Monday, August 29, 2011

Margarita Dinner at Border Grill

Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's Border Grill may very well be the restaurant that popularized Mexican food in LA back in the day. The Santa Monica restaurant is as popular as ever, but they're trying to keep things fresh by holding special events, such as the Margarita Dinner I recently attended.

The margarita dinner is a 5-course dinner prepared by Executive Chef Alex Moreno, each paired with a cocktail (well, the last pairing is nonalcoholic). The cocktails for this dinner were all made with Greenbar Collective spirits, a Los Angeles-based company that makes all organic spirits and bitters.

Hoja Santa ShrimpWe started our meal with a Grilled Oja Santa Shrimp and farmers market tomato mint tea.
We were supposed to alternate between bites of the crispy-fried shrimp and sips. The tomato mint "tea" was a little salty, though.

The dish was served with a Cucumber Mint Gin and Tonic, made with Tru organic gin, cucumber, and mint.
Cucumber Mint Gin Tonic
The herbal notes of the Tru gin was pretty strong.

Second course: Abalone and California Avocado Ceviche, lime cured, heirloom cherry tomatoes, persian cucumbers

Abalone Ceviche
This was an unusual ceviche. Not only do I rarely encounter an abalone ceviche, this was mixed in with an avocado sauce which lends the dish a nice creaminess instead of the strongly acidic lemon juice normally associated with ceviche.
As soon as the first course was taken away, they brought out the next cocktail: Ginger Lemon Drop, Tru organic vodka, meyer lemon, ginger syrup
Ginger Lemon Drop
While I don't normally order vodka drinks, I do like gingery drinks quite a bit and so I enjoyed this drink much better than the first.

Third cocktail: Spiced Grapefruit Fizz, Crusoe organic spiced rum, homemade grapefruit soda
Spiced Grapefruit Fizz
It took some time to get used to the strong aftertaste of this spiced rum, but in the end I was able to get the taste of the grapefruit soda.

Squash Blossom Relleno, preserved lemon, crema, homemade requesón cheese
Squashblossom Relleno
Instead of a chile, this was a squash blossom stuffed with cheese. Atop the toasted bread, it acted as a creamy topping.

Curried Margarita with Ixa organic silver tequila, hand muddled lime, curry neem leaves, agave
Curried Margarita
This was definitely my favorite cocktail of the night. I originally thought it would be weird, based on the name alone, but the neem leaves really added a nice aroma. The cocktail was balanced, not too sweet.
I knew Greenbar Collective has a distillery in Los Angeles, and that tequila officially can only be made from the blue agave from the state of Jalisco and a few other areas in Mexico, so I had to ask the owner if their tequila was really "tequila". Turns out, they do actually make their tequila in Jalisco, so it is indeed a true tequila.

So far the portions have been on the smaller side, and I was getting worried I wouldn't get enough to eat. Turns out I didn't have to worry as the main attraction was still coming:
Seeded Lamb Chop, grilled heirloom tomato, grilled romano beans, spiced corn pinwheels
Lamb Chop
Easily everyone's favorite dish of the night, the lamb was cooked to tender perfection and the flavors accentuated by sesame seed crust. The spiced corn was unusually sweet. I asked the chef how it was made and as he didn't add any sweetener, perhaps the spices brought out the sweetness of the corn even more?

Farmers Market Fruit Crisp, custom blended ice cream. Served with with LaMill Mini Café de Olla, spiced mexican latte, LaMill dark roast espresso, cinnamon, orange zest, allspice, clove, piloncillo sugar
Fruit Crisp
The fruit in the crisp was dried, unfortunately, but we did love the almond cookie topping it. The Café de Olla warmed us up on that cool night by the beach - lightly sweet, nicely spiced. I just wished I could get a big mug of it.
Chef Susan Feniger
Chef Susan Feniger
The dinner costs $59 or $49 if you are a VIP Club member (you can ask a Border Grill manager how to become a member). Considering the average price for cocktails these days are $12 each, this dinner was quite a deal! The next Margarita Dinner is Thursday, October 27 and will have a Day of the Dead theme, so call them at (310) 451-1655 if you'd like to attend.

Border Grill
1445 4th St
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 451-1655
Border Grill on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: this meal was hosted.


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