Tag Archives: Mixology bars

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

When in Vegas…

I found myself  in Las Vegas recently, and in between bachelorette parties, black jack games and tanning time I did manage to visit some great restaurants and bars on the Strip. As you all know my blog revolves primarily around Los Angeles, however I thought it would be a good idea to put up other States and Cities when I visit them, in case you ever find yourself in those neighborhoods also.

The first spot I want to talk about, I didn’t actually make it to on this trip but is certainly worthy of mentioning for the Mixologists and real drink enthusiasts.

Herbs and Rye

I thought it would be hard to get a decent cocktail in Las Vegas seeing as the slushy type margaritas and lava flows are usually in full force, but the bartenders at Herbs and Rye proved me wrong.

This bar is a great place to get a pre-prohibition style cocktail, the service was friendly and the drinks were all made perfectly when we went. The drinks we tried (Aviation and a Whiskey Sour) were balanced and flavorful. ¬†The menu gives an array of options listed by the periods in time in which they were created (pre-prohibition, 1800s, Golden Age etc) each drink with a little description of it’s history underneath. ¬†If you want a speakeasy style bar on your next trip to Vegas, definitely head here.

Sensi at The Bellagio

We had a really great meal at Sensi within the Bellagio. My boyfriend (FutureGreg) and I split a 140z Rib eye steak, a side of truffle mashed potatoes and a portion of bloomsdale spinach with caramelized ¬†onions. ¬†It was an expensive restaurant but splitting the meal was more than enough food and about the same cost as if we’d got our own meal somewhere else. Service was great, and they gave us delicious naan bread and crackers to start with which was a fun and interesting alternative to a traditional bread basket. The bloomsdale spinach is a thicker and heartier leaf compared to other variations so it had a lot of flavor in itself and I¬†didn’t¬†think needed the caramelized onions at all.

The mashed potato was just divine; creamy, rich but not an overpowering truffle flavor. It went beautifully with the tender cooked steak. ¬†I didn’t try any drinks here but the food we had was fantastic and the ambience was nice, very clean and inviting.

14oz Rib Eye Steak $50, Bloomsdale Spinach, $9 Truffle Mashed Potato $9

Chandelier Bar at The Cosmopolitan

I could probably write a two page spread on this bar’s decor alone. ¬†Stunning crystal curtains hang from the ceiling and drape down 3 floors in the center of the Cosmopolitan Hotel creating the illusion of a massive chandelier. ¬†The bar in the center of it, named appropriately ‘Chandelier Bar’ is equally attractive and the entire space is drowned in beautiful pink/purple light.¬† It was just so romantic and gorgeous to walk past that I knew we had to stop in and get a drink.

I tried the Blue Grass Shuffle and FutureGreg had the Spiced Apple Jack.

Blue Grass Shuffle- Makers 46, Egg White, Orange Bitters, Blueberry Preserves $13

Mine was fruity, strong and flavorful with a gorgeous magenta color that fit in with the pink hue of the room.  It had blueberry jam (jelly) flavor from the preserves and was a drink that would definitely be great in Autumn.  The egg white was barely noticeable but gave a light foam on top, all in all a good drink and pretty strong.

Spiced Apple Jack- Lairds Spiced Applejack, Yuzu Sour, Apple juice, Rosemary infused simple syrup, Balsamic Reduction $12

The Apple Jack drink was sweeter than mine but interesting and again with more ‘Autumn’ flavors to it, which is odd seeing as we’re already in May and clearly in to Spring. ¬†The Rosemary had a strong presence in the drink but the balsamic reduction was hardly noticeable.

The service was ok, although the bartender didn’t seem overly attentive or personable. The drinks were good and the ambience being surrounded by crystals made it worthy of a visit.

Comme Ca at The Cosmopolitan

Having been to the Los Angeles location just a week previous I was curious to see how this Vegas version measured up. ¬†It was almost completely empty when we arrived, which concerned me at first, but with 4 other restaurants (including STK) beside it, its understandable that competition is high. ¬†We started with some drinks and I ordered a ‘Vegas High Rise’ which was created originally by Tony Eppolito, which was refreshing, sweet and very good.

Vegas High Rise– Vodka (although I substituted Gin), Creme de Cassis, Fresh Lemon, Sugar, Guava

We started off with a salad that was good but nothing special. I’d never had a salad with hazelnuts on it before and think I found them to be too strong of a flavor for the dish, I prefer other nuts like almonds or walnuts on my greens. The goats cheese was yummy though.

Mixed Green Salad- Toasted Hazelnut, Goats Cheese, Fine Herbs, Lemon-Shallot dressing $9

We ordered yet another steak (we do love our beef) and the sides of Macaroni Gratin with blood sausage and the Beer Cheddar Grits. The Steak was excellent and had chunky fries with a delicious aioli on the side. The Mac and Cheese was¬†absolutely¬†fantastic, FG and I love a good Mac and Cheese in general but this was one of the best versions i’ve had in a long time.

It was cheesey, creamy and rich with a strong flavor from the meat pieces. The baked panko breadcrumbs on top finished it off perfectly.

Macaroni and Boudin Noir Gratin $10, Beer Cheddar Grits  $9

The only part of the night I found disappointing were the grits. ¬†They came in a cute little saucepan and I was excited to try them, but ¬†there was way too much beer in the mix and I felt it overpowered the entire dish. I don’t recommend them.

Steak Frites- 10oz Prime Flat Iron, Hand cut french fries $32

Overall I liked the dinner at Comme Ca and would happily return for another meal there, especially for that Macaroni Gratin.  The drinks were fine and there were a decent selection of classic cocktails as well as new creations on the menu.

*****

We were only away for a short break this time so the above is by no means a comprehensive list of places to go in Las Vegas, merely a selection of the restaurants we enjoyed on this particular trip.  I will add more when we next return to Nevada, but if you ever find yourself in Sin City I definitely suggest trying one or more of these places.

Leave a comment

Filed under Great Food, Speciality Cocktails

Spring into Sadie

Event: Spring Menu Release

Sadie
1638 N Las Palmas Ave,
Los Angeles, CA, 90028

*****

Last week I found myself with a handful of local writers and bloggers for a sit down dinner at Sadie in Hollywood.  Chef Mark Gold of Eva Restaurant has been shaking things up in the Kitchen at Sadie, and this event was to showcase their new Spring Menu.

Our table was in the courtyard area which I was excited about as I hadn’t yet experienced this area of the restaurant. ¬†Despite the chilly evening we were kept toasty warm by the outside heaters and new overhead awning. ¬†The place has a romantic setting, especially the spot lit water moat that surrounds the patio and creates movements of light on the stone walls.

Each food item on the menu was carefully paired with a drink, designed and created by the talented bar staff. ¬†Giovanni Martinez in collaboration with a number of team members at the bar have made a truly wonderful and varied drinks list.¬†I have mentioned the bar scene in previous posts so I won’t go in to too much detail again, however I will say that I am never¬†disappointed¬†with the drinks at Sadie.

Our feast began with a delightfully refreshing drink called Temperado, which had a fresh¬†taste and a subtle cilantro flavor that cleansed the palette before eating. ¬†It had some heat to it from the Jalepeno, but it wasn’t overly spicy.

Temperado- Cachaca, Avion Silver Tequila, Lime juice, Fresh Cilantro and Jalepeno

The first dish to come out was a mini salad called a ‘Little Gem’. ¬†It had a lot of flavor for its small size. The crispy ham, crunchy lettuce leaf and creamy garlic sauce complimented each other beautifully. ¬†Next came an organic egg, described in the menu as ‘representing Spring’, which had a beautifully runny yolk, a¬†hollandaise¬†style sauce with peas and pansies (the flower!) and a grilled spring onion. ¬†It was another very tasty little bite size¬†appetizer.

            

After these first dishes we tried a local Heffeweizen (by Golden Road) and the Piscoteca drink. ¬†The cocktail was interesting with ginger and honey notes, it had a bright flavor from the Yuzu and Lime juice but the citric acidity didn’t mask the Pisco and the drink itself was nicely balanced.

Piscoteca- Italia Pisco, Homegrown mint, Ginger honey syrup, Fresh lime juice, Yuzu bitters

A selection of share plates appeared for the table and we were able to sample the Pork belly, Pei mussels, Lamb meatballs and Oysters.  All the starters were tasty, although my only complaints were that the meatballs seemed slightly over seasoned and the Yuzu Kosho salty spiciness on the pork belly was a little too overpowering for my tastes.

Lamb Meatballs- Whipped sheep milk yoghurt

These two dishes were by no means bad, they just didn’t appeal to me personally.

Pork Belly- Yuzu Kosho, Spring Onions

The mussels however were wonderful and there was a definite sweetness to the dish.  It was creamy, rich and the Chorizo pieces gave a nice texture.

Glazed Pei Mussels- Potato Mouselline, Chorizo, Smoked Almond

Our Entree choices included Chicken, Fish, Pasta and Steak.  Seeing as everyone at the table was a writer/food critic/blogger etc we were all more than willing to give each other tasters of our dishes, so I had a chance to try them all.

The Chicken was wonderful. ¬†It was flavorful, juicy and had crispy shallots on top that gave a nice textural element. I didn’t really notice the mushrooms, but I only had a small section of this meal and it may have been more prominent if i’d eaten the entire dish.

Organic Rocky Chicken- Crispy mushroom, Chicken Jus, Shallot and Chive

The Halibut was fantastic, my favorite of all the dishes.  It was light and flaky, not at all fishy or dry and the grilled asparagus was an excellent accompaniment. Bacon pieces and an Onion relish gave a light sweetness that was a nice addition for the fish also.

Wild Alaskan Halibut- Grilled Asparagus, Bacon and Onion Relish

The pasta dish was a ‘Linguine with Clams’ which I found a little too citric for my tastes and had almost a white wine vinegar flavor going on, everyone else seemed to enjoy it but it wasn’t what I expected. The steak was good, the meat was tender and well cooked and the vegetables were tasty but the dish itself didn’t Wow me, it was just OK.

Prime Rib Eye “Cap”-¬†Charred Onion, Borderlasise, Salsa Verde

Drinks paired with the meal were all great and bursting with interesting flavors. ¬†My favorite was the drink that paired with the Halibut called ‘Friar Fresh’. ¬†It was such a simple but easy to drink beverage and had just the right combination of sweet from the honey and citric from the grapefruit. ¬†I highly recommend ordering that drink.

Friar Fresh- Plymouth Gin, Velvet Falernum, Lemon Juice, Honey, Grapefruit juice

At the end an array of desserts appeared, including Doughnuts (made in house).  The doughnuts were delicious, and reminded me of beignets but with crystalized sugar as apposed to powdered sugar.  They came with a creamy irish coffee cream dipping sauce that tasted like a thick version of Baileys. Yum!

The best dessert in my opinion however came in the form of ‘floats.’ ¬†I could (and probably will) write an entire post on these floats alone. The ice-cream mixed with bitters was just divine. ¬†It was creamy, sweet with just the right amount of a bitter twist at the end of each sip. ¬†The chip was also tasty, and the Mexican coke gave it a nice bubbly sweetness. ¬†Both reminded me of ‘Ice Cream Sodas’ I used to drink in the summer in England, they were refreshing and will be a great drink to sip on in the sunshine.

Fernet and Chip Float- Fernet and Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream on Mexican Coke

Bitter Float- Peychauds bitter ice cream on Sanbitter Italian Soda

Overall the entire meal was a huge success in my opinion.  I have returned to Sadie on several occasions since it opened, with the intention of writing a review, however I never really had any dish that excited me enough to write about it.  This tasting evening, with the addition of Chef Mark gave me the kick to want to write about them.

The food is no longer good, it’s great and the drinks having always been nothing short of excellent, are now truly outstanding. ¬†This place should be packed with customers and as soon as word really gets out, I believe it will be. From the gorgeous decor to the friendly staff, the romantic ambience and now the food that matches the fantastic drinks…this is nothing short of an excellent night out.

5 out of 5 Coupes

Drinks get my highest rating now, due to the addition of the truly imaginative and incredibly tasty floats. ¬†All the bartenders know their drinks from Classic to Contemporary, everything i’ve tried has been balanced and interesting.

4.5 out of 5 Platters

All of the dishes and cocktails I described in this post are currently available for Spring time at Sadie. ¬†If you haven’t been already, I suggest you make your way over there soon, if only to enjoy one of the¬†delicious¬†floats on the patio.

1 Comment

Filed under Events, Great Food, Speciality Cocktails

Big Bar Prom = Big Success!

Event: “Midnight in Paris” Prom 2012

Big Bar and Alcove Cafe  

1929 Hillhurst Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90027

(323) 644-0100

*

For the second year in a row the Valentines Day Prom at Big Bar was a huge success. ¬†Hosted by¬†Eugene Lee¬†and¬†Dan Long, they also had¬†Aidan Demarest¬†of Neat returning as MC. This year the party theme was ‚ÄúMidnight in Paris”, and they went all out transforming their great space in to a Parisian paradise.

I should mention in advance I enjoyed the night even more when I was voted to be a member of the Royal Court, and later in the night was fortunate enough to go on and win (with my boyfriend FG) the title of PROM KING AND QUEEN!!¬†It wasn’t fixed I swear, I just made sure to include the words “World Peace” in my speech, and tell the crowd Aidan would be buying everyone a drink if we won! Worked a charm.

I want to start with a big thanks to Eugene and Dan for making the evening such a success as well as the judges Jessica Borges (City Sip) and Whitney Olschwanger for picking us as Prom King and Queen. We really appreciated our prize of the beautifully romantic horse drawn carriage ride! I always enjoy meeting new and fun people in the cocktail community and the carriage ride was just an additional treat to an already great Valentines Day.

I had such a fun night (even before I won a crown!) and was impressed with the overall set up of the place.  They had a number of interesting drink concoctions, activities and foods. There really was something for everyone. There was a Punch Garden, a make-your-own-cocktail setup (partnering with Miracle Mile Bitters), and a French inspired specialty cocktail list created by Daniel Long.

There were Mimes, an Accordion player, French singers, Characuture Artists and a Prom picture station set up. Everything you could want to feel whisked away to France!

The courtyard was beautiful with fairy lights adorning the trees and the 17ft Eiffel Tower in the middle really added to the overall atmosphere of the night.  I can imagine that even without the tower the courtyard is a beautiful space to sit and enjoy cocktails. I hear they have a wonderful Sunday brunch with Mimosas and I can totally see this place being great in the day time too.  It was a chilly night, but they have a lot of heat lamps so we survived outside.

If you’ve never been to Big Bar or Alcove Cafe & Bakery (which¬†I hadn’t until this event) let me paint a quick picture of the venue. ¬†After passing through the ¬†beautifully lit courtyard you enter a building which divides in to two spaces, Alcove Bakery on the right and Big Bar on the left. I couldn’t help but think “What an interesting mix of two genres…pastries and cocktails!”

            

It does feel like two distinct spaces but they complement each other in their diversity. Also, I can’t imagine anything better than stumbling out of a bar in to a bakery at 1 o’clock in the morning… It brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘Bartenders Breakfast!’

I do plan to review this place again on a ‘normal’ night, because it had such a great feel to it and i’m told the food is very good. I would imagine this to be true as the ‘French themed’ Hors¬†d’oeuvres¬†I had at the event were truly delicious. ¬†We ordered a selection of food items which included the Croque Monsieur (little cheese and ham baguettes-Delicious!), Angus Beef Sliders with avocado and crispy bacon (I believe they have these on the regular menu and I highly recommend. We ended up ordering 3 servings!), Crab cakes (a little spicy, but lots of flavor) and Goat Cheese stuffed Medjool Dates wrapped in Bacon (need I say more! Yum!).

* * * * * * *

COCKTAILS

As I mentioned above, Dan Long (Originally of First & Hope) put together a cocktail list inspired by the French theme of the night. ¬†I started with the “Le Vie En Rose’.

First off, it was an attractive looking drink with lots of color, a large ice cube (I always love) and a ¬†beautiful rose petal garnish. ¬†It had a distinct floral taste throughout, was light but flavorful. ¬†It was a pleasent drink overall, but just a little sour for my liking. I’m not sure what their ratio is at Big Bar but I found the majority of drinks to be a little on the sour side for me. ¬†Having said that, ‘Le Vie En Rose’ definitely grew on me the more I sipped it and I found myself finishing the whole thing with no concern for a lack of sweetness!

Le Vie En Rose: Hudson white Whiskey, Rhuby Liqueur, Lime, Honey, Rose Essence

FG had ‘Le Cercle Rouge’. I enjoyed certain aspects of this drink. Hendricks Gin is one of my favorites, and like the ‘Le Vie En Rose’ drink this too had subtle floral flavorings in it, although was slightly more citric from the lemon. ¬†It was a well balanced and interesting mix of flavors, sadly I just cannot get myself to like the taste of absinthe no matter how hard I try! FG certainly liked it though and devoured it quickly.

Le Cercle Rouge: Hendricks Gin, Solerno, Lillet rouge, Lemon, Absinthe

The champagne cocktail section was the most interesting to me and one of my favorite ‘areas’ of the event. ¬†You had to pick your sugar cube (brown or white), then your bitters (from a large selection of Miracle Mile Bitters. that included Chocolate/Chili, Castilian, Gingerbread, Peach, Forbidden, Valentine and Orange)¬†¬†and then decide between¬†Ros√©¬†or Sparkling wine. ¬†FG created a drink for me and decided to go for the ‘Valentine Bitters’.

The flavors were strawberry and rose, they smelt romantic and girlie to me, like strawberry blossom.¬†These particular bitters were created especially for Big Bar by Louis Anderman (founder or Miracle Mile Bitters Co.) and were a “first attempt” he says, created just weeks earlier specifically for Prom. ¬†In my opinion they turned out pretty darn good for a first shot! The strawberry notes and floral elements complimented the bubbles perfectly. It ended up being the simplest, but possibly the best drink I had all evening. I will be doing an interview with Louis in the next few days, so be sure to check back to the site for that!

After my deliciously simple champagne cocktail I used my drink ticket (which was a bargain at just $8) to try the punch bowl in the back courtyard.  The punch was refreshing and had a splash of prosseco on top. It was also a little sweeter (from the Disaronno) than all the other drinks of the night, which is always a plus for me and my sweet tooth!

Le Punch Drunk Love: Disaronno, Bourbon, Lemon, Cinnamon, Fig Tea, Bubbles

In conclusion, even if I hadn’t won a crown, I would have thoroughly enjoyed my evening at the Big Bar Prom and I know all the friends and colleagues that came with me had a great time too. We all got charactures done, (which were hilarious because they looked nothing like us) and had ‘prom style’ photos taken. I will be at Prom 2013 handing my crown over to the next King and Queen!

For those of you who came to the event and had Prom style photos taken, be sure to collect them HERE. Coming soon!

I’m giving Big Bar Valentines Prom (and this is a rating JUST for the event):

 

3.5 out of 5 Clover clubs for Drinks.

I liked the cocktails a lot and the variety was good, but they were all a little too sour for my palette and I preferred the champagne cocktail bar and punch to the cocktails I had. The service was super slow (although to be fair it WAS an event so it’s to be expected) but overall the drinks were balanced and well thought out selections, Dan Long always does a good job with that, and FG enjoyed everything he tried. I’m sure the regular bar on a ‘non-event’ night is excellent and I will be sure to comment on that in my next review.

 

4 out of 5 Platters for Food.

The food rating is one of the highest because the bar bites we got to try were all excellent, especially the sliders. I am excited to return to order food off the regular menu and also get my hands on some of those pastry, cakes and chocolates!

I will be returning again to see this location in the day time soon. If this event was anything to go by, the place is worthy of a second visit and I recommend you to give it a try!

Here are some photos that I borrowed from the Big Bar website…check out more on their facebook page.

Above photo Left to Right: Dan Long, Eugene Lee, Aidan Demarest

Leave a comment

Filed under Events