Thursday, March 29, 2012

Culver City Bar Crawl: Oldfield's Liquor Room and Bigfoot West

The 1933 Group is taking over Venice Blvd in Culver City with bars. This portion of Venice seems a strange place for bars, with nothing much around it but dry cleaners and liquor stores, but both Oldfield's Liquor Room and Bigfoot West were packed on a Thursday night.

I was recently invited to a "bar crawl" to visit both Westside bars for the first time. We started the night at Oldfield's, and we started fast and furious. The standalone building looks old and small from the outside, but the interior is spacious and sophisticated. We were greeted by a bowl of the Shrub Punch (Tru organic gin, Clemente Creole shrub, blackberry rosemary shrub, lemon, Perrier). Shrub, a liqueur made with vinegar, is making a big comeback recently and I've seen it appear on many cocktail lists from LA to NY to Chicago see this NYT article back in October). I, for one, am a big fan of shrub and loved this punch, but looking at how many cocktails we had ahead of us, I had to resist getting seconds.

The cocktail menu is divided into their own modern concoctions, and the classics. We started on the first list with the Speed King (English Harbour 5yr rum, walnut liqueur, Cynar, house chocolate stout liqueur)

Photo courtesy of Oldfield's
I liked the hint of chocolate in this otherwise strong drink. I wasn't sure what to expect from the cocktails here but they were surprisingly good.
Next we had the Peerless (Miller's Westbourne gin, apricot liqueur, apricot nectar, Fever Tree ginger beer). This was my favorite, and easy to see why: gin, fruit, and ginger. Aromatic, sweet, and refreshing.

from the Classics menu:
Delicious Sour (circa late 1800's): Laird's Strait Bonded Applejack, peach brandy, fresh lime, egg white
Photo courtesy of Oldfield's
This was a little too sweet for me, but it will certainly have its own fans.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Foodbuzz 24x24: Grant Achatz' Exclusive Speakeasy, The Office

The Office is the invitation-only 14-seat speakeasy behind a locked door underneath The Aviary. For this last Chicago trip, my friends suggested that I just try to ask for a reservation for The Office. I did, hoping that the fact that they link to my review of The Aviary's Kitchen Table might hold some sway. I guess it must have since they replied back with a reservation at 6pm on a Saturday!!!

At 6pm there was already a line for The Aviary. We went to the doorman and told him we had a reservation at The Office. Soon, they led us inside, down the stairs to an unmarked door in the basement. Just like a speakeasy should be, it's a quiet, small room with leather chairs and sofas. There was one bartender for about 14-15 customers when the room is full.

The Office

I've read about the cocktails and the food at The Office, but their leather bound menu actually also features an extensive collection of whisky, wine, and beers.
The Office
Our friendly waitress suggested that we start with something "light and effervescent" like a sparkling wine or beer. Since we actually have never had quite a few beers on their list, we took up her suggestion. The service is quite personal here and she went through what we might want with each of us, also asking us what we do and where we're from. You certainly won't get this level of service upstairs at The Aviary.

The Aviary had tweeted about Mikkeller beers being the best in the world, so I wanted to try one. I went with one of their lightest, the Mikkeller American Dream Pils, Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium ($12). One of the others ordered the Evil Twin Brewing Williamsberg Hipster.
I mentioned that both of those beers had very similar aroma and the waitress told us that the Mikkeller and Evil Twin brewers are actually brothers (we liked the good twin better).

We also tried the Allagash Odyssey; Allagash never disappoints - and we enjoyed embarking on this oak cask-aged beer journey.

Unlike The Aviary, the cocktails at The Office tends towards the more classical. Each cocktail features one type of spirit, which is what you would tell your waitress when you order. Yes, the cocktails are $20 each but with the quality, ambiance, and personal service we'll take it (ok, maybe not every weekend).

The first one we tried was the Cognac, tonka, quassia, smoked black pepper, vanilla bean (note the ice, hand carved into a sphere).

The food menu is succinct. Foie gras terrine. Beef tartar. But this is Achatz after all. Despite the price we had to try the Foie gras terrine w black truffle and chive ($65)
Foie Gras Terrine
served with kumquat preserves, brioches toast, frisee

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Caliche Rum Launch Party

To celebrate its launch in Los Angeles, Caliche Rum converted the Stone Rose Lounge at The Sofitel hotel into a Puerto Rican party house. Fedoras were given out and a photo room were decorated with bottles of Caliche and aging barrels. Celebs like Cindy Crawford were supposedly in attendance (although I didn't see any).

Caliche Rum
Inside the lounge, there were basic drinks like rum with ginger beer, a creamy coconut concoction, and others. Appetizers like empanadas and chicken tinga tacos made the round. Trying the rum itself, it was pretty smooth and smells sweet and coconut-y. Upon venturing out into the patio, who do I see? Michel Dozois! What a pleasant surprise!
Michel Dozois
At his station, Michel and his crew were making four of the more "interesting" cocktails.
Our favorite was the Cali Kick: Caliche rum, Thai chili, fresh lemon juice, cream
Cali Kick

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sadie (Hollywood)

The former Les Deux lounge space had been transformed into a Sadie Restaurant, with a beautiful, quiet, large back patio: a dining space that's a respite from the Hollywood scene (at least before the Hollywood drinking crowd starts hitting the bar inside).

Sadie Patio
Other food and cocktail bloggers have had great things to say about Sadie and their cocktails (and food), so I looked forward to checking it out with LA & OC Foodie. The cocktail list indeed look quite interesting.
We started with the La China: lychee black-tea infused Avion Silver Tequila, fresh lime juice, organic agave syrup, Velvet Falernum ($12), and Kentucky Ninja: Japanese single malt whisky, bourbon, fresh lemon juice, lavender-infused wild honey, served in a Peychaud-rinsed glass ($13)
La China
Both of them were a great start to the night. Kentucky Ninja is one of the most popular cocktails at Sadie, and I can definitely see why. A strong drink but sweet and balanced.

Recently, Chef Mark Gold of Eva Restaurant had jumped on board as a consulting chef at Sadie, so the menu has slowly been changing and Gold will soon be launching a new Spring menu. Some of the things I had are still on the menu now, like these oysters:
Oysters, Deer Isle, Maine (1/2 dozen blue hill blonde oysters, $18)

Market Chop salad: kale, beets, cucumber, peas, carrots, quinoa, lemon vinaigrette ($11)
Kale Quinoa

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Check Out Plan Check: Craft Cocktails on Sawtelle

There have been plenty of exciting new places on Sawtelle recently, including Tsujita and their amazing tsukemen, but Plan Check brings something completely new to Little Osaka: cocktails! I've been looking forward to the opening since learning that Pablo Moix and Steve Livigni are consulting and created the cocktail menu for this new place.

I was able to attend their friends and family night before the official opening, where they brought out the signature dishes for us to try. The kitchen menu is the creation of Ernesto Uchimura, the chef who was at Umami when they first opened, so think heavy drinking food: burgers, fried chicken, and the likes just a stone's throw away from all the curry and tofu houses.

Out of the two burgers we tried I liked the Bleuprint Burger: akaushi red wagyu beef, smoked blue cheese, pig candy (candied bacon), fried onions, steak sauce, peppercress, "crunch bun" ($11)

Bleuprint Burger
The buns are made especially this restaurant and they described it as a Portuguese milk bun with extra crunch. I liked how it's moist and sweet, though it makes the burger a tad richer. There's a lot going on in this burger, as you can see, but since I liked every component, I enjoyed it as a whole.

Their "standard" burger is the Plan Check Burger with akaushi red wagyu beef, americanized (?) cheese, ketchup leather, onions, pickles, "crunch bun" ($10)
Plan Check Burger
You've probably read about the "ketchup leather" elsewhere, but yes. Remember the fruit leathers you might have had as a kid? They've made their ketchup into one of those, to avoid the buns getting soggy from ketchup. I think I still like regular ketchup better, though, since it's a bit drier with the "leather." You can taste the flavors of the wagyu patty better in this simpler burger.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Giveaway! Toasting Package from I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! has asked me to host a giveaway for this lovely gift package - good for all your classy party needs! This was the gift I was supposed to receive at their recent Red Carpet Viewing party but I wasn't able to make it.

In the package are a set of four Crate and Barrel champagne glasses, a metal Ralph Lauren serving tray,
cute ICBINB-related glass charms
a beautiful decorated spreader
and a set of four toast-shaped coasters!
There is also a coupon for I Can't Believe It's Not butter and a set of recipes included in your package.

Pretty good package, if I may say so myself! Want them to send you one? Just enter my giveaway:

1. Leave a comment below with your email address by midnight of Tuesday, March 20.
2. Get an extra entry by tweeting: "Win a gift package w champagne glasses, serving tray and more from @ICBINOTButter on @gourmetpigs!"
3. For new "fans", get an extra entry by liking my facebook page.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Load Up on Cocktails and Bites at AMMO

I had been meaning to go to AMMO for a while but had never made it even after a couple of changes on the kitchen helm, but I was recently invited in to try the new cocktail and bar bites menu. The new cocktail menu had gotten a lot of good press and it was definitely time for me to go.

Blood Orange CrushI brought LAOCFoodie as my plus one, since we're tasting cocktails after all and I knew he could handle it!
We decided to both start with something "bubbly" and I ordered the Blood Orange Crush (Bele Casel Prosecco, Aperol, blood orange juice, fresh thyme - $11)

LAOCFoodie ordered the beer cocktail which, coincidentally, was just mentioned in an LA Times article about beer cocktails that morning:
Belgium Sunrise (Allagash White ale, Lindemans Lambic Framboise, frambeau liquor - $10)

Beer cocktail
The Crush is pretty light and sweet. A good cocktail to start off with, though I think I actually liked the beer cocktail better - perhaps because I like Lindemans Lambic.

Since we were invited to try the cocktails and the bar menu, we stuck with the bar bites for our dinner.
I already knew I wanted to try their not-mac-and-cheese, the baked penne with aged white cheddar, fresh thyme, and breadcrumbs ($8)
Mac n Cheese
It turned out to be my favorite thing that night, with its gooey, strong melted cheddar! I've always liked the texture of penne better than macaroni anyway.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Single Serving Pies from Cutie Pie That!

Have you ever passed up on buying a pie because you didn't think you could finish the whole thing? Cutie Pie That! in Pasadena specializes in single-serving pies and "lollipies" (a lollipop-heart-shaped pie), solving that problem.

The lollipie ($2) was my favorite thing I tried. There wasn't really any "filling" in the one I got but I liked the sugar dusted crust.

They also have a Maple Bacon Apple Pie ($6 for 4" pie) for all you bacon lovers. You definitely get some saltiness/savoriness, although I personally could use more bacon in it! I'd like to try their "Wondrous Winter Apple Pie" and see how they do the staple.
Apple Bacon Pie

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Junoon, a Michelin-starred Indian? (New York)

An Indian restaurant with a Michelin star? I couldn't really imagine it with the Indian places in LA, but I'm sure London would have plenty great restaurants and it seems like NYC is trying to catch up with Chef Vikas Khanna's Junoon.

Lunch was a great opportunity to dip our feet into Junoon, with their $24 deal for 3 course prix-fixe (limited menu) or $38 for 3 course a la carte prix-fixe (can order from the entire menu). The spacious and lavish decor is certainly Michelin-star worthy.

I was curious about the dishes on the regular menu, so I had the a la carte prix fixe while my companions ordered the $24 deal. For the appetizer, I went with the Adraki Bater (quail marinated in cumin, ginger juice, and lime juice)

Adraki Bater
These tandoori quail may be my favorite dish that we tried. It was both interesting and very flavorful and moist.

DestinationEats ordered the Piri Piri Shrimp in a Goan chili sauce with avocado and jicama salad
PiriPiri Shrimp
Not as spicy as Indian food can be but packed with spices nonetheless, and the shrimp were well cooked.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

8 Flavors of Xiao Long Bao at Paradise Dynasty (Indonesia)

A restaurant chain in Asia is taking Xiao Long Bao (XLB) to another level with eight different flavors of XLB. At Paradise Dynasty, which has locations in Singapore and Indonesia, you can get XLB with black truffles, foie gras, cheese, ginseng, garlic, crab roe, and szechuan flavor (and of course, there's the original).

The XLBs were about the same price as Din Tai Fung, but if you order the sampler (a basket of all 8 flavors, they can get pretty expensive). If you know what you want to try or have a lot of people to share with, I'd suggest getting a basket of individual flavors.

Paradise XLB

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Brunch at M.B. Post (Manhattan Beach, CA)

I knew that the bacon cheddar biscuits at MB Post would be perfect for brunch. What I didn't know was that Chef David LeFevre had a lot more under his sleeves.

We even went from sweets to savory to sweets again. While waiting for the fourth person in our group to arrive, we started nibbling on the Sticky Buns with pecan and brown sugar ($6). This one's a must-get for the sweet-toothed, or just to share with the group.


Between the four of us, we tried many a great cocktails ($12 each), from the Last Rites (Sangria with Compass Box “Oak Cross” Scotch, lambrusco, pear, quince, hibiscus) to the Bloody Mary-derivative, the Coughlin’s Law (Tito’s Vodka, Belgian Pilsner, tomato, dill, bacon, and quail egg) and MO-PHO-JITO (mojito w/ starr, kaffir lime, mint, ginger, coriander honey).

A bowl of oro blanco grapefruit salad with grapes and honey is a lovely way to either start or finish light.
Oro Blanco
The fruits in this bowl was so sweet and fresh, they barely needed anything else!

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