Tuesday, November 30, 2010

1886 at The Raymond (Pasadena): Reliving the Heydays of Cocktail

The Raymond restaurant in Pasadena is a long-standing restaurant with about 35 years of history. Under its new ownership and management though, The Raymond is getting revitalized with a new chef, and now a new bar featuring hand crafted cocktails that pay homage to how cocktails are classically made.

Honey Nut Old Fashioned at 1886
Honey Nut Old Fashioned

The Raymond had solicited Marcos Tello and Aidan Demarest from Tello Demarest Liquid Assets as consultants of the new cocktail program, which holds true to "how cocktails used to be made": homemade syrups and hand crushed ice and all. The 1886 Bar is named after the year that The Raymond Hotel (which no longer exists) was opened. The building was actually the caretaker's cottage and the historical building is an appropriate stage for these cocktails.

The bar will officially open in early December but it is now in its soft opening stage and was already packed when I visited. The full specialty cocktail list of about 25 isn't fully available currently but you can still choose among about 10 great cocktails.

The cocktail list during the soft opening featured bold flavor and a lot of spices (think mescal with ginger or jalapeno). The honey nut old fashioned strikes strong at first taste but turns into an excellent, well balanced cocktail with a hint of nuttiness.

For the winter months, you can warm up with the Hot Cider Toddy (apple brandy, maple syrup, apple cider).
Hot Apple Cider Toddy at 1886

1886 also has an eclectic menu of bar appetizers. We started with the Hamachi sashimi with cucumber and melon, which I didn't see on the bar menu but was recommended by the manager.
Hamachi Sashimi

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Tap Room at The Langham Pasadena Launch Party

The restaurant and bar at The Langham in Pasadena have undergone a massive revamp of concept. The Dining Room, last manned by Chef Michael Voltaggio, have reopened as The Royce, headed by Chef David Féau, previously of Patina Group's Cafe Pinot. The bar is now reopened as The Tap Room and is one of the few places in Pasadena offering hand crafted cocktails (the list is expanding, thankfully, with 1886 at The Raymond).

I was able to attend their launch party about a month ago and checked out the swanky spot with its plush couches and a cozy patio overlooking the lush lawn.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tasting Spanish Olive Oil at The Bazaar: All the Things I Never Knew

Did you know that Spain is the largest olive oil producer in the world? Spain produces 52% of the worldwide olive oil while Italy produces 21%. There are 2.5 million hectares of olive trees in Spain. That's about as big as the state of Massachusetts!

I was recently invited to a tasting of olive oils from Spain led by Alfonso Fernandez Lopez from the LA trade commissioner of Spain. Different farmers from Spain have put together their resources for this event, where I learned so much about olive oils. We tasted four olive oils and proceeded to partake in a multi-course lunch prepared by the staff of Jose Andres' The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel, with each course centered around olive oil.

I have an open bottle of olive oil in my pantry that's probably been there for months. Little did I know that an open bottle of olive oil will only maintain its full aroma and flavor for 15 days!

Tasting olive oil turns out to be as rigorous as tasting wines and there are many varietals with distinct characteristics.

Monday, November 22, 2010

First Time at My Family's Own Restaurant: Kogyo (Surabaya)

There's definitely a conflict of interest here since I'm actually talking about my family's restaurant. My mom opened Kogyo on the 2nd floor of Sutos (Surabaya Town Square) in January but I haven't gone home to Indonesia since then until very recently. Finally could see and taste it for myself!

I don't want to seem like I'm promoting our own restaurant, but you know, after hearing about it for 10 months, I got excited about finally going there myself.

The whole thing started when I brought blogger friends Mattatouille and Glutster to Indonesia last year, and talking about the Kogi hype to my mom, it seemed natural that with a real Korean and a real Mexican in town, we should try making it ourselves.

It's a small and casual place with mid range prices. My mom tends to say you can't find another place serving US rib eye at our prices in town (the local beef is so much tougher compared to the marbled US beef).

The menu is mostly Korean plus some non-Korean items my mom is proud of (like her niu ru mien aka beef noodle soup which seems to have a small following of its own). There are people who come a couple times a week just to have the beef noodle soup.
Photo by my brother.

Our most popular item is probably the Durian Mochi.
Durian Mochi

The chewy mochi skin is made fresh and the mochi is filled with cream and real durian monthong! I've never had anything like it before and loved it. Props to my mom for thinking up something like this.

I try helping out with the menu by suggesting some items. So far I've contributed Pat Bing Su (aka Korean shaved ice), and soon dubu is not far in the future ..

I never told my mom about the Kyochon/Bonchon hype here, but she must've known about Korean fried chicken from somewhere else, since I found these fried chicken wings with sweet and spicy plum sauce on the menu.

I didn't get to try everything, since we still ate at home or went out to other places to eat while I was there, but I really like their burrito too. Guess I'll have to wait until 2012 to try the rest.

Kogyo BBQ
Surabaya Town Square (SUTOS) unit 1-46 (2nd floor)
Surabaya, Indonesia

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Luggage Room Pizzeria Brings Much-Needed Good Pizza to Pasadena

I’m pretty excited about the new food places that had opened their doors in Pasadena lately, from Cham to Intelligentsia and now: The Luggage Room, the pizzeria attached to La Grande Orange, housed in the old luggage room of the Pasadena train station (hence the name).

I received an email invitation for dinner during the first week they opened. When I went the place was already teeming with customers.

Luggage Room Pizzeria

The menu features a short but varied list of appetizers and pizzas, just enough to please everyone.
We started the bacon wrapped dates ($9) which dangerously came in half-dozens.
Bacon wrapped Dates

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dining (and Drinking) at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (Edinburgh, UK)

Scotch Malt Whisky SocietyThe Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a members-only club where you can enjoy specially bottled and rare whiskies from around the world. While a membership will cost £100, it turns out that the Edinburgh location (their first location) has an attached restaurant that is open to the public. Getting an affirmative answer to whether or not we can get their society whiskies at the restaurant, I booked a table of twelve to celebrate a colleague’s birthday.

Celebrating your birthday in Edinburgh drinking whiskies? Lucky dog.
Our party was big enough to warrant getting their private room (we feel special!)

The food at SMWS is indeed expensive, especially considering the currency conversion, but apparently if you come early enough they have a special 3-course menu that’s reasonably priced. Alas, we didn’t make the cut and had to order a la carte.

We each started with a wee dram our server had recommended: 21 year aged Glenkichie, cask strength.


Then, amuse bouche. Where else would your amuse bouche comes with a glass of whisky?

Edinburgh, UK

Casual Dining
Tea Tree Tea
The Verandah

Ghillie Dhu
Whiski Restaurant and Bar

Fine Dining
The Kitchin
Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Demijohn, The Liquid Deli

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

SUGARFISH: Quality Sushi, "Everyday Luxury"

Emmanuele (Lele) Massimini and his friends were avid fans of Sushi Nozawa and made the trek from Santa Monica to Studio City every week for Chef Kazunori Nozawa's sushi. When Chef Nozawa mentioned his concept of bringing his high quality sushi at a cheaper price to them, the SUGARFISH team was born.

Photo courtesy of SUGARFISH

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Corkbar: Test Kitchen Tuesdays, Gougeres, and Pork Sliders

This warm and spacious downtown wine bar is designed by Ana Henton (who also designed Intelligentsia Venice), with nice touches like the hanging shelves of empty wine bottles.

Corkbar, Downtown Los Angeles

Corkbar's wine list is dedicated to California wines, and so is their beer list for the most part. The food menu changes seasonally with some mainstay items. I was invited by their PR to taste their new Fall menu, although since I have never been, I tried a lot of their somewhat permanent items.

Every Tuesday, Corkbar holds what's called TKT or Test Kitchen Tuesdays, where Chef Albert Aviles will try out and serve a new dish for just $2. Last week it was a bowl of Chile Verde, for which chef Aviles even called his mother for her recipe.
Chile Verde
Chili meets chile verde for a hearty, spicy bowl. For $2, they gave very generous portions.

One don't-miss appetizer is the Cheddar Cheese Gougeres ($7)
Cheddar Gougeres

Thursday, November 4, 2010

An Appeal: Donate to Indonesia Disaster Victims

You may know that Indonesia, my home country, has been hit with three natural disasters in the past month, from earthquake and tsunami to volcano eruption. I'd like to take a page in this blog to raise awareness and hope to get some people to make a donation for the victims of these disasters.

smoke burning
 Villages covered in ash after Merapi volcano eruption
Photo by satria_adi1

The 7.7 magnitude earthquake and 3m (that's 10 feet) tsunami in Mentawai, Sumatra now has a toll of 400 deaths and 300 missing, with hundreds still injured. Six villages were destroyed and about 12,800 people are currently living in camps. Building temporary shelters, feeding and healing the victims, as well as rebuilding what once was a surfer's paradise will require a lot of help and resources.

If you'd like to make a donation to the Mentawai victims, you can do so through SurfAid International
 or Food for the Hungry.


The Merapi volcano in Central Java (one of the most active volcanoes in the world) erupted yet again yesterday, spewing hot smoke all day long. This was the fourth eruption since it first erupted just a little over a week ago. On top of the death and injured tolls, about 20,000 people have been evacuated from their homes which may have been burnt or covered in ash. That's 20,000 people who will need shelter, food, and medicine. Worse yet, they fear Merapi will continue to erupt over the next month.

If you would like to help the injured and evacuated children victims of Merapi, you can donate through Save the Children.

Any of your help would be greatly appreciated by these victims.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Star(Chef)-Studded Iron Chef Dinner at Sashi

This past summer, Chef Makoto Okuwa of Sashi in Manhattan Beach challenged Chef Michael Symon on Food Network's show Iron Chef. This wasn't the first time Chef Okuwa is on the Iron Chef show, as he was actually Iron Chef Morimoto's sous chef before opening Sashi, but this was the first time he's there on his own.

To celebrate his appearance, Sashi set up a special dinner filled with superstar chefs including Iron Chef Morimoto himself, Top Chef Master Michael Voltaggio (who lives nearby and is a big fan of Sashi), Noriyuki Sugie (Ironnori/Breadbar), chef Sonny Sweetman (Exec chef of Wolfgang Puck), and chef Waylynn Lucas (Exec pastry chef of Patina).

Iron Chef Morimoto

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