Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Cocktails: The Bloody Holiday at Waterloo & City

The holiday season has rolled around again and now that the Thanksgiving meal has been consumed thoughts naturally wander to what can I drink in December that is seasonal and delicious. For many a bar, the answer will be something warm, like cider or nog, but at Waterloo & City, they have opted to imbue the spices and aromas of December into a chilled ruby red cocktail, the Bloody Holiday.

What could be more festive than a blood red cocktail, full of liquor and spices? What is in this licentious libation you ask? Dark rum, fresh cranberry puree, ginger beer and holiday spices would be the answer from beyond the grave. Fresh cranberries (none of that canned stuff) smashed into a pliable puree are mixed with ginger beer, nutmeg and other festive spices and given the sturdy base of a dark rum to form a cohesive whole in your glass.  The cocktail is garnished with lime peel and is served on the rocks.

As the ice used at Waterloo & City is small, which melts quickly, that only spurs you to drink it quickly, lest it get diluted.  A cocktail that impels you to drink it quickly?  Very much in the holiday spirit.

Photo courtesy of Carolos Tomazos

Waterloo & City: 12517 West Washington Blvd, Culver City. Phone: (310) 391-4222.  Website:

Churros Calientes: Stick to the Churros and Win Big

Churros Calientes opened at the end of September.  The Spanish churros joint is the brainchild of Chef Eric Bonillo, formerly with Drago Centro, and a Venezuelan actor.  Unlike the Mexican churros you may be familiar with, the churros at Churros Calientes are thin and delicate.  The short menu also includes sandwiches (either paninis or bocadillos), salads and soups, as well as a variety of coffees and teas.

I recently visited to check out their churros and ordered the signature churros con chocolate.  The chocolate is both a dipping sauce and a drink and is thick, with a consistency similar to a milkshake but hot, smoother and more syrupy.  The churros are made to order so they are served piping hot and are delicious.

The hot chocolate served with them is also quite good and an essential component.  You can order the dish without the hot chocolate but that would be a poor decision.  The churros are a small snack and are not inexpensive, so they may be a questionable value proposition for some people.

I also tried the tortilla espanola bocadillo sandwich which was pretty mediocre.  This dish is not recommended as it didn't have a lot of flavor.  I lived in Spain for six months and had tortilla dozens of times and this was a subpar version of the dish that would be disappointing even as a free tapa.

Overall Churros Calientes is a great spot to grab a coffee or to get their signature churros con chocolate ($5), but unfortunately its not a place I can recommend for a quick meal, even though its practically next door to a movie theater.  Stick to the dessert and you will be a happy camper.

Churros Calientes: 11521 Santa Monica Blvd (between Barrington & Sawtelle). West LA.  Phone: (424) 248-3890.  Website:

Hemingway's Lounge: Havana Cool in Hollywood

Hemingway's Lounge opened up a month ago in Hollywood in half of the former Ivar space, right on Hollywood Blvd. It is decorated as a homage to its namesake, Ernest Hemingway, and has one of the top bartenders in Los Angeles, Alex Straus, behind the bar in addition to having him create the cocktail program.

The lounge has extremely high ceilings which make the room feel even larger.  The walls, including above the bar and on the columns, are covered in books; over 10,000 in all.  One wall is also covered in dozens of typewriters.  Unlike La Descarga, which is styled after Havana during the Hemingway era, Hemingway's is all comfortable writers study, less weathered cantina, although like Descarga, Hemingway's takes reservations.

Straus is currently serving his signature winter cocktails including what has been reported to be a killer eggnog, known as Hemingway's Nog.  While you sip the hot cocktails to warm you up on these unseasonably cold fall nights, there is a DJ spinning to get your juices flowing.  The cocktail menu includes several named after Ernest's literary classics, such as The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.

Befitting its Hollywood location, Hemingway's comes complete with bouncer and velvet rope, but if you remember to call ahead and make a reservation, you can sail past the guardians with ease and prepare to enjoy your Hemingway daiquiri in this luxe environment.  And if you have too many libations, don't try and run off with one of the books; they are glued into the bookshelves.

Some nights are busier than others and Saturday when the bar is only open from 10 pm - 2 am, Hemingway's attracts the nightclub crowd who may be more interested in a vodka cranberry than a well crafted Manhattan, so plan accordingly.

Hemingways Lounge: 6356 Hollywood Blvd @ Ivar.  Hollywood.  Phone: (323) 469-0040.  Website: 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wayfare Tavern: Tyler Florence's San Francisco Brasserie

Wayfare Tavern is a handsome American brasserie in the former Rubicon space in San Francisco's Financial District.  The new restaurant is owned by chef Tyler Florence, a Food Network staple, and opened in June.  The multilevel space includes both a traditional bar and a chef's counter with seats looking into the open kitchen. I sat at the "chef's counter" last week with a friend as we created a three course menu of beef to sample Florence's menu.

Meals at Wayfare Tavern begin with a complementary popover (above), which was warm and puffy.  We had a lot of food coming so didn't do much damage to these, as they were fine, but nothing to jump up and down about.  We began our beef adventure with the Steak Tartare (below), which is described as containing "French mustard dressing, shallots, capers, organic egg yolk, Tabasco."  This was a well executed version of the standard.  It was served with toasts (not enough, although they promptly brought out more upon request). The meat had a real beefy flavor and the Tabasco sauce provided a kick.  It was both attractively presented and delicious.  We ordered the half order; I'd be very impressed if a single person could eat the whole order by themselves.

We followed that up with “THE BONE”, organic beef bone marrow, rutabaga jam, soft herbs, pickled shallot.  I love bone marrow and so was excited when this dish arrived at our table.  It was cut lengthwise, so it was like a long trough rather than a narrow cylinder; so no need for marrow spoons.  However, "the bone" tasted more of the crust of bread crumbs than it did of the marrow.  The ratio of breading to marrow was just too heavy and it didn't have the rich finesse a dish like this should.  Disappointing.

To finish up the trio of beef, we split the Wayfare Burger “Le Grand" - grass-fed proprietary grind, Mt. Tam cheese, roasted onion, smoked bacon, brioche.  We asked for the bacon on the side and they graciously accommodated.  They split the burger for us in the kitchen, which was very much appreciated.  In addition they provided us each with a serving of french fries so we didn't have to share a communal portion.  The burger was good but did not earn a place in the upper echelon of San Francisco burgers.  Florence should walk a few blocks to Bix if he wants to see how to serve an amazing burger.  We had asked for our burger medium rare and it came out medium, but even a few seconds less on the grill would not have made the difference.

Overall while no dish was poor, we were one for three in dishes as to whether we'd order them again.  The service was gracious and efficient and the kitchen was thoughtful in splitting the burger in the kitchen.  It is a comfortable room; I just wish the food had been better.  The prices were also very fair, especially considering the "celebrity chef" ownership.  I have never seen any of Tyler Florence's programs, so I wouldn't have recognized him had he walked through the dining room, but don't expect him to be cooking, he is a media personality with several projects in Marin & Napa in addition to his television commitments.

Reservations are highly recommended although you can snag seats at the bar or chef's counter without them.  Lastly although I did not have them, I don't think I could order the deviled eggs after seeing them being filled out of a gallon size pastry bag that seemed to have endless amounts of egg yolk filling.

Wayfare Tavern: 558 Sacramento Street, (between Montgomery & Sansome), San Francisco.  Phone: (415) 772-9060.  Website:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monterey Bay: Come Ashore at Phil's Fish Market in Moss Landing

Phil's Fish Market & Eatery is in Moss Landing, smack dab in the middle of the Monterey Bay crescent, about half way between Santa Cruz and Monterey.  In addition to a fish market, they are a restaurant serving everything from the sea.  I recently had the opportunity to have a lite bite for lunch with three like-minded souls.

We ordered a variety of items to share, including the fried artichoke hearts (above) and the garlic bread (below).  The fried artichoke hearts were nice and crunchy and were dusted with parmesan cheese.  The garlic bread was piping hot and somehow soft and crunchy at the same time.  They were not shy about putting garlic in the garlic bread; thankfully.

The fish and chips comes in several varieties; we opted for the traditional cod.  The batter was light and airy and the fish was served on a pile of lightly salted french fries.  With a squeeze of lemon, this dish was a winner, although I am glad we shared as it would have been tough to eat all that fried food by myself.

Another standout were the grilled sardines (below).  They were served whole but it was easy to separate the flesh from the tiny bones to enjoy the fish.  This was a simple dish done right that exemplifies what Phil's does well.  Fish and chips, sardines, cioppino etc are their stock in trade; this is not the spot for seared fish in a delicate broth.

The picture below should give you a sense of our light lunch.

The website has a great webcam of the beach in front of the restaurant.  If you get there soon, you can enjoy fresh local Dungeness crab in season.  Apparently Phil's was featured in an episode of Bobby Flay's Throwdown focusing on cioppino.

Phil's: 7600 Sandholdt Rd. Moss Landing, CA 95039 Phone: (831) 633-2152. Website:

Casa Vega puts the tinsel in your holiday season

If you want the kind of restaurant where they have overflowing tinsel hanging from the ceiling in November (and perhaps more of the year), Mexican food with a lot of melted cheese, inexpensive margaritas during happy hour and long waits if you arrive after 6 pm, then Casa Vega is for you.  It is one of those San Fernando Valley institutions that has been on the Boulevard forever, in this case more than 40 years.

Meals at Casa Vega begin with bowls of the saltiest tortilla chips I have ever eaten.  I like salt, a lot.  But these chips were a whole new level of saltiness; just two or three would likely exceed the recommended sodium intake for the day.  The margarita I had was strong but also salty and I was drinking it through a straw, not the heavily salted rim.

Many of the meals come with a salad or your choice of tortilla soup or albondigas (meatball) soup to begin.  I choose the tortilla soup, which was fine and thankfully not oversalted.  The combination of chicken tamale and chicken enchilada was huge.  It was enough food to feed two people easily.  The enchilada was average as was the tamale.  The service was decent and they were good natured about serving our large party, which can't have been easy.

I can't really see the attraction of Casa Vega unless you are either nearby in the Valley during happy hour and want a cheap margarita or are hungry late night as they stay open until 2 am.  You could easily do better than this for dinner at a normal time, and the waits are legendary.  No reservations, of course.

Casa Vega: 13301 Ventura Blvd @ Fulton, Sherman Oaks.  Phone: (818) 788-4868.  Website:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bar Agricole in SF: Vaporware No More

In Silicon Valley, vaporware refers to products that are announced long before they exist and often times never actually launch.  Frequently the product announcements are made to stake out ground and or scare off competition.  Bar Agricole was announced by founder Thad Vogler in October of 2008 and it was scheduled to open in March 2009.  Months went by and Vogler was perpetually referred to as of the upcoming Bar Agricole, but the opening date kept getting postponed and in the interim Smugglers Cove arrived, 15 Romolo was revamped, Comstock Saloon swung its doors wide open and more than a handful of other quality programs debuted.  It was beginning to look like Bar Agricole was more vaporware than real and that it might have been a mirage rather than an oasis.  It finally opened in August 2010 and the acclaim has been loud and close to universal.  The vaporware sobriquet may soon fade away as all people can remember is how much they enjoyed their cocktails and food.

On a recent evening, I had the Tequila Daisy which was part of the launch list but is not on the current cocktail list.  It included a spicy homemade agent that gave it a kick.  Lemon, vermouth and apricot preserve also added to the mix.  Not as fiery as Cana's Tijuana Death March but a deserving member of the spicy cocktail pantheon.

The Presidente made with Haitian Rum, farmhouse curacao, grenadine and orange bitters was another highlight of our brief visit to Bar Agricole.  We had already eaten dinner so were unable to muster the strength to sample the food section of the menu, but the braised artichoke sounds like a winner.  From the cocktail list, the Tequila Fix with lime, pineapple gum and orange bitters is next on my list to try.

The room itself is cool with undulating glass sculptures/chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and a huge outdoor patio in the front off of the street.  I suspect that for my purposes it will work best as a cocktail bar/lounge with snacks rather than as a spot to have dinner.  The cocktail list includes fifteen drinks, all only $10.  This is a great value in central San Francisco, especially for cocktails of this quality.  Surprisingly only three of the fifteen cocktails on the list contain the namesake ingredient, Rhum Agricole.  The sleek environment, talented bartending staff and interesting cocktail menu make Bar Agricole the kind of establishment one is happy to take several visits to fully explore.  Oh, and did I mention they take reservations?

Bar Agricole: 355 11th Street, SOMA, San Francisco.  Phone: (415) 355-9400.  Website:

The Macallan Cire Perdue sets whiskey auction record; lives up to "water of life" moniker

Jamie Ritchie, Head of Sotheby's Wine, presiding over the auction of the Cire Perdue Auction in New York.

The Macallan Cire Perdue, 64 year aged Macallan in a one of a kind Lalique decanter, sold for a record $460,000 in a New York auction on Monday night.  At Sotheby's flagship in Manhattan, an undisclosed buyer purchased the crystal decanter and its precious contents.  All the proceeds will go to benefit charity: water, a non-profit that brings clean potable drinking water to communities that lack it.

The Sotheby's auction room was full and the bidding was fast and furious between those in the salon and those on the phone who coveted the unique offering.  The world record for a bottle of whiskey far exceeds the previous $160,000 for a bottle of the Dalmore Trinitas earlier this year, which was the first Scotch to sell for over $100,000.  For comparison purposes, in 2007 a bottle of the Macallan 1926 sold for $54,000.

charity: water founder Scott Harrison spoke before the auction began to inspire the bidders.
The combination of the custom made Lalique decanter made using the antique lost wax method, the oldest whiskey ever released by Macallan, the opportunity to help a charity and the ability to own something that nobody else has drove the price well into record territory.  The Cire Perdue had been on a round the world roadshow to Paris, London, Moscow, Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, Shanghai, Singapore, Osaka and Beverly Hills on its way to the grand finale in New York.  The roadshow raised $145,000 bringing the total raised by the Cire Perdue to $605,000 globally.  As Macallan, Lalique and Sotheby's all donated their time/products/services, all proceeds will go to benefit charity: water and bring clean drinking water to over 30,000 people, truly illustrating the origin of the word whiskey: "water of life."

Note to the winning bidder: feel free to share a sip with me.  Have thirst, will travel.

More information available at;

Photos courtesy of M Booth & Associates.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The New San Francisco Treat: Una Pizza Napoletana

Una Pizza Napoletana is a craftworks as much as a pizza restaurant.  No humble pizza parlor, Una Pizza is the creation of pizzaiolo Anthony Mangieri, who makes each 12 inch pie by hand.  The menu is short with only five pizzas (only four of which were available the night I dined there), and there are no substitutions or alterations, so ordering is easy and quick.  The pizzas are available only by the whole pie (no slices) and arrive at your table uncut.  The pizza oven only holds three pizzas at a time, so Mangieri pulls out the dough, three wads at a time and constructs the three pies before placing them one at a time into the custom pizza oven.  Una Pizza Napoletana is open just four evenings per week, Wednesday through Saturday nights, and the restaurant opens at 5 pm and only stays open "til the dough runs out", so if you arrive too late you may literally be out of luck.  The artisan pies are $20 each; making pizza the old fashioned way with top of the line ingredients is not cheap.

The first of the pies to arrive at our table was the Bianca, which had Buffalo mozzarella, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, fresh basil and sea salt on top. This white pizza had no tomatoes or tomato sauce and was completely white.  The crust had a good char on it, burned/blistered in some spots but not overly so.  Without any tomato products, the taste of the Buffalo mozzarella shone through loud and clear.  The sea salt, which is a topping on all of the pies, was noticeable and enhanced the flavor.

Next was the Margherita with San Marzano tomatoes (made into a tomato sauce), buffalo mozzarella, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh basil and sea salt.  Margherita pizzas are usually my "tester" pizzas at a new spot as they are deceptively simple with nowhere to hide if it isn't right.  Quality ingredients and a proper ratio of cheese & tomato sauce to crust is essential.  I enjoyed this pizza a lot but I wish the tomato sauce had more flavor.  I would have loved some herbs in the sauce, as opposed to just tomato puree.  The amount of cheese was spot on, enough to get some in every bite, but not so much that it was all you tasted.

Surprisingly enough, my favorite pizza was the Marinara, with San Marzano tomatoes (pureed into a sauce), extra-virgin olive oil, oregano, fresh garlic, fresh basil and sea salt, but no cheese.  The oregano flavor and aroma was strong and as this was the most assertively flavored pie, perhaps that is why I enjoyed it so much. Both the oregano and the garlic worked well with the basil and tomatoes and the charred dough to create an amazing pie.  As someone who loves cheese, I hadn't expected this pie to be in the running for my favorite, but it was wonderful.

The last pie of the night was the Filetti with fresh cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, fresh garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh basil and sea salt.  There was no tomato sauce beneath the cheese, as Mangieri felt the halved cherry tomatoes on top were enough.  The texture and sweetness of the tomatoes were a pleasant contrast to the soft melted cheese and the dough.

Mangieri is certainly a minimalist, both in terms of his food and the space.  The short menu, with each pie only having a few ingredients/toppings and presented simply and unsliced.  The physical restaurant itself is spartan, appearing as if it could have been a loading dock or auto garage before he converted it into a small pizzeria with half of the space dominated by the pizza oven and the space in front of it where Mangieri creates his art.  Part of the experience is reminiscent of performance art, with a single artist standing in front of an audience creating their work and only a small percentage of the floor space devoted to seating (with the oven only able to handle three pies at a time, more seating would just increase the wait time from ordering to receiving your food).

In a move that created a ruckus in foodie circles, Mangieri closed his New York pizzeria of the same name to move it to San Francisco.  With only approximately 150 pizza pies per evening available, the restaurant frequently closes before its 10 pm stated time and also often has long wait times.  On Saturday just after 5 pm, there was no wait at all so my party was able to walk right in and sit down.  I don't know if the initial buzz has died down or we were just fortunate.  If you get there too late, you will be confronted with the sign below:

Photo courtesy of Una Pizza Napoletana website
Una Pizza Napoletana: 210 11th Street, off of Howard in SOMA.  No reservations.  Phone: (415) 681-3444.  Website:

The Fraiche Truffle Burger: Decadent

Chef Ben Bailly knows from decadent; until a week ago he was the executive chef at Petrossian, the caviar emporium and cafe on Robertson.  Last week Chef Bailly took the helm at Fraiche, the Culver City institution that had been treading water since Chef Jason Travi left last autumn, and immediately posted a Tweet about his new truffle burger.  As soon as I saw the tweet, I knew I had to have the burger as soon as possible, so I made plans to go to Fraiche the next day.

The burger (in closeup above, shown with fries below) is $12 and is served with an onion fondue, Boschetto al Tartufo (truffle cheese) and truffle aioli on a grilled brioche bun.  French fries with the skin on were served with the burger.  The Boschetto cheese is a blend of cheese and cows milk and is studded with truffle bits.  When the cheese is melted over the burger, it infuses the truffle aroma and flavor into each bite, which is reinforced with the truffle aioli.

The brioche bun is soft yet can hold the juices from the burger without falling apart.  The grilling of the bun certainly helped.  The burger and fries is a satisfying meal and fairly priced for a burger of this quality in a comfortable restaurant environment.  An egg on top is available for $2 more, but with all the truffle and beef flavor, I passed on that.  Yes, I did enjoy the burger and the fries; I suspect I will be having them again soon. Ample ketchup was served upon request.

If you find yourself with a group, the Potted Smoked Trout is a good shared appetizer.  It is served in a jar and includes lemon, chives and creme fraiche.  The trout is a chunky pate and has a strong but not overpowering smokiness to it.  This is a rich dish that would be difficult to brave solo, although I know several people who could do it justice.  The presentation is attractive and simple, and reminiscent of the way Bouchon serves their foie gras and salmon rillettes.  This dish is only $8.

Fraiche Restaurant: 9411 Culver Blvd, Culver City.  Phone: (310) 839-6800.  Website:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mitla News: Bricia Lopez to create menu with her mother; Josh Gil out

Bricia Lopez
Josh Gil is no longer the associated with Mitla, the new restaurant that will be launching shortly in the former Gueleguetza location in Palms.  Gil, who had cooked with the Supper Liberation Front and did two Mitla dinners at Test Kitchen, las left the project and owner Bricia Lopez and her mother are currently developing the menu.  Mitla will still be serving Oaxacan food with a "Bricia" twist, so expect moles to be part of the plan.

In other Mitla news, Lopez announced last night that Ricki Kline, best known for designing Cedd Moses's bars such as Seven Grand and The Varnish, has come aboard and will be consulting on the design of the new restaurant. She was tight-lipped about the specific design elements, but said that Kline has a great eye and she is very excited to be working with him.

The opening date has been pushed back. As soon as I have a new date, I will share it.

Mitla: 11127 Palms Blvd., (just East of Sepulveda).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Two Food Truck Fests for Charity

Today brings word of two different food truck charity events in the next week:

The first one, a "Secret Pop Up Party for LA Street Food Fest fans" from the organizers of the first Street Food Festival downtown and a subsequent one in the Rose Bowl, will be held tomorrow (Friday November 12th) evening from 6 - 9 pm at the Heritage Square Museum, east of Dodger Stadium and just East of the 110 Freeway.  The event is free but limited to only 300 ticketholders who sign up for tickets here.  The required password is foodfestlove.    The event is a benefit for Toys for Tots so all attendees will need to bring a new unwrapped toy to gain admission and as the organizers note, if you bring a plus one, two people equals two toys.  Both the Hungry Nomad and the Manila Machine will be there selling food.  Its for the children!  Remember you need to get a free ticket online to go, you need toy(s) and the food isn't free so come prepared.

The second upcoming event is Trucking Through the Holidays, a food truck festival next Thursday evening November 18th from 6 - 9 pm at Jaxon Home in the Helms Bakery Complex (where the Culver City Father's Office is located).  This event is also free and requires no tickets to attend.  Each of the participating food trucks will be donating a portion of their proceeds to the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank.  They will also be accepting canned food and cash donations directly to the Foodbank, which is facing unprecedented demand for its food from unemployed and underemployed families.

Both of these events provide opportunities for fans of food trucks to help those in need while enjoying some of the best food on four wheels.  Please consider attending these events and helping those in need.

Roy Choi's A-Frame: First Look Part I

The much anticipated A-Frame, Roy Choi's (of Kogi fame) second restaurant, opened last week on Washington Blvd next door to the popular Waterloo & City.   A-Frame is housed in a converted IHOP and the building's distinctive roofline gives the restaurant its name.  Unlike Choi's first restaurant Chego, A-Frame has a liquor license with more than a dozen beers on tap and a full cocktail program.

The draught beer list includes Siamese Twin Spiced Dubbel from Santa Cruz's Uncommon Brewers and Hennepin Farmhouse Saison from Ommegang in Upstate New York as well as Hite Korean Lager in a nod to Choi's Korean heritage and cooking.  The initial wine list is small with only five reds and five whites, all by the glass.  The wine is priced gently, with nothing more than $12 a glass.

Brian Butler has created a list of 12 signature cocktails as well as 6 classic cocktails.  Each are $10, which passes for a bargain these days.  I sampled several of them on my recent visit and the standout was the Mainland (below), which uses Machu Pisco, lilikoi (passionfruit syrup with passionfruit and allspice), lime, egg white and cayenne pepper sprinkled on top.  This take on the Pisco Sour is excellent and the cayenne pepper on top adds some pleasant heat to the cocktail, rounding out some of the natural sweetness.

The Conversion (below) is made with Sombra Mezcal, Cazadores Tequila Blanco, Yellow Chartreuse, Maraschino, lemon juice and peach bitters.  The mezcal adds a smokiness to the tequila base, while the two liqueurs add some sweetness to the mixture.   Not as good as the Mainland, but I'd be happy to sip this again.

The Pek Pek (below) is named for a Filipino slang expression and is a take on the Manhattan.  It includes Bourbon, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, St. Germain and house fig bitters and garnished with a lemon peel.  The flavor combinations didn't work as well for me with this cocktail and it was just a bit too sweet for my palate.

As you work your way through the beer and cocktail list, the Furikake Kettle Corn described as hot and buttered Blazin' Jays, Hawaiian style, is a great starter to munch on.  The portion (as is most of the food at A-Frame) is meant for sharing.

I have yet to try the punch bowl service ($35) which serves 4-6 people.  Each day the bar team makes a punch of the day (ask the bartender/waiter what mystery they will unveil that day) and they are served in classic punch bowls.  Most of the glassware was purchased at thrift stores so there are fun mismatched cocktail glasses with old school designs your grandmother might have had back in the day, if she was hip.

A-Frame is not trying to be a serious cocktail bar.  They are a neighborhood plus restaurant with a solid cocktail program, a good list of beers on tap and some pleasant wines to drink while you and your friends chow down on Chef Choi's fusion cuisine.  This is not a place to geek out; there are plenty of other spots for that.

More of the cocktail list and thoughts on the food in Part II to follow.

A-Frame: 12565 Washington Blvd, near Centinela.  Culver City adjacent.  Phone: (310) 398-7700.  Website:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dale DeGroff's Troubles Bubbles @ First & Hope

[Update: Dale will be at the event tonight, which will feature his new Troubles Bubbles cocktail, but he will not be behind the bar mixing.  Naomi Schimek, who makes some of the best cocktails in town, will be behind the stick making the DeGroff signatures.  Apologies for the confusion.]

Dale DeGroff who is literally known as the King of Cocktails will be in Los Angeles tomorrow (Thursday November 11th) evening for a one night stand at First & Hope in Downtown LA.  He will be supporting songstress Vanessa Trouble who will be performing in the Fedora Room at First & Hope.  While she serenades you, prepare for your palate to be amused by DeGroff's Troubles Bubbles, a champagne cocktail. [Note that the cocktail will be available but don't expect him to be the one making it for you.]

DeGroff is a true dean of the cocktail world, is a James Beard Award winner, author of several award winning books and has been recognized by every organization in the cocktail world.  He is one of the key players in the modern cocktail renaissance and I highly recommend you take advantage of his rare visit to Los Angeles to experience his cocktails firsthand.  [Even though he will not be the one making the cocktail, this should still be a good event as you can taste one of his creations while he is on premises and you may have the opportunity to engage the King in conversation.]

First & Hope: 710 West 1st Street, Downtown Los Angeles. Phone: (213) 617-8555. Website:

24th Annual Great Chefs of LA: A Smörgåsbord of Food & Wine

Chefs Jimmy Shaw of Loteria and Jamie Lauren of Beachwood
Sunday was the 24th annual Great Chefs of Los Angeles, a benefit for the National Kidney Foundation held at CBS Studios in the San Fernando Valley.  Dozens of restaurants, winemakers and brewers joined forces to support the cause and several hundred hungry charitable donors descended on the backlot to enjoy the various food and beverages available.

My three favorite bites are below:

Momed served a duck "shawarma" made with shredded duck, figs, and greens all stuffed into a pita.  Rich and savory at the same time, I went back for seconds.

The sushi from S H U (Sushi House Unico) from the Drago Family was also a highlight.  Fresh and clean with good quality sushi rice and served in an appropriate ratio of fish to rice.  Each piece was also one bite, as it should be.

Braised beef bone marrow and and crispy saffron risotto cake from Lago, in Santa Monica, was an ambitious dish to serve at an event like this.  Bravo.  The marrow was sweet due to the preparation.  I'd have preferred a more salty & savory rendition but still enjoyed this and they get bonus points just for serving the marrow.

So many chefs, bartenders, vintners and beer makers came out to serve their creations:

Chef Adam Horton of the Saddle Peak Lodge served a wild boar dish which was the favorite of many attendees. (I didn't sample it, but now want to get to his restaurant even more than before.)

Chef Josie LeBalch (left) of Josie in Santa Monica will be opening a second more casual restaurant next year.

Drago Centro head bartender Jaymee Mandeville was serving Smitten with Britain, a Tanqueray Gin cocktail.

The Drago empire was serving a whole piggy in a dramatic presentation.

One of the highlights of the day was the excellent beer garden curated by the Beer Chicks (Christina Perozzi, left, and Hallie Beaune, right).  They brought in TAPS, the Bruery, Duvel and Fireman's Brew among others.

Benjamin Weiss represented the Bruery with the Orchard White and the Saison Rue.

Brewmaster Victor Novak of TAPS Brewery in Brea brought four types of beer, including the seasonal Pumpkin Ale.

The one disappointment was that co-host Stefan Richter of Top Chef fame was not present, as he was in Finland.

It was a fun event and while sold out did not feel overly crowded, so it was a pleasure to walk amongst the booths and explore the food and wine and the great items up for auction. If you missed out this year, be sure to plan on being there for the 25th Anniversary Edition next fall.