Friday, October 28, 2011

Patina Alumni Reunion Dinner and Party

On Wednesday November 2nd, Patina Restaurant is having an all-star alumni dinner in which several of the most prominent alumni of Joachim Splichal's flagship restaurant come back for one night to cook a multi course feast.  Walter Manzke, Eric Greenspan, Octavio Becerra, Michael Otsuka, Theo Schoenegger, and David Feau will all be back in their old stomping grounds in their chef's whites.  Current Patina chefs Tony Esnault and Sarah Koechling as well as Splichal himself, will all be whipping up signature dishes.  The dinner is $150, all inclusive.  Reservations can be made by calling the restaurant.

A more affordable way to join in the celebration is the after-party at Kendall's Brasserie, for which tickets are only $30.  Oysters, pinot and pork products are all on the menu, along with some quality time with the talented crew of toques.  If you have spend much time with chefs, you know they can likely drink you under the table, so come and relax and share some wine.  You might even challenge Chef Manzke to a oyster eating contest?  Why not?  Life is good.

Reservations: (213) 972-3331.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Is Frightfully Fun in Downtown LA

Casey's Irish Pub
You may have heard that a holiday approaches.  So before you get your costume and drink on, it pays to know where you can enjoy the appropriate spooky ambiance, if that is the vibe you seek.  Yes, Halloween is on Monday night and to celebrate the sacred evening and share the spirit of competition, eight of the 213 Group's bars in Downtown LA are competing as to who can create the ultimate Halloween experience.  On Tuesday night I set out with illustrious panel of judges who visited all eight in a single evening to determine which bar could generate the most zombie spirit.  We were picked off one by one by creatures of the night and only a few of us including ThirstyinLA lived to tell the tale.  If you see my fellow judge FoodGPS, watch out, he may be after your brains.

Each establishment was given the same amount of money to work with, which was certainly a bigger challenge for Casey's as it is the largest space including an outdoor patio, than for several of the smaller sized establishments such as Cana Rum Bar.  Each bar was challenged to decorate their space in their chosen theme, to include zombies wherever possible, to have the employees dress up in theme and to offer a punch for only $5 through Monday evening.

Dexter's Kill Room
The winning bar will not be revealed until Monday night, but there is some serious coin on the line as 213 impresario Cedd Moses has decreed that the winning bar will get to keep the profits from this Saturday night.  Not only that but one lucky undead will receive airfare anywhere in the U.S.  Zombies in Hawaii anyone?  Who will the Most Valuable Zombie be?

The most disturbing decor of the evening was certainly at Tony's Saloon in the Arts District.  Customers can sip on Etorphine Vodka Chloride punch while they try and escape the plastic wrap.  You can struggle but you will not be able to free yourself as the bar has transformed itself into one of Dexter's kill rooms from the Showtime series Dexter. The punch is named after the drug that Dexter injects into his victims to immobilize and incapacitate them.  The blood spattered plastic wrapped environment is completely transformative.  It felt like a different establishment.  I escaped via the pizza establishment, but barely.

Smoke billowing from an unseen fog machine welcomed us to the underground lair of Casey's Irish Pub.  Cobwebs galore covered the entire bar and the zombified bartenders included Amy Winehouse.  Both a Jameson and a glass of their Bloody Zombie Punch will likely be needed to calm you down as the hungry, I mean helpful, zombie staff surrounds you.

Some of the best punch you can find in downtown, any night of the year, is at Cana Rum Bar.  Allan Katz's Fiending Frenzy was absolutely delicious and beautifully presented, served out of a crystal punch bowl.  The voodoo threatens to put a hex on all who enter but the punch itself may be the antidote to the curse.

Fiending Frenzy at Cana

Sympathy For The Devil, the smoke fizzing punch at Broadway Bar was eye catching, as were the wild paintings on the wall, reminiscent of the Haunted Mansion.  Several customers there could have been in the running for the Most Valuable Zombie (I'm thinking of Lorenzo and Hello Kitty), if only they surrendered and joined the 213 Empire.

Sympathy for the Devil (Broadway Bar)
Golden Gopher unnerved us all.  The theme of zombified fairy tale characters was disturbing to say the least.  Whether it was Pinocchio was a bloody long nose or Snow White oozing flesh, this felt like a sick John Waters and David Lynch collaboration.

The Undead Horde packs a punch at Seven Grand.  The staff in tartan kilts, zombie makeup and not much else were not shy about butting their booze where their rotting flesh is. The Horde is made with Devil's Cut Boubon and may be their way of separating you from your brain.  The corpses in bodybags hanging from the balcony outside complete the terrifying experience.

Cole's Red Car Bar is serving the Dead Rose Punch, which may involve a dead rose petal on top, to seal your doom, while at Las Perlas, Jalisco Punch is on tap.  The Day of the Dead lasts all weekend long there as the tasty Tequila based cocktail works its way through your bloodstream.

You don't have to wait until Monday night to experience this fright fest.  Just mosey on downtown, put on your costume and enjoy.  But remember to always have a getaway plan.  You never know when the zombies will strike and the smell of the punch and brains may lead them right to you.

Picture Gallery below; addresses at the bottom:

Cole's Red Car Bar
Las Perlas

Jalisco Punch (Las Perlas)
Golden Gopher
Seven Grand
Tony's Saloon: 2017 E. Seventh St., DTLA.  Phone: (213) 622-5523
Casey's Irish Pub: 613 S. Grand Avenue, DTLA.  Phone: (213) 629-2353
Cana Rum Bar: 714 W. Olympic Blvd, STLA.  Phone: (213) 745-7090
Broadway Bar: 830 S. Broadway, DTLA.  Phone: (213) 614-9909
Golden Gopher: 417 W. 8th Street, DTLA.  Phone: (213) 614-8001
Seven Grand: 515 W. Seventh St, 2nd Floor, DTLA.  Phone: (213) 614-0736
Cole's Red Car Bar:118 E. 6th Street, DTLA.  Phone: (213) 622-4090
Las Perlas: 107 E. 6th St., DTLA.  Phone: (213) 988-8355

100 Glasses of Wine on the Wall: Fleming's Excels at Wine by the Glass

Fleming's Steakhouse in El Segundo is known for its steaks made with Prime beef but on a recent visit I was pleasantly surprised to find that they also have 100 wines available by the glass.  This may be the largest selection of wines by the glass I have encountered anywhere in the region and is a customer friendly development.  The list is regularly refreshed and the latest iteration of the "Fleming's 100" launched last month.

The list has a large selection of red wines, which naturally pair with steak, but also represents a broad range of sparkling, white and red wines.  The bubbly selection includes a Blanc de Blancs from Schramsberg, which I consider to be the best producer of sparkling wine in California.  The bubbles were small and continuous and the wine had a pleasant crispness to it.  Not overly sweet, a good start while perusing the menus or having a salad to begin.

Another good option in the champagne and sparkling wine section is the Roederer Estate Brut Rosé, a sparkling rose from Anderson Valley in Mendocino County, north of Sonoma.  This wine is made from pinot noir grapes and was fruit forward and pleasantly fizzy.

One of my favorite regions for red wine is Rioja in Spain.  La Vendimia from Palacios Remondo is a Garnacha and Tempranillo blend.  It is a well balanced rioja with fruit and leather aromas.  This will get your stomach juices ready for the inevitable steak to follow.

The wines by the glass can also be customized into a wine flight of three wines (2 oz pours each).  I enjoyed the flexibility of being able to try any three wines by the list.  There were no restrictions that they had to be from some subset of the list or only preselected options; if it was on the list of 100 wines by the glass, you could include it in your wine flight.  Especially in Southern California where diners often need to drive after their meals, it is excellent to have the option to not be forced into buying a bottle you won't finish or paying too much for a limited selection by the glass that may not have any choices you want.

It would be a shame to not try the Bone-In Ribeye when you come to Fleming's to work your way through the list of wines by the glass (hopefully not all in one visit).  My dining companion and I split the steak, which was made with Prime beef.  It was prepared a beautiful medium rare and was juicy and flavorful.  The ribeye was simply seasoned with salt, pepper and herbs and then broiled.  A steak like this will spoil you for meat at other restaurants.

Man does not live by meat alone, so we sampled the Asparagus and the Fleming's Potatoes.  The asparagus was a great veggie component to our meat and wine fest.  The Potatoes are a house specialty with cream, jalapeños and cheddar cheese.  This was the one component of the meal I cannot recommend as I found them to be heavy and not that delicious.  Stick to the baked potato or the french fries if you want a starchy component to your dinner.

With 100 choices, there is no excuse that you can't find something to your taste.  Even better the sommelier listened to what I was looking for and was able to recommend several choices that met my parameters.  Note that if you have wanted to try Silver Oak, but found it out of your price range, Fleming's list includes a Merlot from Twomey, its sister winery which shares the same winemaker.

This visit was hosted.

 Fleming's: 2301 Rosecrans Avenue, El Segundo.  Phone: (310) 643-6911.  Website:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Osaka - Japanese by way of Peru in Hollywood

Peruvian cuisine is the "it girl" of the moment in Los Angeles culinary circles.  The cuisine first gained notice here when Nobu Matsuhisa opened his eponymous restaurant in 1987, bringing Miso Black Cod into the culinary lexicon.  That restaurant showcased Japanese food with Peruvian influences reflecting the years the chef spent living in Peru.  Peruvian food did not have another moment in Los Angeles until Ricardo Zarate opened Mo-Chica in Mercado La Paloma in the Spring of 2009.

2011 has seen the opening of three significant restaurants serving different styles of Peruvian cuisine.  Zarate (now a Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef) followed up Mo-Chica with Picca, an upscale cantina with gourmet takes on Peruvian food.  This summer Mario Alberto, who had previously worked at Mo-Chica and The Lazy Ox, opened up Chimu, a casual Peruvian spot adjacent to the Grand Central Market.  Now comes Osaka, a Peruvian restaurant with Asian ingredients and techniques, from Adolfo Suaya of Surly Goat and BoHo and his partners from Lima: Diego de la Puente and Diego Herrera.  This is the 5th branch of Osaka, following the original in Lima, and others in Buenos Aires, Santiago (Chile) and Mexico City.

Osaka may follow in the footsteps of the other Peruvian spots that recently opened but it is certainly its own restaurant, blending Peruvian and Japanese as well as the strong influence of its Hollywood location.  The decor is quite dramatic.  Designer Kris Keith of Spacecraft created three rooms: a front bar, an outdoor pisco garden, and the main dining room, centered on a 40 seat ceviche and sushi bar.  There are ropes hanging from the ceiling in the dining room and to enter the restaurant, diners pass by a water feature and pond, which is effective in transporting customers away from the noise of Hollywood Boulevard.

I was recently invited to visit Osaka and try some of the menu.  My visit began with a Pisco Sour made with ORO Acholado Pisco that was a delicious beginning.  The cocktail is only $9, a deal for a delicious cocktail in Hollywood.

I sampled various items including the Tiraditos and Ceviches, which were some of the menu highlights.  The halibut (below left) and the tuna (below right) were nicely seasoned and attractively presented.

The Niku Abura nigiri, made with seared beef, was another hit.  It is second from the left in the photo below.  The salmon (left) had a buttery texture, while the beef was warm and had a sweet and savory marinade that made me want second helpings.

The menu is divided into Causitas, made with Peruvian yellow potatoes, Anticuchos (skewers), Tapas, Soups, and Signature Dishes, in addition to items from the Sushi & Ceviche Bar.  Entrees range from $15 - $25 but at Osaka it is best to make your meal of many little dishes, so you can have a variety of tastes and flavors.

If you are inclined to order a Signature Dish or two for your table, the Miso Truffle American Kobe Skirt Steak is a fitting way to settle in to the heartier stage of your meal.  This dish is not shy about announcing its presence on your plate as the miso puree and truffle salt provide an aromatic accompaniment to the tender kobe beef.

It really feels like a night on the town when you step into Osaka, whether for a round of Pisco sours or a full meal of sushi, ceviche, and cooked dishes.  Osaka may be serving the "it" cuisine of the moment, but service is welcoming and there is genuine excitement about the cuisine and dishes that is apparent from the hostess to the waiters and busboys.  So stroll down the Walk of Fame, have a cocktail, munch on ceviche and tirado and enjoy the glamorous room.  It is Hollywood after all.

Osaka: 6327 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood.  Phone: (323) 785-0360.  Website:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tacos at Komida

Komida, the new taqueria from Chef Brock Kleweno opened in the Hollywood & Highland complex in Hollywood earlier this month.  The restaurant, which is a bricks and mortar outpost of his Thursday night taco truck at the Yamashiro Farmer's Market, serves gourmet tacos with an Asian twist.

Unlike many of the Kogi-imitators, the tacos are no simple kalbi in a tortilla but rather are creative Asian fusion with quality ingredients.  I sampled the Black Cod, the Spiced Hoisin Duck Confit and the Soy and Red Wine Braised Short Rib (below).  The Miso Hoisin Black Cod was my favorite taco as the fish had a rich and sweet flavor.  The salsas are also recommended and can be coordinated to which taco you order.  These are no ordinary tacos and they are full of flavor.

The vibe is comfortable and surprisingly casual for the Hollywood & Highland complex.  The Komida space includes an outdoor patio which is where I recommend sitting.  The entrance to the restaurant is decorated with a homemade mural listing out the menu items and the whole environment is playful.

The tacos are expensive compared to taquerias ($4- $6) but Chef Kleweno is using a higher level of product and Komida provides ambiance which most taco trucks and taquerias do not.  Best to think of it as an inexpensive restaurant than joint like Tacos Mexico and you can appreciate what they are doing.

Komida is open Thursday evenings from 5 - 9 pm and Saturday mornings from 10 - 2 pm.  So get some tacos while you shop at the Hollywood Farmers' Market tomorrow morning.

Komida: 1738 N. Orange Drive, Hollywood.  Twitter: @komida_la  Facebook: Komida.LA

FarmShop Now Offers A La Carte Dining at Dinner

FarmShop, the pricey but delicious restaurant that opened in the Brentwood Country Mart in December, began dinner service in September, with a prix fixe menu of one starter, one entree and cheese or dessert for a set price.  Modeled on Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc in Yountville, the food is served family style and there are no choices (except between cheese or dessert).

Beginning this week, FarmShop is now serving an a la carte dinner menu as well, so if you aren't in the mood for what is on the set menu or you want more or fewer dishes, you can create your own meal.  Dishes include Sweet Corn and Avocado Salad, Roasted Organic Chicken and Steamed Bouchot Mussels.

I am particularly excited to try the lamb, which is rumored to be joining the menu soon, as well as the Sunday night fried chicken.

FarmShop: Brentwood Country Mart: 225 26th Street, just South of San Vicente Blvd, Brentwood.  It is located adjacent to ReddiChick.

Full menu below:

today's dinnerFriday October 21, 2011
tonight's family style three course menu
forty-eight per person

Sweet Corn & Avocado Salad
Wild king Salmon
Andante Dairy's Rondo
Frog Hollow Farms Warren Tart

Red Butter Lettuce Salad windrose farm carrots, radish,
soft herbs & red wine vinaigrette     
Sweet Corn & Avocado Salad herbed farro,
sungold cherry tomatoes & garden mizuna     
Frog Hollow Farm Warren Pears burrata, pomegranate,
smoked almonds & wild arugula   
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup 
wild mushroom conserva, crėme fraîche & pepitas     10
Chickpea Hummus crispy chickpeas
& wholegrain lavash    
Salmon Rillettes fresh and smoked salmon
with pickled vegetables& olive oil flatbread     
Speck Ham marinated melon,
heirloom lime & fennel pollen     

Calotte of Prime Beef oven dried munak ranch tomoatoes, crispy potatoes & chimichurri     35
Pasta Mancini Alla Chitarra walnut-mint pesto,
ricotta cheese & hot pepper     
Wild King Salmon smashed baby beets, green olives,
dill-yogurt & arugula    
Roasted Organic Chicken corn & sweet peppers,
calliope eggplant & pistachio salsa verde    26
Steamed Bouchot Mussels french curry, mustard,
white wine & frites     27
Smashed Beets spiced yogurt & wild arugula     8
Crispy Potatoes rosemary & garlic     7
Fried Eggplant local honey     8
Marinated Olives  preserved orange     4.5
Heirloom Tomatoes opal basil     6       
Andante Dairy’s Rondo goat & cow     9.5
Bellwether Farms Pepato sheep     9.5
Fiscalini’s Bandaged Wrapped Cheddar cow     9.5
any three for fifteen dollars/ served with local honey & flatbreads     

Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake dark chocolate mousse
& candied hazelnuts     
Lemon Custard huckleberry sauce
& pistachio shortbread     
FHF Warren Pear Tart frangipane, mission fig marmelade
mascarpone cream     8

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Food Event this Sunday October 23rd

Late summer and early fall have brought a bounty of food festivals to Los Angeles.  From The Taste to the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival, gourmands, wine aficionados and have had the opportunity to attend events at a variety of price points and themes.  This Sunday, one of the highlights of the food scene arrives, the annual Los Angeles Magazine "The Food Event."  The name says it all, for $95 attendees get to try the cuisine of over 30 local restaurants and sip wines from half a dozen wineries, all in the beautiful setting of Saddlerock Ranch in Malibu.  The event will be held from 1 - 4 pm on Sunday October 23rd.

A food event is only as good as the participants and there is a good mix of restaurants participating, including several that have opened in the past year, such as The Royce (Pasadena), Manhattan Beach Post (Manhattan Beach), Sotto (West LA), Lukshon (Culver City), Farmshop (Brentwood) and Public Kitchen & Bar (Hollywood).  In addition several LA classics such as Patina, Michael's and the Saddle Peak Lodge will be on-hand.

There will be chef cooking demos by Karen & Quinn Hatfield of Hatfield's, Rory Hermann from Bouchon Bistro in Beverly Hills, and Ricardo Zarate of Picca & Mo-Chica, a best new chef winner of Food & Wine magazine.  The host Saddlerock will be one of the wineries sampling their wines and cocktails will be on hand from Veev and Chambord.

If you purchase your ticket online, it is only $95, slowpokes who wait to purchase at the door will pay $110, so it pays to plan ahead with this one.  This is the 6th annual event, and LA Magazine has their act together, so expect a well organized and fun afternoon of munching in the Bu.

The Food Event:  Location: Saddlerock Ranch, Malibu.  Date/Time: Sunday October 23rd, 1 - 4 pm.
Purchase tickets here:
Additional information here:

Remember, attendees must be 21+ years old.

Fall Cocktails & Barrel Aging at 1886

1886, the Pasadena bar which recently won the award for "Best Really Hidden Well Known Bar" from LA Weekly, has been continuing to turn out excellent drinks since Marcos Tello and Aidan Demarest consulted on its creation last year.  Head bartender Garrett McKechnie recently released his fall cocktail list, which is the first where he has truly driven the program.  Since the bar opened last year, a patio has been added and the customer base has grown, spilling out from the main room and filling up the patio.  1886 has truly filled a niche that hadn't been apparent before it opened.

A new addition to the program is the launch of 1886's first barrel aged cocktail, the Vintage Caprice.  The Caprice, made with Beefeater Gin, Benedictine, Dry Vermouth and orange bitters was aged in a barrel seasoned with sherry.  This was no small barrel; 24 liters of Beefeater, 6 liters of Benedictine and 6 liters of Dolin vermouth went into it.  Half of the first batch was removed from the barrel after 4 months and the remainder was left to further age.  The Caprice aging in the barrel will be eight months old at the end of the month.  I recently had the opportunity to try a freshly made Caprice and the 4 month and 7 month aged Vintage Caprices.  It was really instructive to taste how the cocktail evolved through the aging process.  The rough edges literally melted away and the final end product of the 7-8 month old Vintage is a thing of beauty.  Something not to be missed.

When the team at 1886 decided to embark on the barrel aging process, they reached out to Erick Castro, the West Coast brand ambassador for Beefeater & Plymouth Gins.  He was able to procure a barrel for the aging process and as much gin as the bar needed to fill up the ample vessel. Marcos Tello collaborated with the bartending staff at 1886 to help decide which cocktail they should age.  They selected gin as the base spirit because as 1886 bartender Danny Cymbal said, "lots of bars were doing whiskey-based, darker cocktails, but the end result was hidden by the color of the liquid.  So we decided to try it with a lighter alcohol."

Bartenders suggested various cocktails to be the one that was barrel aged and after much discussion and sampling of the options, it was Cymbal's suggestion of the Caprice that was selected.  Ironically he is not a fan of the unaged Caprice, "I wanted to choose something not all that great to see if it could be improved in the barrel," he explained.

I recommend trying the taste comparison yourself by sampling the fresh, 4 month and 8 month versions of the Vintage Caprice.

The Indian Summer is a good choice for a warm autumn evening as the watermelon juice and jalapeno blend to take summer into fall.  The cocktail is made with Blanco Tequila, agave syrup, watermelon juice, cilantro, jalapeno, watermelon chunks and chili salt.  This drink is more on the refreshing and juicy side.

One of my favorites from the new list is the Therapist.  It is from the Stirred section of the cocktail list, which is where I recommend visitors begin their ordering as it also includes the Vintage Caprice.  The Therapist is made with Highland Park 12 year single malt Scotch (the same stuff that is so wonderful in the Scottish Cashmere at Drago Centro), Drambuie, Carpano Antica, chocolate bitters, and carmelized orange essence.  Another fan of the bar named Aaron (not me) got a shoutout on the menu as he helped inspire this tasty concoction with a reference to fashion designer Alexander McQueen.  It is aromatic and multilayered.

There are four sections on the menu including the aforementioned Stirred, as well as Regional, Shaken and Seasonal.  In addition to the Caprice and Therapist, El Jimador, a tequila based cocktail created by Tello is featured.  The Regional Section includes the 4th iteration of Tello's Pimm's collection, known appropriately as Pimm's #4, which includes Jamaican Rum and his top secret recipe for Pimms, topped with Ting's Grapefruit Soda.  The other two cocktails in the section each pay homage.  The first, 1886 Kentucky Colonel (no relation to Colonel Sanders), was the house cocktail at the Hotel Bel Air when legendary bartender Dale DeGroff was behind the stick there in the 1980s, and the second, the Raymond Hill Smash is dedicated to the hill behind 1886 where the Raymond Hotel once stood.  The Colonel is made with boubon, Benedictine, orange, Angostura bitters and the Smash is made with Cognac, mint and oranges.

The Seasonal section includes the Indian Summer, as well as the Malted Mule, a collaboration between bartender Lacey Murillo and The Raymond pastry chef Jeff Haines that includes homemade gingersnap ice cream, Lemon Hart 151, Mt. Gay Eclipse aged rum, Jamaican rum, and homemade barley malt syrup topped with ginger ale.  That is a lot of Caribbean flavors all in one beverage.  The final seasonal offering is the 1886 Chin Chin, an adaptation of a cocktail created by Sammy Ross of Milk & Honey.  Note Ross also created the Penicillin, so he is truly a creator of modern classics.

The Shaken section has one original and two tributes.  The original is the St. Elmo's Fire from bartender Brady Weise, a beer cocktail made with 90 Minute Dogfish Head IPA, gin, aperol and lime juice.  Drinking one of these might just Emilio Estevez to drive after you in the snow.  The Big Mac cocktail is a bourbon and berries beverage from Damian Windsor of the Roger Room and the Earl Grey Martini is a gin sour from Audrey Saunders of the Pegu Club in New York, another modern cocktail legend.

Now instead of Pasadena residents driving downtown to get their cocktail fix, traffic is going the other way as folks from all over LA are making the pilgrimage to 1886.  This latest menu further solidifies its place among the top tier cocktail establishments in the city.

1886 at the Raymond: 1250 S. Fair Oaks, Pasadena.  Phone:: (626) 441-3136. Web:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nick + Stef's Meat 101: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic & Rare Beef

Do you think you are too old to go back to school?  Think again as Nick + Stef's Meat 101 is the kind of education you have been looking for.  The curriculum involves learning about the differences between various cuts and aging techniques.  I want to get extra credit by trying them all, although no guarantees that the credits will transfer to USC & UCLA.  

The educational series begins on Thursday October 20th and continues every Thursday through December 1st (excepting Thanksgiving day) at Nick + Stef's Steakhouse in downtown LA.  Classes cost $35 and include all materials and lab fees including the meat as well as paired wines. Your instructor is Professor Megan Logan, who also happens to be the Executive Chef.  She was formerly the sous-chef at Patina and has been leading the kitchen at Nick + Stef's for the past year.

The schedule of classes is as follows:

October 20th: Which Rib-eye to Buy?  Students get to sample and learn about bone-i, boneless and dry-aged rib-eye steaks.

November 3rd: New York, New York ... and New York!  A deep dive into bone-in, boneless and dry-aged New York Steaks.

November 17th: A Well Aged Steak.  This masterclass gives majors the opportunity to compare dr-aged and wet-aged rib-eye and New York steaks.

December 1st: U.S. vs the World.  Whose cuisine (or beef and wine to be precise) reigns supreme?  American, Argentine and New Zealand steaks and wines will be put to the ultimate test.

I went to a preview of the "Well Aged Steak" seminar and was quite impressed.  It was fun to get to taste a variety of aging methods and cuts all at once.  I have a prounced bias for rib-eyes as I find their fatty nature to be more flavorful.  The New York steak below made me reconsider.  It was cooked rare to medium rare and was juicy and full of beefy flavor.  All the beef we tried, and that Nick + Stef's serves, is graded Prime, the highest rating.  Only 3% of cattle are rated prime, so it is relatively hard to obtain and more expensive than other grades like Choice.

Dry aged beef is generally more expensive than wet-aged beef due to the aging process in which much of the moisture is allowed to evaporate, leaving a denser more intensely flavored beef.  The loss of the 8% water weight means that if a dry aged steak and wet aged steak begin the aging process the same weight, the dry aged one will finish lighter, thus resulting in a higher cost per ounce.  The steaks are aged for 21-28 days at low temperature (32 - 34 degrees) and high humidity to maximize the conditions which will give the beef flavor but without making it too gamy.
Aged New York
The Dry-Aged New York steak above had an intense flavor and wonderful texture, reminiscent of the best toro.  This is melt in your mouth beef, the kind you can only get at great butchers and steakhouses.  A steak like this is worth forsaking a ribeye.

Students get the opportunity to taste and compare the flavor profiles of different meats.  In the photo below, the rib-eye steaks are on top, and the New York steaks are on the bottom.  The sessions are limited to a small group of 15 and the meat is paired with interesting wines.  Chef Logan mentioned that she was excited to share a variety of wines with the steak, in order to show off the different flavors.

4 cuts, one plate
The steaks are aged on the premises, in a glass aging room and are then removed when they are ready for cooking.  The steaks below still have their protective "shell" on them, which is removed before they are cooked and served to the students.  The classes are informal and Chef Logan has a welcoming and unpretentious demeanor, although nobody in our class turned in their homework assignment late.

Shell Game
Having the aging room on-site allows the restaurant to have total control over the beef.  They can ensure optimal conditions during the aging process and it enables them to have sufficient quantities of different cuts at the right point in the aging period.  Plus it makes for a mouthwatering display as you walk to your seat.

School Locker

Classes begin tomorrow.  If you don't want to be behind on your coursework, I suggest you enroll soon.  Reservations are required and can be made by calling the restaurant directly at (213) 680-0330.

Nick + Stef's: 330 S. Hope St, DTLA.  Phone: (213) 680-0030.  Website:

Neat in Glendale, a Nifty New Spot to Sip Sprits

Aidan Demarest has been the pied piper of cocktails in Los Angeles.  He has led cocktail enthusiasts to Seven Grand, the Edison, First & Hope, 1886, and The Spare Room among others, most of which he has managed as well.  Finally Demarest has a bar he can truly call home.  Neat, in Glendale, opened last week and is the first bar that Demarest has owned.  He joins a select few LA bartenders/managers with ownership stakes in their establishments, which include Eric Alperin of The Varnish and Dave Whitton of Villains Tavern.

After so many years selling cocktails, Demarest brings a different twist to Neat.  Rather than the bartenders making cocktails, they provide a spirit neat, hence the name, and a mixer in a separate glass.  This way patrons can mix their own cocktails as well as get to taste the spirit without the mixer in it.  I recommend getting a spirit and a chaser, sangrita style, so you can sip one and then the other, alternating.  Diplomatico rum was my liquor of choice, which was served alongside some locally made soda.

Neat is casual, unpretentious and is very unlike anything else in Glendale.  In many ways it would be unique even in the cocktail mecca of Downtown Los Angeles.  I am curious to see how locals react to the conversion of what had been a dive bar to a place with a very legit back bar and knowledgeable barmen.  Of course there will be guest mixology events as Demarest can't help inviting his friends over to play.  Stay tuned here for updates on those.

For those who can hang on a Friday afternoon and have a passion for learning about spirits, Neat will be hosting the first of its Distiller Series as David Perkins, the distiller of High West Distillery in Park City, Utah, will be tasting and discussing rye with the lucky attendees this Friday October 21st from 2 - 5 pm.

Neat: 1114 Pacific Avenue, Glendale.  Phone: (818) 241-4542.  Website:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Celebrity Chef Tour Comes to Chaya October 20th

The Celebrity Chef Tour is kind of like the World Poker Tour, except the head to head finale leaves diners as the victors and nobody hauling away a briefcase full of cash.  The Celebrity Chef Tour comes to Chaya this Thursday night October 20th for a special dinner benefiting the James Beard Foundation.  Chaya Executive Chef Haru Kishi, and three members of the Forgione cooking family will be preparing the dinner.

The meal will begin with passed appetizers by each of the four chefs and the seated portion of the evening will start off with Hamachi Mole, one of Chef Kichi's signature creations.  Then Larry Forgione, one of the seminal leaders of American cuisine in the 1980s onwards, and his sons "Iron Chef" Marc Forgione of Marc Forgione Restaurant in New York and Bryan Forgione of the Society Cafe at the Encore resort in Las Vegas, will each serve a dish.  The meal will conclude with dessert prepared by Chefs Kishi & Tachibe of Chaya.

The meal is $175 all inclusive, which in this case means tax, tip and wine pairings.  Not only do you get to eat a meal at one of the creators of Euro Asian cuisine but diners have the opportunity to try the food of a legend and taste how his sons are building on his legacy with their own techniques.  Tradition plus experimentation should make for a fun and tasty evening.  Plus, it is not every day you get to help raise funds for the James Beard Foundation, which celebrates America's culinary heritage and traditions.

Buy tickets here:

Chaya: 8741 Alden Drive, Beverly Hills.  Phone: (310) 859-8833.  Website:

Fall cocktails at Michael's Santa Monica

It has been six months since Michael's Santa Monica hired Jason Robey to relaunch their cocktail program.  He has infused the spirit and produce of the Santa Monica farmers' market into his cocktails by both growing his own fruits and vegetables for his drinks as well as buying from the Wednesday market.

Robey recently created a fall cocktail list, to take advantage of the changing seasons and products available. A particularly interesting one is the Borracha Remolacha, made with Revolucion Reposado Tequila, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Lime Juice, Agave Nectar, Beet Juice, Orange Bitters.  It is a take on a margarita but the beet juice and smoky mezcal take it a slightly different direction.  The lollipop of bruleed orange rind is a playful touch.  When I see beet juice in a cocktail, I invariably think of Matthew Biancaniello's Breeder's Cup, which is a rather tasty gin drink that is a take on a Gordon's Cup, but this cocktail is nothing like that.  The Borracha Remolacha, which translates as Drunk Beet, has the startling color of the beets to throw you off of any margarita expectations you may have.  If only this was available at more Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

The Apple Blush is pure fall, like a less sweet apple juice for adults.  Mixed with Noah's Mill Bourbon, Meyer lemon juice, aged cinnamon simple syrup, fuji apple and a cranberry-pomegranate reduction, sipping on one transported me to a New England orchard.  The danger with apple drinks is that they will be sickly sweet, and thankfully this cocktail does not go over the edge.  It is shaken and served in a highball glass over ice and garnished with a slice of apple.  The version I tried was made with Buffalo Trace bourbon.  I suspect that it will be even better with the Noah's Mill.

The rest of the fall cocktail list is below:

Pumpkin the Great: Pumpkin Puree, Vanilla, Cinnamon, Jason’s Spiced Rum, Germain-Robin Apple Brandy, Cava

Dark Side of the Moon: Aviation Gin, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Blood Orange Juice, Lime, Orange Oil Simple Syrup, Crème de Violette

Smoke Love: Laphroaig 16yr Single Malt Scotch, Smoked Mezcal, Red Bell Pepper Simple Syrup, Basil, Cilantro, Grapefruit

Number 3: Confit-Washed Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Cardamaro, Leopold Bros. Georgia Peach Whiskey, Orange, Pepper, Angostora Bitters

Mary Rose: Cranberry-Ginger Infused Tito’s Vodka, Lime, Vanilla Simple Syrup, Charred Rosemary

Vera Cruz Cocktail: Chinaco Anejo Tequila, Fair Trade Kafe Liqueur, Aperol, Aztec Chocolate Bitters, Blood Orange Juice

Piscoretto Sour: Pisco, Amaretto, Egg White, Meyer Lemon, Demerra Sugar Simple Syrup, Peach Bitters

Michaels: 1147 3rd Street, Santa Monica.  Phone: (310) 451-0843.  Website:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Justin Pike is LA's Best Bartender

In the second annual Table 20 LA's Best Bartender competition, The Tasting Kitchen head bartender Justin Pike was named the champion.  The finals were held at Elevate Lounge in Downtown LA and a panel of notable judges including King Cocktail Dale DeGroff, last year's winner Matt Biancaniello of Library Bar, pastry chef and Top Chef Just Desserts judge Johnny Iuzinni, Bricia Lopez of Guelaguetza, Marcos Tello of the Varnish and president of the LA chapter of the USBG, and Jessica Gelt of the LA Times decided the winner.

LA's Best Bartender winner Justin Pike (left) with Devon Tarby
The results were:

1st Place: Justin Pike, The Tasting Kitchen
2nd Place: Joe Brooke, Next Door Lounge
3rd Place: Devon Tarby, The Varnish
4th Place: Brian Summers, Harvard & Stone
5th Place: Daniel Zacharczuk, Bar Kitchen

In addition to the ceremonial crown, which was passed from Biancaniello, Pike won a trip to Tales of the Cocktail and a billboard with his picture announcing his championship will go up on Monday October 24th at the intersection of Wilshire & Sweetzer.

The Judges Panel, from left: DeGroff, Tello, Iuzinni, Gelt, Lopez
The competition, now in its second year, was organized by Table 20 and sponsored by Karlsson's Gold Vodka.  Each finalist had to prepare six cocktails for the judges in only twenty minutes.  Three of the cocktails had to be classics, two were up to the bartender and one had to incorporate Karlsson's.  Attendance was high and several hundred spectators crowded Elevate Lounge to watch the competition and try the cocktails.  The attendees voted on their favorite cocktail and the winner was Brian Summers's Blues in Orbit, with Karlsson's Gold Vodka, fresh lemon juice, mango juice, chipotle syrup, and a celery salt rim.

Judges Lopez & Biancaniello
The only drawback to the event was the long lines for the drinks from the public bar (the competitors were making drinks for the judges only, not attendees) and the rapidly diminishing quality of those cocktails at the public bar.  Master of Ceremonies Dan Dunn kept the event moving smoothly and once the winner was announced, the attendees decamped to the Varnish for an unofficial after party.  If you didn't come to this year, plan on it for next year.

New Cocktail List, New Bar Manager at Big Bar

Big Bar recently celebrated its first anniversary.  The cocktail bar within Alcove Cafe has generated a devoted following for its unpretentious atmosphere, quality cocktails, knowledgeable staff and fun vibe.  Signature events include a weekly mixtape mixology series and a Monday movie night in which movies are projected outside.

The new fall cocktail list debuted earlier this month at Big Bar and it includes twelve selections.  The Lonsdale (below) is made with Beefeater Gin, lemon juice, honey, apple juice and basil.  The apple juice holds all the elements of the cocktail together and binds them without too much sweetness or tartness.  The Lonsdale is a well balanced shaken fall gin cocktail that is more on the refreshing side.

The Night Nurse is a take on the rum old fashioned with Sailor Jerry rum, Smith & Cross rum, grenadine, velvet falernum and absinthe.  When I sampled it Appleton's Rum was substituted for the Sailor Jerry as they were out of it.  The Night Nurse is more spiritous and would be equally wonderful to enjoy in front of a fireplace or a porch on a cool Southern California evening.  The twist of lime peel brings out citrus notes.

The Iron and Wine is made with Zaya Rum, Benedictine, Dry Vermouth, Fernet Branca, and Angostura bitters.  This stirred cocktail has a very strong mouthfeel from the Benedictine and Fernet and is on the aromatic side.

The Harvest Moon tastes like the essence of Autumn.  The apple flavor is pronounced in the cocktail made with Laird's Applejack, Amaro Nonino, Lillet, apple juice, and Angostura bitters.  Think changing leaves, pumpkin pie and a sip of the Harvest Moon as Halloween and Thanksgiving season approaches.

In a changing of the guard, bar manager Juan Sevilla is departing the bar to move to New York and work at SoHo House.  The cocktail program will be managed by Dan Long and Eugene Lee (below), who have both worked under since the bar opened, so I anticipate that the momentum that Big Bar has been building will continue.

Tonight is Sevilla's final night and it coincides with a Screening of the 80s classic movie The Lost Boys.  So come to watch the movie, say goodbye to Juan and to try the drinks on the new cocktail list.  Sevilla assures me that he will be back in LA as the New York move is not permanent.  The full cocktail list is below the movie poster:

Big Bar Fall Cocktails:

Mamie Taylor: Famous Grouse Scotch, lime juice, ginger syrup, soda, Angostura bitters

Army & Navy: Bols Genever, Orgeat, lemon juice, nutmeg

Canela Sour: El Jimador Reposado Tequila, cinnamon syrup, lime juice, chocolate chili bitters, Angostura bitters

Remember the Maine: Old Overholt Rye Whiskey, Carpano Antica. Cherry Heering, Absinthe

Cinnamon Girl: Woodford Reserve Bourbon, St. Germain, lemon juice, grapefruit juice, cinnamon syrup, Angostura bitters, sparkling wine

Paloma: El Jimador Tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, simple syrup, tonic water

Rum Diary: Bacardi 8 Rum, Del Maguey Mezcal Vida, agave, lime juice

Bo Diddley: Old Overholt Whiskey, Kings Ginger Liqueur, lime juice, honey, Angostura bitters, cucumber

Big Bar at Alcove Cafe: 1929 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Feliz.  Phone: (323) 644-0100.