Showing posts with label cocktail. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cocktail. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Boston Cocktail Lovers, Don't Miss Thirst Boston (April 28-30, 2017)

Cocktail enthusiast, bartender, or just like to drink? Whichever one you are, if you enjoy cocktails, then take a look at Thirst Boston, Boston's cocktail festival that is coming on April 28-30! There will be tasting and hands-on seminars, parties, and after-parties that you'd be wise to prepare your liver for. You can now view the schedule and map out your weekend.

First, the parties. There will be two night-time parties filled with cocktails. Saturday night is State Lines. This Thirst Boston tradition brings distillers, brewers, and winemakers from around New England along with bartenders from across the region. There will also be carnival games. Drunken carnie games!
Thirst Boston

Sunday night will be another Thirst Boston tradition, the Blender Bender. Teams of bartenders will be competing to make the best - you guessed it - blended drinks to win a fancy new Vitamix blender.
Thirst Boston
This year's twist is that it will be a Gender Bender Blender Bender, so the teams of bartenders will cross-dressing.
Thirst Boston

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Celebrating California Olive Oil at Scopa (Venice, CA)

Did you know you can trust only 20% of the olive oils that you find in a supermarket?  There are a lot of fraudulent olive oils out in the market, so you have to know what you are buying. For example, you can go local and buy California olive oil. I recently attended a tasting and dinner with California Olive Ranch and tried their oils by themselves and in dishes prepared by Chef Antonia Lofaso at Scopa!

And a tip when buying olive oils in the supermarket: look for dark bottles, single country of origin, and seal of authenticity. Harvest date would be a plus, as well!

My evening started with some appetizers and cocktails, all of which feature California Olive Ranch olive oils!
Yes, the cocktail, too. The Sierra Norte was made with mezcal, aperol, serrano peppers, pineapple, and lemon, with California Olive Ranch Limited Reserve Olive Oil. The oil added a nice, unique mouthfeel to the drink.
CA Olive at Scopa
The first appetizer: Cured salmon, spring peas, toasted caraway, topped with the same olive oil as the cocktail.
Ricotta crostini
CA Olive at Scopa
Veal tartare, capers, shallots, fresh horseradish, seasoned with California Olive Ranch Mild & Buttery Olive Oil.
CA Olive at Scopa
California may be known for the almonds and wines and so on, but did you know that California also produces 95% of the olives grown in the US? There's about 27,000 acres of olive orchards in the state!

We tasted a couple of the California Olive Ranch olive oils (and a fake supermarket one!). You swirl and sip just like wine, but just like wine, olive oils can also go bad, so don't keep them in your pantry too long.
CA Olive at Scopa

Monday, May 2, 2016

Unexpected Dining at Demitasse Roastery and Kitchen (Hollywood)

Demitasse has opened a new location in Hollywood, but this one is no ordinary coffee shop. Demitasse Roastery and Kitchen takes cafes up a level with a great food menu and coffee cocktails on top of their already solid coffee program.

Demitasse has a rotating special coffee drink on the menu at all times. When I came, this was the blood orange nutmeg latte. They've added a housemade blood orange syrup to the latte and grated nutmeg on top. I was initially skeptical how a citrus would work with coffee but this was amazing.Demitasse
The blood orange adds a nice layer of flavor and makes the lattte less heavy. The citrus makes the flavors much more vibrant but you still get the acidity of the espresso.

The space is gorgeous, as well, with a bright and airy interior and a great outdoor dining space.

Demitasse
Demitasse
They sell baked goods from the awesome Sharon Wang of Sugarbloom Bakery.
Demitasse
They also serve beer, wine, and cocktails - including, of course, coffee cocktails! There's the Adult Spice Latte (Cardamaro, cinnamon syrup, nitro cold brew, cream and organic cinnamon, $7)
Demitasse

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bar Toscana, Brentwood's Hidden Italian Gem

Bar Toscana is the cocktail bar next door to longtime Brentwood favorite, Toscana. The Italian trattoria has been in business for 26 years. In the competitive culinary world of Los Angeles, that means they must be doing something right!

For their cocktails at Bar Toscana, they have brought William Perbellini who came from Italy to head the bar program here.

Bar Toscana

Perbellini's cocktail menu ranges from the classics to the seasonal, like this Costa Esmeralda (cognac, Grand Marnier, grapes, and sage)
Bar Toscana
I love grapes as a cocktail ingredient, and here it is paired with a grape-based spirit.

Barrel aged negroni with Plymouth gin, campari, and sweet vermouth
Bar Toscana
This was an unusually good negroni, expertly made and even smoother thanks to the barrel aging.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Tasting at Clio (Boston, MA)

I read recently that Clio, one of Ken Oringer's restaurants in the Eliot Hotel in Back Bay will be closing while Uni (also his restaurant) will be expanding into its space. I was a bit bummed by it since I recently tried Clio and enjoyed it. So, I thought I would blog about my experience there before they close, in case you guys would be enticed to go try it out! Plus, it's one of the only photos I took with my new Sony a6000 before it was stolen when my house got broken into the second time ... sigh.

Anyway, I had grabbed a Gilt City deal for a tasting menu at Clio, which was a pretty good deal for this restaurant. Clio has had a number of great bartenders behind the bar and albeit some have moved on to new restaurants, they still had a nice cocktail menu when I went. Being a root beer lover (don't give me that Dr. Pepper nonsense), I obviously went with the Sarsaparilla Flip (sarsaparilla spice rum, root beer reduction, egg white, nutmeg brulee, $14)

Clio

Dinner starts with an amuse bouche of nori with white umami cream cheese, lemon cream cheese - a rich umami bomb.
Clio

The first course was a Chilled Courgette (zucchini, basically) Soup, marinated mussels, rose geranium, truffle vinaigrette
Clio

The soup is a local marrow squash with smoked salt foam.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Mexican Brunch at Cocina Condesa (Studio City, CA)

by guest blogger @iam_robot

Los Angeles might be a beautiful melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, but its diverse residents all have one thing in common: we’re all suckers for good Mexican Food. Being a Los Angeles transplant the last 15 years of my life, I’d think I have tasted all the greatest Mexican food this world has to offer. But after trying out new places every week, I’m still constantly flabbergasted with the infinite variations, craftsmanship and dedication from all these great taqueros/ taqueras. Sure I have my favorite joints for certain Mexican food but when I discovered a new place with less predictable menu, I can’t help but thinking how many more bewildered moments like this I’d encounter living in this city.
Just for good measure, I’d like to share my brunch experience at Cocina Condesa in Studio City. 
Exterior
Situated strategically on Ventura Blvd, this bright yellow Restaurant features hearty Mexican street food and modern libations crafted by David Rubin..

No, this place is not your typical Mexican Food – you won’t see tacos-bean combos or brick size burritos with enchilada sauce. Instead, Executive Chef Eddie Garcia features finer specialties we rarely get enough of – ceviches, aqua-chiles, sopes, street corn, machaca, questo fundido, and braised chicken mole.  But Brunch is the way to go! I can’t specify a genre but the lineup leans towards a Cal-Mexican cuisine with some emphasis on healthier eating.
Interior
The vibe inside Cocina Condesa is festive and vibrant.  Huge red-framed windows are featured in the dining room to circulate the evening breeze while the wooden table and high-chair suggests a significant landmark (bar or saloon) you’d see in Mexico or other South American countries. Love how eclectic and kitschy the wall d├ęcor is – so many random things to look at: old Mexican hero sepia pictures, bullhead skeleton, antique guitar, Day of the Dead dolls, wooden Mexico map, sombrero, etc – you’ll always have a topic for conversation.  

Back to the brunch menu. My absolute favorite item is the Mayan Chocolate Pancakes. Three hearty warm fluffy pancakes topped with seared plantains and crushed Mayan Chocolates and Sugar.    
Mayan Choc Pancakes
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And instead of drizzling the pancakes with ordinary maple syrup, you’re given Piloncillo Syrup, a homemade maple syrup made with brown / white sugar, cinnamon, and water. Definitely lower in calories!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Area Four (Cambridge, MA)

I may have complained a bit about the lack of lunch options at MIT, but actually, if I just go out of campus for a bit, there are some great places - take Area Four, for example, known for their pizza.

The menu at Area Four is short and simple - some appetizers and salads, and then pizza. Area Four's pizza has won many accolades and boasts an older-than-12-year starter, over 30 hours of fermentation, and wood-fired oven. They make a great version of the New England staple, clam and bacon pizza with pecorino, chili pepper, and parsley ($17.50 for a small)

Area Four
I had a very satisfying Little gem salad with tomatoes, blue cheese dressing, and crispy pork belly
Area Four
The crispy pork belly made this salad that much better - it's still healthy right?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Drinks and Beyond at Drink (Boston, MA)

Drink Drink in Fort Point is arguably Boston's most famous cocktail establishment. There's no cocktail menu at Drink, just a crew of highly talented and highly trained bartenders under the direction of Ezra Star. They're ready to make you any drink you want, or suggest a cocktail based on your taste preferences. Everyone seems to always be working on something new and interesting.

The line and wait at this place can get pretty crazy, but if you come early (they open at 4pm), there's no line and you can get the full attention of the bartenders.

Because of the status that Drink has in the city, they also can get their hands on some exclusive you can hardly find elsewhere. We tried some special Del Maguey mezcal, a San Pedro Taviche, a blend of Espadin, Tobala, and Tepextate.

We also had a daiquiri made with pineapple infused Plantation rum. Don't let your mind go to Malibu or something like that, Plantation is levels above that. This was a really lovely rum with nice tropical aromas, and it was not yet available in stores.

Drink

Friday, July 31, 2015

New Cocktails and Old Favorites at The Factory Kitchen (Downtown Los Angeles)

I recently returned to one of my favorite Italian restaurants in LA, The Factory Kitchen in downtown, to try out the new cocktail menu from bartender Andrew Gustafson (you can read me gushing upon my first visit to the restaurant here).

The Factory Kitchen tries to change their cocktail menu seasonally. I was running late so my friend was already having this season's best seller, the Mezcali with Xicaru mezcal, lemon, serrano, muddled tomatoes, and strawberry. It's easy to see why this drink sells so well, since not only has LA been a big spicy cocktail kick lately, this was a well balanced drink that's also not too sweet, with a more complex aspect thanks to the tomatoes.

I started my tasting with a DT-LAst Word (chamomile infused Slow Hand white whisky, Galliano, Maraschino, lemon, $12)

The Factory Kitchen

As the name hints, this drink is their version of the Last Word. Slow Hand white whiskey is an unaged whiskey from Greenbar Distillery in downtown LA. Andrew infuses it with chamomile tea; as you can see below, the bottle on the left with the yellow-ish liquor is the one infused with chamomile. I tried it by itself also and it had a really nice aroma - I'm partial to tea cocktails so I really liked this one.
The Factory Kitchen

Vinny's Backside (Amaro Meletti, lime juice, ginger beer, rosemary, $12)
The Factory Kitchen
A riff on a mule, but this drink has everything I love: amaro, ginger beer, and rosemary. I can drink this all day.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Drinking in a Barrel at Idle Hour (North Hollywood, CA)

I love Los Angeles, but mostly they don't keep a lot of their heritage and cool historic buildings around too much. Thanks to 1933 Group, LA will at least keep one of their awesome barrel-shaped bars, as they have renovated Idle Hour in North Hollywood. The building was declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument and 1933 Group purchased it in an auction.

Idle Hour
The old Idle Hour was a taproom built in 1941, and 1933 Group has kept that concept, with plenty of beers on tap inside the barrel-shaped main building.
Idle Hour
They also have a great outdoor dining area in the back that's perfect for day drinking in the summer.
Idle Hour
Behind that area is a replica of the Bulldog Cafe. The original Bulldog Cafe was built in 1925, selling tamales and ice cream (I wish we have something like that now), and they built a replica for the Petersen Automotive Museum in 1991. The adorable Bulldog Cafe is also open for private events, and it's also open to the public when there's no event going on.
Idle Hour

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Craft Cocktail Meets Chinese Food at Sichuan Garden II and The Baldwin Bar

I drove out in the snow to Woburn to check out Sichuan Garden II. And it was worth it.

IMG_0379
Sichuan Garden II is no normal Sichuan restaurant, located inside a 17th century mansion. There's a wonderful little cocktail bar in the restaurant. The Baldwin Bar is headed by Ran Duan, whose family owns the Sichuan Garden restaurants. He went all out with The Baldwin Bar, not minding that it was out in Woburn, with top notch cocktails and gorgeous pre-prohibition style interior. Where else can you get Sichuan food along with impeccable craft cocktails? I can't think of another place.

To convince you that the cocktails here are worth a drive, know that Ran Duan has won the title of Most Imaginative Bartender at the 2014 USBG competition sponsored by Bombay Sapphire.
The cocktail menu at Baldwin changes all the time, but I've always found great drinks like I Put a Spell on You (Bombay Sapphire, Earl Grey, yogurt, lemon, orange blossom water, $10)
IMG_0364
That night also happened to be Fire Puncher Day, so there were special drinks made with GrandTen Distilling's Fire Puncher Vodka.

What about the food? You can either dine in one of the mansion's rooms, now outfitted as dining rooms for Sichuan Garden II, or dine at The Baldwin Bar part of the restaurant. Either way, you can get the full menu. The most popular item is probably the Chengdu Dry Hot Chicken Wings ($11.50)
IMG_0366
These chicken wings are really crispy and have a nice kick to it. I must've gotten better at my spicy tolerance because I kept eating these. The double battered, extra crispy wings were covered in a spicy dry rub of garlic, ginger, and chilis but there's also a small amount of glaze (maple sriracha sauce)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ames Street Deli (Cambridge, MA)

Backbar is one of my favorite bars in Boston, so when the same team opened Ames Street Deli near MIT, well, I was quite excited (and scared for my wallet).

Ames Street Deli is open from morning until evening with different offerings throughout the day (making the place even more dangerous for the wallet!). In the morning, come for a kouign amann. Ames Street makes a great one, the layers are so flaky and crispy with the baked sugar.

Kouign amann
They also have breakfast sandwiches and scrambled egg donut and bacon and egg donut! I'm not quite sure yet what those are like because I haven't woken up early enough to go to campus for those, but I'm certainly intrigued. The kouign amann is also typically gone by late afternoon, so you should come earlier for that, too.

At lunch, you'll find sandwiches. The sandwiches are on the smaller side, but each order comes with a side dish! I really enjoyed the Rabbit Sandwich (mustard bread, rabbit mortadella, pork liver, beets, radish)
Ames St

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Brunch and Cocktails at Virtu (Scottsdale, AZ)

As I'm heading back to Phoenix and Scottsdale this weekend, I'm looking back to my last trip there. On my last day, I had a lovely brunch at Virtu in Scottsdale. It was a beautiful day, perfect for sitting outdoors and enjoying some good food and drinks.

Virtu

I had to order this dish, you'll see why: Duck confit benedict, duck fat potato, poached eggs, foie gras hollandaise ($15)
Virtu
Duck confit! Foie gras hollandaise! I just wished they had put more foie gras hollandaise ...

Virtu is known not just for their food, but also their cocktails. They're at the forefront of the Scottsdale's craft cocktail scene, serving up adventurous and unique cocktails like this Chili infused aquavit, with salted beet syrup, lime, and mezcal
Virtu

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Preview: Tacos and Cocktails at UnderFire in Back Bay (Boston, MA)

UnderFire
The aptly named Under Fire is now open below Fire+Ice in their Boston Back Bay location. While Fire+Ice is a family friendly buffet, UnderFire is more of a bar/restaurant serving food a la carte featuring burgers and tacos.

I was invited to the opening celebration so I didn't get to try the full menu but I did try some tacos and sandwiches. Between the two, the tacos are the way to go. They're not all traditional Mexican taco recipes, but instead modernized - Americanized perhaps, but the flavors are good - incorporating ingredients like pesto in the Pollo al Pesto (fire-grilled chicken, sunflower pesto, queso fresco, diced tomato, fresh basil, EVOO, flour tortilla, $11 for 3)

UnderFire

My favorite (of the two tacos) was The Club (Peruvian-style grilled chicken, braised pork belly, cheddar cheese, pico, guacamole, jalapeno garlic aioli, flour tortilla, $12 for 3)
UnderFire

Some of the other tacos like the carnitas use a corn-wheat tortilla instead of white flour tortilla, and I'd be curious to try them!

The cocktails here are fruity and easy to go down, but they start at $8. It's nice not to have to spend $14 on a single drink. Also, for the most part, they're using fresh fruits.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop Transforms with Hollywood Location

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop is transforming their look with the new Hollywood location. I still remember the Century City and Beverly Hills locations, a small, fast-casual lunch spot with salads and fresh juice bar. Small, bright, casual. But now, in Hollywood, the restaurant has an outdoor seating area where they also grow some herbs, a gorgeous full bar, a rustic, dimly lit dining room.

greenleaf
greenleaf
Still serving the same organic, healthy food as the other locations, but they've also expanded the menu with more entree-like options and cocktails.

The entrees are "build-your-own" where you can choose a protein and 2 sides. Salmon filet is $16.95 and I chose pomegranate quinoa and baked sweet potato fries as my sides.
greenleaf
The salmon was nicely cooked and the quinoa with almonds and pomegranate was almost like a dessert or a nice breakfast dish. They're healthy and delicious like other Greenleaf offerings I've had before, but definitely heartier than the usual salads.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ray Garcia Opens BS Taqueria in Downtown LA

It was six years ago that I first had Chef Ray Garcia's braised tongue with tomatillo and breakfast radish, back when he was starting out at FIG. Now, you can have that same amazingly tender tongue on handmade corn tortillas (made with nixtamal) at his newly opened B.S. Taqueria in Downtown LA.

IMG_1534
Also not to be missed is the clams and lardo taco, topped with garlic chips.
IMG_1538
Surf and turf? The lardo adds a wonderful richness but it's the flavor of the clams that shine through. Add to that the crunchy garlic chips.
There are also three great salsas available on the tables, but these tacos were already so flavorful I found I didn't need to add anything extra.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Boozy Brunch at Harlowe (West Hollywood, CA)

1933 Group brings black Old Hollywood glamour with Harlowe. The gorgeous space incorporates fine touches like antique tiles and a sleek wooden bar that takes center stage.

Harlowe
The decor is best appreciated in daylight, and now you can do just that with their brunch hours. The bar program is the main draw here, so naturally brunch will be a boozy brunch with specialty cocktails ($14 each). They had brought in mixologist Dushan Zaric (from NYC's Employees Only) to design the opening cocktail menu and the GM Chris Amirault and other local bartenders are keeping the game up.

Harlowe
Swap your regular cup of joe with Coffee is for Closers (Teeling's Irish whiskey, Stumptown coffee, Chartreuse whipped cream). This take on Irish Coffee is lovely - not too sweet and enhanced by the chartreuse in the whipped cream. For me it was the perfect drink choice to start my morning.

There's a full food menu at Harlowe. When Harlowe opened, Chef Eric Greenspan consulted on the menu, which has since been refined by chef Sam Hoke.

You'll find the usual brunch suspects like Eggs Benedict (brown butter hollandaise, country ham, homemade biscuit, $13). The brown butter is a nice touch that distinguishes it from the typical eggs benedict.
Harlowe

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