ramen w Extra Negi
Their signature Kohryu ramen with extra negi; thick pork slices that's not too fatty, springy noodles in a shio soup base that's delicate and clean, tender slices of bamboo, the medium-boiled egg with its gorgeous and delicious tangerine-tinted yolk and, of course, the heavenly aromatics and deeply satisfying crisp from the fresh & fried scallions.

And at $9, not a bad investment at all. So, in short, a sincere arigatou gozaimashita to the staff for their respite from the season's chilly grasp without the out-the-door waits of the other more popular (but not necessarily tastier) noodle houses.

Can't wait to return in the warmer weather to try their cold noodle specialties too (Hiyashi Chuka!)

Kohryu Interior
Kohryu Ramen
891 Baker St. (x-street: Bear)
Costa Mesa, CA

Friday, November 26, 2010

Recipe 23: Buttermilk Soaked & Poached Turkey Breast

Since I usually celebrate Thanksgiving with only my mom & pop, our feast is drastically downsized from a traditional one with all the fixings. This year, we only have three sides (oven roasted potato wedges, balsamic-glazed brussel sprouts, stuffing) and just a turkey breast instead of the whole bird.

Feeling inspired by Food, She Thought's buttermilk-poached chicken, I adapted the technique for this year's turkey boob. And the result was most excellent: moist, tender and flavorful with an exquisite sauce from the buttermilk, leftover corn-lemongrass soup in the fridge and some simple spices I have in the pantry. My parents, who usually complain turkey being too dry and bland, finished their portion and picked away at the serving platter until it was all gone!

So I figured I might as well share this "recipe"; hopefully you can excuse the cameraphone pics and the mostly-eyeballed ingredients and instructions, since I didn't think I'd be blogging about it until afterwards.

1 pound skinless, boneless turkey breast, chopped in half
1 pint buttermilk
4 generous dashes of sea salt
2 generous dashes of ground black pepper
2 generous dashes of crushed red pepper flakes
2 generous dashes of cumin
2 generous dashes of ground ginger
2 generous dashes of garlic powder (garlic salt works too, but obvs. reduce amount of sea salt correspondingly)
1 dash of white pepper
1 pint soup or broth (I opted for Imagine's corn-lemongrass, which I had leftover in the fridge)

1. Night before, in a big measuring cup, combine buttermilk with the spices and pour into a freezer bag/tupperware.
2. Place turkey breast halves in, using hands to thoroughly coat and submerge in the buttermilk mixture. Let soak 8-24 hours.
3. Preheat a medium sized skillet with some cooking oil or butter, then add turkey breast halves with the buttermilk mixture and half a pint of the soup/broth. Bring to a simmer on hot heat, then reduce to a medium-low heat to keep it barely simmering.
4. Poach for about 30-40 minutes (or until meat therometer registers 165F,) flipping the turkey breasts once halfway through. Add the remainder of the soup as needed to the keep the breast halves mostly submerged as the liquid start boiling down.
5. Slice, serve and enjoy. The spiced buttermilk-and-soup reduction can be used as a sauce or dip too!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Potential Eats for Great LA Walk 2010

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes w Blueberries
Pancakes from Bottega Louie

I'm barely backing from my long weekender Boston (with its plethora of delicious eats and drinks plus lots of walkable trails and landmarks - posts to come!) and already this weekend I'm gonna slip into my sneakers again to partake in the 5th Annual Great LA Walk (my 3rd time doing it,) where it's going back to the trail's roots and tackling Wilshire Blvd. once again, all 15.6 miles of it from downtown LA to Santa Monica.

And in true Urban Hike form, I've started plotting all the possible fun eats & drinks options along/near the route -- so I can keep my tastebuds happy too.

View Great LA Walk 2010 eateries in a larger map

In putting together this list, I aim for places:
1) that are open during that time, obviously (thus my plotting of Bottega Louie and Nickel Diner, neither actually on Wilshire, but they are actually open for breakfast in downtown and walkably close enough for a quick A.M. bite before the Walk commences)

2) where casual/activewear-sporting hikers won't look too out of place (though there are some chic joints on there, though one can sit at the less-formal bar to have a drink & snack while soaking in the scenery and crowd.)
3) and related to #2, places that won't do too big a dent on the wallet.

4) finally and obviously, places I already tried and like, or want to try.

Thankfully, most of the Wilshire stretch has a good deal of fascinating eats, some that are old school classic L.A. (Pacific Dining Car, Kate Mantilini) some for the health-conscious & vegetarian eaters (Greenleaf Chopshop, Native Foods Cafe, Golden Mean Vegan) some reflecting the local-seasonal foods trend (Huckleberry, FIG, Wilshire) a few cute places to grab a quick sweet fix (Sprinkles, Huckleberry) and, of course, plenty reflecting the ethnic diversity of LA's foodscape (obviously, Koreatown restaurants such as BCD Tofu House and Genwa KBBQ, but also more exotic gems such as Ngoma Pan-African.)

So take a look at the list & map, keep your eyes peeled for your favorites and perhaps even join along as I live-tweet my way down the GreatLAWalk route & eat along the length of Wilshire. And if you think I left a must-try off, feel free to let me know via comments -- as I'll likely give the map another little tweak before Saturday.

Finally, the Great LA Walk organizers got some tasty surprises in store for us too -- including a food truck lunch stop by LACMA and an afterparty at Border Grill Santa Monica.

Hope to see you there!
Sweet corn agnolotti @ Rustic Canyon

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

No. 186: SugarFISH (Downtown LA)

With all the sugarFISH downtown posts out there in the blogosphere, what else can I add to the conversation? I guess not much, asides from the fact that it was a surely worthy meal to conclude my seven-month vegetarian stint. As such, when their PR invited me for to check out this restaurant for a hosted meal, I scheduled my dinner right on November 1st (and yes, I stayed meatfree for breakfast & lunch that day.)
You can imagine how antsy I was getting when my dining partner Conbon was running late (ask her about the missed calls and "ARE YOU HERE YET?" text messages,) but it gave me some time to check out the contemporary urban-funk feel of the place, with the exposed concrete, globe-shaped ceiling lamps of various lengths and a topography map made of steel pipes (I first guessed it might've been Japan, but co-owner Emmanuelle "Lele" Massimimi clarified that it was of Tokyo Bay.)
Urban Pipe Mural
Lele informed me that they were aiming for a "warm" atmosphere and while that shows with the soft white lighting & the blond wood furnishings, the concrete, exposed pipes & steel definitely gave off a cool vibe too. Not a bad thing, in my opinion.
Nigiri Trio #1
Once Conbon arrived, we were sent on a speed-eating sushi frenzy!
Albacore Belly
It may not have been Lucy & Ethel @ the Chocolate Factory, but it was definitely faster than my usual rate of sushi consumption, thanks to their warm and incredibly delicious sushi rice that practically falls apart within seconds of arriving on the table.
Conbon Eating Hand Roll
Ones we had to eat even faster were their handrolls, wrapped in high-quality seaweed that's impeccably crispy & flavorful on the first bite but softens up in 10 seconds! I tried to get a shot of Conbon eating it since she was served first, but this was all I could manage before my hand roll arrived with Lele and the server basically telling me "Eat it now!" (in a more civil manner.) But even with the haste, Conbon and I savored every bite.
Big Eye Tuna Sashimi
Also notable are their housemade condiments, from the vinegar for the sushi rice to the deft touch of ponzu sauces (original, yuzu and chili) on many of the sushi & sashimi we had. For the ones that came "naked," all that's needed is a light dab of soy sauce. It was a sublime experience to be able to taste the freshness and unique character of each fish, delightful accented - but never overshadowed - by the accompanying garnishes and sauces.
Nigiri Trio #2
I haven't had a single piece that came close to mediocre, but my personal favorites included the giant scallop, sea urchin and sweet shrimp nigiri and the blue crab handroll, which obviously have different textures, mouthfeel and flavor nuances but all sharing a sweet-briny taste profile that really speaks to the seafood's quality and the pristine waters that they were caught or raised in.
Since there isn't much I can say about the food that hasn't already been mentioned by another blogger (and likely better worded,) here are some fun trivia tidbits I've discovered while conversing with Lele throughout the meal:

- Kazunori Nozawa personally selects the same seafood for both Nozawa and the sugarFISH restaurants around 5:30 a.m. daily, even Sundays (many suppliers take that day off - thus making it a generally bad day to go sushi-eating unless you want day-old seafood - but Nozawa's got connections and working relationships with the select few purveyors who do work on the supposed day of rest.)

- While the rice is made in small batches and is never more than 20 minutes old, for to-go orders they tend to use rice towards the latter half of its 20-minute lifespan since it can hold up to ponzu & soy sauces better without falling apart. Of course, given the ultra-short timeframe of the seaweed staying fresh, the hand rolls are not available to go.

- For those with small appetites but still want a taste a wide variety of sushi, their prix-fixe menus (including "the Nozawa") can be split. Items are available a la carte too so you don't have to fight for that one toro & blue crab hand roll.

- In keeping with the artsy, trendy vibes of Downtown LA restaurants, there may be DJ nights in the future for this sugarFISH -- though right now the playlist is a fairly interesting mix of contemporary adult tunes, Putumayo-esque world music with an occasional 80s and 90s pop flashback.

- Since I'm always intrigued by chefs, restauranteurs & foodies who stay fit - which Lele is - for my other blog, I found out that he was a former boxer and used to chase waves with his surfboard daily . . . along with two decades of restaurant experience in front AND back of house (a stark contrast to my pitiful five years.)

Moving onward, I will still have a mostly veggie-focused, and dare I say "vegivore", diet; but this was definitely a great re-introduction in the world of meat and should I get a sushi craving again, sugarFISH is definitely a top contender for me to get my fix.
SUGARFISH concrete logo
More photos from my flickr here

600 W 7th Street
Los Angeles
(213) 627-3000

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

No. 185: AMMO (Hollywood)

AMMO Restaurant is like a security blanket--comfortable, warming. Having been in business since 1996 (ancient by LA standards,) it's been dishing out farm-fresh fare with just a smidgen of contemporary-urban twist for nearly 15 years. With its Hollywood location (on Highland just north of Santa Monica,) it's the place that "the biz" comes to when they want tire of the haute, high-brow (and high priced!) dining and just want something homely and familiar. Indeed, on busier days you may see some screenplays dangling precariously on the edge the two-tops, sunglass-donning agents and producers talking shop at the bar while downing their obligatory three martinis, and maybe even a famous face now and again. But I digress...

Going off that seasonal-and-simple approach to food, earlier this year AMMO launched their Sunday Roast, a three-course, $32 prix-fixe that highlights the produce of the season. I loved the concept when it started and when they did a vegetarian-friendly menu a few weeks back, I immediately made plans to go, joined in the 11th hour by vegetarian-turned-sensitive omnivore Andy of The Windattack (after a little wine tasting @ nearby Domaine LA with Dishing Up Delights.)

Bread Offerings
The regular dinner menu is served too, but our eyes immediately honed in on the prix-fixe. So we quickly placed our order and was served this gorgeous & tasty bread duo of tarragon semolina & herbed flatbread. Wonderful with a dab in the olive oil, they were perfectly season, with the herbs perfectly accenting the freshly baked bread aromas.
Warm Mushroom Salad
Our first course is a warm mushroom salad with bitter greens and brown butter croutons in a vinagrette dressing. A delightful balance of different flavors and textures, but I can definitely taste freshness throughout. Andy in particular loved that the greens in this salad are carefully chosen (arugula, radicchio, frisee) and not just a random mish-mash of different "mixed greens" lettuces. Indeed, after he pointed it out I noticed how I appreciated how the slight bitter flavor offset the richness of the roasted mushrooms & the oily-acidity of the dressing.
Veggie Pot Pie w Lemon & Thyme
For our mains, vegetable pot pie with lemon & thyme -- oh can it get any more comforting than this? Farm-fresh vegetables (carrots, onions, potatoes, corn, broccoli and parsnips!) swimming in a delightful gravy under a golden, flaky crust that spilled over the bowl. Again, what we loved is the amazing flavor these veggies packed ("this carrot tastes so carroty!") and how the comparatively thin lemon & thyme gravy help rounded off some of the richness inherent in a pot pie. And even though we were beyond full, it didn't stop us from finishing this oversized "personal" pot pie... or using the last of our bread to sop up the stray veggie pieces and the puddle of gravy.
Baked Mission Fig
Desserts came in the form of roasted black mission figs baked in brioche in a pool of vanilla bean creme anglaise. a.k.a. what Fig Newton aspires to be as an adult. So simple and straightforward, yet so sophisticated too. The figs are the stars here, and they didn't disappoint--bursting with flavorful, sweet juiciness--so heavenly once I started I didn't even pause to take a photo of the interior. The brioche had a caramelized exterior and semi-cakey texture within and were perfect for soaking up that anglaise.

As we rolled out of AMMO with our bloated bellies, I realized I didn't seee any Hollywoody types throughout dinner. But such stellar ingredients that shone through with such simple-yet-elegant preparation, who needs a celebrity cameo to detract from that?

AMMO (click here to learn about their next Sunday Roast menu)
1155 North Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 467-3293

Ammo on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 28, 2010

No. 184: Yamashiro's Farmers' Market, Go Tonight!

Yamashiro Farmers Market Collage
If you're still looking for something to do in the fair weather we'll have tonight, check out Yamashiro's Farmers' Market before it closes up shop for the rest of the year. I went two weeks ago when it was chilly and a bit drizzly, and still had a rockin' time with Conbon, Jennio and Goldmember.
Sam Adams Octoberfest
. . . with Sam Adams Octoberfest beer, a refreshing and easily-quaffable lager with some roasty-toasty notes (if you want, for a few bucks extra they'll serve it in a glass stein that you take home.)
. . . swanky live music
ChocoVivo chocolates
. . . and shopping from local farms and artisanal vendors (was thrilled to see ChocoVivo and owner Patricia Tsai there, where I got a small bar of their stone-ground chocolate - with cherries, almonds and peppercorns - to eat later)
Yamashiro Grill
and of course, Chef Brock's taco stand (which Bloggerprom attendees are more than familiar with,) with a unique East-meets-West twist.
Since all the tacos were meaty (still crazy tempting though!) I opted for a chips platter, but even that was anything but ordinary with Chef Brock's Asian spin on the accompaniments such as wasabi guacamole, korean chili salsa roja and ginger pico de gallo. The guac alone is worth it -- so creamy-rich with a little nostril-opening kick at the end.

Thankfully, Chef Brock hinted that the tacos will live on even when the Farmers' Market go on hiatus -- but if you haven't been to this Farmers' Market, now's definitely the time to go. Whereas can you shop & eat at night (cheaply too!) at a historic landmark of a restaurant with such amazing views of LA?
Barhop & DTLA Artwalk Collage
And for us that night, it was the perfect prelude to a mini barhop @ Library Bar and The Varnish, with a little Downtown Artwalk in between.

More photos from our night's of fun & debauchery here.

Yamashiro Restaurant
1999 N Sycamore Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90068-3782
(323) 466-5125

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

No. 183: Food Event Marathoner ~ Bacardi Tasting @ La Descarga & Fall Menu Sneak Peek @ Drago Centro

So here's the long awaited part two to my four day bender of tastings and events that started with Jonathan Gold's cocktail party & Savor the Season. Thankfully, the weekday events were intimate, shorter tastings that didn't test the limits of my stomach or liver (much.)

Bacardi Event
The Monday after Savor the Season, I was invited by Bacardi's PR folks for the U.S. release of their Reserva Limitada, their super-premium rum that's aged 10-16 years in mildly-charred white oak barrels. Along with tasting this rum with Eric (who also took the awesome photos for this event,) they've also brought along their global ambassador-mixologist David Cordoba to make a series of mini-cocktails using the traditional Bacardi line of rums (i.e. not the flavored ones, even if that was may have been my college tradition.) Naturally, it makes sense for an event like this to take place in La Descarga, a speakeasy-esque bar on the fringe of Koreatown & West Hollywood known for their rum collection, cocktails and cigars.
Bacardi Reserva Limitada in snifters
As for the Reserva Limitada itself, it had super-smooth and rich texture with a slight sugar-caney taste, and warm vanilla, honey and maple notes plus a tinge of pepper & clove spice. While at ~$110 a bottle it's not a rum I'd be buying anytime soon (particularly since my bar is devoid of any strictly-sipping spirits) I'm definitely open to ordering it at a bar or recommending as a "gift to impress" for friends.
David Cordoba making Mary Pickford cocktail
Equally impressive (and far less expensive for me to emulate @ home) are the cocktails that Cordoba shook up, with the menu running the gamut from famous legacy cocktails like the Daiquiri, rum-swapped creations like the September Morn (a Clover Club with rum instead of gin) and contemporary drinks such as the San Miguel, combining their gold rum with orange blossom water, fernet branca and yerba mate tea.
September Morn
My favorites of the set included the above September Morn, fruity and frothy like a smoothie (and with the pomegranate syrup I can say I'm detoxing while I'm toxing up!), and the Mayas Daiquiri, which combines their 8 year-old rum with lime juice, agave syrup and avocado. A simple spin to an ordinary cocktail setup (a spirit base, a sweetener & an acid) but Holy moly, what a delightful twist it was--the avocado added such a mesmerizing buttery note, it was like having a sweet guacamole (the ones where mangos or pineapples are switched in for the tomatoes.)
Overhead mixing shot
Needless to say, I left the event a little more well-learned about the Bacardi rums and how versatile it can be in mixology . . .
Drago Centro
. . . which was a lovely lead-in to the event on Tuesday, an Autumn cocktail & bar bites preview @ Drago Centro with their PR, Esther and Lindsay. While I didn't run through the entire menu like the hardcore trio, I did enjoy two very lovely drinks: one being the Rimedio del Pazzo that combines Zaya rum with Cynar, sage, white peppercorns and citrus. I don't know about the alleged healing properties of peppercorns, sage or artichoky liqueur, but that herbacious concoction did cure my crazies of a hectic work day.
Dazed & Confused
I followed that up with a Dazed & Confused, made with Casa Noble Crystal Tequila, Cherry Heering, Creole Shrubb liqueur, rosemary and Angostura orange bitters. Like the Rimedio, it's a complex, curiosity-inducing cocktail with a wonderful layering of flavors. A little fruity here, a little earthy there, an occasional kick of woodsiness from the rosemary.
Portobello Fries
And to go with our delicious drinks, tasty bar bites! I was especially impressed with the tempura-battered portabello fries ($5), which held their meaty texture & distinct earthy flavor (most mushroom fries I've had before tend to be bland & mushy since the shrooms themselves release a lot of moisture upon cooking, sogging up the fried coating & diluting its flavor.)
Cheese Duo
Likewise, the $9 cheese duo plate featured sizable hunks of a bleu and hard aged cheese (forgot to ask what kind, but it tasted like a cross between an aged cheddar and a parmigiano reggiano to me) with brighty and tangy dried apricots, glazed walnuts and grilled toast.

And with their bar menu featuring $5-6 drinks and affordable snacks all day long, you can count on me coming back for a nibble and a sip when I hit that part of downtown LA.

La Descarga
1159 North Western Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90038
(323) 466-1324

Drago Centro

525 S Flower St
Los Angeles, CA 90071-2200
(213) 228-8998

Friday, October 22, 2010

Last chance for Taste of Abbot Kinney pre-sale

Bubbly & Caviar
Gruet Sparkling Wine & Caviar w Creme Fraiche on Toast at Elvino Wine Shop & Tasting Bar from last year's Taste of Abbot Kinney

Ok, the winners have been drawn for my Taste of Abbot Kinney giveaway; for everyone else, thanks for participating and you still have half an hour (till 3 p.m. today) to buy tickets at discounted pre-sale prices (and pre-sales purchases also enters you into an exclusive prize drawing.)

So get to it and hope to see you out in Venice in two days!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Quick Taste of Abbot Kinney Giveaway Reminder

Lemonade's lemonade & deli salad trio
Deli salad sampler & original lemonade from Lemonade during last year's Taste of Abbot Kinney

Just a quick reminder that my giveaway for Taste of Abbot Kinney will be closing this Friday, with three lucky winners drawn to get a 'Delicious' package ($60 value.) And entering's a cinch with 3 easy steps: comment, (re)tweet & facebook 'like'. Easy peasy, right?

Of course, it's never too late to buy tickets too (there's a pre-sale discount until Oct. 22) -- proceeds will benefiting Inside Out Community Arts to help underserved & at-risk youth.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

No. 182: Food Event Marathoner ~ J Gold's Speakeasy Party & Savor the Season

As someone who like alternating nights out on the town with a day or two of resting & cooking at home, I surprised myself with four consecutive nights out of events and tastings (though to be fair, some invites came to me last minute and were just too good to pass up.) And what better way to follow up a marathon of outings than a marathoner post? Let's take off!

Speakeasy Collage
On Saturday, thanks to a last-minute win of 213 Downtown's twitter contest, I was able to get two passes into Jonathan Gold's 2nd Annual Union Station Speakeasy Cocktail Party (benefiting Zocalo Public Square, which puts on all sorts of provocative discussions & seminars to reinvigorate thoughtful dialogue in the modern world.) With five 213 bars making a signature cocktail and nine eateries serving up delectable bites, fun times were had by all as the alcohol kept flowing and the hors d'oeuvres kept coming out.

My favorite bites of the night included Rustic Canyon's burrata with black mission figs, roasted chestnuts, salsa and toast (so comforting & Christmasy!) still-in-transition Grace's melt-in-your-mouth squash flan with smoked sage jus and Street's Burmese melon salad with crisped coconut, peanuts and sesame-ginger dressing (cooling, refreshing and much needed as the space started heating up from the cocktails, the hot foods and the crowd.)
Manhattan Makin'
Of the drinks, being a gin lover I was partial to Varnish's Plymouth Fitzgerald, a simple concoction of Plymouth gin shaken with lemon juice and sugar, topped with Angostura bitters. Second in my heart was Cole's Pikesville Classic Manhattan with Pikesville Rye and Dolan Sweet Vermouth, though I was peeved my first Manhattan was prematurely bussed away (WITH MY LUXARDO CHERRY STILL IN IT) Of course, the natural solution is to get another!
Caroline & Esther drinking
After a little mingling with other bloggers and friends, chatting with the ever-gracious Jonathan Gold and his wife Laurie Ochoa, and a little dancefloor time, Matt, Esther (my Speakeasy +1 btw,) Caroline and I moved onto afterpartying @ La Descarga, where we enjoyed MORE drinks and Matt showed off his suave double cigar-puffing technique.

To cap off the night, K-town Karaoking & sharing a big heaping plate of dukkboki & ramen. Did I really sing "All the Small Things" and "Don't Stop Believing"? Of course I didn't, and there's no way (or person lucid enough) to prove it! Even if pictures suggest otherwise!

Getting home around 2:30 a.m. (thanks Matt for driving me back to the Gold Line station where I parked & metro'd,) I had all of four hours' sleep before getting up in time for a promised 7 a.m. canyon hike with my friend; 9 miles, 5 hours--I'll admit to not really feeling it at the start but once I soaked in the amazing views and scenery it definitely gave me a spring in my step.
Savor the Season collage
And of course, all that hiking worked up an appetite (and made me feel less guilty) about Savor the Season that evening, taking place in the Lot Studios and benefiting Break the Cycle, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering youth to prevent & end domestic violence. I attended this two years ago in Downtown LA's Vibiana (soon to house Grace Restaurant!) and I definitely loved the venue move. The evening was warm, breezy and perfect for an outdoor tasting (though a few of the organizers readily admit to leaving their hands to Lady Luck and Mother Nature for this late October date and obviously thankful it wasn't one of those crazy days with record-breaking heat and pouring thunderstorms.)
assorted fudges from Aahsome Fudge
Street was there again, this time with their famous finger-friendly pani puris, and other delectable treats include Stefan Richter's show-stopping liquid nitrogen passionfruit ice cream lollies, and some aahmazing fudge samples (and a fried chocolate raviolo) from Pasadena-based [AF]2.
Lou w Wine
Equally astounding were the wines served, including Lou on Vine's Lou pouring of A Donkey and Goat Syrah from a keg. Don't laugh, it tasted way more delicous that it looked (though my allegiance still lies with their Grenache Gris Rosé, a fragrant, refreshing blush wine I look forward to sipping every summer since my discovery.) For the bubbly-inclined, Girl Meets Grape' Bonnie Graves, who's been working with Savor the Season for four years, was there to pour tres-chic Comte de Dampierre's Brut des Ambassadors champagne. Crisp, apple-y with a touch of toast... and I'd imagine going VERY well with the shucked-to-order Carlsbad Luna oysters that Christophe Hapilllon had going on one booth over.
Kat w Oyster
(yes, I said imagined... it was very tempting, especially when Kat was overtly savoring them in front of me. Maybe I should follow the way of that one vegan who occasionally enjoys oysters.)

Given my other going-ons for the days ahead, I took off from Savor before its final hour, but I definitely hoped the event itself and the silent auction raised lots of much-needed funds and awareness for Break the Cycle, and that Savor the Season will be just as picture- and palate-pleasing the next time around!

And with that, I got two events (and the official weekend) down, and two more to go in the days ahead. Stay tuned for part two of this four-day bender . . .

In the meantime, enjoy more photos from my flickr of the Union Station Speakeasy (& afterwards) and Savor the Season


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