Thursday, April 29, 2010

Weekly Stir Fry: 4-29-10

This week's roundup of dining deals and restaurant specials around Los Angeles, posted directly here on my site rather than LA.com. All the same valuable, up-to-the-minute info, but now you can find it all right here, so enjoy, and get out to eat!

Pourtal Birthday BBQ, Thursday, April 29

This hole-in-the-wall Santa Monica wine bar known for its rotating roster of refined wines and its shiny new enomatic machines is celebrating the anniversary of its first year in business today with $4.29 glasses of wine, and $4.29 plates of barbecue from 6:00-10:00pm, no reservations necessary. Chef Sean Takaki will be plating up his special dry rub babyback ribs slathered with homemade bbq sauce, alongside grilled artichokes with lemon butter, and pee wee potatoes with garlic and thyme. As for the wines, there will be several Spanish offerings from Verasol winery, a few Santa Barbara ones from Oreana, and a couple more from Australia, France and Chile.

104 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401, (310) 393-7693, pourtal.com

1642 Launches Slow Dance, Saturday, May 1

Get close at Echo Park’s newest bar this Saturday evening as you sip craft beers, boutique wines, and slow dance to the soul, rock and country tunes being spun by Gypsy Tailwind starting at 9:00pm. After all, when’s the last time you slow danced?

1642 Temple St., Los Angeles, CA 90026

French Wine Tasting at Vertical Wine Bistro, Sunday, May 2

You know I love my French wines, so I’m even thinking of stopping by Vertical Wine Bistro in Pasadena for a tasting led by General Manager Manuel Mesta and French wine consultant and exporter Pierrick Bouquet showcasing varietals from the Loire, Beaujolais, the Rhone and Bordeaux, and paired with a selection of farmers’ market small plates prepared by Chef Doug Weston. Guests will get to taste a 2006 Joseph Drouhin Fleurie, a 2008 Clos du Mont Olivet Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blend from Chateauneuf du Pape, and bites like gorgonzola-stuffed dates wrapped with Serrano ham, and even oxtail terrine. The tasting starts at 4:00pm. Tickets are $40, reservations strongly recommended.

70 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, CA 91103, (626) 795-3999, verticalwinebistro.com

Wine Tasting at Veno Kado, Sunday, May 2

One of my favorite wine stores in town is showcasing some of my favorite regions in France. Veno Kado is hosting an informal, in-store tasting of three French wines this Sunday from 2:00-5:00pm. The white on the list is the La Mere Boitier Macon-Village Chardonnay with tasting notes like honey, orange blossom, cucumber and stone fruit. Then it’s on to reds from Languedoc-Roussillon and the southern Rhone. First up is the Domain Aimé Minervois made from Carignan and Syrah with notes lush blackberry, cherry, cardamom and white pepper, then an even richer Chateau Virgile Costieres de Nimes Rouge 2008 with flavors of blackberry, black currant, cocoa, licorice, tar and even beef jerky. It’s made from a classic blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. Tastings usually run $10, come whenever you want!

7714 Fountain Ave., West Hollywood, CA 90046, (323) 850-1600, venokado.com

Aperitivo at Cecconi’s

From 5:00-7:00pm daily, folks who mosey on into this West Hollywood hotspot for a cocktail will be offered complimentary snacks like slices of pizzette, chunks of parmesan, mixed olives, grissinin wrapped in Parma ham, bruschetta, and mini Italian grilled cheese sandwiches called pierini. There’s no printed menu, and Chef Andrea Cavaliere will keep things interesting by changing up his offerings daily, so feel free to stop by after work every day! There’s also a new list of hand-crafted cocktails available at the bar including the Eighty-seven Sixty-four with Makers Mark, white crème de cacao and absinthe; and the Nerone with Bombay Sapphire, Aperol, and fresh grapefruit and blood orange juice. Get there before 6:00pm, and your valet is complimentary.

8764 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90069, (310) 432-2000, cecconiswesthollywood.com

Thirsty Crow Bar Opens For Bourbon Lovers

The faux-dive bar that used to be Stinkers Truck Stop has reopened as the moonshine-happy Thirsty Crow Bar, with a bourbon and whiskey-heavy menu that features all kinds of artisanal, hand-crafted brown liquors to make you forget your troubles. The menu also includes a list of labor-intensive cocktails including four kinds of Manhattans (including one with Tabasco, and another with orange marmalade), classic Mint Juleps, and an eponymous Thirsty Crow made with rye, citrus, bitters and ginger beer. Though it only opened on Monday, it’s already packed to the gills every night with hipsters of all stripes, so get there early to secure a place at the horseshoe-shaped bar or in the cozy back room.

2939 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026, (323) 661-6007, thirstycrowbar.com

Brunch at Boa

Just in time for Mother’s Day, Boa Steakhouse is launching a new Sunday brunch menu with both breakfast and lunch classics, as well as custom drinks made tableside. The menu will be available every Sunday from 11:00am-3:00pm, and will include options like: steak and eggs with home fries; huevos with chorizo, black bean, queso fresco and tortillas; pancakes with ricotta and sautéed bananas; brioche French toast topped with caramelized pears and berries; and lunch options like the famous Boa burger with Camembert cheese and fried onion strings; and the tuna Niçoise salad with seared tuna sashimi, Kalamata olives, quail eggs, artichokes, and fingerling potatoes. On mothers day, diners can also give mom a potted herb plant to take home.

9200 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069, (310) 278-2050, boasteak.com

Savor Sundays at Whist

Starting this week, and continuing for seven more, Whist at the Viceroy Santa Monica Hotel is introducing “Savor Sundays” with a new family-style menu of classics from Chef Tony DiSalvo. The menu is a three-course prix fixe every Sunday from May 2-June 20 from 5:30-9:00pm, and costs $27 per adult, and $12 per child under 12 years old. The menu will rotate every week, but upcoming dishes include a butter lettuce wedge salad, buttermilk fried chicken with bacon cheddar biscuits; collard greens, grits, mashed potatoes and slaw; pecan pie with whisky caramel-vanilla ice cream; shrimp and lobster boil with steamers, linguine, potatoes, corn on the cob and Parkerhouse rolls; grilled Gulf shrimp salad with roasted corn, red peppers, romaine and grilled zucchini. Sounds like a family Sunday supper we’d be into.

1819 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90401, (310) 260-7511, viceroysantamonica.com

The Rest

And here’s a list of other…well, listings, of weekly specials and goings on about town, so check out what the other guys are talking about!

Urban Daddy: http://www.urbandaddy.com/la/weekender/9592/The_Weekender_Sex_Comedy_4_29_Wine_and_Poolside_Fried_Chicken_Los_Angeles_LA

Rundown: http://rundown.com/article.php?article_id=972

Jaunted: Air New Zealand SkyCouch Gallery and Video


Hopefully you took a look at my Jaunted article last week about Air New Zealand's new SkyCouch seating in economy, and redesigned Premium Economy seats.

Though I broke down all the details and threw in a few photos to show you what the new recliners that will change trans-Pacific travel will look like, I had a lot more pictures and even a couple demo videos to share, so they went live on Jaunted this week.

Want to see how the new seats work, who will fit (and who won't!), and why their Premium Economy ottomans (named Otto) have googley eyes? Take a look at my gallery and videos at the link below.

Link: http://www.jaunted.com/story/2010/4/28/11757/1318/travel/Check%20Out%20Air%20New%20Zealand%27s%20New%20SkyCouch%20and%20Premium%20Economy%20Seats,%20in%20Video

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Frontiers IN/LA: Capriotti's

Sometimes even I just want a good old sandwich, so it's a thrill to get a Frontiers IN/LA assignment for a review of...a sandwich shop. Even if this one is in Beverly Hills.

Capriotti's is apparently something of an East Coast institution, but it's made its way over here to California, and now has two storefronts: one in BH, and the other in Encino.

I dropped by there a few weeks ago to try out a few of their sandwiches and take in the general atmosphere of the place, as well as to brush up on the Capriotti family history. Here's what I found, what I thought, and what I ate.

Link: http://www.frontierspublishing.com/2826/nightlife/nl_eat.html

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Blackboard Eats: Little Next Door

As some of you might know, I have been doing a little freelancing for the popular Blackboard Eats site, which offers members some fantastic discounts and perks (like prix fixe menus, free wine, and more) at some of the most exciting restaurants around Los Angeles.

For my latest piece on the site, I traipsed into an old L.A. favorite, The Little Next Door, for some enticing French dishes, and an evening of soaking in the serene scene. To read more about what I think makes this little place so special, take a look the write up I gave it at the link below.

Link: http://www.blackboardeats.com/sp/30-percent-off-dinner-at-little-next-door-los-angeles

Friday, April 23, 2010

HotelChatter: Four Seasons Scottsdale's Facial for Chemistry Dorks!

While I was at a Phoenix/Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) get together a few weeks ago at Vinoteque, I was speaking with the marketing rep for the Four Seasons Scottsdale, and she told me about this new line of skin care products from Hungary that the hotel's spa is incorporating into their treatments.

Among the new treatments using the Omorvicza products is the Pinnacle Facial, which incorporates a few elements you'd find on the Periodic Table, including copper, zinc, and even gold. Dork that I am, my mind naturally went back to high-school chemistry class, and hence the idea behind this fun little post on HotelChatter.

To learn more about the resort, its spa, and the products they are using in this unique, chemistry coddling, click on the link to my story below!

Story: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2010/4/15/134756/121/hotels/The_Spa_at_Four_Seasons_Scottsdale_Mines_the_Periodic_Table_of_Elements

Thursday, April 22, 2010

HotelChatter: Winvian

A few weeks back, I was invited to a Relais & Chateaux dinner at Patina, and as I was talking to the representative of that venerable travel association, she told me about a new property in Connecticut called Winvian, which is just 18 cottages designed by 15 different architects in a variety of fun, fantastical styles.

Sounded like a perfect fit for HotelChatter to me, so I wrote it up and talked about some of the more...unique...cottages on the property, including one with a replica of Stonehenge in the bathroom, and another that has an entire Coast Guard helicopter inside it that serves as the living room!

Take a look for yourself at my story on this very special property: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2010/4/14/12952/9132/hotels/If_Salvador_Dal_Designed_a_Hotel_It_Would_Be_The_Winvian

Palate Press: Arcadian Wines Tasting

Remember the other day when I said my story on the Hotel Corque was going to be my last piece on Solvang and Santa Barbara's wine country for a while? Well, I lied.

A couple weeks ago, I also wrote a piece for Palate Press about the tasting I had at Arcadian with owner-winemaker Joe Davis. I can honestly say that it was one of the most special tastings I've had, as Joe sat with me for three hours talking at length about his personal history, his winemaking philosophy, and the specifics about the wines that he produces...before tasting me on seven of his phenomenal wines. It truly was a wonderful afternoon, and only confirmed that his are some of my favorite wines from the area.

To see why, take a look at my story and the accompanying tasting notes I took on the wines we tried together.

Story: http://palatepress.com/2010/04/a-tasting-with-joe-davis-of-arcadian-winery/

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Weekly Stir Fry: 4-21-10

This week's roundup of dining deals and restaurant specials around Los Angeles, posted directly here on my site rather than LA.com. All the same valuable, up-to-the-minute info, but now you can find it all right here, so enjoy, and get out to eat!

Akasha’s All-Day Earth Day Happy Hour, Thursday, April 22

To celebrate Mother Earth, Akasha will be offering all-day happy hour drink specials this Thursday, with select cocktails, wines and beers at half-price. Among the specialty cocktails is the Strawberry and Guava Margarita ($7) made with Casa Noble Tequila nad local fruit, and the Basil Lemon Drop ($6) made with TRU Organic Vodka, who will donate a tree for every Basil Lemon Drop sold that day. Even the special wines and beers are environmentally conscious. Quivira Sauvignon Blanc ($6) and Grenache ($7) are both biodynamic, and Samuel Smith ($4) is organic.
9543 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232, (310) 845-1700, akasharestaurant.com

NFL Draft at Katsuya LA Live, Thursday-Friday, April 22-23
It seems like the Super Bowl was just yesterday, but the NFL Draft is already happening this week, and for fans who just can’t wait for the next NFL season to get started on the action, Katsuya at LA Live is offering an extended happy hour from 5:00-10:00pm both Thursday and Friday evenings this week in the hopes of luring avid football fans away from crowded sports bars into the more sophisticated space for treats like $4 draft beers, $5 bottles, and and food specials like $10 baked crab hand rolls, $7 spicy chicken wings, and $9 Kobe sliders, to name a few. And hey, there are several HD flat screens scattered through the restaurant, so you can be sure of having a front-row seat on all the action.
800 Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90015, (213) 747-9797, sbe.com/katsuya

Peju Province Wine Pairing at Napa Valley Grille, Tuesday, April 27
Executive Chef Joseph Gillard will be preparing a fresh seasonal, five-course menu from locally sourced produce to accompany a tasting flight hosted by Peju Province Winery. The meal rings up to $85 per person, and will include dishes like: prime sirloin beef tartare with pine nut relish; warm blue crab bruschetta with sour orange reduction; veal sweet breads with mushrooms, corn succotash and pancetta foam; roasted rack of lamb with toasted farro, grilled radicchio and parmesan-balsamic emulsion; and the restaurant’s popular Laura Chenel chevre tart with Amarena cherries. Hors d’oeuvres will be served at 6:30pm, and dinner starts at 7:00pm. Call for reservations since seating is limited.
1100 Glendon Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90024, (310) 824-3322, napavalleygrille.com

Sonoma in the City at Mélisse, Wednesday, May 5
More often associated with snooty French vintages, Josiah Citrin’s Santa Monica gastronomic temple is instead celebrating Northern California winemakers for the night on May 5, with a four-course menu paired with wines from the Alexander Valley. Diners will have the chance to talk to the winemakers from such big names as Souverain, Skpstone, Stryker and Munselle, and learn about the individual wines, as well as the region in general. Included on the menu: rolled goat cheese with grapes and chopped pistachios; hamachi with celery and Meyer lemon; Maine lobster with porcini mushrooms and eggplant in a rich broth; roasted stuffed quail with forbidden rice, kale and spiced black olive tapenade; rib eye and braised short ribs with Dijonnaise and fava beans in a Bordelaise sauce; and flaky reblochon tart for dessert. Dinner is priced at $150 plus tax and gratuity.
1104 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401, (310) 395-0881, melisse.com

City Sip Home Brewing Class, Saturday, May 15
Part tasting, part class, part pizza party, City Sip’s home brewing class will include fancy beers, fancy pizzas and fancy trivia to get you happily buzzed, and buzzing about starting your own in-house brewery. From 1:00-4:00pm, guests can come and learn everything they’ve ever wanted to know about brewing their own beer, taste 6-8 artisanal ales and lagers, and munch on Two Boots pizza. The class costs $45 per person, and since space is very limited, it is expected to sell out quickly, so call ahead for a reservation.
2150 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026, (213) 485-9463, citysipla.com

New Menu Items at LAMILL Coffee

We’re all for the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but even we crave a little variety from time to time. That’s why we were delighted to learn about several new menu items that have made an appearance at LAMILL Coffee in Silverlake. The new dishes include a kimchi flank steak salad with scallions and carrots, cheese and charcuterie plates, a seared Jidori chicken breast with spinach, bacon and twice-cooked sweet potatoes; pork belly ramen with spinach, negi and a soft-boiled egg, and a new dessert of coffee mousse, ice cream, hazelnut streusel and chicory chocolate sauce. Come for a latte, stay for dinner.
1636 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026, (323) 663-4441, lamillcoffee.com

Elements Kitchen Gets Booze
Pasadena’s Elements Kitchen opened to positive reviews back in January, and now that it’s got its liquor license, those accolades are bound to get even more glowing. The new cocktail menu will be overseen by Michel Dozois, and composed of “elemental” ingredients that creatively shake up classics like the gin rickey, the Gordon’s cup and the mint julep. There will also be a “Dealer’s Choice,” where guests can enjoy a custom cocktail from the bartender based on their choice of spirits and flavors. Elements will also have “First Sips,” pre-cocktail, half-size drinks that will “clear the palate and stimulate the appetite” for $5 each, that will change every day. Thursday night will feature “Liquid Sketches,” where the bar concocts three different cocktails for $5 each, centering on an ingredient such as cucumber or hibiscus. Are you a control freak who needs to know the secret ingredient ahead of time? Follow Elements Kitchen’s Twitter (@elementskitchen) to learn the weekly ingredient first.
37 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, CA 91101, (626) 440-0044, elementskitchen.com

Ortolan’s New Spring Tasting Menu
Spring is in the air at Ortolan, as Chef Christophe Émé unveils a new three-course spring tasting menu that will be available for only a few weeks. The $40 prix fixe will be available Tuesday-Thursday nights, and will include dishes like: marinated salmon with lemongrass sorbet, ginger and ponzu; seared scallop with English pea coulis, lentil gnocchi and parmesan emulsion; lobster spaghetti with beef jus and white asparagus cream; braised short ribs with risotto and spring vegetables; vanilla-honey panna cotta with strawberry caviar; and chocolate ganache with brownies and chocolate sorbet.Wine pairings are available for an additional $20.
8383 W. Third St., Los Angeles, CA 90048, (323) 653-3300, ortolanrestaurant.com

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jaunted: Air New Zealand's SkyCouches


With the prospect of a few long-haul trips looming on the horizon, and a couple recent ones under my belt, I have a newfound interest (bordering on obsession) about the seating options on major airlines--especially those never-ending trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic routes.

So it was with keen enthusiasm that I trundled off to Air New Zealand's U.S. headquarters near LAX yesterday evening for a sneak preview of their new Economy SkyCouch seats, and the revamped Premium Economy seats.

You can check out Air NZ's nifty online presentation at their Aviation Design Academy site, but for all the down-and-dirty insider details, check out my story on Jaunted today, complete with a couple photos (real ones I took, not the marketing one above!), and stay tuned to Jaunted tomorrow for an entire gallery of my shots plus two videos I shot of the stylish Air NZ crew demonstrating the new configurations.

Link: http://www.jaunted.com/story/2010/4/20/1518/01859/travel/The+Ultimate+Guide+to+Air+New+Zealand%27s+New+%27SkyCouch%27+Seats

HotelChatter: Inside the Hotel Corque

Lately I've been writing a lot about my recent trip to Solvang, and for good reason: there is so much to see, do, and taste; plus there are some fabulous lodging options including everyone's favorite, the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, plus the new Hotel Corque right in town.

But just in case you're getting Solvang overload, fear no more, because this is probably the last piece for a little bit--on to other destinations! So be sure to check out this quick post I wrote about staying at the Hotel Corque, complete with photo gallery and walk-through video, because it's all you'll be getting from me on Santa Barbara wine country for a while!

Link: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2010/4/13/1232/22921/hotels/There_s_Plenty_of_Room_to_Pop_the_Cork_Inside_Hotel_Corque

Monday, April 19, 2010

HotelChatter: Hotel Indigo's iPads

After my jaunt down to Orange County for the OCeanfrontCA Shakeoff cocktail contest last Thursday, I skipped farther south to San Diego to check out king-size bunk beds and the huge enomatic wine machines at the Andaz San Diego (formerly the Ivy), and then, more geekily, to hit the Hotel Indigo to play with one of their new iPads. And, just to make my editor at HotelChatter (and Apple-lovers everywhere) jealous, I tested out the iPad myself and Tweeted some questions while I was there.

To see for yourself, check out the full story, complete with video (!) here: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2010/4/19/15724/9427/hotels/Hotel_Indigo_Lets_Us_Play_With_Its_iPad

EDGE: Guide to Napa

Installment number three of my Destination California series on Edge went up on the site this morning, and in it, I cover one of my favorite destinations in the site: NAPA!

I'll just warn you now, it's a bit long since I wanted to get in all of my favorite hotels, restaurants and, of course, wineries. Turns out I have a lot of favorites!

All this writing about fine food and wine has only made me want to get back to Napa, and soon, to find even more fantastic places. I hope that reading my piece will make you feel the same! In the meantime, if you're ever looking for ideas of what to do while you're up there on a trip of your own, feel free to reach out to me. And if you have any recommendations of your own that you don't see on my guide, let me know!

Guide: http://www.edgeonthenet.com/index.php?ch=travel&sc=&sc2=&sc3=&id=101273

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The OCeanfront Shakeoff Cocktail Contest


As you might have realized from all my cocktail-crazy Tweets, I spent last Thursday shuttling among six luxury resorts on the Orange County coast, sampling their signature cocktails and handing down judgments along with a panel of other foodies and journalists.

The contest is called the OCeanfront Shakeoff, and though we kicked it off last week, everyone can go into the six resorts that comprise the OCeanfront alliance—the Balboa Bay Club and Resort, the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort, the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa, Montage Laguna Beach, the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, and the Surf and Sand Resort—to try out the specialty cocktails and vote for their favorite on The OCeanfront Blog, or on OCeanfront’s Facebook Page.

Better yet, guests can enjoy each resort’s submission for just $10 with a coupon they can download on the Facebook page. And when guests vote, they are entered to win a round of drinks for the winner and three friends at South Coast Plaza’s Marche Moderne or Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s.

Want to check out the drinks I got to try and all the different luxury properties we quaffed and caroused around? Take a look at the property information, cocktail recipes and photos below!

The Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa
21500 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
(714) 698-1234
http://www.huntingtonbeach.hyatt.com/

The lounge at this sprawling resort at the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Beach Boulevard is called Red Chair, and mixologist Robert Marquez shook up a fruit-filled concoction with plenty of sweet sass for the ladies called the OCeanfront Breeze.

Hyatt OCeanfront Breeze

1 Watermelon Cube
1 Pineapple Square
1 Orange Wedge
1 Lemon Wedge
1 Lime Wedge
5 Mint Leaves
1 oz. Agave Nectar
1 oz. 10 Cane Rum
¾ oz. St. Germain
¼ oz. Peach Schnapps
3 oz. Sparkling Wine
2 oz. Lemon Lime Soda
Mint & Blueberries, to garnish

Mix:

1. In a mixing glass add watermelon, pineapple, orange, lemon, lime, mint leaves, agave nectar, 10 Cane Rum, St. Germain and Peach Schnapps.
2. Muddle the fruit gently.
3. Pour all ingredients into a Collins glass and top off with Sparkling Wine and Lemon Lime Soda.
4. Gently roll back into shaker and then back into glass.
5. Garnish with Mint Sprig and a few blueberries.

Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort
21100 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
(714) 845-8000
http://www.waterfrontbeachresort.hilton.com/

The cocktail we had here was called the Spicy Mary, and once you see the ingredients, which include a chili-infused vodka, you'll see why. It's basically mixologist Jessie Riley's twisted take on a Bloody Mary. Oh, and there's a strip of bacon as garnish. Meaty.

We were also treated to some lovely little nibbles including a lamb meatball with lime cilantro sauce, a piquillo pepper stuffed with Point Reyes goat cheese, and a deviled egg made with creme fraiche mayo and sprinkled with bits of bacon. All washed down with...

Spicy Mary

2 oz. Triple Pepper Infused Skyy Vodka
4 oz. Our House Blend of Tomato Juice and Spices
1 Strip of Applewood Smoked Bacon
1 Celery Stick
2 House Stuffed Point Reyes Bleu Cheese Olives

Mix:

1. Combine the Vodka, the House Blend of Tomato Juice and Spices and 1 cup ice.
2. Shake the mixture well and strain into a tall pint glass filled with ice.
3. Garnish the Spicy Mary with the Bacon Strip, Celery Stick and Olives.

Balboa Bay Club and Resort
1221 West Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92663
(949) 645-5000
http://www.balboabayclub.com/

Our next stop was a few miles down the coast at the tony, privately owned Balboa Bay Club, which has a storied past as the playground for yacht-loving celebrities, and whose lounge is actually called Duke's Place, after John Wayne, who was a habitue here.

The resort is actually the only one right on the marina in Newport, and mega yachts are docked in slips right behind it, making it a prime property for some high-end cavorting on the California Coast The cocktail from Felicia Chavez was definitely a favorite amongst the panel of judges, and you'll see why when you take a look at the intoxicating combination of sweet and spicy she managed to include. It went perfectly with the tapas treats we were served, including panko-crusted prawns with wasabi aioli and ginger plum sauce.

The Newport Peach

½ Peach (fresh or canned)
1 ½ oz. Strongly brewed orange pekoe herbal tea
½ oz. Peach Schnapps
½ oz. Orange Juice
2 dashes Chipotle Hot Sauce
1 ½ oz. Reposado Tequila
1 oz. Tuaca Liqueur

To Prepare:

1. Blend the first five ingredients together.
2. Add tequila and liqueur.
3. Shake well and strain over ice.
4. Garnish with orchid, colorful flower or mint leaves.

Surf and Sand Resort
1555 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 494-4477
http://www.surfandsandresort.com/

Ah, the Surf and Sand. Some of my first hotel memories are of childhood trips to the Sawdust Festival and the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, and this iconic hotel right over the waves is where we used to stay. It was not kept up so well for a while there, but these days the old lady is looking pretty fabulous...especially if they end up remodeling all the rooms based on the showroom I was shown during our visit.

The cocktail here is a variation on the margarita, with a muddle of cucumber, lime and cilantro that keeps things fresh and interesting.

Cucumber Margarita

1 ½ oz. Hornitos Reposado
3 Thin Slices English Cucumber
Pinch Fresh Cilantro
½ oz. Agave Nectar
¼ oz. Fresh Lime Juice
½ oz. Sweet and Sour

Mix:

1. Muddle cucumber with agave nectar and cilantro, add other ingredients and shake well.
2. Serve on the rocks.
3. Garnish with a slice of cucumber, a lime wheel and a cilantro leaf.

Montage Laguna Beach
30801 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92561
(888) 715-6700
http://www.montagelagunabeach.com/

Our penultimate stop was the Montage Laguna Beach, one of the most highly rated resorts in California, and definitely one of my favorite settings, perched, as it is, above the dramatic coastline just south of Laguna itself.

We were treated to some fantastic finger foods at the resort's high-end restaurant, Studio, courtesy of Chef Craig Strong, including lobster salad rolled in paper-thin pineapple, and mini caviar blini.

That all went perfectly with the gorgeous sunset, and the Ginger Gin Ricky with a peppercorn tea bag kick, courtesy of bartender Brian Nakamura.

The Ginger Gin Ricky

2 oz. Genever Gin
¾ oz. Key Limes
¼ oz. Simple Syrup
2 oz. Ginger Beer
1 oz. Soda Water

Mix:

Serve over ice and garnish with fresh ginger and tea bag filled with green peppercorns, so the guest can steep their drink to their liking.

The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel
1 Ritz-Carlton Drive
Dana Point, CA 92629
(949) 240-2000
www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/LagunaNiguel/Default.htm

Our final stop of the day--and what a long (but fun) day it ended up being!--was the also magnificent Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, another of those clifftop beauties that makes the OC coast such a premier destination.

Here, along with sliders and truffle fries, we were served yet another variation of the humble margarita, this time made with fresh strawberries and limoncello by the ever charming Erin Snider. She calls it the Summer Fever.

Summer Fever

1 ½ oz. Herradura Silver Tequila
1 ½ oz. Limoncello
Splash of Agave Syrup
Splash of Strawberry Puree
Lime Halves, Cut in Half
Small Diced Strawberries

Mix:

1. Mix ingredients together.
2. Squeeze lime halves into mixture.
3. Serve in a Tall Beer Glass, rimmed with strawberry salt.
4. Finish with Limoncello Infused Strawberry-Garnish.

Conclusion

Now, I don't want to give away too much, but I will say that the judges' three favorites were the Newport Peach from the Balboa Bay Club, the Ginger Gin Ricky from Montage, and the Summer Fever from Ritz-Carlton. That said, it was a lot of cocktails for one day, so I'd suggest getting yourself down to Orange County a few times over the next month to try out each and every one of the OCeanfront cocktails for yourself, and submit your votes.

In the meantime, here's to a super summer enjoyed with limitless libations. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Weekly Stir Fry: 4-14-10

This week's roundup of dining deals and restaurant specials around Los Angeles, posted directly here on my site rather than LA.com. All the same valuable, up-to-the-minute info, but now you can find it all right here, so enjoy, and get out to eat!

Tony’s Darts Away Opens in Burbank
Think half Burbank dive bar and half tree-hugger hangout, and you’ll get the basic idea behind Tony’s Darts Away, a recently refurbished beer spot in the heart of the Valley that has reopened with a new commitment to vinyl furniture and serving environmentally friendly, locally crafted beers on tap only so that there’s no bottle or can waste. All that saving means that Tony’s can afford to pour “honest pints” with almost four extra ounces of glass to ensure a proper head (make all the jokes you want) for patrons who want to enjoy every last drop of cult beers like Lost Abbey Judgment Day, Eagle Rock Brewery Solidarity Ale, Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA, and Alesmith Anvil on the rotating list of 30 (there’s also wine). The food menu includes a host of locally sourced meat and vegan sausages and hot dogs with special toppings, farm-fresh salads, special chili, and all the customary bar food sides spiced up in combos like plantain chips with garam-masala spice, garlic-stuffed olives, and sweet potato fries with maple-chipotle glaze and crushed toffee almonds. And, of course, there are dart boards (and board games) galore to entertain you until the bar closes at 2:00am (1:00am Sundays). Photo courtesy of Eater.
710 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, CA 91521, (818) 253-1710, tonysburbank.com

Burger Kitchen Opens
L.A. certainly has a plethora of burger options, but the newest joint on the scene is still pretty exciting thanks to a no-frills storefront, and dozens of burger options with interesting patties like lobster, Portobello, shrimp, salmon, and lamb, with all kinds of toppings from teriyaki sauce, feta cheese, chili, jalapeno peppers, pears, pineapple, mint-yogurt sauce, and smoked bacon. Not all at the same time. Even dessert is a burger—made with ice cream and choco-chip cookies. There are also artisanal beers on tap and by the bottle, as well as some interesting wines.
8048 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, CA 90048, (323) 944-0503

Happy Hour at bar210
Though Angelenos mourned the passing of the iconic Trader Vic’s at the Beverly Hilton, they seem to be enjoying the hip new combo of bar210 and Plush that have replaced it, with budding celebrity chef Marcel Vigneron manning the kitchen. The latest development at the property is the launch of a new happy hour from 7:00-9:00pm on Thursdays and Fridays that includes half-price plates, $5 wines and beers, and $7 specialty cocktails. The munchies include tuna pizza, boneless chicken wings injected with blue cheese, and short rib sliders; while the specialty cocktails include the American Sweet Tea with Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, lemonade, muddled mint, and a lemon wheel; The Blackberry with Hennessy Black, cranberry juice, apple juice, lime juice and fresh berries; and more.
9876 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210, (310) 887-6000, bartwooneoh.com

Philippe Chow Happy Hour
Philippe Chow, that celeb-filled far-out Far East eatery on Melrose, has also just launched a new happy hour with $7 Bites, $8 Sips, and $9 Swigs at the bar from 6:00-8:00pm, Monday-Thursday. On the Bites menu you’ll find satay, salt & pepper calamari, jade dumplings, and Peking duck spring rolls among others. The Sips are basically some wines by the glass, while the Swigs include signature cocktails like their famous Lychee Martini, the Philippe Passion with Absolute Pear and Peach, mango puree, lemon juice, simple syrup, soda and a cranberry splash; and the Black Dragon with Bacardi Dragonberry, muddled raspberries, Triple Sec, lime juice and simple syrup.
8284 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046, (323) 951-1100, philippechow.com

Earth Day at Mexico Restaurante Y Barra, Sunday, April 25
Sure, a few restaurants around town might be highlighting local farmers or turning off their lights and going candle-lit on Earth Day this year, but Mexico Restaurante Y Barra is shutting off all power—we’re talking lights, phones, registers, computers, gas grills…everything!—and cooking up a family-style meal of wood-fired chile rellenos, tacos, tomatillo chicken, assorted sides (guacamole, wood-fired black beans, cilantro rice, quesadilla, salad) and traditional flan for $20 per person. The restaurant is also asking patrons to get in on the spirit by walking, biking or taking public transportation to the restaurant rather than driving. Don’t worry, when you get there, there will also be beer and hand-made margaritas, because Earth would want you to be happy about being all environmental and stuff. The fun starts at 3:00pm and runs till 9:00pm.
8512 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069, (310) 289-0088, gogomexico.com

French Women don’t get fat at Petrossian, May 3
Next month, Mireille Guiliano, the author of the bestselling French Women Don’t Get Fat, will be hosting a three-course prix-fixe caviar tasting dinner at Petrossian, complete with a signing of her latest book, Women, Work, & The Art of Savoir Faire. The new book is Mireille’s guide for working women navigating the professional world while still trying to enjoy the finer things in life. The dinner starts at 7:30pm and costs $125 per person. Along with a signed copy of the book, the price includes dishes like caviar surprise with king crab and apple jelly, green been salad with burrata and caviar, and a glass champagne.
321 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90048, (310) 271-6300, petrossian.com

HotelChatter: LA Market's Sushi Pizza


I suspect that my readers are probably sick of my coverage of the new JW Marriott at LA Live, but I had one final piece to write, a quick review of Kerry Simon's restaurant there, L.A. Market.

So I stopped in for dinner last Monday with a friend and we ate our way through about a dozen dishes, including the titular Sushi Pizza. For now, you can find my write up (and all the photos!) on HotelChatter, and I will post any future coverage for other publications here as well.

Link: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2010/4/12/02528/4478/hotels/Tasting_Sushi_Pizza_at_JW_Marriott_s_L_A_Market_Restaurant

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Rundown: Solvang Sans Vino

It's been a while since I've written for The Rundown, a daily email newsletter with fun stuff to see, eat, drink and visit that's sort of like the dude's version of Daily Candy. In the past, I've written about San Diego and Lompoc for them, and this week, the coverage of my trip to Alisal in March continues with this quick "Weekend Runaway" piece on The Rundown.

The basic premise is Solvang Sans Vino--a luxurious rustic country retreat for readers who love the wine country but aren't so much into the wines. As an added little bonus, I snuck in a mention of the Hotel Corque and Root 246 as a great in-town alternative to the Alisal Guest Ranch.

To see all there is to do and experience up in Solvang, check out the article at the link below.

Link: http://www.rundown.com/article.php?article_id=961

Monday, April 12, 2010

LA Confidential Magazine Review: Blue Whale

The second large piece I had in the April/May Issue of Los Angeles Confidential Magazine has to be one of the most unusual restaurant concepts I've come across in my short time as a food writer. It's a Korean BBQ jazz club in Little Tokyo. I don't even know where to begin parsing all that out, but basically, a Korean musician named Joon Lee decided to bring his love of jazz and his native food together in one place.

The result is a hip little cabaret space with upscale cocktails and Korean street food that is completely dedicated to experiencing the moment and expressing your inner artistic leanings...all tucked away in a Little Tokyo mall. That's a lot for one little jazz club, but somehow Blue Whale manages to pull it off.

Want to know how? Read my piece below and find out!

Review: http://www.la-confidential-magazine.com/dining_insight.html#bluewhale

Friday, April 9, 2010

LA Confidential Magazine Article: La Vida Vegan

I just happened to be pitching a couple story ideas to my editors at Los Angeles Confidential Magazine a few months back when they were looking for ideas for the April/May Issue, and I suggested a piece on the wave of new vegan restaurants overtaking Los Angeles. Little did I know how inadvertently good my timing was, because this issue happens to be the Green Issue, so the story was right in line with what they were looking for.

Space was tight, though, so I had to limit my choices to five, and produce a quick sentence or two on each one. If you've seen some of my stories, you'll realize just how much economy I had to employ to get this piece on the page. Still, I think it gives the reader a sense of each establishment's character, and is also a pretty great little list of healthy dining destinations around Los Angeles for would-be vegans (and macrobioticists!).

Included are: BabyCakes NYC/LA, Elderberries, Little m by M Cafe de Chaya, Seed, and The Veggie Grill (a personal haunt of mine ever since it opened at the Sunset 5). For more on where to go and what to eat, take a look at the full article at the link below!

Story: http://www.la-confidential-magazine.com/dining_0410_article4.html

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Weekly Stir Fry: 4-8-10

My weekly roundup on LA.com of all the best upcoming restaurant specials, dining deals and foodie events around Los Angeles.

Included in the piece this week:
Corkbar hosts a tasting flight of wines from Vines on the Marycrest
Mendocino Farms has started serving dinner
A new spring cocktail list at The Tar Pit
The Kogi Truck dudes open a stationary restaurant called Chego
Tillamook Cheddar sponsors the 8th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

HotelChatter: Bradley Ogden's Root 246 at Hotel Corque

While I was in Solvang last month for two nights at the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, I figured, why not stick around for an extra night and check out a new hotel in town that I'd been meaning to visit called the Hotel Corque?

I'd been meaning to visit the Corque since running into Bradley Ogden last year at the Taste of the Valleys tasting room in Solvang while I was up visiting Lompoc for the first time. He told me he was opening a new restaurant in town in the spring and ever since, I've wanted to get back up there to try it.

So, I decided to kill a few birds with a single stone. I'd get to explore the new hotel (which I'll be reviewing for HotelChatter soon), try the restaurant, which is called Root 246 (after the highway that runs from Lompoc to Solvang), and I'd have an extra day to visit some of my friends in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto (and meet some new winemakers too!).
With that in mind, I reserved a lovely room, made a dinner reservation, and set appointments with the winemakers, and I prepared for a fantastic final day in Santa Ynez. More on all that later, but in the meantime, my review of Root 246 just went up on HotelChatter today, with plenty of photos of the dishes I tried, and you can find it at the following link.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tripatini: Bushtucker Tours

Remember that story on "Australia's Wild West" I did last month for Wandermelon? If not, you can find it here.

Well, another site that Wandermelon is affiliated with, Tripatini, decided to pick up the piece and use the portion of it about Bushtucker Tours as the "Weekly Spotlight" on the site. I think they also link to the video I made during the Aboriginal picnic part of the tour, but in the meantime, the piece just on the Bushtucker tour itself is pretty darn exciting since Tripatini has a Google #3 rank, or something insanely high like that.

So take a look at the main Tripatini site here, and scroll down to see my Weekly Spotlight story glory: http://www.tripatini.com/

Friday, April 2, 2010

Weekly Stir Fry: 4-1-10

My weekly roundup on LA.com of all the best upcoming restaurant specials, dining deals and foodie events around Los Angeles.

Included in the piece this week:

First & Hope, the much anticipated supper club and lounge (and cabaret) from the folks at the Edison opens
Tiger Beverly Hills is set to open next week (and I'm going to the opening) in the former LuckyFish space on Canon
BLD is hosting Hot Dog Night April 5 in honor of the opening of Major League Baseball season
RockSugar is hosting a Thai New Year celebration April 8, complete with special menu
Rosti Tuscan Kitchen opens in Encino, and remodels its Santa Monica location

To see all the details, look at the page on LA.com here: http://www.la.com/tablehome/ci_14801699?source=rss

HotelChatter: Saddle Up at Alisal Guest Ranch

Those of you who follow my Facebook page might have seen a picture or two of me on horseback posted recently (by others, not me!), as well as a few status updates about wine-tasting in Solvang. That's because I was up in Santa Barbara wine country staying at the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, one of Southern California's iconic hotel properties (and a personal favorite of several of my colleagues). The resort has been welcoming guests since 1946 for horseback riding excursions (the original glamping!), though now many come just for the golfing on its two courses, and treatments in the new spa.

While there, I put together a little video for HotelChatter, where various staff members talked about all the wonderful amenities. However, we decided the most fun and interesting of them was the video I made with the resort's Head Wrangler, Tony Thompson, in which he tells us all about the Ranch's horses and history.

To find out more about what makes Alisal so special, and to see the video of Tony, you can find my HotelChatter story here: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2010/3/28/201754/138/hotels/Saddle_Up_at_The_Alisal_Guest_Ranch

Thursday, April 1, 2010

LA Confidential Magazine Review: 9021Pho

Before you say it, yes, I know, 9021Pho is just shy of a clever play on words since "pho" is actually pronounced "fuh," not "foh." Still, I think the name is cute, and I love this little noodle shop right on the corner of Beverly Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard, in Beverly Hills' main main tourist district. That's because the food is fresh, hearty and good, and Chef Kimmy Tang is a downright pleasure to talk to, sort of like the Vietnamese mom I never had, especially because her steaming soups cured me of a horrible head cold this winter...thanks to a generous dash of chili sauce.

It's not the usual venue for an LA Confidential review since it's not necessarily a top-tier dining destination, but it is right in the heart of things, and chances are you'll see a power-lunch or two going down during your visit.

Find out the details by looking at the spread from the magazine which I've included here, and then reading the text of the article is below for your perusing pleasure!


9021PHO

Finally, a casual Beverly Hills noodle shop for power-lunching talent agents, star-struck tourists and exhausted luxury shoppers alike.

Devotees of Chef Kimmy Tang’s former restaurant, Michelia, were heartbroken when it closed nearly two years ago, but are already flocking in droves to this new Vietnamese café for steaming bowls of pho, the traditional Vietnamese soup, and appetizers like the deep-fried spring roll with crab, shrimp, chicken, carrots, and tree ear mushrooms.

Tang’s menu reflects the woman herself, and is packed with warm, familiar dishes jazzed up by vivacious spices. Entrees include a spicy basil chicken with bell peppers and chili, and sweet-and-sour star anise salmon with lemongrass, honey and lime. On the vegetarian side, there are choices like grilled eggplant with pan-fried garlic, shallots and peanuts, and “Buddha” curry over vegan chicken with sweet peas, yam, carrots and onion.

This is Beverly Hills though, so this isn’t any old soup counter. The simple décor is still classy with marble-topped tables, and wallpaper that looks like it came from the Beverly Hills Hotel. The sweet seats are at the counter overlooking Beverly Drive, or along one of the leather banquettes with a view of the frenzied kitchen activity. The perfect setting for green-lighting a studio project.

490 N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 275-7077