Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bottega Louie: Around The Clock

So this is pretty embarrassing to admit, but I ate at Bottega Louie not once, not twice, but three times this past weekend. I started out on Friday night dining on their dinner menu with Bourbon, Chris, and Natalie. I made my way over there on Saturday morning so Bourbon and I could try the muffin flight (and a few other items). Oh and then, because we just hadn’t gotten enough, Bourbon and I went there for Saturday lunch. Ahhhh. I guess there’s never too much of a good thing?

Bottega Louie is definitely my downtown “go-to” place. I’ve done Mother’s birthday brunch, girls’ night out with Miss Ashley, or just a stop in for a delicious French macaron. This place has something for everyone.

The 10,000 square-foot restaurant is what I like to call loft-style: the entire place (bar, café, market, kitchen, dining area) is open air and visible. The bar itself is fairly small with two bartenders and 4-5 stools, but the customers are allowed to drink their cocktails at the dozens of café seats. The bartenders produce quality drinks – they actually make one of my favorite Manhattans (probably because it’s on the tad bit sweeter side and served with those fancy amarena cherries). The market area serves breakfast pastries, dainty desserts, fancy lunch sandwiches, and delicious La Mill coffee. There’s also a giant counter with pre-made food that you can have packed up to go (like thai beef salad or lasagna, yummmmm).

The dining room is giant, but it is somehow always packed, especially on weekend nights, and, unfortunately, they do not take reservations. The servers are friendly and they all work as a team to get your food out in a timely manner. I would say my only minor complaint is that sometimes the food comes out too quick, where you feel rushed. But Chris remedied this by only ordering a few dishes at a time, so we had a long, leisurely dinner. Oh, and another wonderful perk, the restaurant offers complimentary premium still or sparkling water! I swear, sometimes bottled water costs just as much as a cocktail. Sheesh.

Here are some of my top food picks for Bottega:

Clockwise from left: bran muffin, chocolate croissant, poppyseed mini muffin, apple cinnamon mini muffin, blueberry mini muffin, and roasted tomato and burrata pastry

Breakfast: The roasted tomato and burrata pastry. The pastry is small, so you’ll probably need more than one or at least something else to fill you up. But the pastry has a wonderful chewiness to it and the burrata makes it so creamy and fancy.

Salad: Modena. lettuce, candied walnuts, goat cheese, herbs, and creamy balsamic. Sounds simple, right? But it’s just done so well. Plus I noticed that practically every other table ordered one too. There’s just something addictive about their dressing…

Pizza: Bianco. This is the restaurant’s white pizza with ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, garlic, and arugula. It’s delicious-ness. The pizzas are fairly large. You could comfortably split one with another person, maybe throw in a side salad, and be full for dinner.

Side: Portobello Fries. Thick cut pieces of Portobello mushrooms fried and served with a sinful aioli. Yum. It’s a generous portion served in a fun cone cup. Good for group sharing.

Dessert: The soufflé. Keep in mind it takes 25 minutes to cook, so order it early if you’re in a rush. The chocolate soufflé is at the right point of richness, served with a creamy vanilla bean sauce. It hits the sweet tooth in just the right spot!

So go enjoy a meal or muffin or macaron or cocktail or whatever at Bottega Louie – they have so much to offer. Or, at least, go check out the place. It’s seriously one of the most beautiful restaurants in LA.

Bottega Louie
700 S Grand (7th and Grand in Downtown)
Los Angeles, CA 90017


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bringing the Bar Home, Part 2: Clear(er) Spirits

It takes more than just great alcohol to make great drinks. You need the tools. In case you missed Part 1: Tools, check it out and get equipped. But let's not forget, most people enjoying drinking more than mixing. So let's get down to the liquids.

I recommend these spirits not only as good bases for cocktails, but also to have neat without breaking the bank. I also want to help you build up an impressive and versatile bar, without feeling like you can't share the "good stuff" with your friends.

This specific post will discuss the non-whisk(e)y base spirits that most people are familiar with. Because a large portion of my spirits knowledge was obtained through my experiences at a whiskey bar, I decided to save the world of whiskey for its own separate write-up. With that being said, let's get down to business:

Vodka: Tito's Handmade Vodka - Find out what some of the best bartenders already know, that this vodka is delicious, versatile, and shouldn't cost you over 20 bucks.

Gin: This is a tough category for me. I was turned on to gin most recently, so I feel that I have only had certain gins in certain drinks and therefore, it's harder for me to draw a conclusion. Here's a quick run-down; you can decide what fits you the best (full post on gins coming soon).
New Amsterdam - Under $15 a bottle, mix this with anything you like for a tasty gin drink, just avoid the martini.
Beefeater/Tanqueray - Pick a bottle, seriously. They both cost under 20, represent a London Dry Gin style, and work well in G&Ts or martinis.
Plymouth - My favorite all-around gin. If you are picky about your gin, spend the extra few bucks (it'll run you about $30). This will not disappoint, no matter how you serve it.

A few of the top-selling gins in the U.S.

White Rum: Rhum Barbancourt White - This is not your typical silver rum. Rhum spelled with an "h" denotes a specific type of rum made in the French Caribbean. Instead of using molasses like most rums, they use fresh-pressed sugar cane to capture the best flavor and quality. In a daiquiri or rhum & coke, the long-lasting sugar cane finish will leave any thirsty friend satisfied. Once again, you get a great spirit for under 20 buckaroos.

Aged Rum: Ron Matusalem Clasico Rum - Aged in oak barrels, this well-balanced golden rum will make the perfect match to any tropical drink you crave. With the ability to be drank neat or on the rocks, Matusalem makes a great poolside companion for any drinker at around 20 dollars a bottle.

Tequila: Tenampa Azul Reposado - F. Paul Pacult, author of The Spirit Journal, declared this as "the best value in all of tequila." Tenampa Azul comes from the Gran Centenario estate, the most awarded tequila estate in the world, with a wonderful flavor profile that has just the right amount of bite to stand out in margaritas, but the complexity to be enjoyed neat. Do the world a favor and stopped buying Jose Cuervo Gold. Buy some guacamole, because this will only set you back a twenty spot.

Don't forget to keep an eye out for the next edition of Bringing the Bar Home: World of Whisk(e)y!

I will leave you with a famous nugget of genius from W.C. Fields: "Everyone must believe in something. I believe I'll have another drink."


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dinner Party Pairings

For Halloween, our friends Chris and Natalie invited us over for a little dinner party. They cooked, Bourbon paired cocktails with each course, and I made dessert.Their friend Ryan also stopped by with some tasty miniature cakes.

The four of us met up in the morning at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market to get supplies for that night. Bourbon and Chris took off in search of citrus, ginger, and other Asian flavors (that was the theme for food and drink for the evening). I shuffled along taking pictures and staring at the fresh produce and Natalie picked up some awesome flowers and pointed out a celebrity sighting (sweet!).

Bourbon's Shiso Southside with Chris' Soba and Shitake Miso Soup

We started off with soup made from a homemade miso broth, soba noodles, fresh picked shitake mushrooms, firm tofu, and seaweed. Bourbon paired this with a twist on an Southside cocktail (gin, lime juice, mint, and simple syrup). Except he switched in shiso leaf for the mint and balanced the cocktail accordingly. The citrus and light herbal-ness of the cocktail paired perfectly with the salty mellowness of the soup. I voted this my favorite food and drink course.

Next up was sweet potato fries with a sesame-peanut aioli. The aioli had a little bit of a kick to it from some sriracha. Bourbon paired this with the Hottenroth beer from The Bruery. The pairing was spot on. I mean salty fries with creamy dipping sauce and beer, where can you go wrong?

Bourbon's favorite course was the fried chicken. Lightly batterd chicken strips fried and then sauced up with an awesome concotion of flavors Chris put together - roasted shisito peppers, soy sauce, miso, sesame oil, citrus, ginger. It tasted like fancy orange chicken. He also mixed in some green bell pepper strips. You know, so we could get our vegetables, haha. Bourbon mixed up a lovely cocktail of Sagatiba, shisito pepper, fresh passion fruit, and some lemon. The mild sweetness of the passion fruit went well with the chicken and the shisito pepper gave it a special kick.

Round four. And yes we couldn't believe there was more food. Chris dished up some miso-glazed pork shoulder, which had been cooked in an Asian-style gravy. With Bourbon's Brown Derby (bourbon, grapefruit, and honey) cocktail, we were sufficiently full and tipsy.

Buuuuttt there's always room for dessert, right? The night before I put together a passionfruit and ginger ice cream pie with a gingersnap, candied ginger, and pineapple crust, which I tweeked from a Food and Wine recipe. The dessert was light and tasty. The recipe actually calls for 3 pints of vanilla ice cream, which I acually swtiched out for 1 vanilla, 1 ginger, and 1 passion fruit. I was pretty happy with the flavors in the end.

I hope you all had a fabulous Halloween. Maybe this post will inspire you to put together your own dinner party with food and cocktail pairings. Feel free to email us for ideas!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tasting at The Bruery

Bourbon and I headed over to the The Bruery last weekend with his parents and had an amazing experience. The Bruery is a craft brewing company based out of Placentia (Orange County) who aspires to "[push] the limits of what 'beer' is." They have a tasting room - open Fri 4-10pm, Sat 4-10pm, and Sun 12-6pm - and offers up tasting flights of 5 beers for $8 (logo glass included), which is a good deal in my book.

I've pretty much been obsessed with this brewing company ever since the LA Craft Beer Fest, back in May, where I got to taste Cuvee Juene. Loveliness. It's a lambic style ale that they aged in Chardonnay barrels. It's got a pucker to it (definitely in the sour beer category) and some apple and citrus notes. So I was so excited to get a glass, but - of course - they were fully tapped out. Blasphemy. But it's okay, Bryan Tetzlah, one of the account managers, promised to take care of us.

Bryan started us off with the Orchard White, "spiced with coriander, citrus peel and lavender." I was all about this beer. So light and versatile - you could pair it was any meal, but I definitely picture a nice roasted salmon or some barbecued citrus chicken. yum.

Next up were the Saison Rue and the Hottenroth. The Saison Rue is a malted, spicy beer. Bourbon's parents were big fans and took home a couple of bottles. Bryan promised I would like the Hottenroth since it had some of the sour qualities of my lovely Cuvee. It was awesome! I ended up buying a bottle to bring home and we drank it last night at a Halloween dinner party paired with some homemade sweet potato fries and sesame peanut aioli. Perfect pairing. The beer is light (3.1% ABV), fruity and ever so fermented with a pucker of citrus. I think it's the wine-lover's beer.

Our final rounds were some of the heavier hitters - Autumn Maple and Two Turtle Doves. Autumn Maple brings back ever Thanksgiving memory you've ever had. You can taste a bit of sweet potato and those Holiday spices. Two Turtle Doves was more in the stout realm of beers with toasted pecan and cocoa flavors.

Bryan then let us try some of the secret stash - the barrel aged Partridge in a Pear Tree. Hands down, best beer I have ever had. Despite all four of our extremely different tastes in beer, we all loved it. The Bruery described it as "dark brown in color fruity and complex with a rich malt backbone." It was so complex. It initially tasted like carmel, but once you swallowed it down it had more tastes of wine and sherry. But, with all good beer, they're not making too many bottles. So it's fairly difficult to buy. If you see one, snag it, please!

If you want to sample some great beer, head on down to The Bruery's tasting room. Also, most Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, and BevMo's carry it, if you want to buy some bottles for yourself without leaving the LA area.

The Bruery Tasting Room
715 Dunn Way
Placentia, 92870