Drinking in L.A.: How to Do It Well in 24 Hours

Ever since I heard the Bran Van 3000 song “Drinking in L.A.,” I have maintained a sort of obsession with the idea of sipping gin and juice in City of Angles. Naturally, once I visited Los Angeles I had to tipple and found a range of places to do it in the 24 hours I was there.

The first bar was right next to our hotel on Sunset Boulevard and had a baseball theme. Called the Short Stop, this quaint dive bar could easily have been in Williamsburg. The main difference: space. They had a huge, empty dance floor, full bar, a dark, tiny room that appeared to be the make-out spot, and a back room with a pool table and Photobooth machine. A perfect way to start the adventure.

The next day, my first adult beverage was a glass of California chardonnay at The Getty Center. Normally a drink at a museum wouldn’t be something to write about, but sipping the cool white wine under Richard Meier’s magnificent structure and taking in the sprawling city below, well, it’s highly recommend. Plus, it’s one of the best views in the whole city.

After the museum, we headed to Fairfax Village and downed a couple beers at Rosewood Tavern while waiting for our table at Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook’s Animal across the street. The dark bar serves plenty of craft beer and scotch, plus a fine selection of steaks. Once at dinner, Animal provided a lovely wine selection that paired lovingly with the meat-centric (duh) dishes.

Now, the real drinking in L.A. happened at Cana Rum Bar downtown. When I walked into the smuggler’s den nestled in a carport, I knew it was something special. Here, Allan Katz is making an array of innovative rum-base drinks from their list of over 140 bottles. Since we were not only drinking in L.A. but also driving, I couldn’t try them all, but I did enjoy the simple coconut and rum drink, which came in a young coconut, and the Pleasure and Pain that also had mezcal in the mix.

Finally, our drink tour ended the next day at Baco Mercat with their fun and creative drinking vinegars. Some say L.A. isn’t a drinking town, but I have to disagree. You just have to know where to go, and how to do it right. 

Le Fooding: The Brooklyn Version

The famous French eating festival has finally arrived in Brooklyn, which, some might say, has the most European restaurant scene in New York. Created by Alexandre Cammas in Paris, Le Fooding has spread a concept of modern, edgier, and culture-focused eating in France, New York, and Milano for the last twelve yeras. Now, after three turns in NYC, Le Fooding has concentrated its efforts in Brooklyn.

And you, dear readers, can buy tickets for the event early by clicking this link.

This year they have four main events: Le Clicquot Brooklyn tour, cinematic brunches, Le Fooding lunches at the flea markets, and the Le Fooding Campfire Session. For the Clicquot Brooklyn Tour, they will feature four $75 dinners, complete with a half bottle of Veuve Clicquot, that pair Brooklyn chefs with their foreign “twins.” Meaning at the September 19 dinner, Brian Leth, the Vinegar Hill House chef, will cook with Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook, the guys from the popular Los Angeles restaurant Animal. On the 20th, you get a lovely pairing of Frankies 457 Spuntino’s owners Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli with southern darling Sean Brock, who runs the farm-to-table joint Husk in Charleston, North Carolina. For the third dinner, they have Neal Harden and Alain Senderens preparing a vegan meal with the Paris-based chef Daniel Rose. Finally, the last meal of the series features a nomadic feast where Le Fooding organizers have opened up a kitchen in Dustin Yellin’s new building, The Intercourse, to host great chefs who currently don’t have their own restaurant. This means you can sample fare by British chaps Isaac McHale and James Lowe of the Young Turks, Ignacio Mattos, formally of Isa, and Hugue Dufour, formally of M. Wells.

The cinematic brunches will be held September 22 and 23 at Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg, and they plan on screening Brooklyn classics like Saturday Night Fever and The Warriors to pair with dishes that represent the borough. Also on the 22nd and 23rd, the Fort Greene and Williamsburg flea markets will open up a food stand featuring vintage eats by various Le Fooding chefs. Finally, for the last night, they will have the Campfire Session, an energetic event at the Brooklyn Waterfront with live music and, of course, more food. 

This event will sell out, so get your tickets early!

Bye Bye Foie Gras: Good For Ducks, Bad For Foodies

Last Monday, I gleefully sat down to a rich plate of foie gras French toast at STK downtown. The lady-friendly steakhouse was packed with stylish people gorging on the same dish I had, plus chewing on steaks laden with creamy foie gras and foie gras butter. The scene was affluent and chic, and starting Sunday, July 1, will not be an experience you can have at STK in California. You also can’t have the foie gras terrine at meat-happy Animal in Los Angeles, or the popular foie gras au torchon at The French Laundry in Yountville.

“Like Chicago, I hope we can realize that the few ways we can enjoy ourselves is to sit around the table and enjoy food,” said French Laundry proprietor Thomas Keller to the Daily Meal during the James Beard Awards. “I hope our representatives in Sacramento realize that the enjoyment around the dinner table is sacred.”

While Keller and many other chefs feel this way, the law, which was passed in 2004 but had aseven-and-a-half-year grace period, aims to stop a practice animal advocates have deemed cruel for a long time—stuffing a feeding tube of fatty food down the throats of geese, ducks, and chickens. With the ban, the production and sale of food stuff resulting from any force feeding of birds that causes their livers to enlarge beyond the normal size, is illegal and comes with a $1,000 fine. That’s right, foie gras just got more expensive.

“That’s a lot of money to flout what is, in essence, a morals clause,” wrote Jonathan Gold in an article for the Los Angeles Times. He continues:

Which raises the question: In a period when New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pushed through a regulation banning supersize soda, California banned the sale of sharks’ fin soup and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia asked whether the federal government could force an individual to buy broccoli, can kitchen morality be legislated? Do the ban’s largely vegan supporters see it as a first step toward a larger ban on meat? Does a prohibition on products obtained from over-fattened ducks and geese protect animals or erode liberties — or both?

"It’s not just foie gras,"’ says Josiah Citrin, the chef and owner of Mélisse. "Most people don’t eat [it], so they think it doesn’t have anything to do with them. The problem is, what’s the next step, chicken?"

Lucky for me, I live in New York where places like STK can continue to dish out this luxury item, and eating a foie and jelly doughnut at Do or Dine and gorging on Marcus Samuelsson’s celebrated foie gras ganache at Red Rooster isn’t rebellious, but delicious. Despite how you feel about foie gras, just as Gold said, the real question comes down to morals and whether or not force-feeding a bird is cruel. Daily Meal’s Ali Rosen took this question to a duck farm upstate where farmers graciously let her tromp around and talked all about the process, which you can see below. It may surprise you to learn the difference between the way our throats an livers work vs. a bird’s. Readers, what’s your take on this ban?

LA’s Unlikely New Drinking District: Fairfax Village

In Los Angeles, New York-style bar crawls tend to happen in neighborhoods with a high concentration of bars (obviously). Think the Sunset Strip, Silver Lake, or Santa Monica. Yet no less than five bars are now clustered together on Fairfax Avenue, between Beverly and Rosewood, turning the area anchored by Animal restaurant and Canter’s Deli into LA’s version of the Lower East Side.

The neighborhood isn’t totally foreign to night owls, however. Back in the Swingers days, Sean MacPherson and Jon Sidel opened Olive in the area, and the Kibitz room on Fairfax was popular with big name musicians, who used to drop by to play at the bar attached to Canter’s. But more recently, Fairfax has been popping with the addition of two new bars: Rosewood Tavern and Vodvil. Rosewood Tavern has emerged as a hit from the moment they opened in May, thanks to a low-key pub vibe in an exposed-brick environment (28 craft brews can’t hurt). The future is less certain for the just-opened Vodvil, which boasts a novel concept that may or may not endear itself to locals.

So what’s the deal with Vodvil? Well, the bar and restaurant encourages patrons to play games while they eat and drink. We’re talking word games, trivia, classic game show challenges and party games like charades and celebrity. Every night has a different theme. Hosts with microphones, who resemble stand-up comics, guide guests through the evening, which features trivia tied to what’s displayed on a large screen. Trivia in bars is nothing new, but this high-tech approach is winning over guests over, so far.

The problem with the lounge is a surreptitious $6 per person “entertainment” fee added to each person’s bill at the end of the evening. This fee is not really disclosed up front, leaving some to feel as if they’ve been had. The charge acts as a sort of de facto cover change, which is what the bar should do up front, so people know what they are in for. That said, the bar should be commended for pushing forward with a new concept. It gets loud inside, with multiple sound sources competing for your attention, but it can be a fun choice for first dates and office parties.

Next up for the neighborhood is a gastropub inside the former Largo space, which sources say is coming soon.

ANIMAL Instincts Bring SPAM to Sole East, Lipitor to Follow

West takes East (coast, that is) this week as the elegant Tudor-style walls of Montauk’s Sole East is overrun by breakout L.A. act ANIMAL. From August 12—18th, rock-star renegade chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, formerly of Food Network’s “Two Dudes Catering” fame shove the Sole East backyard’s dainty arugula salad and seasonal fish dishes aside in favor of their trademark meat, meat, and well, more meat. Seven days out East, seven meaty delights.

Kick off with BBQ pork belly sliders, into melty-petit basque (sheep’s milk cheese) chorizo garlic bread. As for your veggie fix? Crispy lime hominy was corn, once upon a time, before it was boiled, breaded, and deep-fried into Michael Pollan’s worst nightmare, but Hungry Man’s dream come true.

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Man-up for the main entrée: Loco Moco, an upscale spin on a local Montauk surfer’s fried egg atop a slab of spam on a burger. Class things up with quail egg, and what’s missing? Foie gras, naturally. While not on the suggested SPAM Blue Ribbon winners, anyone who can justify charging $35 for square meat in a can (it was pretty darn good) is welcome to come visit the Eastern Seaboard again anytime.

Tempting as the bacon chocolate crunch bar sounds, it’s probably wiser to round out your meal with a ten mile jog, or a Lipitor prescription. Macho meaty goodness, but not for the faint of heart. Literally.

Los Angeles: Top 5 Buzzy Kitchens

imageThey’re being talked about for a reason …

1. Melograno Alberto Lazzarino Northern Italian native shows Angelenos what gnocchi should be. 2. The Foundry Eric Greenspan Restau-tainment spot offers short ribs and Santa Barbara prawns to the tune of jazz. 3. Anisette Alain Giraud A French chef comes to LA and brings France with him. Everyone swoons.

4. Animal Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo Dudes who probably love Frisbee golf also know what to do with pork. 5. Palate Food + Wine Octavio Becerra Unusual things like meat in jars makes people flock to the ‘burbs.