Tag Archives: Wine

A great night out at ‘Tar & Roses’

Tar and RosesTar & Roses

602 Santa Monica Blvd,
Santa Monica, CA

310 587 0700

FutureGreg (FG) and I hadn’t been on a date night in a while due to illness and busy schedules, so I was very excited to try this new place yesterday which FG had suggested after meeting the owner, Chef Andrew Kirschner.

We arrived without a reservation thinking it wouldn’t be a problem, mainly because it was a Monday night and we usually sit at the bar anyway.  We were shocked to see it was slammed. I couldn’t believe how busy it was and they were fully booked until 9.30pm (we were there at 7.30pm!) The bar area is very small (mainly because they only serve wine and beer,) so we opted to wait and see if there were any cancellations. Just our luck a table for two became available within 5 minutes. PERFECT!

Restaurant

We decided to start with the ‘Chicken Oysters on a stick’.  Our server told us that the oysters of a chicken are two small, round pieces of dark meat on the back of the bird near the thigh.  I love dark poultry meat so this was ideal for me, the pieces were very soft yet tender with a lot of flavor.

Chicken oysters

The sticks reminded me of a dark meat chicken satay and came with a tamarind sauce on the side, which had a slightly spicy kick to it but was sweet and tangy too. Nice little bite to begin with.

Chicken Oysters on a stick-tamarind sauce $7

Gnocchi

Next we tried the ‘Ricotta gnocchi’.  This dish was full of interesting flavors from all the elements like squash and Brussels sprouts. The balsamic sauce was delicious with ricotta cheese and gave a subtle sweetness that paired beautifully with the soft gnocchi pieces which were cooked perfectly. I ate the remaining sauce like a soup it was so creamy and delicious.

Ricotta Gnocchi- Winter squash, Brussels Sprouts, Balsamic $11

Our neighboring table (who by complete coincidence turned out to be the Chefs father) got the snapper and I admit I was astounded to see the fish whole on the table, complete with eyes and tail! They did tell us that it was fantastic, and I could see the fish literally fall off the bone it was cooked so beautifully. Not for the faint hearted, or the fussy ones though!!!

Whole fried Snapper for two- Cold soba noodles, dipping sauce $48

SNAPPER

I went for the hanger steak which was perfectly cooked medium rare and came with wood fired leek that gave a sort of charcoal toasty taste to the dish. The squash purée was like mash potato but less creamy so much easier to eat and the chanterelles mushrooms were surprisingly good.  As most of my readers know, I don’t like the texture of mushrooms usually but these went down nicely with the steak. They weren’t too firm or at all rubbery.

Hanger Steak

The whole dish was covered with some sort of sweet almost red wine type sauce that worked with all the components of the dish.  The overall result was heavenly and I wiped the plate clean.

Hanger Steak- sunchoke puree, wood fired leeks, chanterelles $25

FutureGreg had the Skate wing (the fin of a fish that looks like a sting ray) which was incredible too. It was a white fish that fell apart when you ate it but still had a nice texture to it. The salsa verde on top gave another dimension to the dish and the celery mash underneath worked beautifully with the other flavors on the plate.  Skate Wing

I love sting rays as an animal (my favorite sea creature) so I was sad when I realized what we were eating, but I must say this is a really incredible entree option that I highly recommend and very yummy.

Skate Wing- Wood roasted escarole, celery root puree, salsa verde $23

Brussels SproutsWe got a side of Brussels sprouts, which weren’t my favorite at first but certainly grew on me the more I ate.  I felt the mustard dominated all the other flavors on the plate and the sprouts were cooked a little too al dente for my liking but it was by no means a bad dish, and FG certainly enjoyed it.  I did love the chestnuts on the plate, which were soft and sweet.

Brussels Sprouts- Chestnuts, crisp Pancetta, mustard $9

Instead of dessert, we decided to end with a few options from the cheese section of the menu.  You can mix and match bruschetta, meats and cheeses for a very decent spread. 3 for $14 or 5 for $20.  We went for the Cane De Cabra Spanish Goats Cheese, Cabot clothbound Cheddar from vermont and the Duck Bruscetta with fig jam and arugula. The platter came complete with raison toast pieces, apple slices and quince paste.

Cheese board

The duck bruscetta was moist and a great size crostini, the date paste underneath it gave a tasty sweetness that complimented the braised meat.  The goats cheese was delightfully soft, very creamy and a great choice. The cheddar was amazing too and I highly recommend both those choices for cheese.

I am giving Tar & Roses a full 5 out of 5 platters!

5full (1)

This truly was a wonderful place for dinner. Chef Kirschner has put together a great restaurant with an excellent menu. We had an extremely delicious meal and didn’t really dislike any elements of the evening.  I felt that the dishes were all correctly sized and fairly priced for how great they were. The atmosphere was lovely too. A warm and inviting little restaurant with a lot of nice features and great lighting. Not too loud either, so we were able to hear each other across the table, which was nice for a change.

I wish they had a bar program with cocktail options, seeing as i’m not really a wine or beer drinker, but other than that this is a great great option for your next date night. Enjoy!

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Areal Restaurant

Areal

2820 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA. 90405
310-392-1661

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My boyfriend FutureGreg (FG) and I found ourselves at Areal in Santa Monica recently enjoying another of our Monday date nights.

We sat at the bar, as per usual, and were fortunate enough to have our drinks made by their head barman Rich Andreoli.

A very Happy Hour

We arrived at the tail end of happy hour but managed to order a couple of bar bites and a daiquiri off the smaller happy hour menu before it ended.

We started with the Vegetable risotto, it was creamy but not too rich and had a slight chicken stock flavor to it.  The peas and asparagus were perfectly cooked, not too crunchy and not too soft.

Risotto: Spring peas, asparagus, lemon parmesan $9

Next we had the beef tartar which had a nice light spiciness.  The meat itself was soft, moist and had capers and onions mixed in. It came with hot toasted bread on the side which made a nice contrast with the cold beef.  Both dishes were great options for the price.

Beef Tartar: Fresh herbs, capers, shallots, arugula $8

The Daiquiri was a nice simple classic, it was slightly sour for my tastes but FG enjoyed it and it was a bargain at $6.

Original Daiquiri: White rum, fresh lime juice, sugar $6

More Food…

After the happy hour tasters we ordered off the main menu.  We couldn’t decide between the steak or the shrimp pizza…so naturally, we got both!

The 14oz Rib Eye with vegetables was a great choice, the dish reminded me of Sunday Roast dinners my mum would make back in England.  All the vegetables were delicious, crunchy and full of flavor.

Yes, you heard correctly, the Fussy One (who used to shy away from anything green on her plate) ate a whole plate of veggies… and enjoyed every one of them!  There was Artichoke, Purple Cauliflower, Asparagus, Roast potatoes, Parsnips and Carrots…plus some caramelized garlic and shallot pieces that gave a delicious sweetness to the plate.  It was very very good indeed.

Ribeye: Roasted seasonal vegetables, sautéed garlic spinach, herb butter $38

I had high hopes for the pizza we ordered, however sadly the menu didn’t mention it had chilies on so it was a little too spicy for me.  The pizza base was delicious though, soft and crispy dough with powdered flour on the edges.  I do enjoy a good pizza crust.

Wood Fired Shrimp Pizza: Goat cheese, Roasted garlic puree, Cilantro marinated shrimp $14

Drinks please!

Rich is a great bartender and gave wonderful suggestions for pairings with the food.  He convinced me to try a large variety of drink options,  so we sat at the bar and enjoyed many an alcoholic beverage.  He chose me a great glass of wine to enjoy with the steak which was a nice change from the cocktails too.  I’m not usually a red wine drinker but he gave me a glass of the medium bodied Mondave Cabernet which worked beautifully with the meat, it was fruity with just a hint of oak.

The first mixed drink I ordered was the ‘Secretariat’. It was a nutty, very rich and sweet drink.  It was a little too intense for me at the start of the meal but had a great combination of flavors. The pistachio honey really came through nicely, and worked well with the walnut liquor and bourbon. I didn’t really pick up on the lavender bitters because there were so many other overpowering flavors present. Certainly an interesting option, although i’d personally suggest it as an after dinner drink as opposed to with a meal.

Secretariat- Bourbon, Pistachio honey, Walnut liquor, Sweet vermouth, Lavender bitters $12

FG tried the ‘Single Village Fix’.   He certainly enjoyed it, mainly due to the Mezcal, which has become one of his fast favorites recently. The drink itself had a fair amount of sweetness to it from the pineapple gomme (which is basically a syrup) but the smoky mezcal flavors were the most overpowering part of the drink and not really my style.

Single Village Fix- Mezcal, Fresh lime, Pineapple gomme $12

I so wanted to like the Cameron’s Kick, because all the ingredients are things I enjoy.  The orgeat was very light, so the drink itself was pretty strong and I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.  FG enjoyed it a lot and described it as balanced but strong. I’m just fussy it would seem…haha who knew?! 🙂

Cameron’s Kick- Scotch, Irish Whiskey, Fresh lemon, Orgeat $12

The ‘Infante’ was the only drink that I honestly had no interest in trying because I’m not exactly a tequila fan but FG and Rich convinced me to give it a go at least.  Of course, it turned out to be my favorite drink of the night.  The tequila wasn’t overpowering at all and the rose water mist and nutmeg on top gave a great nose.  It was balanced, refreshing and delicious! I highly recommend this drink.

Infante- Blanco Tequila, Fresh lime, Orgeat, Rose water, Nutmeg $12

Sweet tooth

Dessert was just utter decadence. We were so full from food and cocktails that we boxed up half the pizza, but somehow Rich convinced us to try the  ice cream sundae! This is definitely not correctly advertised, ice cream sundae sounds kind of boring when you see it on the menu…but if you knew how good it was you would get this in a heartbeat.  It’s a home made toasted marshmallow ring for the base, butter pecan, chocolate and vanilla ice cream in the center then topped with cream, nuts and bourbon caramel sauce. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

This was beyond delicious, the marshmallow wasn’t overtly sweet and had a soft almost whipped texture to it.  The ice cream was creamy, (butter pecan happens to be my favorite flavor) the bourbon caramel sauce wasn’t overpowering it just blended nicely with all the other ingredients and the toasted hazelnuts gave a nice texture.  What a dish!

Ice Cream Sundae for two: Bourbon caramel, chocolate sauce, toasted hazelnuts $12

Just when we were about to explode, the pastry chef brought us a Pavlova to try! She told us that she makes sure the house made meringues remain chewy, so we had to have a taste.  Sadly the meringues on this occasion came out a little on the crunchy/dusty side…however the intension was there and i’m sure if we ordered it another time it would be as its intended. The whipped goat cheese was a great accompaniment to the berries on top.

Pavlova: Chewy meringue, Whipped goats cheese, Seasonal berries $9

Time for some Ratings

The food was a solid 3.5 before the dessert came out, but the ice cream sundae bumped it right up to out of 5.

If you can only order one item, get the sundae!!!  The rest of the food was all very good as well, the risotto and Steak were my favorites and if it wasn’t for the chilies the pizza would have been excellent also.

I’m giving the drinks at Areal 4 out of 5 also.

All the cocktails were executed well, Rich was chatty and friendly and is a man who clearly knows his craft.  I liked that he suggested things to try and asked me what spirits I prefer so he could make a drink accordingly, it made the whole experience more personal.  I found some of the drinks sometimes aired a little on the sour side for my tastes, but seeing as I usually go for diabetic sweet they are probably fine for most people!

I highly recommend this restaurant and i’m sure we’ll be back soon. The courtyard has fairy lights everywhere and looks beautiful.  The whole restaurant has a romantic and attractive atmosphere, the bar is well stocked with lots of interesting bottles and liqueurs (some we’d never seen before) and the background music they play is great. Soft rock and chill songs by bands such as Oasis, Red Hot Chili peppers, Snow Patrol and Cold Play (all my favorites!).

All in all a great night out. Shame about the $68 parking ticket that awaited us, we were having such a good time we forgot to feed the meter!

Oops… still well worth the night out though 🙂

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Wood & Vine

Wood & Vine

6280 Hollywood Blvd

Los Angeles,

323 334 3360

Monday date night with the boyfriend (FG) last week led us to Hollywood and the Bar/Restaurant ‘Wood & Vine’, named appropriately for its location on the corner of Hollywood Blvd and Vine Street.  The restaurant is located in the historic Taft building (Just across from the Pantages theater and home to the first offices of Charlie Chaplin and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) I loved the decor as soon as we entered the building.  I have noticed a lot of restaurants in LA are placing random objects and antique looking items around their rooms as decoration.  Wood and Vine follows this trend.

A somewhat strange selection of items were on display behind the bar. There were jars filled with bizarre looking brown fluids, old books, pictures and statues.  The funny thing is, there was probably someone hired with the sole purpose of thinking up and finding all the objects in that cabinet and then making it appear random.

The restaurant area was larger than I expected and continued upstairs with a balcony overlooking the bar below, the courtyard was actually in amongst the buildings and it felt very urban but a little claustrophobic when looking up at them towering above you.  We decided to sit at the bar, as we tend to enjoy talking to the bartenders anyway.  We got Justin who was really friendly and started us off with two cocktails from the winter drinks list (which will change as it becomes spring).

FG got the Kentucky Cashmere and I got a classic Aviation.  I do like this as a drink, and although it was made well it wasn’t quite sweet enough for me (we all know my sweet tooth). When I asked Justin if he could make it a little sweeter for me, I was thoroughly impressed that he didn’t just dunk simple syrup in it, like most other bartenders would. Instead he increased the Creme de Violette and Maraschino liqueur which meant the drink was certainly sweeter but still maintained it’s balance.

The Kentucky Cashmere drink was interesting.  FG loved it because of the bitterness of the fernet, but I liked the undertones of cocoa I could taste from the chocolate bitters.  The Chai tea flavors were subtle but certainly noticeable.

Kentucky Cashmere- Chai & Vanilla infused bourbon, Jelinek Fernet, Chocolate chili bitters

Aviation- Gin, Maraschino, Creme de violette, lemon juice

Justin gave us food menus and I was pleasantly surprised by the pricing, totally reasonable if not on the lower cost scale. They had a Monday Menu special which is a 3 course set menu for $18 (which I am told changes weekly).  The deal sounded amazing but we decided we’d rather mix and match off the main menu instead.

The menu wasn’t huge but there were so many good entrees to choose from and such a range of styles I couldn’t quite work out what kind of restaurant it was trying to be… American, Italian, Asian Inspired, French…dishes included Chicken & Waffles, Pork Belly, Gnocchi and Mussels.  As a mix of genres however, it seemed to work well and was certainly popular. The place was pretty busy on a Monday night, but then again it is Hollywood.

We decided to split the Beet Salad to start. Small portion but really tasty. Goats cheese and candied nuts are my favorite items on a salad, and lucky for me this had both.  They were candied pistachios this time (which is a nut I have never tried candied before) which were very tasty, with a slight salty sweetness to them.  I tried Beets for the first time this night too! They were much sweeter and juicier than I imagined so naturally I enjoyed them.

Beet Salad- Market greens, Candied pistachios, goat cheese, sherry vinaigrette $10

FG went for the Baked Gnocchi and I went for the Flat Iron Steak.  My Steak was cooked correctly to my medium/rare specifications and the asparagus was just the right amount of grilled. The carrot puree was creamy, sweet and delicate against the meat. A fine addition, I only wish they had given me more puree because it was just a small drizzle. The compound butter on top was excessive (size wise) and not really necessary in my opinion, I barely touched it because the meat and vegetables had enough flavor without the need for the overpowering taste of butter.

Flat Iron Steak- carrot puree, grilled asparagus, compound butter $21

FG was loving his Baked Gnocchi so I decided to try a bite even though I really dislike the texture of braised meat. The dish reminded me of a meal my mum made me back in England called ‘Meat and Dumplings’, it was like a stew and I almost wanted a slice of bread to dip in the gravy like sauce. It had a definite comfort food taste to it and the Gnocchi were cooked perfectly-not too soft and not too hard. Gnocchi is often made with semolina, flour, egg, potato, water and salt.  For those who’ve never had it, the best description comes from my old room mate Bryan;

“If potato and pasta had a baby, it would taste like Gnocchi”

Baked Gnocchi- Braised pork, goats cheese $16

The meal portions weren’t huge so we ordered the scallops also.   In my opinion Scallops are really hard to get perfect, and although they did a decent job of this dish, they were only good and not excellent (not like the ones I had at Piccolo).  The grits were an interesting addition to the dish and were creamy with less of a cornmeal taste than usual, which I prefer.  They worked surprisingly well along side the seafood. FG liked the grilled squash it came with and said it was perfectly juicy, I didn’t care for it myself though and didn’t really feel it was needed.

Pan-Seared Diver Scallops- Grilled squash, creamy grits, market greens $18

Wood & Vine has a fairly extensive list (over 50 different kinds) of Whisk(e)y, arranged in the menu by Bourbon, Rye, Scotch, Irish and American.  This was extremely appealing to FG but seeing as we had to drive we decided to share a second drink and ordered the ‘Hunter’. I found this drink to be ridiculously delicious and so simple, just two main ingredients in fact.  I’m sure FG would have preferred the Whiskey straight, but I really liked the light cherry sweetness coming through the Rye, it took away any burn there might have been. It is a drink I will remember to order elsewhere in future. I liked it that much.

Hunter- Redemption rye, Heering cherry liqueur, lemon peel

We decided to finish off with something sweet and Justin convinced us to go for the ‘Pot de creme’.  Wow! A lot of places are doing a salted caramel flavor combination but not many i’ve tasted have done it quite as well as this.

The salty ice cream and the intense sweetness of the butterscotch complimented each other perfectly, and it was so rich, creamy and smooth.  We had a similar dish at Bottega Louie a few weeks back (review coming soon) but this one may actually have been slightly better.  We ordered a scoop of Whiskey Ice Cream to try too, which tasted like baileys to me but was also very good.

Butterscotch Pot de Creme-  salted caramel ice cream $6

Drinks get 4 out of 5 Coupes. (Ratings)

All the drinks were executed correctly (I witnessed all the bartenders stirring Manhattans for a good 2 minutes or more which always gets bonus points from me. I am impressed when a bartender takes the time to make a drink correctly instead of rushing, especially in Hollywood.) Our drinks were all balanced, and Justin gets extra points for the way in which he increased the sweetness of my drink.

Food gets a good 3.5 out of 5 Platters.

All in all this place had great food too. Service was timely, and even when they got a little rush at around 10pm they still made sure everyone was served or acknowledged without a crazy wait time.  The food was incredibly affordable and there was a nice range of dishes to choose from.  It loses a platter purely because none of the dishes (except maybe dessert) jumped out as being exceptional, they were just very good.

We will certainly be back however to see new additions to the menu and try the drinks list for summer when it comes out. If you’re in Hollywood and like a good drink and food without a huge price tag, then be sure to check this place out. You certainly won’t be disappointed.

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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.
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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 agnello– Seared 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!

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Cocktails to cure your ‘Oscars fever!’

As you probably know it is award season here in Los Angeles, so I thought what better way to celebrate the 84th Academy Awards this Sunday 26th February 2012 than learning about a couple of ‘Hollywood Classics’ (Cocktails that is).

In the 1930s when the likes of Ginger Rogers and Clark Gable walked the red carpet, there were a couple of drinks created here in this starry eyed city that deserve a mention.

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Embassy Cocktail
  • 3/4 oz Brandy
  • 3/4 oz Jamaican rum
  • 3/4 oz Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • dash Angostura bitters

Garnish: Lime wedge

Shake in ice and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.

This cocktail from the 1930’s was featured at the late ‘Embassy Club’ in Hollywood.  Adolph “Eddie” Brandstatter owned a number of Hollywood hotspots in this era, including the Café Montmartre which was hugely popular with the movie stars of the day.  When the stars complained about the hoards of fans bothering them (people would swarm around the entrance and stare at the patrons eating!) Eddie had the idea to knock a passageway from his place in to a newly constructed building next door and this new space became the exclusive Embassy Club.

It was a speakeasy styled private venue that ‘Old Hollywood’ movie stars could go to escape from the crowds.  Membership was restricted to Brandstatter’s closest friends which included many stars of the time including Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, Jean Harlow and Howard Hughes.

Sadly, the move turned out to be a disaster for Brandstatter because the Café Montmartre lost it’s appeal. The public didn’t want to go there if they couldn’t see Hollywoods royalty.  In order to try and save his businesses he opened Embassy Club to the public but this in turn meant the movie stars stopped going and Brandstatter ended up losing both businesses and filing for bankruptcy. While it was around it is said to have been a beautiful location with a rooftop promenade and glass enclosed lounge with views of the Hollywood hills.

This drink has a great balance of sweet, sour and bitter.  I tried it for the first time this week-end and found it to be really quite delicious.  The Embassy Cocktail is currently a special on the board at Sadie, in Hollywood and will be available to order throughout this award season.

Classic Martini (Also known as the Bradford, Brighton or Gold Cocktail)

  • 1 oz Gin
  • 1/2 oz Dry Vermouth

Garnish: Olive or a lemon twist

Stir in ice and serve in a chilled cocktail glass

When I think of “Old Hollywood”, one of the actors that springs to mind is Cary Grant.  It is said that Cary Grant’s favorite cocktail was the Classic Martini (made with Gin of course). Author Ian Fleming always said he based his most famous character James Bond on Cary Grant.  James Bond had a reputation for living dangerously and making the wrong seem right, he also had to be different from the average Joe, so Fleming had his character always order this classic incorrectly…”Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred”.

A so-called ‘Classic Martini’ is actually really complicated so I won’t go in to it all now,  however the original recipe does call for Gin, which is a much better option than vodka in my opinion. Many cocktail connoisseurs also believe that shaking gin is bad because the shaking action “bruises” the gin (a bitter taste can sometimes occur). In Fleming’s novel Casino Royale, it says  “Bond watched as the deep glass became frosted with the pale golden drink, slightly aerated by the bruising of the shaker,” I advise you to order yours stirred, not shaken and always with Gin, not Vodka. Sorry James!

Hi Ho Cocktail (Also known as the ‘Highland and Hollywood Cocktail’)

  • 2 oz Gin
  • 1 oz White port
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
Garnish: Lemon peel twist
Shake in ice and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.
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The Hi Ho Cocktail was created in Hollywood, California in the 1930’s and named after the cross streets where the Academy awards are held each year- Highland and Hollywood (Hi Ho).   First published in ‘World Drinks and How to Mix Them’ by William Boothby in 1934. I prefer this to a classic martini because I am not a huge fan of vermouth.  While red port is much more common these days, white port is still readily available so make sure you use it for this drink. A dry white port and a London Dry Gin are suggested.

Shirley Temple (non-alcoholic)

  • Ginger Ale
  • Dash of Grenadine (Original is made from Pomegranate based syrup)

Garnish: Cherry

This is a non-alcoholic cocktail named after one of the biggest child stars in history.  I felt the need to put this one on the list (despite its lack of liquor) for two reasons.

Firstly, Shirley Temple was definitely part of the old Hollywood scene.  She was actually awarded a miniature Oscar for charming America with her singing and dancing in the midst of the Great Depression. She was given the award when she was just 6 years old “in grateful recognition of her outstanding contribution to screen entertainment during the year 1934.”and this ‘mocktail’ is said to have been created so that she would have something to drink when out with the adult Hollywood stars.

Secondly, many places today make this drink incorrectly using ‘Sprite’ instead of the original recipe that calls for Ginger Ale,  be sure to ask for the latter when ordering, you won’t be disappointed.

REFERENCES

My research for this piece comes from many sources, but in particular I want to mention three great books I referenced;

1. ‘The Story of Hollywood’ by Gregory Paul Williams

2. ‘Elemental Mixology’ by Andrew “The Alchemist” Willet

and a fun read novelty book;

3. ‘Hollywood’s Favorite Cocktail Book – including the favorite cocktail served at each of the smartest stars’ rendezvous. Food and Wine Combinations.’ by Buzza-Cardozo published 1928.
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I hope you try and enjoy some of these drinks this award season, I have to admit I am not a big Martini drinker myself because in all honesty I find them too strong! I mean, they are for the most part almost straight liquor. I have not yet tried all of the drinks on this list, but am suggesting mainly for their Hollywood history.
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I don’t live too far from Hollywood Blvd but as a picky drinker I have decided it is my duty to force myself and my boyfriend to test these classics whilst watching the Hollywood excitement unfold on TV today. I suggest you do the same! 🙂

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