Category Archives: Speciality Cocktails

Places I review with speciality cocktails, mixed drink specialists and pre-prohibition style bar programs in place.

The Sage and Honey Cocktail… from Toronto, Canada!

Hello Fussy Readers…

Something a little different for you today!

So, I have been so utterly busy in recent times that I thought… why not have a Guest blogger write a post for a change?! As you all know I am very Fussy  about what I drink and eat (the clue is in the website address! lol), but i’m also fussy about what I write about! I haven’t written any posts in a while, not only because I haven’t had time, but because I haven’t had anything “jump out” at me as being worthy of a post.

Nick Stokes from D.W. Alexander, a popular Bar in Toronto, Canada, got in contact with me and sent a copy of their drink menu. (It is so great to see The Fussy One is being read all over the World!) There were several drinks on the list that seemed totally up my alley, but the following “Sage and Honey Cocktail” was the one that I felt drawn to the most. We all know I love a good egg white cocktail, and this twist on a sour would be my go to order if I walked in to D.W. Alexander in person.  Nick was kind enough to write the following post about this drink for you all to read.

A side note; Tiki Bitters are described as an exotic tropical blend of Cinnamon, allspice and distinctive island spices. I have never tried them myself, and Cinnamon is not my favorite flavor, but these bitters are supposed to add an enhanced flavor profile without dominating the palate which sounds interesting to me! Could be a good “Fall” drink option when the time comes.

Anyway… Here we have the “Sage and Honey Cocktail”, written by Guest Blogger Nick Stokes:

Good thing about cocktails is their versatility. You can create a sweet or sour cocktail, you can make a drink for guys or for girls, if you wish, you can mix various colors and get an amazing affect. They give us a great freedom to do whatever we wish with our alcohol and to have fun in the process. This is precisely why this industry developed so much. People who like to drink can get bored with their regular brand name alcohol. While we still love that drink, we would like to give it a special twist and to leave our own mark on it.

The Sage and Honey cocktail is quite specific. This drink was invented in D.W. Alexander, one of the popular Toronto bars in Canada. It has sage infused rum as its base giving it a nice and bitter taste with a hint of plant life within. Nowadays, infused drinks are becoming more and more popular, adding various tones to classic drinks. This in itself is a cocktail so let’s call it a good start. After adding lemon, egg white and honey, you will have a feeling that you are making a cake. The last ingredient is Tiki Bitters.  Although it is quite a new drink (created during the last decade) it is becoming increasingly popular as a good substitution for some other bitters or in some cases, such as this, as a basic ingredient for innovative cocktails. The cocktail is mostly sour, with nice plant undertones.

Sage and Honey Cocktail

Sage and Honey Cocktail

  • 2 oz sage infused rum
  • 5 oz Tiki bitters
  • 5 oz lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 egg white

Mix all the ingredients together in a shaker filled with ice. After shaking vigorously for 20 seconds, strain it in a glass.

This cocktail is great for winter. It goes nicely with red meat and in some cases you will wish to use it instead of cough syrup because it clears sinuses quite nicely. This is a great choice for all the people who like bitters and would love to try something a bit sweeter.

Thanks Nick for this piece, and for those in Canada, or heading to Toronto, I recommend you try out D.W. Alexander. When we’re next in town, I know we will be making an appearance!

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Eat Less and Taste More @ Hostaria Del Piccolo

Hostaria Del PiccoloHostaria Del Piccolo
512 Rose Avenue,
Venice Beach, CA
310.392.8822
 

I have been writing this post for a few weeks now, because I have a lot to say about this restaurant in particular.  I finally decided I need to put it up because all the other media seem to be beating me to it, and i’ve been coming here since opening day!!!  Reviews and press have just started to come out about this place (LA times did a feature and they have been mentioned on KTLA radio) and rightly so, it is a wonderful restaurant to get really well made Italian food. It is also a fun place to go with friends for a drink.

The space

The location I am discussing in this post is the brand new Hostaria Del Piccolo in Venice Beach, California. However please note that the same wonderful menu can be found at their original Santa Monica location on 6th and Broadway, I highly recommend checking out both as they have the same amazing food and drinks but totally different vibes.

Back of house

Hostaria Del Piccolo in Santa Monica has always been one of my favorite dinner spots, so I was excited when they opened this new location on Rose Ave (a really popular area for great restaurants right now.)

This location is much larger than the first and you really feel the openness when you first walk in. Their signature bright blue aprons can be seen on the staff dotted around the room and they’ve cleverly accented the bar with this color too which make it look young, fun and cool.

Blue lit bar

I actually really like the lighting in general at this place, there is a tunnel light that wraps across the ceiling giving it a modern vibe that works well against the wood communal tables.

Kitchen

The Kitchen is in open view to the customers so you can watch pasta being rolled and pizzas being made in front of you. This is an authentic Italian restaurant and the food is nothing short of fantastic.

Pamperdella   Verdura

The owner is Italian,  a lot of the staff are Italian and you feel its authenticity not only when you taste the food, but when you talk to the people there (many of whom are Italian). In particular I want to mention one of the managers Christian Bertolli, who is probably one of the most charismatic, friendly and delightful Italian men I have ever encountered.  All the staff are lovely here and the bar team are extremely knowledgeable on ‘real’ drinks and cocktails, due to their new Beverage director Greg Bryson who was hired to update the bar program at both locations a few months ago.

Greg Bryson at work

I have been to this new spot three times already and every time it is busier than the last. I am going to talk about some of my favorite dishes, however I am yet to find one I don’t actually like.  There are many more on the menu that are worth trying, but the ones below are my top choices.

The Food

GNOCCHI  ricotta-potato gnocchi, fresh tomatoes, basil, parmesan $15 ($6 on Happy Hour menu)

Gnocchi to me is best described as a potato dumpling. I imagine if pasta and potato had a baby, they would have a gnocchi! Most places I have tried gnocchi before I didn’t really like it too much.  I found it to be a stodgy and heavy dish, however this is not the case at Hostaria. Their Gnocchi (made fresh daily) is soft and fluffy, it is deliciously cheesy with a rich tomato sauce on top.

to go

It is also not a ridiculously huge ‘American’ portion. All the portions at Hostaria are just right, they take quality over quantity to a new level. In fact, their slogan is EAT LESS, TASTE MORE! In a country that is often over indulgent I really love this idea, I am always full when I leave and never have a doggy bag. The portion sizes are just right for a comfortable evening.

COSTICINE  roasted pork ribs, cannellini beans    $12

Ribs

When I am trying not to eat breads or cheese (so hard at an Italian place) this is my go-to dish of choice.  You get three delicious pork ribs that are perfectly seasoned and full of flavor but not covered in sauce, on top of cannellini beans which are filling without being over indulgent. A really yummy, simple appetizer.

GRIGLIATI  grilled fresh calamari, mild spicy Swiss-chard $12

Grilled Calamari

I am a big fan of fried calamari (which they also have on offer) however when you want something less greasy this is a nice appetizer option. The spicy chard gives an almost peppery spiciness to the dish. The texture is a little more rubbery than the fried version but really good nonetheless.

The Pizza

There are way too many pizzas on their menu for me to possibly discuss here, but I will name a few that particularly stand out. The main thing about their pizzas are the delicious thin crusts that taste freshly baked (because they are!)

There are white pizzas (without tomato sauce) as well as gluten free dough as an option, vegan and vegetarian choices. Some of the best i’ve tried so far are as follows…

FIGOS prosciutto, seasonal figs, mozzarella, mascarpone, vincotto $16

FORMAGGI mozzarella, smoked mozzarella, ricotta, goat cheese, gorgonzola $13

ASPARAGI asparagus, egg, mozzarella, parmesan shavings, truffle salt $15

I want to keep going on the menu (haven’t even begun to touch on their other delicious pasta options, not to mention they also have a phenomenal brunch menu that has items such as Ricotta Stuffed Pancakes, Espresso rubbed Pork and Eggs and a Salmon Eggs Benedict to name but a few) but I have to talk about their drinks too.

The Bar

Greg Bryson created some delicious drinks for the menu and will be rolling out his Spring creations soon i’m sure. They only makes drinks using fresh juices and local produce (as is the only way these days) and Greg has stocked the bar with a wide range of Amari (beverage bitters from Italy) which is great for those who love bitter sweet digestivo.

I have mentioned several of Greg’s drinks in past posts, because they are excellent.  Acero was one of my favorites during Fall and is still available at both locations.

CuccioloThe cocktails on the menu are all great, but if you ask Greg (when he’s tending bar) to make you something ‘bartenders choice’ he always comes up with something fantastic whether it’s a classic made correctly, or something he makes up on the spot, he always makes sure his customers are happy.

IMG_8420All the bar staff seem focused and friendly and I am yet to have a bad drink at this bar.  Here are two other popular drinks on the current menu…

CUCCIOLO Plymouth Gin, St.Germain, cucumber, lemon $12

BLACKWORK ORANGE 100% Agave tequila, fresh lime, tangerine juice, agave nectar, black sea salt rim $12

This place gets 5 out of 5 for food. It is hands down one of my favorite places to eat because I love Italian and this is done to the highest degree.

5full (1)

Drinks easily get 5 out of 5. I have only ever had drinks made by Greg himself so I may be biased, but from what I can tell all the bartenders have been trained to make the drinks correctly too and the options are a great range for all tastes.

5full

This is a great ‘first date’ restaurant because it is fun and friendly, with a romantic edge without being overly loved up. Definitely stop by and see for yourself when you are on the West side 🙂

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It’s SCARY!!!…how good these taste!

The pumpkin is carved, costume created and candy is placed in bowls ready for eager children’s hands…Yep, Halloween is upon us!

The time has come for me to put up some of my favorite ‘Halloween’ inspired mixed drinks, to get you in the mood…

Scary Classics

Corpse Reviver #2

  • 1oz Gin
  • 1oz Cocchi Americano
  • 3/4oz Cointreau
  • 3/4oz Lemon Juice
  • 1 Bar-spoon (1/2tsp) of Absinthe

Garnish: Maraschino Cherry

My first thought when I heard of this drink was ‘What about the Corpse reviver number one?!’ Apparently there are several drinks with the ‘Corpse Reviver’ name, but almost anyone who has tasted more than one would argue that this is the most palatable and balanced version.

The first publication of this drink can be seen in Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book’, 1930.  It is a drink that could supposedly raise any dead drinker on the morning after and was designed as a hangover cure (hence the name).

The original recipe calls for Quina Lillet, which is no longer in production. Many bartenders make the error of using Lillet Blanc in it’s place, but this is not the same at all. Cocchi Americano is the most authentic to flavor as the original would have been, which is why I have added it to the above recipe.

Blood and Sand

  • 1oz scotch
  • 3/4oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 3.4oz Blood Orange Juice
  • 3/4oz Cherry Heering

Garnish: Orange peel

I just learnt today that whenever ‘Sand or Sandy’ is used in a drink name before prohibition, it almost always refers to the use of scotch in the drink.

This drink is a little sweeter than the others (probably why I like it!) but very tasty and beautifully balanced with a rich orange flavor. It’s rare to find a cocktail with Scotch that works with lots of other flavors, but this one does.

The origins of this drink date back to 1922 when it was named after a bullfighter movie ‘Blood and Sand’ by Rudolph Valentino.   The red juice of the blood orange in the drink helped to link it with the film. This recipe also first appears in print in The Savoy Cocktail Book, 1930.

Satan’s Whiskers

  • 1/2 oz Gin
  • 1/2 oz Sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz Dry vermouth
  • 1/2 oz Fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2oz Grand Marnier
  • Dash orange bitters

Shake and strain in to a Cocktail glass.

There are two versions of this classic cocktail, one calling for Grand Marnier, the other using Orange Curaçao. The above recipe is considered the “straight” version, while the other is known as “curled”.  No idea as to the origins of this drinks name but it has an interesting mix of flavors. The orange is prominent but there is a bitterness to it and almost a peppery flavor from the gin, especially if you use something like Bombay Sapphire as the base.

I prefer the ‘straight’ version of this drink because it is slightly sweeter using Grand Marnier, but both versions are nicely balanced.  This is yet another cocktail taken from The Savoy Cocktail Book, 1930 by the way. I can’t get enough of Harry Craddock this Halloween!

Pumpkin Drinks

Zucca

  • 2oz Pisco
  • 1tsp Shredded Coconut
  • 1/4oz  Juiced Ginger
  • 2 tbsp Pumpkin Butter (Trader Joes)

Shake and strain in to a tall glass with ice.

  • Top with 1 oz Weinstephaner (Wheat Beer)

Garnish: Orange peel dusted with cinnamon

‘ Zucca’ is the Italian word for Pumpkin and is another of Greg Bryson’s drinks from his 2o12 Fall menu at Hostaria Del Piccolo, Santa Monica. I honestly thought the use of so many strong flavors like coconut, ginger, cinnamon, pumpkin and beer would taste really off balance and kind of messy. The end result is the complete opposite though! The flavors work well together and compliment each other beautifully.  Unlike most pumpkin drinks i’ve had; this one isn’t overly creamy and rich, instead it is refreshing, slightly sweet and surprisingly balanced.

The recipe is understandably a little difficult to recreate at home,so if you find yourself in Santa Monica this Autumn definitely pop in to Hostaria to try this tasty option.

 Great Pumpkin

  • 2 oz Pumpkin ale
  • 1 oz Rittenhouse Bonded rye
  • 1 oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
  • 1/2 Grade B Maple Syrup
  • 1 whole egg

Garnish: Grated Nutmeg

This creamy, pumpkin cocktail was created by Jim Meehan of PDT for his Fall menu in 2008.  It captures rich Autumnal flavors perfectly by using apple brandy, maple syrup and pumpkin ale. According to the ‘PDT Cocktail Book’, 2011 they named it ‘Great Pumpkin’ as a reference to Charles Schultz‘s masterpiece ‘It’s the Great pumpkin, Charlie Brown’, 1966.

Meehan suggests Southampton pumpkin ale, but honestly any good brand will work.  Using a whole egg makes this drink a ‘Flip’, and although a lot of people are put off by the thought of an egg in their drink, I have to say it’s honestly not so much a taste factor as it is mouth feel. When shaken well the egg creates a deliciously creamy foam, and that fluffy topping is the best part of the drink in my opinion! It basically tastes like a pumpkin egg nog.  The nutmeg gives a great nose too, this is just a perfect drink for fall.

If you want to try it somewhere special this recipe is currently available on the drinks list at The Penthouse @ Mastros in Beverly Hills.

Anyway, that’s all I have for you… Go carve your pumpkins and get in the mood for October 31st!

  

!!!! HAPPY HALLOWEEN !!!!

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The Parish awaits…

The Parish
840 S. SPRING ST. (AT 9TH)
LOS ANGELES, CA 90014
213 225 2400
 

*****

Before I write this review I feel it is vital I mention how opposed I was to going to The Parish. Not because I’d heard bad things, but because i’d checked the menu online a few times and nothing ever appealed to me. Pigs ears, Fried Olives, Bone Marrow and Chicken Liver are words that tend to steer me away from a place,  I mean come on, I am the fussy one!

The boyfriend (FG) said we had to try it because our dear friend Edwin Cruz, originally of Tlapazola Grill, was working behind the bar.  It is always great when we see Edwin because not only is he as informative as he is friendly, he’s also a very talented barman.  I grudgingly agreed to give it a go, but was somewhat concerned I wouldn’t like anything on the food menu.

We arrived on a typically ‘urban’ street (dirty) in Downtown, and I once again worried at our choice for the evening but when I saw the entrance I was pleasantly surprised how pretty it was.  Fairy lights around the trees lit the way, then after going upstairs I found myself in a spacious and attractive restaurant, with a HUGE bar. I say huge because the depth of this bar is incredible, the most work surface space i’ve ever seen for a bartender.

 

I decided to start with the ‘Black bee’ which at first I thought would be a ‘beer-tail’ (a drink that tends to have majority beer and minimal anything else) but it was actually the complete opposite.

It was an interesting cocktail with a splash of stout at the end. It was great. Incredible mix of flavors from the lemon, bourbon and stout. They all came through in different waves. It had a sweetness as well as a slight bitter hoppy taste from the beer, there was also a little fruity flavor but not sure where the fruit notes were coming from. Cismontain imperial stout and Telegraph porter were the beers used and they gave some dark coffee notes too. I felt somewhat tipsy from this one drink, the mix of beer and liquor obviously got me buzzed…makes sense, being called ‘The Black Bee!’ (yeah I know, super cheesy, but it’s true!)

The Black Bee- Bourbon, Lemon Juice, Honey, Stout $12

We started with the Chicken liver on toast. Yes, you heard me, CHICKEN LIVER. At first I thought the portion was a little small for sharing, but after a few bites I understood it’s size.  It was very rich and flavorful, had a slight gamey taste but nothing too obtrusive. It was a soft rich pâté on a crunchy piece of toasted baguette, and was actually a very enjoyable dish. To be honest I was proud of myself for trying liver at all.

Chicken Liver Toast- With Bacon and Armagnac $12

FG’s first drink was the ‘Queen Anne’s revenge.’ He loves his twist on a Negroni and this was no exception. Really bitter drink with a lime nose that was interesting and seemed to keep the whole drink fairly balanced. Not for picky drinkers like myself but great for FG. The rum used was 151 lemon hart, very strong and very tasty.

Queen Annes Revenge- High Proof Demerara rum, Campari, Sweet Vermouth $13

When I read FG’s drink name I realized that the majority of the menu was inspired by England.  The whole menu had a British Gastro Pub feel to it with several uniquely British dishes such as ‘Fish and Chips’, ‘Lincolnshire meat pie’ and ‘Sticky toffee pudding.’ I felt quite at home!

Fried Chicken- Brussels sprouts, Date Vinaigrette $25

I’m not a big fan of greasy fried food anymore, but when Edwin suggested the Fried Chicken and every review we could find on The Parish from the bloggers, Yelp and Foursquare said to try it we decided we had to give it a go. I’m so happy we did.

The meat was tender and juicy, with a buttermilk battered crispy skin that wasn’t at all greasy just seasoned perfectly. It came on top of cold Brussels sprouts and dried arugula that made a delicious salad underneath. The date vinaigrette had actual pieces of date in it which added a touch of sweetness to the whole dish. Totally scrumptious!

   

Celery Root Mash- With Harissa Butter $7

We decided to order some celery mash to go alongside. OMG! this was also delicious. The Celery flavor was there but it wasn’t overbearing and the dish had an interesting texture like creamy mashed potatoes mixed with grits.  It worked with the chicken beautifully and the Harissa butter on top gave yummy spice flavors. The whole second course ensemble was serious comfort food and I loved every bite.  It was absolutely ‘finger licking food’ and at one point FG caught me cleaning the plate with my finger, I wanted every last drop! Just Excellent.

Being a true Brit myself I felt compelled to try a true Brit dessert, sticky toffee pudding. This version had dates in it, we all know how fussy I am about bits in dessert and sadly, the pudding didn’t work for me with the date pieces, but the flavors were good and FG devoured what I didn’t eat so it can’t have been bad!

Sticky Toffee Pudding $7

We finished with ‘The Nightshift’ because it seemed like a great option for an after dinner drink. It was very bitter from the espresso but the chocolate came through at the end which was nice.

I couldn’t taste the bourbon that distinctly because it was masked by the bitterness of the coffee and fernet. Not a bad drink at all, and I’m sure it would appeal to the after dinner espresso drinkers.

The Nightshift- Bourbon, Czech Fernet, Espresso, Milk, Pu-Erh Tea and Chocolate syrup $13

I am giving the drinks 4.5 out of 5 coupes.  I really enjoyed my drink and FG loved his two, they were executed perfectly by Edwin and the mix of ingredients for each drink were interesting.  John Coltharpe, previously of Seven Grand, created the bar program here and I think his choices were fun and different.  The mixed drink menu is varied and a grand selection of beers on tap makes this a great location to take any of your friends. There is something for all tastes.

I am giving the food 4.5 out of 5 Platters.  Every bite of what we ate was delicious, but admittedly I felt the menu to be a little daunting and if I hadn’t been in the mood for fried chicken i’m not sure what I would have had.  All in all this was a great night out though, and the menu forced me to try new things (which is what this blog is all about).  The music was fun and the place itself had a nice vibe. Trendy but still romantic, I really liked the atmosphere.  We will definitely return soon.

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We fit in just great at The Misfit!

The Misfit
225 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310 656 9800

 * * * *

I have to say, this bar/restaurant is a really great destination in the heart of Santa Monica. The boyfriend (FG) and I headed there this week for a friends birthday and as soon as we entered I couldn’t believe we’d never seen this place before.

The restaurant itself is visually beautiful when you enter, dramatic high ceilings, a muriel painting behind the bar and tiled floors that made me think of restaurants in Europe.  My boyfriend and I are big fans of Santa Monica, FG runs two bar programs off of Broadway, and we have several dinner spots we love to visit in the area, so I was more than happy to find another craft cocktail bar in the same vicinity.

Not only did they have a good looking bar, I must point out their ludicrous happy hour. 12pm to 7pm daily. Yep, thats 7 hours of $5 drinks. This includes their great specialty cocktail selection as well as their well drinks. I would think this was good either way, but when you factor in what their well includes (see list below) it’s astounding to me this place can stay open. The quality of the products they have in their well puts them leaps and bounds above the competition, although their cost percentage must be insane!

The Misfits Well

Martin millers Gin

Herranura silver tequila

Appleton white rum

Eagle rare

Glenfiddich

 

In terms of Happy hours in the area, I thought Copa D’Oro was the ruler ($5 drinks nightly), but this well selection for 7 hours daily easily just stole the title of Best Happy Hour in Los Angeles.

The first drink I tried was the Bees Knees.  It was well balanced, but reminded me of a honey lemon concoction i’d make myself if I had a cold.  The martin millers gin was a subtle option and didn’t over power the flavors. It was certainly refreshing but the lavender was very subtle, I doubt I would have known it was even in there if it wasn’t on the description.  I can’t really say it was watered down, but it tasted very light and although the drink was balanced, it did air on the weaker side…but for $5, really there were no complaints!

Kd Bees knees- Martin millers gin, House infused lavender honey and Lemon juice $10 or $5 hh

FG had the ‘Misfit cocktail’. It tasted like a Martinez but with the Haymans it was soft and the juniper wasn’t as intense as other places i’ve had similar drinks.  It had a sweetness and weakness to it that I actually rather enjoyed.

Misfit cocktail- Haymans gin, Carpano antica vermouth, Orange bitters $10 or $5 hh

The food was delicious. I had the salmon on my friends birthday, and then returned for lunch 2 days later so I could have it again- it was that tasty. Beautifully cooked fish that was moist and flavorful with a bbq coating. It came with a refreshing arugula and cucumber salad on the side. Perfect for lunch or dinner, I love dishes I don’t have to modify and I enjoyed every bite on this plate. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

BBQ salmon- Scottish with arugula salad $17

We tasted the Mac and Cheese (which is gluten free and made with brown rice pasta), it tasted great with added Chorizo.  It had a little spice from the chile and chorizo that went nicely with the creamy and cheesy pasta. I must say I didn’t get a photo of this dish because my friends devoured it before I had a chance, but I would probably recommend this as a side dish.

Mac and Cheese- Green chile, brown rice pasta, chorizo (+$2) $9

Roasted parsnips- Basil pistachio pesto $7

Organic french omelet- Gruyere, sautéed spinach, pancetta(+$3) $11

We tried the roasted parsnips which were crunchy (a little too ‘al dente’ for my liking) but still very tasty. The pistachio pesto was a nice touch and complimented the light flavors of the parsnips.

FG had an Omelet with egg white and added pancetta.  It was very light and tasty, not a heavy dish at all. A lot of places he has omelets that are way too filling and big, this was just the right balance of ingredients and the pancetta was a nice addition to the dish.

I tried a sip of my friends Basil Gimlet which was very refreshing, and again I was just awe struck by how incredible the prices were for drinks with such good products in.  This place is certainly somewhere we will continue to return to.  The service was friendly and the atmosphere was fun and inviting on both visits (day and night.)

Food here gets 4 out of 5 platters.

The salmon is divine and i’ll probably return to order it again some time this week, there were other interesting options on the menu that I want to return to try also. The parsnips were just ok, and the mac and cheese was decent. All in all it was pretty good for food, and the rating may in fact increase once I return to try more dishes.

Drinks get 4 out of 5 Clover Clubs.

None of our drinks were truly spectacular and realistically both our cocktails tasted a little weaker than usual but other than that they seemed balanced and were certainly still enjoyable.  The main points this bar gets is for it’s truly fabulous well alcohol selection and it’s insanely long happy hour.  Anywhere with a Manhattan for $5 deserves at least 4 out of 5 in my opinion!

I definitely recommend popping in to this place when you’re next in Santa Monica. It is attractive, inviting and a great deal.  Check it out!

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The Corner Door

The Corner Door
12477 W. Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90066
310-313-5810
 
 
.

I had a really great time at this restaurant, the first time we went.  I had heard some good things about the drink menu from my boyfriend FutureGreg (FG) but had no expectations of the food.

Miner Incident- Bourbon, Apricot, Lemon, Honey, Thai Chilies $12

The first drink I tried was great and called the ‘Miner Incident’. It was beautifully balanced with a definite kick from the chilies. Slightly sweet although the bourbon came through nicely and the use of apricot was a welcomed change from other fruit options usually on offer.

FG had a Mezcallin to start, which he described as a ‘Mexican Penicillin’, which is pretty much what it is!

Mezcallin- Mezcal, Lemon, Ginger, Pineapple Gomme $12

The food menu looked very appealing and so we began with some tasty bites.  We ordered the Bread and Whistles, which FG enjoyed a lot but sadly I didn’t find it to be anything special.  I have had honey and ricotta style appetizers before and loved them, this ricotta brand wasn’t my favorite. The bread was great though.

Bread and Whistles- with Butter, herbed olive oil, ricotta, honey $5

Next we had the brussel sprouts (something I usually hate, but when done right are truly delicious!) they were perfectly sweet with caramelized onion, and a burnt honey’d taste.  The texture was great too, soft center with crunchy outer leaves.  The feta on top was a nice finishing touch. This is an excellent appetizer and I highly recommend it.

Brussels Sprouts- Roasted and fried, Feta $9

By the time our appetizers were done we needed another round of drinks. I went for the Swizzle and FG had ‘The Left Hand.’  The Left Hand was one of the specials on the board for the night, it was basically a Boulevardier with Rye, which he enjoyed although I found a little on the bitter side.  The Queens Park Swizzle was good though, sweet and refreshing. I couldn’t quite taste the strawberry in the bitters, but the overall drink was nice.

Queen’s Park Swizzle- Rum, Lime, Mint, House Strawberry Bitters $12

     

Left Hand- Rye Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Campari $12

For our Entree we ordered the Salmon and the Asparagus with Burrata.  The Salmon dish was nothing short of excellent.  I mean, really, this was a fantastic piece of fish.  The dill sauce was creamy but not heavy or too rich.  The fish itself was full of flavor with a nice moist center and almost crispy edges. The frisee was fresh and paired nicely with everything else on the plate.

Pan Roasted Wild Salmon (original)- Green olives, orange, Frisee $24

The asparagus was just ok, it was cold asparagus with a warm cooked egg on top and I didn’t like the cold and warm contrast that much. The flavors paired nicely but the temperature differences just didn’t work for me.

Grilled Asparagus & Burrata- Fried egg, Cilantro pistachio pesto $14

For dessert we had a very tasty piece of horchata soaked almond cake. Oh my goodness was this delicious. It was moist, with the taste of almond essence or marzipan.  The salted caramel ice cream occasionally had large salt crystals in it, but the two worked perfectly together. It was a decent sized slice also, great end to the evening.

Horchata soaked almond cake- “dulce de leche”, salted caramel ice cream $9

The bar itself is really attractive, I love Edison style lighting and it worked nicely in this setting. There was a big bar in the center and the place had a casual, warm feel to it.  The staff were friendly, the food was great and drinks list was varied.

This place was going to get full marks for food, sadly I have to be honest (which is why I have taken a while to put this review up, because I don’t like to give negative remarks if I can help it.)  The thing is, FG and I returned a few weeks ago because I was utterly craving the salmon (it was that good).  When we arrived I told the bartender (same one from previous visit) that i’d been daydreaming of it all day, he remarked on how it was one of his favorites also.  We didn’t even look at a menu, just ordered the Salmon dish and the brussels again.  The Brussel Sprouts were just as great as the first visit, however when the Salmon came out it looked completely different.

At first I thought my memory was totally off, but it was in a corn like broth and wasn’t the same grilled piece of fish I had expected. I commented on it and the bartender informed me that they had changed the recipe and now it had a red pepper risotto (I hate red pepper I should add) and they’d changed the cooking method.  It was more than a little upsetting for me, mainly because it really was a totally different dish and I had truly been craving the other version all day.  Now I must say, it wasn’t a bad dish. It was still good actually, but nowhere near what it had been previous.  I totally understand and welcome seasonal menus, I have no issue in changes daily, but the only part that upset me was the fact that the bartender didn’t mention the menu had changed when we ordered it. When I pointed this out to him, he said “Yeah I guess it did change, I kind of preferred it before too” WELL WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SO EARLIER!? haha…Oh well. It is, what it is and the place still gets a good mark overall because of everything else.

I am giving this place 4 out of 5 Platters because the first visit was so successful.  Word to the wise, be sure to check ingredients when you go to places that change their menu constantly. You may end up falling in love with a dish that is no longer available a week later! 😦

I’m giving 3.5 out of 5 Coupes for the drinks. The options were decent and varied, the staff sweet and I really did like my apricot drink a lot.  Nothing totally blew me away, but the drinks were certainly balanced and enjoyable for a night out.

If you are in the Culver City area any time soon, I will say The Corner Door is certainly worth a visit.  I am sure FG and I will be back…we’ll try something different to become the new favorite! Oh, how I will always have fond memories of that first salmon though. 🙂

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Crafted to perfection

Craft
10100 Constellation Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
90067
310.279.4180 
 

Monday date night last week led us to a restaurant just minutes from our house, yet neither my boyfriend (FG) or I had been there before.  The list of drinks and food on offer all looked appealing and appetizing, and the decor of the bar area was inviting and warm when we entered. We decided to sit at the CraftBar which is separate from the restaurant itself and has a different food menu, but we decided to mix and match and got a few bar menu items and then our entree from the regular restaurant menu.

FG informed me that the “Craft” team pay a purveyor a lot of money just to travel the country in search of the best produce for all three of their locations. Only the best, organic, fresh and seasonal products are used so the menu changes constantly with what is and isn’t available.

Front Porch: Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Peach, Lemon and Iced Tea $11

I started the night off with the ‘Front porch’ drink after our bartender (Scott) pointed out that peaches were at their best right now. It was wonderful, like a deliciously peachy ice tea with bourbon! It was sweet, strong and fruity.

FG had the ‘Here today… gone amaro’ which was just as tasty as the name was imaginative!  FG best described it as a Manhattan with a subtle sweet bitterness at the end. Rabarbaro Zuca is an amaro made with Rhubarb, which I have only seen on a menu once before, ironically in my boyfriends drink ‘Maguey after Amaro’. I like it when places use unusual ingredients though.

Here Today…Gone Amaro: Old Overholt Rye, Chai Tea infused Carpano Antica Vermouth, Cio Ciaro and Rabarbaro $14

FG was intrigued by the number of Amari they had on the back bar, including the Cio Ciaro (he’d never heard of) which he sampled and described as having a burnt caramel flavor with a slow bitter finish.  Craft also makes a home made velvet falernum which was delicious, sweet and zesty.

Negroni Mio: Aviation Gin, Campari, Americano, Cocchi Vermouth di Tornio, Prosecco & Strawberry. $13

FG’s second drink was the Negroni Mio, this was a good drink, but not great. It sounded amazing on paper (they barrel aged the Negroni then bottle age it with strawberries), but the flavors really came through as simply a Negroni with aperol.

Many of the food options looked interesting but we started with the cheddar hush puppies that came with a smoked maple syrup to dip in. Delicious maple flavor from the sauce altho the puppies had little spicy kick to them.  The cheese didn’t come through for me but still the dish was very tasty.

Cheddar Hushpuppies & Smoked Maple Syrup $6

The risotto balls were also on the spicy side with a marinara type sauce named romesco, the crispy thin layer on the outside of each ball made them not too rich and another good starter dish.

Risotto Fritters & Romesco $6

They also brought a bread basket out with delicious breads in.  The dark loaf was incredibly different and hearty. In fact Scott gave us an extra loaf to take home, as he informed me it is the perfect bread to make french toast with the next day.  I loved the wooden box the bread came in too, the presentation of all the dishes was exquisite and although this was a slightly more expensive place than we’d usually go just for monday date night, it became clear very quickly why they deserved to charge so much.

For our main course we agreed on a steak (like always!) and decided to share the dry aged sirloin. When it arrived I realized just how incredibly large 22 ounces of meat is and worried we’d way over ordered!

We also chose some sides, the sugar snap peas (which i’m really in to recently, so sweet and crunchy) and the yukon puree.  I had wanted a potato but couldn’t decide what kind, Scott had said these were “deliciously decadent.”  Of course, alarm bells should go off when you hear a server/bartender describe something as decadent…it usually means, extremely fatty and high in calories.  We didn’t care though, it was an indulgent night.  

The potato was certainly nothing less than decadent! Creamy, rich and full of flavor.  It was like a very soft buttery mash but still had a lightness to it, I couldn’t eat too much but it paired beautifully with the earthy flavor of the steak.  I’m not sure i’d had dry aged beef before but it gave the meat a much stronger fuller flavor.  The meat came with a bone marrow on the side, which greg emptied out on to a piece of remaining bread.

I think bone marrow is definitely an acquired taste, it reminded me of chicken dripping my mum would keep to put on sandwiches after a roast dinner. Not that it tasted like chicken, it just had a very greasy and fatty texture that reminded me of that.  I didn’t like it at all, Greg devoured the whole bone full.

Roasted dry aged sirloin 22oz $56

Sugar snap peas $11

Yukon Gold Puree $10

To finish we saw the wonderful dessert list but felt too full to get anything (believe it or not, we had at this point eaten the entire steak and sides!!!). Scott brought us some little bites from the pastry chef which included some caramel popcorn and little nectarine upside down cakes.  They were the perfect touch of sweetness to end the evening.

Before we left Scott gave us a little pack of complimentary Craft Granola for the next day. FGs parents went the following week and were given some complimentary Craft muffins, it changes daily what you’ll get but I think it’s such a cute and unique idea to give something like that for breakfast. When we ate the granola the next morning (which was great) it had us remembering our wonderful evening the night previous. Very smart marketing move!

Drinks here get my rating of 4 out of 5 Clover Clubs.

My peach cocktail was fantastic, and FG certainly enjoyed his two drinks also.  Scott was professional and informative behind the bar, and the look of the place was welcoming and attractive.  The only negative of the drinks was the Negroni Mio that wasn’t as flavorful as the ingredients suggested, overall it was a close to excellent bar program. They also had an extensive wine list, for those not as excited by cocktails!

My Food Rating here is 5 out of 5 Platters

Overall this place had it all, relaxing music, a nice chill vibe and excellent professional service.  The food was fantastic, it was different and adventurous without being too overwhelming for a fussy person like myself.  The only negative, which i’m not even sure is fair to give, was the high prices of this place.  I hadn’t expected it to be on the higher end, having said that it really was worth the extra expense. The service really was amazing, and my boyfriends parents decided to go a few days later and had the exact same reaction. For that reason, this is the first place i’m giving 5 out of 5. Watch out Bottega Louie (our most popular location), Craft may soon take over as our favorite place to go for dinner in LA!

All in all, Craft (and Craft Bar) are an excellent night out.  I highly recommend anyone looking for a romantic, quality restaurant in Los Angeles to head there.

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