Archive for the 'Mixology' Category

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1886 Bar at The Raymond – Pasadena

1886 at The Raymond - Pasadena

Living in Pasadena has its perks. The weather is perpetually gorgeous, work is a short walk away, the Kung Food Panda lives around the corner, and the cocktails are masterfully crafted at 1886. What more does one need besides sunshine, a short commute, good friends, and booze? Not much in my world.

Opened last fall on a quiet stretch of Fair Oaks, 1886 has become my favorite place to drink in the neighborhood. The ambiance is moody without pretension, the bar bites are sophisticated and delicious, and the drinks are nothing short of stellar.

1886 at The Raymond - Pasadena

The Astronomer and I have visited 1886 a few times since it debuted, and we recently returned as guests of the bar to sample the new spring cocktail menu. Under the creative direction of master mixologist Marcos Tello, the team at 1886 have added 16 new seasonal and regional drinks to the menu.

The bar was staffed by Garrett McKechnie and Greg Gertmenian this evening. Both gentlemen are extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their craft. I found their spirit for spirits absolutely infectious.

1886 at The Raymond - Pasadena

While we perused the food  menu, Garrett brought over a Tequila Daisy 2.0 (left) and a Swedish Crush. Both drinks were from the “seasonal” section of the new menu.

Greg created the Tequila Daisy 2.0 as a play on the classic Margarita using tequila, cointreau, lime, and my favorite element, strawberry foam. Tequila-based cocktails with a fruity twist are my favorite, so this one really resonated with me. Garrett’s Swedish Crush, which incorporated a historic ingredient from the 1700’s called “Swedish Punsch,” included cognac, rum, and pomegranate. It was refreshing to the last drop thanks to the icy mound.

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Villains Tavern – Los Angeles (Downtown)

Villains Tavern - Downtown

From an eater’s perspective, it seems that the next chapter in Los Angeles’ gourmet food truck movement is just getting underway. Businesses that started by serving meals on wheels are transitioning into brick and mortar operations or popping up at established restaurants for limited engagements. Food trucking isn’t sustainable in the long run and as a result, businesses are expanding their brands and diversifying their services for a greater shot at success.

Kogi has grown its Korean taco empire to include two restaurants, Chego and A-Frame. Get Shaved has two independent shops in Northridge and Torrance. Komodo just opened a restaurant on Pico Boulevard. And in a few short weeks, Flying Pig will be serving pork belly buns in Little Tokyo.

Villains Tavern - Downtown

My friends aboard the Great Balls on Tires truck have been working toward expanding their concept as well. Every Tuesday night for the past few months, they’ve been serving an “off-tires” menu at Villains Tavern. I didn’t get around to checking out their new digs until a few weeks ago when Villains debuted their spring cocktail menu. There’s nothing like the promise of well-crafted libations and the best balls in town to get me out of the house on a weeknight.

Villains Tavern - Downtown

Before the parade of balls commenced, The Astronomer and I sipped on some very fine cocktails. I chose the Ma’at, which was made with Sagatiba cachaca, cantaloupe, citrus, and Chilean salt, while my partner went with the Isis made with pisco, basil, cucumber, lemon, lime, egg whites, and sugar. Created by in-house mixologist Dave Whitton, both drinks were well-balanced and delicious, in addition to being potent.

Later on in the night, we sampled the Osiris’ Punch made with rye whiskey, hibiscus, mint, citrus, spices, and bitters. It was a festive bowl of booze that packed quite a wallop.

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One Sunset – Los Angeles (West Hollywood)

Less than a week after the huge blogger blowout dinner at STK, the One Group invited us all back for more. The site of the encore dinner was at One Sunset, the group’s flagship restaurant. Part lounge and part restaurant, One Sunset offers the trendy Hollywood crowd the best of both worlds in one sultry setting—hence its name.

Once again, the city’s food bloggers showed up with bells on. [A full list of attendees after the jump.] Our group of camera-wielding and notebook-jotting diners came specifically to sample One Sunset’s Tuesday night dinner special. Designed by Chef Jason Ryczek, the “One of Almost Everything” tasting menu offers diners a four-course menu featuring ten of the restaurant’s signature dishes, including dessert, for $45 a person. A full bottle of wine can be had for a dollar more.

After getting thoroughly smashed at STK, I displayed incredible restraint this evening in order to focus on the food. Mixologist Pablo Moix’s potent cocktails made several appearances throughout our dinner.

The Astronomer and I were greeted with flutes of LUSHious Raspberry (left – muddled raspberries, Gloria Ferrer Champagne) upon entering the restaurant. The ruby red drink was bubbly and refreshing.

We sipped The Master Cleanse (center – Belvedere vodka, fresh lemon juice, cayenne pepper, maple syrup) as we dug into the menu’s early offerings. It was a quirky and fantastic creation—a drink I’d definitely order again.

Lastly, the Tropical Sidecar (right – Hennessy, pineapple, Cointreau, blueberries) arrived with the heartier courses. I found it reeking of booze and not much else. Pass.

Chef Ryczek started our group off with an off-the-menu creation called Breakfast on a Plate (left), which consisted of pancakes, bacon foam, apple caviar, maple syrup, and crème fraîche. From the presentation to the flavors, everything about this starter was right on point. The only flaw was its temperature. I’m not sure whether the chef intended to send the dish out lukewarm, but I would have preferred my breakfast served hot.

Next, we noshed on some Adult Candy (right)—bacon-wrapped, blue cheese-stuffed dates. The dish’s combination of savory, salty, and sweet notes were easy to like, but creativity was sorely lacking. Bacon-wrapped dates are strictly dinner party 101 fare.

The Spicy Tuna Tartare (left) was served upon eggplant tempura and drizzled with kecap manis, a sweet soy sauce. The tuna’s thick spicy sauce was heavy with chilies, thus overwhelming the delicate fish.

The best starter of the evening was the burrata with Carlsbad strawberries, pistachios, pink pepper, and basil (right), which was served alongside delightfully sweet and crisp cinnamon toasts. The dish’s unique combination of flavors had The Astronomer and I jonesing for more. We heart creativity.

The BBQ Sliders with crispy shallots and smoked cheddar that arrived next were at a Maroon 5 level of rocking. Had the bread not been cold and plain white, the sliders would’ve tasted much better; perhaps reaching The Fray rocking status. The fried onion strings served alongside the sliders were golden and plentiful, but I’m more of an onion ring kind of girl.

The Korean Chicken Satay (left) was smothered in a sauce with hints of kimchi and kecap manis, and sprinkled with crushed cashews. Considering how little I appreciate chicken breast, this dish had a certain sweet and spicy appeal.

The Turkey Meatballs (right) with marinara, Parmesan, and basil were surprisingly moist and had a homey quality. Turkey meatballs strike me as diet food, which probably bodes well for One Sunset’s usual clientèle.

Even though crusted and seared tuna is a tired menu offering, One Sunset’s pistachio crusted albacore was done well enough (left). The fish was served alongside a caper aioli and a Niçoise salad.

The roasted clams on the half-shell with chorizo, chowder sauce, and crushed oyster crackers (right) were my favorite hot course of the evening—there’s nothing quite like taking a shot of shellfish.

We wrapped up the evening with a trio of desserts. The Meyer lemon panna cotta (top) with blackberry sorbet, lavender poppy seed crisp, and lavender oil was a hit among my tablemates. For me, the floral profile was too much and as a result, the entire dessert tasted like Lysol.

The Vegan Godiva Chocolate Gelato (bottom, right) was served with a shot of Amaretti di Saronno. There’s something about the sharpness of the word “vegan” that’s a real appetite killer, especially when it comes to desserts. I vote for replacing the shot of booze with some real dairy goodness.

The Velvet Rope Cupcakes (bottom, left) were terrific. The cake was moist and the frosting tasted great—clearly evidence that good desserts will result from proper usage of butter and sugar.

Thank you again to Abby and the One Group for coordinating this very special dinner.

One Sunset * CLOSED *
8730 West Sunset Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Phone: 310-657-0111

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One Sunset in Los Angeles

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STK – Los Angeles (West Hollywood)

STK is SXY. Really SXY. It’s the kind of place where scenesters get papped on their way into the restaurant, wheel and deal while they dine, and then leave in vehicles with tinted windows. The Astronomer and I rarely frequent establishments that are plastered on the gossipy pages of Us Weekly (my favorite tabloid), but when a special invitation is extended, we’ll gladly accept. Let it be known that we are PR-friendly whores.

Our invites to a private blogger dinner came courtesy of Abby of Pleasure Palate on behalf of the One Group. Even though my college economics professors emphasized on more than one occasion that there’s “no such thing as a free lunch,” they never did mention anything about dinner.

The Los Angeles blogging community showed up in full force for the STK event—let it be known that we are all PR-friendly whores. [For a full list of attendees, see below.]

When The Astronomer and I arrived on the scene, we thanked Abby for the generous invite and then joined the crowd of cocktail sipping bloggers mingling at the bar. We were pleased as pie to see some familiar faces in the crowd, including Tony C. and Wandering Chopsticks.

Created by mixologist Pablo Moix, the cocktails at STK are innovative, moreish, and most importantly, stiff as heck. I started the evening off with an Uva Caipirinha (left) with Leblon cachaca, red grapes, lime, and clover honey. The Astronomer sipped an ultra-manly Green Intensity (center) with Aviation gin, lime juice, Serrano chili slices, and basil leaves. Both were potent and tasty.

From the bar area, we made our way into the main dining room. As soon as our lovely waitress Bambi introduced herself and described the night’s offerings, we were presented with STK’s signature bread served in cast iron skillets (left). My first mound of bread was cold, so it was left untouched on my plate. The second hunk was much warmer and tasted even better dipped in the ground chives and olive oil sauce served alongside.

The first appetizer of the evening was a special off-the-menu creation by Executive Chef Todd Mark Miller. It consisted of tomatoes prepared four-ways (right)—dried, marinated, tartare, and plain. Inspired by the BLT sandwich, the plate was also strewn with bacon bits, avocado, basil, and radishes.

The appetizer was presented with a cocktail pairing, La Cienega (top, right), which consisted of Corzo silver, lime juice, cucumber slices, and mint leaves.

The most enjoyable (and memorable) courses of the evening were the ones that arrived early on, before I got smashed. Clockwise from top left: roasted beets (coriander, micro mint, yogurt, curry), tuna tartare (citrus yogurt, jalapeno, orange and plantain chips), arugula salad with apples, and jumbo lump crab salad (green melon, avocado, mache greens and kaffir lime). Everyone at our tabled adored the crab salad. I had seconds of the sweet golden beets.

The cold appetizers were followed up by some really amazing sliders. These Lil’ Big Macs (pardon the silly name) were comprised of tender patties of Japanese wagyu topped with special sauce, oozy cheese, and a slice of tomato, all on a toasted and buttered black sesame seed bun. This was hands down the best item I ate all evening.

And this is where the evening starts getting loud, blurry, and ridiculously fun. Some time after I polished off my Lil’ Big Mac, I started feeling the libations and as a result, forgot how to properly taste food. The evening’s cocktail pairings, which included a Capsicum Mojito (left – Bacardi, lime juice, mint leaves, bell pepper rings), a Great Gatsby (center – Hennessy, Cointreau, lemon juice, orange juice), and an STK’s Delicious (right – Patron XO, raspberries, mint leaves, lime juice), arrived at the table at a faster clip than I could down ’em.

I’d forgotten how much fun binge drinking could be—Thanks for reminding me, Pablo!

Next, we were served something called Cowboy Steak—dry-aged bone-in rib-eye (left)—and wet-aged filet with foie gras butter (right, top). The duo of steaks were served with a selection of sauces, including creamy horseradish, herb Bearnaise, red wine sauce, blue butter, STK, lemon mustard, bold STK, and toasted peppercorn.

As if that weren’t more than enough goodness, we also received platters of organic roasted chicken with turmeric, baby carrots, and chives (left) and red snapper with ponzu and shitake brown butter (right).

To accompany the heaps of meat, we were served sweet corn pudding (left, top), macaroni and cheese (left, bottom), asparagus (center), and Parmesan truffle fries (right).

The final bite of the evening was a hazelnut Pop Tart served with hazelnut ice cream. At nearly midnight, The Astronomer and I stumbled out of STK buzzed and happy.

A special thanks to Abby and the One Group for coordinating this delightful affair.

755 N La Cienega Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90046
Phone: 310-659-3535

STK on Urbanspoon

STK in Los Angeles

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