Tag Archives: fine dining

The cost of creation

I recently watched the video above (courtesy of Liquor.com) and it got me thinking about a few things, in particular, the cost factor of going out and doing what I do.

All the restaurants and bars that my boyfriend and I visit produce some of the finest food and drinks you can get, this doesn’t always mean the menu is expensive, but often times it can be.

Many of my friends and family don’t quite understand the point of spending a huge portion of our paychecks on food and alcohol, but people often forget that it’s the overall experience you’re paying for not just the products. I may be fussy and certainly not rich, but I honestly have no problem spending my money on a good restaurant/bar. If I enjoy the atmosphere of a place, the friendliness of the service and the quality of what i’m putting in my mouth..I will happily spend a small fortune in one night!

I have recently heard many more people complaining about the ridiculous cost of cocktails at Mixology bars. Many customers think it’s a ‘rip off’ that a drink can cost anything from $12 to $20, and they always want the bartender to ‘hook them up’ by giving drinks away for free or adding extra alcohol, but as the video explains there is so much more to a quality drink than just mixing. Not to mention, adding ‘more alcohol’ often upsets the ratio and balance so the customer probably wouldn’t enjoy the end result anyway.

If you are the kind of person who would rather have a cheap vodka soda or a bottled beer that’s fine too, ¬†just understand that a Mixology bar is not the place to get it!

“Mixology bars are like fine dining for drinks”

Having worked behind a bar myself, I have first hand experience of the horror of hand juicing boxes of limes only to yield a little over a quart of juice. You’d think managers would just buy their staff a juicer…this isn’t always the case.

My boyfriend is a Beverage Director so I witness daily, the time and effort that goes in to creating a new menu, inventing tinctures and working on infusions/barrel aged cocktails. This is also a factor to think about. The recipes on menus at these places aren’t thrown together in a blind frenzy, a substantial amount of time and money will have been spent on testing brands, factoring cost of products and experimenting with different recipes and ratios. At the end of the day, all the customer gets is a delicious drink in front of them but often doesn’t know the effort and preparation that went in to it’s creation.

The economy is bad, yes, but if you’re going to go to a nice place…understand what it is you’re paying for, and thank your lucky stars you’re not in Europe where the price is (no joke) double!

That’s all I have to say about that ūüôā

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Fussy News

Bottega Louie

Bottega Louie
700 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90017
213 802 1470
 

*****

I love this place and rank it as one of my favorite Restaurants in all of Los Angeles.  I am finally putting up a review after my fourth visit and yet again I left utterly satisfied.

There is an elegance and attention to detail in this restaurant that I adore, from the marble flooring and delicate ceiling designs to the beautiful pink salt crystals in the shakers on the tables. If you’re going to come here for dinner you should know that they do not¬†take reservations and it is strictly first come, first served. ¬†It is generally always busy at night so I recommend getting there at least half an hour before you plan to eat. We always start off by giving our name at the front desk (which they write down in a gigantic reservations book) then head over to the bar for a cocktail.

The bar is small but cute, has an attractive marble top and fairly decent drinks list. ¬†This last visit I started with a ‘Japanese Sour’ and my boyfriend (FG) had ‘A Night in Oaxaca’.

My drink was delicious, basically a Whiskey Sour with the addition of Port, I found the port added a layer of complexity to the sweetness and overall taste of the drink.  

A Japanese Sour- Rye Whiskey, port, lemon, simple syrup & egg white $12

The ‘Night in Oaxaca’ was smoky from the mezcal but still balanced and flavorful with a lightly bitter after taste. ¬†My boyfriend seemed to enjoy it, although it was little too bitter for me.

A Night in Oaxaca-Mezcal, Lemon, Punt e Mes, agave nectar & bitters   $12

The room has an open floor plan so you can see in to the kitchen and pizza ovens, something I personally love and think gives great character. The whole building has extremely high grand ceilings and is technically one giant room, but it’s sort of divided in to sections. ¬†As you enter there is a small cafe style area with a bakery (where you can buy macaroons and pastries), there is the Bar section with the main kitchen adjacent, a large main dining room area and a pizza kitchen at the back of the room.I noticed that they don’t have background music at all at this restaurant. ¬†It is somewhat noisy though, the high ceiling echoes the sounds from the Kitchen and the lack of material in the room allows the sounds of people talking to bounce directly off the marble flooring. I personally really like the hustle and bustle atmosphere this creates. The tables set out in such a large open space makes me think of a French court yard, especially on the ‘Cafe’ side. I almost feel like you should see little birds hopping from table to table as if you’re outdoors in Paris.Despite being busy (on a Monday night) we were seated fairly quickly and this time were placed in view of the pizza station. ¬†I found myself staring at the cooks for ages as they made the pizzas for the restaurant. ¬†It’s like a performance seeing them work and hard to look away. One Chef moulds and tosses the dough to make the base (and throws it pretty high) whilst the other adds toppings to order and places it in the large open fire oven behind him. After watching a few pizza bases go flying through the air, we decided on this visit we had to try a pizza. ¬†I think it is well worth the $18 price tag when you can watch your dinner being prepared with the¬†utmost¬†care and baked to order in front of you.I would¬†definitely¬†recommend getting a pizza here, although I suggest you do it as a shared plate like we did. ¬†The pizza was larger than I expected and we ended up taking a few slices boxed up with us. ¬†Out of the many pizza choices we decided on the Blanco and I was impressed with how much flavor came through with no tomato base. ¬† The crispness of the pizza crust was perfect and the addition of arugula was interesting. ¬†The garlic came through just enough for it not to need anything else, it could be considered a little bland for some, but we enjoyed it as it came.

Blanco- Ricotta, Mozzarella, Grana Parmesan, Roasted Garlic, Wild Rocket Arugula $18

When going anywhere I always look on foursquare and yelp for reviews and recommendations. The dish that gets the most reviews at Bottega are the ‘The Portobello (mushroom) fries’.

Portobello Fries- $10

Now, if you have read the¬†‘about me’¬†section of my blog you will know that mushrooms are¬†definitely¬†up there with my least favorite items. I actually have no problem with their flavor, I will happily eat a cream of mushroom soup, but I find their texture to be¬†reminiscent¬†of what i imagine a slug would feel like to chew on. I am therefore not a fan of mushrooms raw or only partially cooked. We went ahead and ordered them on a previous visit anyway. FG really likes them, and although they’re not my¬†favorite¬†item, I certainly ¬†don’t dislike them. ¬†They are deep fried Portobello mushroom slices and come with a very rich creamy aioli. ¬†Deep fried anything is always going to taste pretty delicious but a little too greasy for my liking. ¬†They are an interesting appetizer though and worth trying as an alternative to fries.

Hangar Steak Verdura- Prime beef, farmers market vegetables & black truffle sauce $20

We ordered the Hangar steak (medium/rare) to share and this is what I usually get on my visits here. ¬†The vegetables change based on what is in season or currently available, ¬†this version had carrots, rainbow beans, mushrooms and asparagus on top. ¬†All cooked perfectly in an ‘al dente’ style, (still slightly firm but not hard center).¬†We ordered a side of broccolini too, which had soft ends and crunchy stalks. Delicious. ¬†The steak was juicy and flavorful, the vegetables were tasty and fresh. The overall dish was very good.

Sautéed Broccolini $8

LasagnaTraditional Bolognese meat¬†rag√Ļ, B√©chamel, Buffalo mozzarella, Ricotta & Grana parmesan $16

On a previous visit we also tried the¬†Lasagna. ¬†This was ‘divine’ according to FG, and every time we return he questions whether he should get it again because he remembers it as being utterly delicious and bursting with flavor. ¬†It has a creamy¬†b√©chamel¬†sauce and three kinds of¬†cheese¬†mixed in there. ¬†For its price point you certainly can’t go wrong, so if you want a good pasta dish here then I highly recommend it.

Butterscotch Budino- Butterscotch custard with fluer de sel & Chantilly whipped cream $9

We decided to get a dessert to finish, and went for the Butterscotch Budino which was basically like a ‘Pot de Creme.’ ¬†It was outstanding. ¬†It has a soft custard center with butterscotch flavors, and a salty creamy finish. ¬†It was so good. ¬†I¬†occasionally¬†got a little salt crystal on my tongue, but the sweetness followed quickly and made for an interesting play of flavors in my mouth. ¬†I highly recommend this dessert, ¬†but if you are more in to pastries stop at the cafe on the way out. ¬†They have macaroons in a rainbow assortment of colors and extremely interesting flavors which include Rose, Chocolate Orange, Salted Caramel, Pistachio, Espresso, Earl Grey, and Tahitian Vanilla to name just a few.

Food gets 4 out of 5 Platters

For the quality of food being presented I feel the prices are more than reasonable here.¬†There are plenty of options to choose from and all the dishes we have tried in the past have been excellent. ¬†The atmosphere and the ambience of this place really makes for a wonderful night out. ¬†It could be a little loud for those wanting a more intimate setting, but I think it’s still a great and fun location for a date night.

Drinks get 3.5 out of 5 Coupes

The drinks were good but not excellent, they were executed correctly and the bar staff were all friendly they just don’t ‘Wow’ me. ¬†I feel like the drinks list could be more interesting, especially with so many great options in the kitchen. The ones we had were by no means bad, just not as exciting as they could be.

All in all, this is still one of the best restaurants to venture out to. ¬†It is fun, young and trendy. ¬†The food is great, the drinks are good and the ambience is¬†exciting. ¬†When we can’t think where to go on date night, we always know we have this as a great option. ¬†Having a ‘FussyOne’ as a repeat customer means they must be doing something right! I¬†recommend¬†you go see for yourself.

Leave a comment

Filed under Great Food

Piccolo Ristorante

Piccolo Ristorante

5 Dudley Ave

Venice Beach, CA 90291

(310) 314-3222

My boyfriend (FG) took me here on Valentines Eve this year and having never been before I was excited to be trying somewhere new, especially an Italian restaurant.

Italian is officially my favorite cuisine. I am not a huge fan of Venice beach and honestly find it particularly scary at night, especially down some of the graffiti ridden dark alley ways.  Sadly this restaurant is in a slightly less than desirable area, and less than a block from the building I was convinced I was watching a hardcore drug deal go down!

However I was utterly shocked and excited by the restaurant that emerged once I turned the corner.  The restaurant Piccolo is beautiful, aesthetically it is a really lovely looking space. Great attention to detail has been made from the elegant glassware down to the tasteful green glass candle holders on every table which are decorative and beautiful.
.

The decor is¬†Venetian¬†inspired¬†(as in Venice, Italy not Venice Beach) decorative masks and tasteful black and white shots of the canals adorn the walls. There is a roaring fire on the side and a wall of wine at the back. As soon as we entered we were greeted by a friendly host who took us straight to the table. There is no host stand or bar area, which makes me wonder where you would stand/sit to wait if you arrived sooner than your reservation.¬†Fortunately¬†for us our table was ready straight away and we sat straight down. The owner Vittorio Viotti came over and said hello (he has worked with FG in the past and is a lovely Italian man from Rome). ¬†The menu allows you to do a set meal called ‘In¬†bobo¬†we trust’ this is a great option if you’ve never been as the¬†Executive Chef¬†Roberto Ivan¬†(Bobo) will choose a ‘Six-course tasting for $80’ or ‘Ten-course tasting for $100’ Two people minimum and entire table only. ¬†Seeing as we didn’t want quite so many courses we decided to just pick ourselves, with the occasional recommendation from Vittorio and our server.

As cocktail drinkers I was sad to discover they don’t have a mixed drink list here, however the wine choice is beyond impressive. There is an extensive wine list in a leather bound book with huge range of Italian wines¬†organized¬†by area (a little map of Italy colored in to represent regions). ¬†Almost all the wines are by the bottle, but Greg went for one of the reds by the glass and I had a prosecco. ¬†The red was smoky and rich with a tobacco finish, perfect for FG and my prosecco was light with a hint of sweetness. Great start to a romantic fine dining experience.

A bread basket came out with bread sticks, olive ciabatta and baguette inside. Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore good bread.  This bread was warm with a freshly baked crisp crust and fluffy inside, just how I like it.  Came with olive oil for dipping but I told myself not to fill up on bread so I mainly munched on the sticks which were a not so filling alternative. Great idea.

Antipasti Freddi

The first dishes we chose from the ‘Antipasti’ section of the menu were the Prosciutto and Carpaccio (see item descriptions below).

The presentation for all our dishes was nothing short of pure elegance,  I really like duck but it was actually a little rich for my taste.  It had a herbaceous celery/watercress dressing on top though which was light and creamy and helped dilute the richness of the meat slightly.

Prosciutto d’anatra– Homemade duck proscuitto, fresh watercress drizzle $17

The Carpaccio FG ordered was delicious.¬†I should mention that I hadn’t eaten lamb since I was around 11 years old and saved a lamb from drowning in a river in Wales, strange reason I know, but I just never found myself wanting to order it since then. ¬†I did however try some of the carpaccio this evening. I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed it, it wasn’t gamey but complimented wonderfully by the truffle and celery shavings.

Carpaccio di agnelloРSeared lamb, thinly sliced,  celery, piave shavings, truffle shaving $17

Antipasti Caldi

The next dish we ordered were the Scallops. ¬†Now, if you haven’t read the ‘about me’ section, I suggest you do it now, because it will astound you that someone as fussy about food like myself would ever like sea food let alone Scallops. ¬†The scallops were nothing short of divine. ¬†To go from not trying a salad to devouring scallops is quite a dramatic change, but my goodness did I enjoy these.

Delicious on every front. Texture, sauce, cooked to perfection. The cheese sauce was very light but the little addition of truffles was all the richness it needed. Ironically I don’t like¬†parmesan¬†or truffles for that matter but adored this. ¬†My only complaint was portion size, but this restaurant is more tapas (small plate) style. I could have easily gone for at least 8 of those beauties! This dish came with 2 scallops and they were nice¬†enough they split our dishes without us even asking, we just told them we’d be sharing everything.

Capesante scottate– Seared sea scallops, parmesan-truffle fondue, truffle shaving $17

Primi

The second section of the menu had dishes that were created using their own hand-crafted fresh pasta prepared with organic eggs.  FG had the Tagliatelle which was certainly interesting, but tasted a little like christmas in my opinion. The use of cloves/all spice in the aromatic spices I believe is what gave this affect, the venison was a little overpowered by the spices but was well cooked.

I went for the black kale and beef tenderloin filled ravioli. ¬†It was rich but very tasty. ¬†I couldn’t taste the kale itself, but the dish altogether was flavorful and very good.

Agnolotti al cavolo nero– Tuscan black kale-beef tenderloin filled ravioli roasted garlic, rosemary, parmesan $24

Ragu di capriolo– Tagliatelle, slow braised venison ragu, aromatic spices, red wine $24

Secondi

The Duck from the final section of the menu was delicious and my favorite ‘main’ course. ¬†The honey truffle sauce was light but had the perfect level of sweetness. ¬†The meat was cooked to perfection, and they don’t ask for a temperature because they know how it should be cooked (seemed about medium/rare). ¬†I had no complaints, juicy and perfectly tender duck slices.

Germano reale al miele tartufato– Breast of mallard (wild duck) pan-seared, truffle-honey sauce $34

Please note the photos of the duck and scallops are ‘half’ the regular portion size as the plates were split for our¬†convenience.

Dessert

I don’t know how but we managed to squeeze in a little dessert at the end. ¬†Bobo chose the Bignole and the Tortino. The tortino was soft and light with a slightly unusual lightly orange taste (reminded me of a¬†children’s¬†medicine in Uk called Calpol actually). ¬†I preferred the little pastry chocolate puff balls. They had a crisp pastry surrounding a sweet, soft chocolate truffle center. Very delicious and a great end to the meal.

    

Tortino- Ricotta and mascarpone torte. Saffron coulis

Bignole- Puffs filled with belgian gianduja chocolate

I’m giving Piccolo 4.5¬†out of 5 Platters

All in all this restaurant was truly excellent. The service was friendly and fast, but not rushed. The food was beautifully presented and tasted great. ¬†The only down side of this place is it’s location, although the interior strongly makes up for it. The pasta dishes were my least favorite, but I will happily return to try other dishes on the extensive menu. ¬†I felt the food was pretty reasonably priced although I know it may seem a little pricey for some, especially when the dishes aren’t huge portions. It is fine-dining however and for a romantic night out is well worth the cost when the quality is there. Definitely worth a visit!

1 Comment

Filed under Great Food