Friday, July 22, 2011

Levi's Film Workshop @ MOCA : celebration of cooking

Last week, MOCA downtown was the scene of Big Night, a celebration of Food, Films & Music at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.  Levi's Film Workshop premiered three short films about food and cooking on the plaza, featuring such local food luminaries as Chef Roy Choi of Kogi and the seemingly omnipresent Chef Ludo Lefebvre of Ludobites.  Catering was provided by Choi & Lefebvre's food trucks, both of which were quite popular judging by the lines.

Choi and Lefebvre (both above) enjoyed getting the chance to chat before the screening of the movies began and both spoke about how they wanted to make their food accessible to the public, rather than making cuisine that few can afford.  Choi had Ludo's fried chicken for the first time and enjoyed it almost as much as I did.

The three short films sponsored by the workshop are Wild Goodness, The Sound of Heat and Feast of Fury. Wild Goodness focused on "Growing" and featured inventive food growing scenarios such as a box of earth in a bicycle basket.  The Sound of Heat, starring Lefevre, focused on "Preparing" showed Ludo at a farm, gathering the ingredients and then cooking over a bonfire.  Feast of Fury focused on "Serving" and it starred Choi in a fun spoof of kung fu films.  You can see all three short films here.

The rooster above, one of the stars of Wild Goodness, enjoyed the festivities and the chance to stay up past his bedtime.  You can have the opportunity to use filmmaking equipment for free at the Workshop at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA or to just enjoy the films on the internet. The current exhibit at MOCA is "Art in the Streets", the first major museum survey of graffiti and street art.


MOCA: The Geffen Contemporary: 152 N. Central Avenue, Little Tokyo, DTLA.  Website: 

Get Your Grill On: Who's KBBQ Is Worthy of the Kalbi Trophy?

Do you fancy yourself as having "mad skillz" when it comes to grilling?  Then you might stand a chance in tomorrow morning's competition for a spot in the upcoming Korean BBQ cookoff.

Two celebrity actors will be among the judges, but the X-Factor here is Sarah Gim, the founder of Tastespotting and the author of the Delicious Life.  She knows good food when she sees it and will settle for nothing less than mouthwatering.

If you can stand the heat, bring one 1 Korean BBQ inspired meat dish along with a side dish.  Bring your meat fully cooked as you will only have five minutes to warm it up.  You must also bring a dish to plate for presentation.  There will be two rounds and you must be there by 9:05 am (Yikes!) or you will be excluded from the competition and splattered with kimchi.

Where's the Beef? At the Ramen Bull Pop-up at Breadbar

Ramen is traditionally made with a pork broth, but at Ramen Bull, the pop-up restaurant at Breadbar, beef takes center stage.  Whether corned beef, ox tail, spicy beef, short rib or beef tongue, the ramen options at Ramen Bull are pork-free, beef focused and have no MSG. The menu was created by Chef Noriyuki Sugie, the consulting chef at Breadbar who is best known in the US for his role as opening chef at Asiate in New York City.

The meal begins with an amuse of fried ramen noodles with vinegar.  This may be a pop-up restaurant but Sugie is known for his precision and elegance and the touch of an amuse showed the promise of what was to come with the rest of the meal.

In addition to the soups, the meats featured in the ramen can be ordered as sides or toppings.  The ox tail ($6) was an irresistible order and it was served as a first course rather than a side.  The portion was generous and the meat was tender and falling off of the bone.  The ox tail meat had been imbued with the flavor of the sauce and was very rich.  It was worth the effort with my chopsticks to get every last morsel.

The Spicy Ramen ($14) also arrived in a large white bowl.  Like all the ramen choices, it was served with a marinated poached egg, fungi mushrooms and scallions.  The ground beef was legitimately spicy, but not overwhelmingly so.  With this soup, every spoonful had something to enjoy, whether mushrooms, scallions, beef or even simply the beef broth.  The ramen noodles themselves are key to the success of any ramen and these noodles were tender and soft, without too much chew.

With the beef tongue and corned beef ramen still yet untried, I suspect that I will be back soon to explore the rest of the menu.  Where else in LA can you get this level of cooking from a name chef with entrees at only $14-16?  Ramen Bull is only available at dinner Monday - Saturday and only at the 3rd Street location of Breadbar.  The vibe is decidedly casual, befitting a ramen restaurant, so if you are looking for a white tablecloth experience, be advised.  Sugie and his team also have created five house-made sodas including pineapple and hibiscus tea, each at $4.

I just received word that beginning on Monday, Sugie is adding Cold Ramen Consommé ($15) to the Ramen Bull menu. This cool soup is made with shredded beef short rib, beef consommé, sliced cucumber, radishes, peanut, arugula, coriander, and shishito peppers.  Now you can have your beef both hot and cold.

Ramen Bull at Breadbar: 8718 W. 3rd Street, just East of Robertson.  Phone: (310) 205-0124.  Website:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New Cocktails & Bar Bites @ Raphael in Studio City

Chris Parke has been shaking his cocktail shakers all over Los Angeles for the past dozen years, working his way through the myriad establishments of the SBE and Patina Group empires.  The award-winning bartender (he won the "Best Drink in LA" competition at the 42Below Cocktail World Cup in 2007) recently landed at Raphael in Studio City, where he collaborates with Executive Chef Adam Horton on his newly launched mixology program.

I was recently invited to try some of Parke's cocktails as well as Horton's bar bites.  Studio City is fast becoming a food and cocktail destination with the food and drink at Raphael, Black Market and Laurel Tavern, plus the ramen at Ramen Jinya.  Raphael underwent a renovation earlier this year and there is now a bar / lounge area at the entrance, and a separate dining room to the left.  The lounge area was comfortable but I was focused on the cocktail list, which is divided into original signatures and interpretations of the classics.

The Cilantro (above), is made with Karma tequila, Cointreau, cilantro, jalapeño and agave nectar. The jalapeño gives the drink a pleasant kick but doesn't overwhelm the cocktail. Thankfully, this is not the Jitlada spicy challenge in a glass.

When I read the ingredient list for the Balsamic, I couldn't help but be reminded of Matt Biancaniello's Last Tango in Modena. The Balsamic is made with Ketel One, muddled strawberries, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice and garnished with a strawberry and a twisted lemon peel.  The berries and the balsamic vinegar go well together due to the acid from the vinegar and the sweetness of the berries.  This drink has less going on in it than the Last Tango, but is a summer refresher.

The Basil, yes most of the cocktails are named for their primary culinary ingredient, is a mixture of Grey Goose vodka, muddled sweet basil, cracked pepper and is garnished with several lemon slices.  Black pepper has had a resurgence in the cocktail world in the past few years, as it adds a spicy or savory element to a cocktail.  I am not a huge vodka fan, but appreciate the initiative to take a potentially basic drink to a new direction.

Parke's cocktail list includes three reimagined classics, including the New Fashioned (above).  The take on the Old Fashioned is made with Makers Mark bourbon, muddled peach & cherry, Regan's Orange Bitters, and soda.  The addition of the muddled peach and cherry and the use of bourbon ensure that this is on the sweeter side, but the subtraction of the sugar cube (or simple syrup) keeps it from venturing into cloying territory.

I preferred Parke's take on the Aviation, with Tanqueray gin, Crème Yvette, Luxardo, and lemon juice (below).  This is a wonderful aperitif and the perfect way to whet your appetite for Chef Horton's bar bites.

The Bar Bites are available beginning at 9:30 pm, and are served at the bar and in the lounge.  They include the Crispy Pork Belly ($8) with house-made French sausage, brioche, nuoc mam, capsicum, herbs and pickles.

I was fortunate enough to try a version made with short ribs (below), as I don't eat pork.  The taste was rich and delicious, although I did find them hard to pick upon the crisps below.  They were better fork than finger food, though a dish I could be happy ordering seconds of.

On the lighter side, Som Tam ($8) is a Thai salad made with green papaya, Thai chili, lime juice, garlic, peanuts and herbs (below).  The slaw is nicely tangy and a good balance to the richness of the pork belly (short ribs in my case).

Park and Horton are evidently enjoying working together and getting to collaborate on ingredients and dishes. I look forward to see what they do together next. A cocktail pairing perhaps?

Raphael: 11616 Ventura Blvd (East of Laurel Canyon), Studio City. Phone: (818) 505-3337. Website:

Scenes from the Eat Real Festival: Los Angeles 2011

This past weekend was the first Eat Real Fest in Los Angeles.  The festival, which was held at the Helms Bakery complex, has been held in Oakland for three years and this was the first Southern California edition.  The festival, which is likely to become an annual event, celebrates local and sustainable producers of all things food and drink. Attendance was free, only the food, drink or merchandise purchased cost money.

Part of the local food purveyors offering food were a fleet of food trucks, which had people lining up to munch on their vittles.  Other options included the highly regarded Big Mista's BBQ, which cooked "pig candy" and chicken wings among other items.  A fellow attendee, Nick from TreasureLA, particularly enjoyed the pig candy.

I found the chicken tamales ($2.50 each) from Corn Maiden to be a nice mixture of sweet and spicy with the salsa proving a kick.  The tamales were made without lard, which was a draw for me as I do not eat pork.

There was an outdoor beer garden as well as several spots indoors to quench your thirst with beer and wine.  Above, folks lined up to get some Firestone Walker beer.

Alex Jermasek, an apprentice butcher at Lindy & Grundy, won the Chicken Breakdown competition.  Below, he hoists his chicken trophy in triumph.  Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura, the eponymous founders of Lindy & Grundy cheered his victory.

Despite it being the weekend of Carmageddon, thousands attended the free festival, which did create some long lines and waits for food.  The demand exceeded many vendors expectations, and some like Creme Caramel LA sold out of everything they brought.

The event ran smoothly and attendees were in good spirits, so I look forward to the return of the festival next summer, and hope to try Creme Caramel's treats before then.  Keep up to date on Eat Real happenings at their website:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

First Impression: The Tripel in Playa del Rey

The Tripel, the latest project from Chefs Brooke Williamson and Nick Roberts, opened in Playa del Rey in early April and has been popular with the neighborhood since.  The chefs who gained widespread notice during their years at Beachwood in Venice opened Hudson House in Redondo Beach in the spring of 2009 and followed that up with this smaller project.  The Tripel, at 333 Culver Blvd, hence the name, only serves beer and wine, although they have some interesting beer/wine cocktails.  There is also a short menu of food items, with a focus on burgers.

There are fourteen beers on tap, including at least one Belgian Tripel and/or Tripel style brew in homage to the name of the bar.  It is not difficult to find a good source of "lubrication" as the beer selection is well edited with a mix of local craft and European beers.

The menu includes several different burger options including the Lamb Burger (above)served with shaved red onion, a yogurt-harissa sauce, and cucumber salad. The burger was good but not amazing.  One of my dining companions had the Pretzel burger which is a beef burger served on a pretzel bun and is topped with aged cheddar cheese.  That is a dish I plan to return to try.  Another friend oohed and aahed over the signature Tripel Burger which included duck confit, aged beef and pork.

The Tripel is a small spot with perhaps 8 - 10 seats at the bar and roughly 20 seats at several communal tables.  It has a clean look with subway tiles behind the bar and a wall of distressed wood with words carved into it.  It can get crowded at night but during weekend afternoons and Friday lunches, it is mellower and relaxed.

The "cocktail" menu is below:

The Tripel: 333 Culver Blvd, Playa del Rey. Phone: (310) 821-0333. Website:

Pour Vous Preview

Pour Vous, the much anticipated and much delayed French cocktail bar from Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix and the Houston brothers of La Descarga and Harvard & Stone is an opening I am very much looking forward to, so when I heard that Moix and Lindsay Nader (the head bartender at the Edison) would be trying out some Pour Vous recipes at the R&D bar at Harvard & Stone last week, I made sure to be there.

The Feelin' on Yo Booty (above) was my favorite of the drinks I sampled.  It is made with Cognac, Benedictine, Carpano Antica, whiskey barrel aged bitters, and vanilla mist sprayed from an atomizer.  This is a boozy spirit forward cocktail that isn't afraid to kick you if you get fresh on the dance floor.

The Sex Weed (below) is fashioned with Cognac, Aperol, lemon and orange juices and is garnished with a lemon peel.  This drink is more accessible and on the citrus and refreshing side.  On a warm night, this is just the thing to cool down and revel in the Southern California summer.  With a few sips you can imagine yourself in St. Tropez instead of Santa Monica...

Pour Vous: 5574 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood.  Coming August 2011 (hopefully)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Farmers' Market Fresh Cocktails Sunday Evenings at The Eveleigh

Kiowa Bryan (above) and Kevin Tidwell have brought a new tradition to The Eveleigh, the comfortable spot on the Sunset Strip that makes rather good cocktails.  Each Sunday evening will feature a list of four original farmers' market inspired creations and Bryan and Tidwell will rotate weeks crafting the menus.

This past Sunday was Bryan's week, and the Fig Ol' Bitties was downright delicious and attractively garnished with a fig in a lemon peel on a skewer.  The cocktail is made with Willet rye, house-made fig syrup, and Miracle Mile Fig Bitters.  Even with the double dose of fig, the rye was able to stand up to it and come out on top.  This drink was so enjoyable that a drinking companion of mine finished it off once he had drunk a sip.

Another winner was the Mai Cherry Amour, made with cherry infused rum, orgeat, lime juice, Royal Combier, Allspice dram.  It is finished with a float of Goslings Dark Rum and garnished with a sprig of mint and some nutmeg sprinkled on top.  Nutmeg appears to the trendy ingredient of the hour in cocktails, having seen it everywhere lately from the Spare Room to Library Bar.  I worried that this drink might be too sweet but it was not; rather it was refreshing - the perfect cocktail for a lazy summer afternoon.

The other cocktails on offer were the Kentucky Beet Down (below) with beets, bourbon, lemon juice, honey and ginger; and the Midori Sour with chamomile infused tequila, green chartreuse, sage syrup, lemon juice and a honey dew ice cube.  Flavored ice cubes are a Bryan signature which she previously showed off at Lexington Social House, and add a flavor dimension to a cocktail that continually changes as it melts.

Bar manager Dave Kupchinsky had already created a noteworthy cocktail program and the Farmers' Market Sunday Cocktail series kicks it up another level.  Now you know where to find me on Sunday evenings this summer.  Next week Tidwell is up at bat.  Arrive thirsty.

The Eveleigh: 8752 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood.  Phone: (424) 239-1630.  Website:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Paris J'Adore LA at The Spare Room Tonight

When you think of France, what comes to mind?  The love affair between Paris and Hollywood of course!  So where could be more appropriate to celebrate Bastille Day than the au courant epicenter of Hollywood chic, the Spare Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.  Tonight you can see Adele Jacques's band Paris Loves LA sing the classic repertoire of the Serge Gainsborg songbook.

You might find your self singing along to Bonnie & Clyde as you sip Aidan Demarest and Naomi Schimek's cocktails, all featuring French ingredients:

Duke For a Day
2 oz of Cognac, .75 oz lavender, 75 oz lemon juice

Champs Elysees
1.5 oz Cognac, .5 oz Yellow Chartreuse, 0.5 oz lemon juice, 0.25 oz simple syrup and a dash of Angostura bitters

Champagne Flip
.75 oz Cognac, 0.25 oz Cointreau, 0.25 oz simple syrup, 0.25 oz cream, egg yolk
Top with champagne and nutmeg

La Prise
1.5 oz Armagnac, 0.75 oz Cointreau, Luxardo Bitters

Champagne Cobbler
3 oz Champagne and 0.75 oz simple syrup muddled with 3 strawberries and 1 lemon wedge

The evening's soirée is presented by Cointreau and begins at 8 pm. The music performances begin at 9 pm and will include a DJ set from none other than Nils Kock.  I have it on good information that some of the greats of classic French cinema will be playing while guests dance and mingle with the haut monde.

The Spare Room: The Mezzanine at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel - 7000 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood. Phone: (323) 769-7296. Website:

Red Snapper at the Front Page Grille

The fish dishes at the Front Page Jamaican Grille are elusive and require planning. The menu suggests ordering them 15 - 30 minutes in advance, making it difficult to try any of them during a lunch, unless you phone ahead. On previous visits I had sampled the Jerk Chicken and Curry Goat, but had yet to taste any of the fish dishes which Thi Nguyen write about so effusively in his piece in the LA Times last year.

On a recent visit I had the foresight to call in advance and order the whole grilled Red Snapper, which was $18.50 for a large fillet, (x-large is $2 more). It was served with rice and beans, a slaw of vegetables and fried plantains. The sauce made the dish as it was full of garlic and Caribbean spices and the fish was imbued with it through and through so that every bite was literally dripping with flavor.

The Front Page Jamaican Grille is a no frills spot with no more than half a dozen small tables in a minimall near the airport. It appeared to do more takeout than dine-in business. It is a little incongruous to pay $20 for a lunch entree at such a humble establishment but if you enjoy Jamaican food and love fish, you will find it well worthwhile.

The house-made reddish purple sorrel beverage (known as Jamaica in Mexican establishments) was a pleasant accompaniment to the fish and sides.

Front Page Jamaican Grille: 1117 West Manchester Blvd, 1 block East of Aviation. Phone: (310) 216-9521. Website:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer BBQ comes to Nick + Stef's Patio on Thursdays

Skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, pasta salad and potato salad

New this summer at Nick + Stef’s in downtown LA is a summer barbeque every Thursday evening on the restaurant’s patio in which Executive Chef Megan Logan grills veggies and meats and serves up traditional summer bbq sides.

From 5:00 to 9:00 pm on Thursdays through Labor Day, she will be grilling up tri-tip for sandwiches, skirt steak, chicken, shrimp and more plus serving up sides such as potato salad and corn on the cob. The main dishes are $8 - $14 and the sides are $5 each. There is also a cocktail available for $5, a wallet friendly price in pricey downtown.

Pea and radish salad and cabbage slaw
The consensus favorite side dish among my tablemates was the potato salad as it had a good amount of flavor.  The spicy cabbage slaw was not so spicy and on the bland side.

I enjoyed the skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, which went straight from the grill to my table (a benefit of a true open kitchen - the outdoor grill) so arrived piping hot.  These Thursday night bbqs are a fun excuse to hang out outdoors in a comfortable setting and enjoy the casual food.  The timing also works perfectly to eat at Nick + Stef's before heading across the street to the Grand Performances series.

One of the best parts of the new program is the opportunity to sit outside and eat and enjoy listening to the music from a different local band each week. The series kicked off last Thursday with Black Crystal Wolf Kids and rumor has it that they will be back again before the summer is out.

There is complimentary valet parking for up to 3 hours after 5 pm in the Wells Fargo Center Parking Garage (enter on Hope Street.)

Nick + Stef's: 330 S. Hope Street, Well Fargo Center. Phone: (213) 680-0330. Website:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

LA Craft Beer Crawl Returns to Downtown LA on August 13th

Get ready to hoist a glass to quality brews in Los Angeles as the LA Craft Beer Crawl returns for its second annual adventure through downtown.  Tickets will enable craft beer aficionados to sample unlimited tastings of over 60 craft brews at seven downtown bars on Saturday August 13th during the hours of 3 - 8 pm.  Legit breweries such as The Bruery, Craftsman, Cismontane, Eagle Rock, TAPS, Lagunitas and Allagash among others will be represented.

The beers have been curated by the Beer Chicks, Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune, the authors of The Naked Pint and beer experts.  The participating bars are Golden Gopher, Caña Rum Bar, Seven Grand, Casey’s Irish Pub, Cole’sLas Perlas, and Broadway Bar, all part of Cedd Moses's 213 Group.

There will be several gourmet food trucks along the crawl route to sate the hearty apetites of beer lovers.  The trucks will be selected by none other than Good Food host Evan Kleiman, who knows good eats when she sees them.

If last year is any indication, several brewers will be in attendance to show off their seasonal and rare brews to their fans.  Last year's event sold out, so I recommend that you get your tickets early.  Tickets are $49 and include unlimited tastings from 3 - 8 pm.  VIP tickets (limited quantity) are $69 and enable entry two hours early as well as access to some of the rarer brews.

Learn more and purchase your tickets at their website:  Cheers!

First Impression: Urbano Pizza

Urbano Pizza Bar opened last month at the corner of 6th & Hope Streets in Downtown LA next door to Library Bar, whose owners backed Urbano as well.  The interior is spare and attractive with a long communal table in the center of the space.  The focus of the menu is the titular pizzas, which have been created by baker Brad Winnaman and cooked in the Neapolitan style in a wood burning oven.  There is a short menu of starters and and about ten different pizzas offered daily.

The highlight of the starters section is the Wood Roasted Artichoke with garlic butter and lemon herb aioli ($10).  Almost every table seems to order this dish and with good reason.  This was the best artichoke dish I have had in recent memory.  The aioli is light and wonderfully garlicy and the artichoke has been roasted to just the right degree of doneness.  If you can only order one dish, then get this dish, even above any of the pizzas.

The Butter Lettuce & Gorgonzola Salad with wood roasted sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, sliced avocados, chives and herb white wine vinaigrette is a pleasing appetizer that is on the lighter side.  The gorgonzola adds a pleasant savory note to the salad and the fresh cherry tomatoes are sweet.

The consensus favorite of the pizzas was the Selvatica with Burrata, roasted cherry tomatoes, basil pesto, and pine nuts.  There was restraint in the amount of topping on this pizza as the basil pesto and the burrata were so flavorful that the pizza didn't need to be drowning in sauce or toppings to be delicious.

We also enjoyed the Margherita, made with just mozzarella, crushed tomato and basil, and the Carciofi with smoked mozzarella, marinated artichokes, crushed tomato and rosemary.  The artichoke pizza was good but not as amazing as the artichoke appetizer.  The pizzas are thin crust and have a pleasant char from the oven.

Urbano doesn't serve either coffee or dessert, so if you want to linger at your table, order one of the beers or wines from the all Italian list.  Moretti is a good beer to enjoy while you eat your pizza pies. Lunch is significantly busier than dinner.  Dinner hours are Sunday - Thursday 6 pm - 11 pm, and from 6 pm - Midnight on Friday & Saturdays.  Lunch is weekdays only from 11:30 am - 3:00 pm.

Urbano Pizza Bar: 630 W. 6th Street, DTLA.  Phone: (213) 614-1900.  Website:

Friday, July 8, 2011

San Francisco: Smoked Salmon at the Swan Oyster Depot

Sometimes a dish is so simple yet so delicious you do a double take. The Smoked Salmon at the Swan Oyster Depot is such a dish.  The salmon is silky and is served on rye bread with capers and onions.  The bread that is used is small so the smoked salmon drapes over it.

I encountered this dish at Swan Oyster Depot on a recent visit on a Saturday morning with a member of the Australian diplomatic corps.  The restaurant is quite popular and often fills up with a line forming down the block.  All this can be avoided by coming in the morning for breakfast rather than at mid day or the afternoon for lunch.  At 10 am on a Saturday, half of the seats were empty and there was no line to be seen.  Note that all the seating is at stools at a long counter and that Swan Oyster Depot is closed on Sundays.

The smoked salmon plate is $17.50 and comes with your choice of shrimp salad or more smoked salmon.  I opted for the smoked salmon.  There is never too much of a good thing when the good thing is smoked salmon of this quality.  Despite living in San Francisco for several years, I had never been to the restaurant before because I did not know they served items that were not shellfish, which I do not eat.  It turns out that the smoked salmon is the exception to this rule, fortunately for me and anyone else lucky enough to get their hands on a plate of the fish.

Swan Oyster Depot: 1517 Polk St @ California.  (415) 673-1101.  Note - Cash Only.  Hours: Monday - Saturday 8:00 am - 5:30 pm

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Eat Real Festival is Coming to Culver City

Next weekend, on July 16 and 17 the Eat Real Festival comes to the Helms Bakery Complex in Culver City.  Yes, that is the weekend of Carmageddon, but this event is too good to miss, so if you live far away, arrange to stay with friends as you will be kicking yourself if you don’t make it there.

Anya Fernald who founded the festival (and went to college with me) discussed the many demonstrations and workshops on offer, “from making jam, sauerkraut or bread, raising backyard chickens and bees, to seeing the artistry involved in butchering a steer or pig.”  All of the demonstrations are free as is attendance at the festival; that is a price I can get excited about.  The only cost of attending is buying food to eat, beverages to drink or shopping from the local vendors, and all prepared food will be $5 or less and incorporate regionally sourced and sustainably produced ingredients. 

I am particularly looking forward to the tomato sauce making workshop with Evan Kleiman, the host of Good Food on KCRW, and to the butchery competition with Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura of local butcher shop Lindy & Grundy. The Beer and Wine gardens featuring local crafted brews such as the Bruery and Stone, and regionally grown wines should also be particularly fun.  If you think you will be sipping the suds, Thrillest is offering an unlimited beer and wagyu hotdogs deal for $29, which is a good value.

The LA Eat Real Festival is building off previous events in the Bay Area and should be a fun showcase for local producers of sustainable and tasty foodstuffs.  The opportunity to have a whole day of entertainment for free is reason enough to check out the fest.

Joe Brooke's Next Act

For those of you who have been wondering what has become of Joe Brooke, the erstwhile bar manager of the Edison and handsome winner of reality television competition America's Top Bartender, the mystery has been solved. Brooke has packed up his bar spoons and decamped to open and manage Next Door Lounge, a speakeasy lounge on Highland Avenue in Hollywood.

The cocktail list is still in flux and includes both classic and modern cocktails.  On the evening of my visit only three of the seven modern cocktails on the list were Brooke creations.  I sampled the Shimmy, made with Hennessy VS, Sazerac Rye, jasmine liqueur, blood orange liqueur and lemon juice.  This (a Joe Brooke cocktail mixed by the man himself) was a frothy and refreshing cocktail with a strong backbone.

It will be interesting to see how Next Door Lounge evolves.  It is a large space for a speakeasy, although only a fraction of the size of the Edison.  A food menu is available as well for those who like to munch while they sip their bespoke cocktails.  I agree with Daniel of ThirstyinLA who recommended that the owners let Brooke jump into the deep end of the punch bowl.  Why hire one of the best bartenders in town and not let him create the whole drink menu?  Silly and not a good investment.  Hopefully they will come to their senses and give him more free reign.

I have not fully explored the menu and look forward to trying more of the drinks.  You should check it out as well.  Look for the neon key sign outside to signal you in for a cocktail or two.

Next Door Lounge: 1154 N. Highland Avenue, Hollywood.  Phone: (323) 465-5505.  Website: