Showing posts with label cocktails. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cocktails. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Exploring Senegalese Cuisine at Teranga (Boston, MA)

Tucked in Boston's South End is an OG Senegalese restaurant called Teranga. Teranga means hospitality in wolof, a Senegalese language. The restaurant first opened in 2009 and closed down temporarily but reopened in December. I've only had Senegalese food once before and didn't remember much, since it was a long time ago, so I welcomed the chance to give it another try at Teranga.

We started with some Fataya. These are similar to samosas, or pastels, basically a fried dough pie filled with minced meat and vegetables. The ones at Teranga are served with a sriracha aioli.
Teranga
The fatayas are common street food in Senegal, and it is thanks to a big Lebanese presence and influence!

Next, we had some nems. Yes, these are Vietnamese fried spring rolls. What am I doing eating Vietnamese food in a Senegalese restaurant?
Teranga
As it turns out, there's a big Vietnamese influence in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, due to all the expat laborers there! Nems (sometimes also called rouleau de printemps - literally, "spring rolls") are very common there. Who knew!

Next, we had some attieke, which is a couscous made of cassava root. This was prepared simply with onion, mint, tomato, and served with lime. Simple yet perfect!
Teranga

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

From Lunch to Jazz, Beat Brasserie is a Crowd Please Any Time of Day

Beat Brasserie was already a popular spot in Harvard Square, known for its live jazz music and drinks, accompanied by some great food. But recently, Beat Brasserie also opened its doors for lunch on weekdays, adding another great option for nearby workers and students to grab a bite during the day.
Beat Brasserie
The restaurant is much quieter during weekday lunches than during live jazz sessions, of course, which means it would be good for a working lunch as well.

I recently tried the lunch and started with an appetizer of Fried Rhode Island calamari, vegetable frito misto, green goddess dressing ($13.50)
Beat Brasserie
Instead of the traditional heavy calamari plate, I liked that this was more like a salad.

For lunch entrees they have some overlap with the dinner menu, like the bowls and burgers, but they also have a quiche of the day, tuna nicoise salad, and others. The day I dined there for lunch, they had a rabbit pasta on the menu.
Beat Brasserie
The pasta was delicious and it was a good lighter option for lunch as well.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Rediscovering the Italian Food in Boston's North End at Artu

All the tourists and locals alike know that Boston's North End is the place to go for Italian food, yet most of the time I go there, I end up at Neptune Oyster for a lobster roll, instead - I can't help it! Sure, I've had my cannolis and I've been to a couple of the Italian places there, but for the most part, North End remained fairly unexplored to me. But thanks to a recent blogger dinner at Artu, I got the chance to experience another part of the North End.
Artu
Our dinner started with a simple salad of Roasted beets, pistachio vinaigrette, gorgonzola
Artu
Polpetti (homemade meatballs, parmigiano, $8)
Artu
I love meatballs when the texture is right, just like the ones here. Tender homemade meatballs with traditional Italian tomato sauce - why mess with something so simple and perfect!

Grilled country bread, smoked mozzarella, prosciutto, Backyard Farms tomato
Artu
I loved the smoked mozzarella on these!

Artu also had some solid cocktails, and the bar is open until 2 AM every day. Every day! That's one of the latest places to grab in the drink in the area, especially on a weeknight. I stuck with the classics, which they do very well.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Devouring the Bar Menu at Grill 23 and Bar (Boston, MA)

Grill 23 and Bar may be celebrating 30 years of being one of the best steakhouses in Boston, but don't forget about the "Bar" part of the restaurant! Grill 23's bar menu features some great cocktails and satisfying bites like these Foie gras slider on cider doughnut with jalapeno jelly.
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No, really. Seared foie gras on a donut! I went to the bar menu launch party there and I think I ate 3 of these babies, and still wanted more. I would definitely come back for these - Foie gras lovers have to try them!

Grill 23 and Bar also has some nice cocktails - I love Death & Taxes in particular, with the smokiness of the cigar infused bourbon and the sweetness of the peach.
Grill 23
Grill 23

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Diplomatico Rum Tasting and Dinner at Barcelona Wine Bar (South End, Boston, MA)

I recently had the opportunity to taste the line of Diplomatico Rums at a tasting and dinner held at Barcelona Wine Bar in Boston's South End with Diplomatico's master distiller, Maestro Gilberto BriceƱo.
Diplomatico Rum @ Barcelona
Diplomatico was founded in 1959 and adhere to the traditional Venezuelan way of making rum. They have their own yeast strain for fermentation and use sugar cane molasses and honey from sugar cane for their rums. Diplomatico's distillation process differs from most Caribbean countries which use column distillation. Diplomatico uses column distillation for their light rum, copper pot (to get heavy alcohols), and batch kettle for medium alcohols. The copper pot tradition came about because Seagram's used to make whiskey in Venezuela.

Anyway, the rums. We tasted six different rums from Diplomatico.
Diplomatico Rum @ Barcelona

Diplomatico Anejo
This is their youngest product, which is aged up to 4 years and a mix of light and heavy alcohols (which they get from the different distillation processes). The rum itself has a hint of vanilla and with light sweetness. This rum is good for cocktails and a great value at about $15 a bottle!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Chinese BBQ, Cocktails, and More at Wu Er by WOW Barbecue (Brookline, Boston, MA)

First started as a truck serving Chinese BBQ skewers in Chinatown, Wow BBQ has a brick and mortar location in Malden and has recently expanded with Wu Er in Brookline. Unlike the truck, Wu Er serves a lot more than skewers.

When they get seated, each table gets a plate of fried mantou drizzled with condensed milk. Dessert first? Sort of, and why not?
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Originally, Wow BBQ is all about the Chinese BBQ skewers, so of course, I had to get those here as well. The lamb is definitely one thing to get, but they also have all kinds of other options - both meat and vegetarian skewers.
Wu Er Wow BBW
While these are not for everyone, some of my favorite skewers are the chicken hearts and the lamb kidneys! I also tried the beef neck tendon, but that was too chewy even for me.
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What I also particularly like about Wu Er is the cocktail program. It's pretty uncommon to have great cocktails at a Chinese or Asian restaurant, in general (although I have to say this is not particularly true in Boston, with Sichuan Garden II and Shojo and all). If you're ever curious about trying baiju, or cocktails made with baiju, Wu Er is a great place to try.

Moonlight over the Lotus Pond (Citadelle gin, lime, kaffir lime, jasmine tea, absinthe, egg white) - a nice sour with kaffir lime and jasmine, two of my favorite ingredients!
Wu Er Wow BBW

Friday, May 6, 2016

Waxy's Modern Bar + Kitchen Opens Modern Irish Bar with Great Cocktails in Brookline (Boston, MA)

A new Irish bar just opened up in Boston's Brookline neighborhood, but don't expect a dive bar with nothing but Guinness. Waxy's Modern Bar + Kitchen is a modern Irish bar concept from Waxy O'Connor's, a departure from their previous old school pubs, and that means great craft brews and cocktails. The name comes form the term "waxy", which colloquially means a lucky event.
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The cocktails and beer list come courtesy of James O'Brien, an Ireland native who learned the trade at New York City bars. Waxy's will feature 40 rotating beers on tap. The beer list is separated by styles (cider, sours, IPAs, etc) and feature breweries such as Founders, Sixpoint, Harpoon, Firestone Walker, Allagash, etc. Not to worry, though, they'll still have Guinness and Magner's.
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As for cocktails, he's concocted some fun cocktails to fit a wide range of palates, from the Tiki-style
Shake Rattle & Rum (Three Olives Elvis coconut water vodka, The Real McCoy 5-year rum, pineapple, ginger, and Angostura bitters) ...
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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Modern Mexican Finally Hits Long Beach with Playa Amor

The newest hot spot for Mexican food in the LA area is in Long Beach, but Playa Amor doesn't just serve great, traditional Mexican dishes. What sets it apart for me is Chef Thomas Ortega's own modern take on it, like what you will find with his Mole tot poutine (tater tots, mole negro, queso, cress, cilantro, onion, $8.50)

Playa Amor
I've actually had a slightly different version of this a couple of years ago at Thomas Ortega's other restaurant, Amor Y Tacos in Cerritos. I feel that he's improved the dish even more since I like it even better now.

You may find the ubiquitous Charred brussel sprouts with a touch of Mexican flair with some cotija, lime juice, red wine vinegar, smoked jalapeno remoulade ($8.75)
Playa Amor

On the other hand, you'll also fine very well executed versions of more typical dishes like the Shrimp ceviche (Mexican shrimp, pico de gallo, citrus juice, jalapeno, garlic aioli, cabbage, cotija, corn tostada, $12).
Playa Amor

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Thirst Boston Celebrates New England Cocktail Culture on May 20-23, 2016

There are so many great cocktail bars in Boston, and what better way to explore them all (plus more New England bars) than at Boston's cocktail week, Thirst Boston? Well, lucky you, the next Thirst Boston is coming up soon on May 20-23 of 2016.

Hawthorne Thirst Boston
Thirst Boston took a hiatus but the last one in 2014 was a fun whirlwind of events! Here are some of what you can expect to happen this year, plus a recap of last year's events:

This year's opening night gala (dubbed The Thing) will take place at The Hampshire House. In addition to Boston's top bartenders, the winner of the Best Home Bartender competition will also get to showcase his/her drink here! If you're interested in entering this competition, you can still apply until April 1 (get the info here).
Thirst Boston
The gala is a night of extravaganza where cocktail lovers and bartenders don their finest garb and dance the night away - helped by live music and more than enough bar stations manned by the city's finest bartenders.

Another confirmed event is State Lines on Saturday evening, in which great bars from all over New England will hold pop-ups throughout the city!
Thirst Boston

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Happy Hour at Estate Restaurant and Bar (Santa Monica, CA)

by guest blogger @btsunoda

When the conversation at the next table is easier to hear than the person that I’m eating with, I’m generally not having a good time. This type of occurrence has been more frequent of late because many restaurants have adopted a bistro format with small tables and uncomfortable chairs. I recently had the opportunity to visit Estate Restaurant and Bar to experience their new happy hour menu, and luckily, Estate's layout provided plenty of space to diners to be comfortable.
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The interior of the Estate Restaurant and Bar is a modern take on what restaurants used to be like. Estate Restaurant and Bar has different seating areas and plush booths and individual seats. Because they don’t attempt to use every square inch of the restaurant, there is a general feeling of spaciousness. Even the bar has cushioned comfortable chairs.

Their happy hour menu had plenty of discounted food and drinks. We started off with the Tuna Crispy Wonton Tacos  ($9)
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Instead of frying taco shells, they use wonton shaped like a tortilla, just like classic tuna tartar. The contrasting colors and textures were both visually stunning and delicious. The tuna was fresh and the ginger nicely enhanced the tuna.

Char siu pizza with hoisin sauce? I had to see what that was all about.
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Monday, May 4, 2015

Southern Fare at Kendall Square's State Park (Cambridge, MA)

I'm pretty lucky to live within walking distance to Hungry Mother and its sister restaurant, State Park. State Park has more of a sports bar vibe with more casual food and beers, but you can still look for great Southern food here from the James Beard Award winning chef Barry Maiden. Instead of the refined dishes at Hungry Mother, think sandwiches, fried chicken, and the likes.

Try the Snappy's Famous Pork Chop Sandwich (chili, cole slaw, tomato, mustard, $12)

State Park

For those who are not familiar, this refers to Snappy Lunch in Mt Airy, North Carolina. The diner is famous for their pork chop sandwich where the boneless pork chop is covered in a sweet milk batter - yes, very much reminiscent of french toast. Think french toast stuffed with pork chop, then made into a sandwich with chili and cole slaw... The pork chop itself is ridiculously tender! A wondrously messy sandwich worth digging into.

Another surprise for me was the Memphis BBQ Spaghetti (pork shoulder, sarvecchio cheese, garlic bread, $12)
State Park

Who knew spaghetti would work so well with BBQ sauce? It's just a bit saltier than bolognese, with a subtle kick. Bold and sweet, served with fluffy, buttery garlic bread. This has become another favorite of mine.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cocktails and Bitters at Coco Laurent

Rivera was one of the propellers of craft cocktails in restaurants, and now one of its bartender alum, Krishna Vutla, is striking out on his own. 
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Krishna headed the bar and created the current cocktail menu at Coco Laurent in downtown LA, although he unfortunately left earlier this week. His cocktails are staying on the menu, thought, and there are quite a few exciting ones.

My favorite is the Insane Bolt, which helped Krishna win an Angostura cocktail competition. There are usually only a couple dashes of angostura bitters in cocktails but this one has 3/4 oz! It's combined with Smith and Cross rum, orgeat, and maraschino liqueur.
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Sounds crazy? It was actually really good, both sweet and dry with a really nice balance. You just have to try it.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Strong Spring Cocktail Menu at Drago Centro

Drago Centro's bar had been in a limbo recently, when their bar managers/bartenders left one after the other and no one new was coming in, but now it's made a strong comeback with Kyle Ackley's new spring menu. His face and name was familiar to me and I finally remembered that I had met him at Lexington Social House. Kyle worked at The Bungalow at the Fairmont Miramar between Lexington and Drago Centro (and was at XIV prior to Lexington).

Kyle Ackley

Grappa cocktail
I went through the whole menu starting from the lightest, Bella Bionda: Grappa, kumquat syrup, citrus, orange bitters, club soda.
Drago Centro wanted grappa cocktail because, well, it's Italian, and Kyle came up with this drink. Here you can taste the grappa but it is not too strong. It's a very refreshing drink and great for those who want something lighter in alcohol.

There are a lot of long cocktails for the spring menu, while he plans on having many stirred drinks in the fall. He also makes his own pickles and syrups.

IMG_5222The Vibrante is made with Aviation gin, sloe gin, pickled grape skins (housemade, natch), tarragon, lemon. The cocktail is tart and herbal-y, tastes almost like a shrub.

There's no shrub in here, though.  His shrub makes an appearance in the All Dolled Up: Karlsson’s vodka, Campari, vanilla rhubarb shrub, grapefruit, lemon, egg white
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This obligatory vodka drink looks like a girly drink but has more bitterness, a nice touch from the grapefruit and Campari. Ackley likes putting the two together, bitter on bitter. The Campari and the shrub are the stars here.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Savor the Midsummer Cocktails and Patio at Big Bar (Los Feliz)

It's September but it still sure is warm. That means you still have time to head over to the Big Bar in Los Feliz for their midsummer cocktails, designed to be the perfect patio drinks! Big Bar is part of the Alcove Cafe and Bakery and yes, they have a beautiful patio that you can sip them in, although we enjoy sitting at the bar watching Dan Long and his bartenders do their work.

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A few weeks ago I made my first visit to Big Bar and tasted through the midsummer cocktail menu. Here are some highlights from the menu:

I loved the Gin and Tonic cocktail.
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This was obviously not your usual gin and tonic, as you can see it's served up. The cocktail was made with Beefeater gin, quinquina, lime, bergamot, kaffir lime spray. the quinquina gave it that "tonic" flavor. You can also smell the kaffir lime as he is serving it to you.

The next one may be my favorite find that night. I can sip this one all night!
The Picon Punch is made with Amaro Montenegro, Pierre Ferrand 1840, lemon, grenadine, orange bitters
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The Picon Punch is a traditional Basque after dinner drink. Traditionally it is made with Picon but that's not available in its original form anymore so they tried to find a substitute with similar flavors. The base is Amaro so it had strong herbal flavors, but if you like that flavor profile you will love this. I thought it was really perfect to calm your tummy after dinner.

Of course, you have to try a cocktail named Most Interesting Cocktail in the World, made with Vida mezcal, lime, cinnamon syrup, Miracle Mile chocolate-chili bitters, cayenne peppers

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Preview of Trattoria Neapolis, Opening July 10 in Pasadena

There has certainly been quite a few new openings in Pasadena in the past couple of years, and there's one more to be excited about: Trattoria Neapolis on Lake Ave.

Having lived literally across the street for about 3 years, I now cannot even recall what was previously in this space next to Anthropologie. They have now renovated it into a spacious and elegant dining space, complete with a beautiful enclosed patio space by the entrance.

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A view of the bar from upstairs:
The bar at Trattoria Neapolis

Other than the food, you should also be really excited about the drink program. The owner Perry Vidalakis has really searched out some of the best in the business in every aspect.


Before the dinner started, we were all treated to a glass of Deus Brut des Flandres (Brouwerij Bosteels, Buggenhout, Belgium)
IMG_9862This biere de champagne has been one of my favorites, sometimes I crave it more than champagne.
Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune, a.k.a. The Beer Chicks, are in charge of the beer. Christina is responsible for the beer list while Hallie is acting as the in-house cicerone.
The main beer and wine list consist only of either local or Italian (with all beers on tap coming from the LA area), but there is an extensive reserve list with what they deem the best beers and wines from all over the world (the Deus obviously is on this list).
Christina had recently spent some time in Italy so this project came at the perfect time for her. She says there is a huge beer revolution there and there are over 300 breweries now in Italy, twice as many as in Belgium.


While waiting for dinner: Arancini - mini crispy lobster arancini, pickled fennel, Eureka lemon aioli
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The first two courses were paired with cocktails (that are actually created especially for this dinner. It's not on the menu but the bartenders can create "bespoke" cocktails for you).

For the cocktails, the owner has enlisted Vincenzo Marianella of Copa d'Oro, the Godfather of LA cocktail scene, to create the cocktail menu. His Italian background probably helps him pair the cocktails with the food here as well.
The first is Vincenzo's twist on a French75: Pasadena 75 with Plymouth gin, Cynar, lemon, cucumber and celery juices, prosecco
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The cocktail was bitter and aromatic, but it balances out perfectly with the beet salad:
Barbabietole - roasted baby beets, saba, grilled treviso, house made goat milk ricotta
Beet Salad
The salad had so many components to it, at the same time sweet, smoky, and bitter. The ricotta rounds it out with its creaminess. Great pairing with the cocktail, nothing overwhelms the other.

Polipo - wood grilled baby octopus with crispy "potato torta", cerignola olives, sweet tomato oil
Polipo
Think hashbrowns! That's what the crispy potato torta was like, the texture contrasting nicely with the tender baby octopus. The potato seemed to have been the star of the dish, though.

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This was paired with Ostuni, made with Partida Reposado tequila, Aperol, fresh ruby grapefruit juice, prosecco. 
(Ostuni is an area in Puglia famous for octopus.)


Vincenzo wanted to try something difficult to pair (tequila) and it worked quite nicely.


Our first pasta course was the Gnocchi - roast garlic gnocchi, smoked pork shoulder, artichoke, asparagus
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The chef, Bryant Wigger, is apparently famous for his gnocchi and I can definitely see why. These were so light and pillowy. I typically see gnocchi served with a sort of creamy sauce, and the smoked pork was a very nice departure from that. This may very well be my favorite gnocchi dish in town currently.

According to Christia Perozzi, artichoke is difficult for wine pairing but good with light, effervescent beer (which is also good with smoky flavors). She paired this with the Blond 5 from Brouwerij West, a local Los Angeles brewery. This 5% ABV Belgian style blond is fruity, citrusy, and effervescent.

Next is the Lasagna - wood grilled summer vegetables, ricotta, mascarpone
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This vegetable lasagna is a much lighter, healthier version of the standard dish - just right for the summer.

Paired with Nora, Birreria Le Baladin, Torino, Italy
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I have never had this before and this is now my new favorite beer! This beer from Piemonte is made from an ancient Egyptian recipe, using Kamut (a large Egyptian grain) and myrrh. It's fruity (notes of apricot and honey), with the malty sweetness, and just all in all amazing. If you see this beer retailing somewhere, please message me, seriously.

The entrees are paired with wine, which had been chosen by Diego Meraviglia. He wanted a list for everyone with all kinds of palates and budgets. There is a list of 50 wines under $50, and 120 wines in total (including the reserve list).

Our entrees:
Merluzzo - pan roast black cod, charred sweet corn, Manila clam broth, salsa maro (fava beans)
paired with Chardonnay, Copain, Anderson Valley 2010
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The black cod was so soft and delicate, yet the dish packed some bold flavors, especially with the corn.
The wine is a biodynamic, unoaked Chardonnay. According to Diego, it's balance between European and American style. Since black cod is a fatty fish, it needs something crisp with higher acid to cut it. 


Bistecca - wood grilled Wagyu flat iron steak, crispy Temecula honey onions, salsa verde, porcini BBQ sauce
Paired with Valpolicella "Ripasso" doc, "Il Bugiardo", Buglioni, Veneto 2008
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The flatiron cut of wagyu gives it that meaty flavor some people look for in a steak, but it's still very tender. The BBQ Sauce is made with oven dried porcini, mustard, and balsamic vinegar. Since it's sour, Diego paired it with a jammy wine to cut it. 

The Ripasso is Valpolicella which was remacerated in the pomace used to make Amarone. It's big and bold, but a middleground between the dry Valpolicella and sweet Amarone. (I'm seeing this middleground between two different styles to be a running theme here. The Chardonnay, the flatiron wagyu).

All the entrees come with a choice of a side dish, though in our tasting we more than one:
Finocchio - roasted fennel, tangerine, toasted pistachios, white balsamic
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The dish is quite sweet from the tangerine. The fennel was unusually creamy and soft.

Carciofi  - crispy artichokes, caper berries, ricotta salata, mint
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For the dessert course, we moved to the semi-private dining room upstairs:
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Panna Cotta - Greek yoghurt honey panna cotta with apricot granita, hazelnuts, and basil gelatini
Marsala Superiore, 10 years, De Bartoli, Sicilia
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Yoghurt panna cotta? Yep!
Marsala is historically a very important dessert wine but thanks to marketing and commercialization it has been relegated to cooking wine. Diego wants to show what a great dessert wine it is.

The dessert was also served with a cup of Guatemala Finca El Injerto - Bourbon varietal, single origin direct trade, French press. The restaurant uses Stumptown Coffee, who will soon be opening a roaster in Los Angeles (in early 2013), but the Trattoria's decision to exclusively use their coffee came way before that.


The panna cotta was actually great with the coffee. The Marsala was great but pairing-wise, I thought the coffee was better. 

We didn't try any of their pizza tonight, but their oven sure seemed impressive. The back part of the restaurant will be a sort of market / food-to-go section and they have tapped the former manager to Mozza 2 Go to run it.

Trattoria Neapolis will soft open with dinner service on July 10.

Trattoria Neapolis
336 S Lake Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 792-3000
trattorianeapolis.com
Trattoria Neapolis on Urbanspoon

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