Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Relaxing Eats Over Labor Day Weekend: Verdugo Bar and Daikokuya (No. 206)

Seems like this Labor Day the blogger brigade is out in full force, whether marching into mini-vacays or assaulting the multi-event extravaganza known collectively as The Taste. As for me, I had a pretty low-key time around town, more by coincidence than anything else, having no idea September and Labor Day weekend would come so soon! In fact, I didn't even know about the extra day off till the Wednesday before when my co-workers started chatting up about their holiday plans.

Since I missed the press pass application deadline for The Taste & not feeling spontaneous enough for a quick trip on the fly (don't even want to imagine all the traffic & lodging nightmares,) I spent most of the three days just lazying around my place. But it wasn't completely without its share of foodventures . . .

Goat Cheese-Honey Truffle
On Saturday, I helped out my friend for her design school project. She approached me about doing a cooking demo show so I offered to whip up something that's sophisticated-sounded but oh-so-simple to make: goat cheese-honey truffles, which has only five ingredients and takes about 15 minutes of hands-on prep time.
Callebaut Chocolate Chopped
Of course, it got a little more complicated when we have to do multiple takes (plus cleanup & resetting the kitchen between each take,) and I have to keep talking on-camera to avoid that awkward silence (and I hope they can find & edit in some background music during that dead time.) But it was definitely a fun experience (moreso since I brought a bottle of Prosecco for the occasion.)
Jackfruit Hoagie in Peach BBQ Sauce
Sunday, I decided to make a long overdue re-visit to Verdugo Bar, where The Hot Knives duo has a "Gnosh Pit" vegan BBQ going on -- with $5 BBQ'd Jackfruit Hoagies, Po' Boys with oyster mushrooms, and summer succotash + jalapeno cornbread. I only had stomach space for the two sandwiches, and they were great! I liked the po' boy better, with its crispy, savory mushrooms and an indulgent radish remoulade (or should I say vegmoulade?) -- totally didn't miss the meat! The lightly-dressed kale slaw was also a nice, refreshing change from its cabbage-y cousin.
New Belgium's Kick @ Verdugo Bar
And as to be expected, Verdugo bar put out an awesome beer list for the occasion -- I loved the numerous fruity brews they had going on (e.g. New Belgium's Kick Cranberry-Pumpkin Ale, Wandering Aengus' Anthem Cherry Cider, Hangar 24's Polycot Apricot-Loaded Summer Wheat,) perfect for an afternoon picnic on their patio. As my friend Andy noted, this definitely filled the void left behind by Pure Luck (and fortunately, Verdugo will be doing a vegan shindig of some sort the first Sundays of each month!)

On Labor Day itself, I actually labored through the day . . . taking care of chores in & around my place, doing a bit of grocery shopping for my office & at-home meals and putting in some extra exercise in anticipation of the coming week's indulgences (starting with Edison's Radio Room Revival tonight!) But I did squeeze in some time to check out Daikokuya's Arcadia outpost . . .
Daikokuya stall @ Arcadia
Yay for being much closer than the other locations, and even more bonus points for NO LINES. However, I wasn't feeling so hot about smelling fare from the adjacent food court stalls (namely, stinky tofu) it's in. Also, the food court itself is pretty depressing, bordering on gross (quite a few tables have food trays LONG overdue for a bussing.)
Half-Ramen / Half-Oyakodon Set
I also felt iffy about the food itself. I got the half-ramen/half-oyakadon combination with extra negi (a perfect portion size, since downtown LA's full-sized ramen & half-rice bowl option is always too much food!) The ramen proved to be as solid as the other Daikokuyas' (which is to say -- decent, tho not super-stoked) but the oyakodon was lackluster with dried out chicken & too little donburi sauce in proportion to the rice. But given its proximity & ease of access, I'll probably go back and give their other half-ramen/half-bowl combos another try . . . maybe to-go this time so I won't be thinking "when did I order this stinky tofu donburi?"

And so went my Labor Day weekend . . . lazy hazy, easy breezy and much-welcomed recharge after an eventful summer. Now I'm ready to tackle Fall and all that it has to offer (maybe something from this crazy list of LA Food & Wine events?)

A few more photos on flickr here

Verdugo Bar
3408 Verdugo Road
Los Angeles, 90065.
(323) 257-3408

Daikokuya Arcadia
1220 S. Golden West Ave (Inside of President Square Food Court)
Arcadia, 91007
(626) 254-0127

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Raiding Roosevelt Hotel's Eateries & Watering Holes: Spare Room, Public Kitchen & Bar, Library Bar and 25 Degrees (No. 205)

(photo credit: ericthenorsk)
It was totally something I did just for the heck of it. It was Wednesday, I needed a little adventure, and Hotel Roosevelt happens to boast quite a few reputable eateries and watering holes. So I decided to hit up four of them in one night.

My first stop of the night was Spare Room, the classic (and classy!)-looking bar on the second floor decked out with duel bowling alleys & a variety of classic table games. There, I met up with Naomi Schimek, well-known for her eclectic vintage-meets-garden approach to cocktails. And coincidentally enough, I found out all summer long they are doing a special Wednesday Happy Hour, with $5 mini lobster rolls and $7 Nanucket Sounds . . .
Nantucket Sound + Wednesday Summer HH Specials
. . . made with lemon balm & chamomile-infused Plymouth gin, Bianco vermouth, fresh cantaloupe & lemon juices, Peychaud's bitters and a hearty dollop of housemade spiced ginger sorbet -- served with a wooden spoon so you can eat while you drink. And it's perfect for the seasonal cusp... refreshingly spicy to soothe away the warm summer days, but with a complex, warm-spices aroma and a depth that eases you into the autumn. And while I sipped away at this heavenly cocktail, I picked up a few tips to emulate that ginger sorbet at home... if I'm so daring (the trick is to use inverted sugar so it stays fine & smooth upon freezing, as opposed to a coarser granita with regular sugar.)
Kentucky Glove Box + Mini Lobster Roll
While I had no initial plans to eat at Spare Room, I simply couldn't resist the lobster roll for a Lincoln. It was bigger and meatier than I expected, and two of these would've made for a satisfying meal. There were hearty chunks of chilled lobster with crunchy onions and celery, lightly dressed (yay for not being overly-mayo'd up) in a buttery roll.

And to go with the roll, a Kentucky Glove Box -- which smells and tastes like Gold Rush's more aromatic & feminine cousin w Bourbon, Yellow Chartreuse, simple syrup and fresh lemon juice. Great sipper!

Afterwards, I proceed down to Public Kitchen and Bar, a place I've been meaning to revisit since its Grand Opening week -- having filled up a little from the roll, I decided against my planned order of zucchini risotto with diver scallops & mint mascarpone (that were AMAZING when I had them last time) and opted for two side dishes.
King Oyster Mushrooms
Alexandra cocktail + Rainbow Chard
Grilled king oyster mushrooms w sweet garlic & truffle jus and oven-roasted rainbow chard w olive oil, shallots & balsamic vinegar--both totally solid sides that's as straightforward as the menu described it, you can taste every component listed and the combination of them all is definitely a little magical. I especially appreciated the super-light touch of the truffle jus on the 'shrooms, which are already woodsy-earthy to begin with (and because so many places tend to overdo with the truffle flavorings! Less is more here, people!)
Drinks @ Public are in oversized portions and lean on the sweet side. Their Public Manhattan involves a generous splash of Luxardo Maraschino, which admittedly does smooth out some of the sharper edges of the (Ri)1 whiskey. But the Alexandra cocktail (made w Milagro Silver, Aperol, St. Germaine, Lemon Syrup, Mint, Passionfruit & Yuzu Juices -- photoed w the rainbow chard) can easily do double-duty as a drink and dessert ... if that's your thing.

Following the somewhat light dinner, I sauntered (or possibly meandered) to Library Bar, where Matt Biancaniello was busily mixing up his market-fresh cocktails--picking out fruits, vegetables, herbs from his vibrantly-colored "bar" that looked more like a farmer's market stall.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
After hearing of my affinity for gin and spiciness, he made me a Monkey See, Monkey Do with Hendrick's Gin, pepper-Infused St. Germaine's, purple shiso plus peach & lime juices. An absolute delight to drink, with a bouquet and flavor profile that felt infinitely intriguing. It's definitely fruity but without being too sweet, a little tongue tingle action with the spiced liqueur, and heavenly herb backdrop from the shiso & gin.
Italian Greyhound
Afterwards, Matt served up a seemingly simpler Italian Greyhound (Campari, Aperol, fresh passionfruit & grapefruit juices), but the two fruits & two apertifs combined into an alchemic creation that's just as sophisticated (and super-quaffable!)
25 Degrees Late Night
I saved 25 Degrees as my last stop since I know they're open 24/7 and because I figured I would need some heavy duty munchies-style grub after all those libations! But alas, instead of burger & fries -- I opted for their three-cheese plate, Tuscan tomato soup & a refreshing glass of Sam Adams Octoberfest (turned out I arrived during their late night happy hour!) In a more sober moment, I would've consider the soup a bit too salty (maybe left boiling too long?) but that night it just hit the spot to sober me up, and tomatoes & basil notes definitely shone through.

And I will also give kudos for 25 Degrees' bang for the buck... look at the size of the $5 soup & $9 three-cheese platter (use the pint glass of $4 beer & the standard bread slices as comparison); and those aren't just everyday ole' cheese either, the trio I chose from their upscaley selection were Carr Valley's Benedictine Washed-Rind Sheep-Cow-Goat Blend, Cypress Grove's Midnight Blue Aged Goat Cheese and Ciresa's Gorgonzola Prelibato... needless to say they didn't stay in that doggy bag for long in the days after.

Hotel bars & restaurants have traditionally gotten a bad rep as far as food quality & value goes, often stereotyped as spots for out-of-town tourists who don't know any better or for businessfolks to harried to wander outside the lodging's confines for a bite or a sip. And while there are the occasional one or two gems in a hotel, I'm most pleasantly surprised and delighted to report that there are FOUR options @ Hotel Roosevelt that are solid and fitting for a variety of budgets & cravings, from $4 beers at a burger joint, to casual-chic multi-course meal to a fun round of games & drinks with friends to just lingering over a bar of fresh produce, waiting to pleasantly surprised . . .

Or if you are so inclined, hitting all of them up in one night!

7000 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028





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