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2013 in review

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In the next few weeks The Fussy One will be in it’s 2nd year! Hooray! ¬†To mark another year of drinking, traveling and blogging I thought I would put up my stats for last year. For those who are interested below is The Fussy One 2013 annual report. It makes me so happy to see how many new people visited this site last year, even though I didn’t have a chance to work on it as much as I usually like.

Thank you to all my faithful fussy followers, be sure to keep reading this new year! Click on the link to read the stats put together for me by wordpress ūüôā

Click here to see the complete report.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

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Guest Blog

Hello Fussy Followers!

I have a couple of pieces I am working on for the Fussy One (taking a while to get together) and I will be posting soon, have no fear! In the mean time, I wanted to let you know I was asked to do a guest spot on someone else’s blog this week!

I received an email from Aryn, creator of giraffes+garlic+glamour website (great name) when I was sick in bed with flu and it made me so happy to hear from a fellow blogger and reader of my site.  She asked me to do a guest spot on her blog, which honestly is the most flattering thing a fellow blogger can ask, in my opinion. Her site is a really interesting read too, so I think a lot of you would enjoy it.

Please click HERE to see the piece I wrote for her, and see what she has to say about The Fussy One. ūüôā

As i’m sure you have noticed, I haven’t been blogging much recently. Life gets in the way of writing sometimes and before you know it another week has gone by and nothing is ready. ¬†I am so grateful for all my readers, and especially appreciative of a number of you who have written me private messages recently telling me how much you enjoy my site. I have fan mail! Yay!

Anyway, keep reading and making cocktails. I promise lots of posts will be coming soon…

The Fussy One xxx

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SugarFish

SUGARFISH
1345 2nd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
 
Phone: 310 393-3338

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This week I wanted to write about a restaurant that is always consistent, seeing as recently I keep finding places I love (and write about) have changed their menus a week later (to keep up with trends) and the items I craved have been taken off! ūüė¶ I do understand that some foods are seasonal but it’s so hard for someone like myself (fussy) to find a dish i’ll eat at all, so once I have done it’s even more distressing to not be able to get the same meal again on the next visit.

Anyway, I have been coming to SugarFish for over a year now, and their quality of food has always been above and beyond. They also never change their set menu (hooray!), which is what I’m going to cover in this review.

A lot of people tend to be very shocked that I am a huge sushi lover, and I have to admit I don’t understand it myself. ¬†The fact that I never used to eat anything other than pasta, and now regularly enjoy raw fish is a somewhat dramatic leap. Yet, for some reason, it is a genre of food I really enjoy. ¬†I have always liked smoked salmon, so when I first went to a sushi restaurant I tried the salmon sushi and found that the ¬†raw salmon is a similar consistency to smoked, which didn’t bother me at all. From eating salmon sushi, I eventually branched out to trying other light fish like ‘yellowtail’ and ‘halibut’ although I never found myself wanting to try tuna. For some reason the smell of tuna really bothers me (well canned tuna anyway) and for the longest time I couldn’t get my mind set out of that.

Anyway, walking in to SugarFish about a year ago, my boyfriend (FG) and I didn’t know what to expect. ¬†The place itself is small with bamboo style wood everywhere and plants on one of the side walls. They don’t take reservations so make sure you arrive well in advance of when you want to eat, because they do fill up quickly.¬†We had been told repeatedly by people that they make ‘great sushi’ but our understanding at the time was limited and we really just thought, ‘it’s just rice and raw fish, how good can it be’. How little did we know!

Chef Kazunori Nozawa is a Japanese Chef who has been working with sushi since he was 15 years old. ¬†When he came to America he started Sushi Nozawa in Studio City, California with the aim to get Americans out of the thinking of extravagant rolls and back to the no-frills basics of what Japanese sushi really is, very simple yet exceptional quality seafood. ¬†Sushi Nozawa closed this year (2012) but the SugarFish chain continues his philosophy and the ‘Trust Me’ set menu is similar to one at the original Sushi Nozawa location.

The ‘Trust Me’ set menu is the one we always get, not just because of it’s value for money ($29.50 pp) but because it has a nice range of dishes within it. ¬†The first item is the Edamame. ¬†Plain, simple and nicely chilled with a little salt but not too much.

Next is the tuna sashimi. Now, as I said before, I never wanted to try tuna but on my first visit to SugarFIsh I felt obliged to try it as it was part of the set menu and they don’t bring the next dish until the one you have is finished!

So worth it, WOW this dish is good. The sauce is divine.  It is slightly sweet like a ponzu sauce but a little more citric and sharp on the tongue. The scallions on top gives a nice change in texture to the moist soft flesh of the fish. Yummy.

What immediately stood out to me was how ‘non-fishy’ it tasted, in fact all the dishes at SugarFish have that same quality and it’s because they use the freshest fish daily, never from frozen.

Next come 4 little sushi pieces, two of albacore and two of salmon.  The Albacore on my most recent trip (last night) was exceptional. It had the softest texture and melted in the mouth, there was a subtle sweetness to it and the cold fish over warm rice made for a really delicious combination.

The salmon was also flavorful but I have had salmon sushi so much now, I find it dull in comparison to the other options.

Next dish was the Yellowtail sushi (2pieces) and Halibut sushi (2pieces).The Yellowtail was the lightest in flavor but it had a nice texture and was clearly very fresh and slightly firm.  The Halibut had a citric almost spicy tasting sauce added to it, which paired beautifully with the flavors of the fish itself. Another two great sushi pieces.

I should mention, they do give soy sauce and wasabi on the side but we often find ourselves not using it at all because the fish flavors really speak for themselves.

The Toro roll came out and our waitress told us it is best enjoyed whilst the¬†seaweed¬†is nice and crispy. I have to admit, i’m not a big fan of seaweed wrapped rolls usually but this one was good… Soft moist chilled toro inside warm rice with a crispy seaweed shell.

The Blue hand crab roll was the last item to come out, and the crab was almost creamy in texture. It was very cold crab meat which is an odd sensation against the warm rice but seems to work and this is apparently the true Japanese way of preparing sushi.
After the crab roll you’re all done off the set items, occasionally they have a special of the day they feature instead or as well as. ¬†There are also other set menus (a larger and lite version) or you can order off the general menu, but value wise and selection choices makes this particular set option our favorite. ¬†All the dishes appear tiny (by Western standards) but the leisurely timing in which the items are brought to the table somehow fills you up and we feel very satisfied every time we eat there.

On our last visit we also enjoyed a nice bottle of Nigori Sake called ‘Sho Chiku Bai’ which was creamy, silky and mildly sweet. It paired beautifully with our dinner and I highly recommend.

Food rating gets 5 out of 5 platters

I’m yet to have a bad experience here, so they get full marks! ¬†It sounds obvious, but it makes SUCH a difference when seafood is so fresh. I always thought I knew good sushi until I came here, now I won’t go anywhere else. Their consistency of both quality and taste makes them one of the best sushi places I have ever been to and although the service can be slow at times, the staff are all very friendly and helpful so they don’t lose marks their either. ¬†If you like good sushi then this is certainly a restaurant you should check out.

The Santa Monica location is the one we personally know and love, but SugarFish have a number of venues now, so look on their website for the closest one to you.

Enjoy!

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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

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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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My Tale of Tales 2012

I can’t quite believe that it’s already been nearly two weeks since I returned from the sticky summer heat of New Orleans!…So much for blogging as I went along!?

I could use the excuse that there was just no time to blog, but lets be honest, I was more often than not far too intoxicated busy to document correctly!  What can I say though, this was the 10 year anniversary of Tales of the Cocktail (TOTC)!

Many of my blogging companions have long since posted there highlights from the trip, but one of the reasons I have taken so long to write this post is because I am almost overwhelmed with where to begin. ¬†There were many more parties, tastings and seminars than I have space to cover here so I am going to give a very brief break down of the events that interested, excited or inspired myself and my darling mixologist boyfriend FutureGreg (FG) in particular. This isn’t to say that there weren’t many more during the week that were great, these are just the ones that stood out and made it to MY tale of Tales.

Lets begin at the beginning…

On the shuttle from Louis Armstrong airport to our hotel in French Quarter we found ourselves stuck in a fair bit of traffic due to the arrival of President Obama,¬†who was visiting for the day. Ok, so this isn’t really all that relevant to TOTC, but come on, what a cool start to have the President wave at some of the World’s best bartenders!

An Absolut Welcome

Event: Absolut Welcome Party       Location: Contemporary Arts Center

First stop was the Absolut Welcome party. ¬†For those of you who read my posts regularly, you might recall I reported on the Absolut Stuga event last month for Tasting Panel Magazine. ¬†In that piece I noted how Absolut had managed to bring Sweden to Hollywood with the placement of small swedish cottages and snowy white trees around the room…fast forward to Wednesday night and I found myself again standing in Sweden, only this time I was in New Orleans.

The Absolut team had done a great job transforming the Contemporary Art Museum in to a Swedish landscape, complete with falling snow. I must mention, the snow was a beautiful touch but proved to be extremely impractical. I think I must have choked on at least 12 bubbly flakes blowing in the air and had many more land in my drinks, which was somewhat annoying and impossible to avoid.

Takafumi Yamada pours the Absolut

The event itself was nicely done though.  Blue lights made the room appear cold and wintery, which was a pleasant change from the humidity outside.  There were drink stations set up representing different areas of the World too. My favorites were Absolut Japan and Absolut Italia.

Hidetsugu Ueno had created the Absolut Diamond Tea drink that used local Japanese Honey and Japanese Tea a long with regular Absolut vodka.  The tea was a prominent flavor, but the drink itself was balanced and had a nice sweetness to it from the honey.  It was served over an ice ball that was skillfully carved in front of us using a Japanese ceramic knife.

Over at Absolut Italia I enjoyed a very¬†different¬†kind of drink, the Coppa Di Fiori. ¬†This was made with Absolut Citron, Cynar, Lemon juice, Mint, Simple syrup and Tonic water. It was certainly bitter, but still very enjoyable….even for my sweet tooth!

Later in the evening Simon Ford, Gary Reagan, Nick Strangeway and Lynnette Marrero¬†performed the song ‘Take a chance” by ABBA which was both hilarious and slightly disturbing! haha

   

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TOTC

Event: William Grant & Sons     Location: New Orleans Museum of Art

Buses courtesy of TOTC shuttled us off to the 10 year Birthday Bash put on by William Grant & Sons.  On the ride we indulged in Hendricks flavored ice creams before arriving at an even grander Art Museum with giant candles lining the drive.

There was so much to see at this party I can only touch on a few of my favorite areas.  The Hendricks Gin spectacle was very peculiar, the bartenders would make drinks at the top of the roof and pour them down to the glasses below.

Inside there were¬†delicious¬†appetizers, desserts and drink selections provided by Glenfiddich and Belvenie. ¬†Outside there was a ‘Slap and tickle village’ (which had bartenders shaking drinks whilst jumping on trampolines), a giant birthday card to sign and burlesque dancers.

There were photo booths, clowns, a fireworks display and plenty of cocktails to be had in amongst the artwork. As fellow blogger Dave Stolte pointed out…

“A Henry Moore statue can also double as an impromptu drinks stand in New Orleans!”

Japanese Whisky, fill me up!

Seminar: Non-Stop to Kyoto     Presented by: Neyah White & Gardner Dunn

The seminar that really stood out to myself and FG on this trip was ‘Non-Stop to Kyoto’ which was put together by Neyah White and Gardner Dunn. ¬†This was a really relaxing experience and a great escape from the craziness of Tales.

The room had been transformed in to a little Japanese hut, with a great selection of some of the best Japanese Whiskies available, ranging from Hibiki 30 year to 1984 Yamazaki Single Malt. We each sat down at our own little table and were given a blending kit with a selection of whiskies in test tubes. Neyah explained that there was no right or wrong way to put together our own drink, it was simply a teaching aid to help understand how master blenders come up with combinations.  I actually really enjoyed my creation, it was a little smoky, a little sweetness and not too hot.

I tried the Yamizaki 1984 and really liked it, it was very smooth with no dramatic heat despite being 96 proof. ¬†It had a slight cinnamon nose which I am told could come from the Japanese Oak it’s aged in. It is named after the year 1984 which was the first time they felt their product was good enough to serve as a single malt, before that date Suntory had only ever produced blended whisky.

Small bites, which included a¬†delicious¬†‘Scrambled egg on vanilla brioche with bacon caramel’, ‘Banana Mochi’ and ‘Spicy caramel popcorn’ was provided by World famous Chef¬†Michael Mina,¬†as you can imagine the dishes were incredible and I wish there had been more. ¬†The spicy sweet popcorn brought out interesting flavors in the whisky too.

Ooh how that pig packs a punch!

Event: Bon Vivants Pig & Punch    Location: Washington Sq Park

The Pig and Punch party had us drinking a variety of creations out of trash cans, yes you heard correctly, trash cans.  Obviously they were clean and filled to the brim with alcohol and fruits, but it was quite an experience to say the least. The highlight of the event was when 4 men carried the cooked beast in and placed it on a fire pit while a classic New Orleans brass band played bouncy songs as if it were a Jazz funeral.

There was plenty of food on offer.  I had sausages with Templeton rye that were awesome and some incredible sorbets and gelatos created by Luxardo and La Divina Gelateria. My favorite flavor was the peach amaretto sorbet, which was like eating liquid marzipan. Just delicious!

Crawl to the Brawl

Event: Bar Room Brawl   Location: Generations Hall

I have to say, this was a little bit of a cluster f!@k to get in to. ¬†There were long lines and too many people on the guest lists, but once inside it was well worth the wait. ¬†For those who don’t know, the idea behind Bar room brawl is to find the best bar in the US, voted in by the industry.

This year saw no Los Angeles bars nominated so FG and I decided to cheer for The Passenger/Columbia Room of DC. ¬†My review of Washington DC is coming soon, but even if we’d never been or met the incredibly talented¬†Derek Brown we still LOVED all the drinks that this bar produced that night.

Beretta from San Francisco won the title of best bar, and Bar Manager Ryan Fitzgerald collected the trophy.

We weren’t by any means disappointed with this win, it was nice to have a Californian bar take the title even if it wasn’t LA.¬†Having been to¬†Beretta¬†ourselves just this past January, I can attest to the fact that the restaurant and bar program there is truly fantastic.

It was at Beretta that I finally found out I liked brussel sprouts (after Ryan forced me to try them)…it was one of the first times I had been convinced to try something ugly and green! That particular experience was one of the reasons I started the FussyOne blog a month later, to be able to tell others like myself, “it’s ok to try scary green vegetables!”

Tastings

There were several tasting rooms and vans that popped up during the week, below are just a few of the drinks and products I enjoyed the most.

Giovanni Martinez¬†representing Chivas Regal gave me a cocktail named ‘The Green Room’¬†which had Carpano Antica Formulae, Clear Creek Pear¬†Liqueur, Miracle Mile Toasted Pecan Bitters, and Chivas 12 yr. ¬†The entire cocktail was aged in glass with oak staves that had originally stored barley wine. The drink itself was served straight up and was really strong, but full of interesting flavors.

  

Ben Davidson, The National Spirits Ambassador for Pernod Ricard Australia had prepared two other cocktails that included Chivas and were barrel-aged. These were also very strong, and tasty.  I find that the new craze of barrel-aging cocktails is a great one, it gives complexity to certain drinks and softens other. I look forward to seeing more barrel-aged cocktails coming to bars in Los Angeles soon.

I tasted the White Montanya Rum for the first time and was pretty impressed by the product as a whole. ¬†It had a slight nuttiness to it and wasn’t at all harsh like most white rums. ¬†I am generally a dark rum drinker but the rep. explained that they age this rum in oak then filter it through coconut husk charcoal so it retains the flavor, but removes the color. ¬†Nice little product.

Nick Strangeway introduced us to his new Absolut Craft line at the Flavor Innovation Workshop, which was held at the creepy historical Pharmacy Museum. ¬†He gave a really interesting talk on how he came up with and created the three new flavors he’s produced with the Absolut vodka brand. ¬†The three flavors he’s created are Smokey Tea, Herbaceous Lemon and Bitter Cherry.¬†

The Herbaceous Lemon was very interesting, because although it had a strong citric flavor Nick explained it had no actual lemon or citrus in it. He wanted to create a citrus vodka with no citrus, just using citrus flavored herbs.  He certainly achieved this because it tasted like fresh lemon zest was incorporated, but instead he had chosen to use Lemon Mertyl, Lemongrass and Lemon Thyme to create the strong lemon flavor.  It was very original and an interesting concept.

The Bitter Cherry, was indeed bitter and not really my favorite but The Smokey Tea was a really fantastic product.  It had a really nice smokiness to it which we later enjoyed in a pineapple-tini style drink that was probably one of the best drinks we had the entire trip!

All good things must come to an end…

Like I said at the start, this post can only touch on a few of my favorite parts of the trip.  Juniperlooza, The Rum & Reggae pool party, The Macallan Ice Ball plunge and The Pink Pigeon Spirited dinner were all noteworthy events also, but I could go on and on so I have to stop somewhere.

Below I have thrown in a bunch of photos that can touch on the¬†mayhem that I simply don’t have room to write about…

                         

Please note, there were a number of Bars and Restaurants that FG and I visited separate from the Tales debauchery, including Commanders Palace, Cure, Arnauds and The Carousel Bar.  I will be writing a separate post about these soon so be sure to look out for that in coming weeks.

There’s really nothing left to say now, except…

Here’s to another 10 years of Tales! ūüėÄ

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