Jan
01
2015

Imbiber

Devil's Acre, new in North Beach

Devil’s Acre, new in North Beach

My Top Drink Articles: December 15-31

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some of this coverage here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Special Features & Year-in-Review

My Year in Dining & Drink article

398 Cocktails

398 Cocktails

Cocktails

The 14 Top New Cocktail Bars of the Year

Devil’s Acre, a new/old timey elxir source, soda fountain & cocktail bar in North Beach

What to Eat & Drink at Chris Cosentino’s new Cockscomb

State Bird sister restaurant The Progress opens next door

What to eat & drink at Union Square’s new 398

3 things to know about STEM, the new Mission Bay restaurant with edible gardens & Bay views

Hot Drink: a notable barrel aged cocktail at Per Diem

Wine, Beer, Spirits to Purchase

What to order at downtown’s new SOMA Eats & Bottle Shop

FacebookShare
Written by in: Imbiber | Tags:
Jan
01
2015

Wandering Traveler

Up a janky elevator to this narrow doorway leading to the Yu Club

Up a janky elevator to this narrow doorway leading to the Yu Club

These Are The 10 Places To Find Great Cocktails In Hong Kong

This article I wrote for Food Republic, originally published on December 17, 2014. The article and all photos below are all by Virginia Miller.

One can find a little of everything in Hong Kong. A truly international city, it’s packed with restaurants representing a broad range of cuisines and some of the best third-wave coffee shops in the world. The cocktail scene continues to grow with exciting new spots, classic destinations and hidden lounges in highrises, many of them with rooftop patios. Here are 10 of Hong Kong’s best for cocktail fans.

The Envoy

The Envoy

1. The Envoy

Adorable yinyuang owl mug at The Envoy

Adorable yuanyuang owl mug at The Envoy

This may be the most exciting of Hong Kong’s newcomers, thanks to bar manager Amanda Wan and star Hong Kong barman Antonio Lai (also behind the bars Origin and Quinary, below). Soft opening this summer in the gorgeous Pottinger Hotel, The Envoy is tucked upstairs on the third floor, a chic wonderland of elegant wallpaper, alcoves, a long bar — including a corner reservations-only bar within full view of a centrifuge and other house equipment — and a white light-strewn patio.

The Envoy's "blood bag" cocktail

The Envoy’s “blood bag” cocktail

The magic of the space translates to the playful drinks and tea cocktails embracing the all-important British-Chinese afternoon tea ritual, celebrated with creative bites, served from 3 to 6 p.m. Lai’s True Blood #2 is easily the talk of the bar, served in a “blood bag” on a bed of ice in a…liver dish. But, the blood red drink is not at all disgusting. Rather, it’s a fresh combination of earthy beet juice (happily dominating the drink), Bols Genever, ginseng liqueur, orange, lemon and cranberry juices. There’s also a non-alcoholic delight that’s just as whimsical as the rest of the menu: a classic Hong Kong yuanyang (coffee and milk tea), served in an adorable, clear owl cup. 3/F, The Pottinger Hong Kong, 74 Queen’s Road, Central, +852 2169 3311, theenvoy.hk

Duddell's

Marke Vojcarcik cocktails at Duddell’s

2. Duddell’s 

Duddell's vacation-like patio

Duddell’s vacation-like patio

In a town rife with cool outdoor patios, Duddell’s is probably one of the coolest. The expansive, open-air lounge, located upstairs from the two Michelin-starred restaurant, is lined with tropical foliage, vintage lawn furniture and tables, surrounded by views of neighboring skyscrapers. The artful, British-influenced menu from salon manager Marek Vojcarcik highlights cocktail classics (like a twist on a Gibson with Tanqueray gin, dry vermouth and a garnish of baby pickles) and creative house drinks like Opium, a Scotch-based drink laced with peach, lime and poppy seed milk. 1 Duddell Street, Central, +852 2525 9191, duddells.co

3. Yardbird

Yardbird's special, canned Suntory HIghballs

Yardbird’s special, canned Suntory HIghballs

Yakitori that rivals the best in Japan? That is exactly what buzzy (and rightly so) Yardbird serves throughout a cramped but convivial two floors. Canadians Matt Abergel and Lindsay Jang are behind this perennially packed, no-reservations space. Though it will be tough snagging a seat, drink lovers — particularly, fans of Japanese beer, sake, shochu and whisky — would do well not to miss this one-of-a-kind menu. Beverage manager Elliot Faber has access to rarities from Japan, including awamori (a rice spirit from Okinawa), and an impressive Japanese whisky menu (yes, there are Ichiro bottlings) grouped under “Mellow” or “Woody.” Try cocktails like a refreshing awamori margarita or the house special cans of Suntory highballs. 33 Bridges Street, Sheung Wan, +852 2547 9273, yardbirdrestaurant.com

4. The Chinnery at The Mandarin Oriental
Though you can’t top the 25th floor view from the otherworldly, flagship Mandarin Oriental’s sleek M Bar, its cozy first-floor British restaurant, The Chinnery is the more casual classic. The venue is named after British artist George Chinnery, whose Hong Kong paintings still line the walls. History buffs will love that it’s been open since 1963 and hasn’t changed much since (although, thankfully, the male-only aspect changed in 1990). Along with steak and Scotch eggs, the Chinnery is all about single malt whisky (more than 100 varieties), draft beer served in the Mandarin’s classic, chilled silver tankards (made legendary in the Mandarin Oriental’s Captains Bar downstairs) and classic cocktails like a Mint Julep or Rob Roy. Note: dress smart as there is a dress code. 1/F, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road, Central, + 852 2825 4009, mandarinoriental.com

Chinese Julep at Artesian at the Langham

Chinese Julep at Artesian at the Langham

5. Artesian at The Langham

Artesian at the Langham

Artesian at the Langham

One of the most awarded bars in the world, the Artesian at the Langham Hotel in London, recently saw a sister bar open this fall in the gorgeously remodeled Langham Hotel Hong Kong. But, it would be a disservice to assume Artesian HK is a twin of the London location. With Deco-meets-modern details, the sleek half-circle bar is surrounded by banquettes, couches and a fireplace — and within earshot of a grand piano and daily live music. Bar manager Rajendra “Rush” Limbu brings a decidedly Asian slant to the British-inspired cocktails, including extensive gin and tonic options. Try his playful twists on classics, like a Dim Sum Old Fashioned combining Michter’s Bourbon and Rye with sugar, Old Fashioned and aromatic bitters, old-fashioned bitters or a Chinese Mint Julep (marked by a red Chinese lantern) with a twist of kaffir lime alongside mint and Chinese Tai Koo brown sugar. 8 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, +852 2375 1133, hongkong.langhamhotels.com

Cocktails at Aberdeen Street Social

Cocktails at Aberdeen Street Social

6. Aberdeen Street Social
Possibly the most balanced, garden-fresh cocktails in the city are served at Aberdeen Street Social, a two-story hotspot that opened in May 2013. Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton turns out visionary dishes in the upstairs restaurant. But, the downstairs cocktail bar and café, facing an urban garden, is the spot from which to try delicious, vegetal cocktails like Just Beet-Root To Me (bay leaf-infused Calvados, Poire Williams eau de vie, lemon juice, beetroot grenadine, egg white) or a Pea-lini (salted green pea cordial, Herbsaint, lemon juice, mint, Prosecco).  35 Aberdeen St, Central, +852 2866 0300, aberdeenstreetsocial.hk

7. Ham & Sherry

Ham & Sherry

Ham & Sherry

In the bustling Wan Chai district, Jason Atherton and Yenn Wong (of nearby 22 Ships and the aforementioned Duddell’s) opened Ham & Sherry at the end of 2013. The intimate space is sunny with Spanish blue-and-white tiles, and serves tapas with a Hong Kong spin. (Pro tip: try the killer prawns.) Though not a bar, per se, there’s a central counter around the tiny kitchen that’s ideal for a snack of Iberico ham and sherry from the generous list. Tasting through flights of sherries is the drink highlight here, but there are also sherry cocktails. One unusual, dessert-like offering is dubbed Let’s Go Camping, mixing Oloroso sherry with Michter’s Rye whiskey, Mancino Rosso Vermouth, Campari and absinthe, graced with a toasted marshmallow. 1-7 Ship St, Wan Chai, +852 2555 0628, facebook.com/FuLuShouHK

8. Fu Lu Shou

Fu Lu Shou's patio

Fu Lu Shou’s patio

Yet another hidden, rooftop bar, friendly, laid back Fu Lu Shou is less than a year old, set in an open air space, the patio marked by hanging chairs and comfy couches in front of a funky, graffiti-inspired wall with ancient Chinese men holding chopsticks. The guilty pleasure food is retro Chinese through a Western lens (think Kung Pao chicken, honey prawns, sweet and sour pork and “Big Arsed Steamed Dim Sum”). Cocktails stick to refreshing basics (Mojitos, Negronis, Margaritas) and unexpectedly pleasing mocktails like the Vegetarian Orgasm, mixing fresh ginger juice, pineapple and orange juices with passion fruit syrup and a pleasing dose of sugar snap peas. Cocktails are most interesting on the funky side, like the Haam Ling Chut “Salty Lemon”, an acquired taste of Angostura Reserve 3 year old white rum, salted lemon, salted lemon juice, preserved mandarin, mint and Fever Tree lemonade and tonic. Email ahead for the door code to gain entry. 7/F, 31 Hollywood Rd, Central, +852 2336 8812, facebook.com/FuLuShouHK

9. Yu Club

Yu Club

Yu Club

This locals’ spot is hidden in a highrise, just off an elevator in a hallway marked by a Bruce Lee poster and hanging bamboo steamer baskets. Got that? Yu Club is a quirky, lived-in space that recalls Hong Kong circa 1970s, right down to the vintage wallpaper and historic newspaper clippings. Menus are in the format of Hong Kong children’s schoolbooks from decades past and the list is heavy on the vodka and crazy, fruity-sounding cocktails. But, in this mellow space, the bartenders make each drink with care and have particular fun surprising the tastes buds with the likes of Pop Rocks shots or a combo that mimics the idea of eating salmon sashimi vegetarian-style with a raw sliver of coconut on ice, wasabi vodka shots and soy sauce. 24-26 Stanley St., Central, +852 2868 1833, facebook.com/yuclubhk

10. Quinary

Quinary's

Quinary’s Mugunghwa Fizz

Though generally without attitude, one could call the Quinary a bit hipster, playing to the flashier cocktail trends of the past decade. Bartenders that look like they couldn’t be a day over 20 work with liquid nitrogen, clarified juices and a centrifuge to craft cocktails like a Mugunghwa Fizz, an Asian-influenced version of a classic Ramos Gin Fizz. House-made yuzu gin syrup and Korean rice wine intermingle with gin, cream, egg white, lemon, grapefruit and orange blossom water to soft and frothy effect, all garnished with grapefruit peel. The dim, sexy space begs for a date and at certain hours can be just packed enough to have a bit of a scene. Or, during earlier hours, it can be blessedly mellow for a quiet pre-dinner drink. 56-58 Hollywood Road, Central, +852 2851 3223, quinary.hk

FacebookShare
Written by in: Wandering Traveler | Tags:
Jan
01
2015

Imbiber

3 Spirits Picks for December

Article by Virginia Miller

Many spirits cross my desk — or are tasted at numerous bars or distilleries — in any given month. For December, here are 3 international spirits — vermouth, rum and Scotch— that stood out or offer something different.

BroVo Vermouths ($18)

Photo Source: brovospirits.com

Photo Source: brovospirits.com

I’ve been having fun with BroVo’s brand new line of vermouths — and was already a fan of their amaro line. As with their unique amari, based off recipes from different bartenders around the US, the vermouths use Washington state wines as the base (including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Merlot and Rosé wines), produced with botanicals at their Woodinville, WA, distillery.

The initial four vermouths are Witty, Pretty, Jammy and Pink, each playful, vibrant and from recipes created by varying bartenders working BroVo distillers Mhairi Voelsgen (owner) and Mac Kenney. I particularly like the savory, dry Witty and the floral, bright Pretty, all four standing strong on their own on the rocks or mixed in a classic Palmetto cocktail, which is equal parts dry (white) and sweet (red) vermouth with bitters. Details and where to purchase by state or online here.

Lost Spirits Colonial Rum ($100)

Photo Source: lostspirits.net

Photo Source: lostspirits.net

I’ve been a fan of Lost Spirits in Monterey since the moment I first tasted distiller Bryan Davis’ whiskies and overproof rum. I adore their Cuban-style rum and their  Navy Style Rum. Davis has done it again with their new Colonial American Rum (124 proof) with the same base but laden with notes of wood and smoke, figs, earthy coffee and a decided molasses bent. It’s a sipping rum at a mere 240 bottles — stay tuned for a new variation in 2015. Available for purchase only at Bounty Hunter.

SIA Scotch Whisky ($50)

Photo Source: siascotch.com

Photo Source: siascotch.com

Distilled, aged and bottled by Douglas Laing  Co. Ltd. in Glasgow, Scotland, the first notable aspect of SIA is that it’s a recipe created by Carin Luna-Ostaseski. With women being the exception rather than the rule in whisk(e)y distilling and blending, that is worth celebrating. To taste, it’s a balanced, pleasing blend of whiskies from Scotland’s Speyside (50%), Highlands (40%) and Islay (10%) regions.

Luna-Ostaseski crafted a crowd-pleasing blend, golden in color, subtle and smooth but thankfully not lacking in character. As one expects from quality Scotch, harmony is everything and this whisky evokes wood, hazelnut, vanilla and a hint of spice. Though I don’t know the sources of the “juice” (whiskies), the blended aspect results in the affordable price. Sources for purchase here.

FacebookShare
Written by in: Imbiber | Tags: , ,
Dec
15
2014

December 15, 2014

“[The first drink of the day} marks the end of the working day when you put worldly cares to one side and embrace good cheer and company. It is when the soul opens and we are seized by the need to chat. We are liberated… The first drink also has a physically restorative effect. I find I can spend all day complaining about being tired, listless, lacking in energy, desperate for sleep. Then at six, in the pub or at home, with a pint of foaming nut-brown ale before me instead of a computer screen, I will suddenly perk up… And with one drink, the wage slaves of the day are transformed into thinking, feeling, laughing, independent human beings. We are our own masters once more.” – How to Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson

Faith & Flower in LA (see Wandering Traveler)

Faith & Flower in LA (see Wandering Traveler)

Christmas and the new year are fast approaching. I wish a beautiful season for each of you, knowing it is a tough time for missing those we love, just as it is a time to be reunited with them. I am very much looking forward to visiting both my families (including in-laws) this season in varying parts of the country. In the meantime, Happy New Year to each of you!

Here is my first article on my recent Asia travels: my top 10 Hong Kong cocktail bars (many of them new) at Food Republic.

This issue:

Seed+Salt vegan, a Marina newcomer

Seed+Salt vegan, a Marina newcomer

Top TastesMy Food Articles, December 1-15: 14 of my current Zagat articles on new restaurants, vegetarian and vegan menus, pizza newcomers and year-in-review coverage.
Imbiber My Drink Articles, December 1-15:  of my current Zagat articles on two new beer bars, cocktails in Napa & SF and a sherry list.
Wandering TravelerLos Angeles Cocktails: The best — and the worst — in cocktails from my recent return to LA.
Imbiber5 Wine Picks for December: 5 wines I’m drinking (and liking) now, by the bottle and on restaurant menus.

As your personal concierge who tells it like a good friend would, I also create personalized itineraries: trips, meals, explorations (under “Services“).

Virginia

CLICKABLE LINKS to Social Media & Articles:
Zagat
Food Republic
Liquor.com
Editor, Distiller Magazine
SF Bay Guardian Critic (Weekly Column: 2009-2013)
Spoonwiz
Freelance:
The Times London, Eater, PureWow, Drink Me Magazine, Citysearch, NBC’s The Feast, Blackboard Eats, Tasting Table, Grubstreet, Where Magazine

www.facebook.com/ThePerfectSpothttps://twitter.com/ThePerfectSpotwww.linkedin.com/pub/virginia-miller/2/295/33a/

**Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Virginia Miller**

FacebookShare
Written by in: Intro Letter |
Dec
15
2014

Top Tastes

Game Restaurant, new on Nob Hill in the legendary Masa's space

Game Restaurant, new on Nob Hill in the legendary Masa’s space

My Top Food Articles: December 1-15

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my many articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some coverage highlights here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Special Features & Year-in-Review

Interview with the owners of Kokkari, SF’s #1 Zagat-rated restaurant

Bay Area Holiday Dining Survival Guide

SF’s 5 Hottest Dining Neighborhoods of 2014

2014 Bay Area Food & Drink Trends

New SF Openings

$10 Lunch: healthy and packed with flavor – lunch at the new Picnic on Third in SoMa

5 things to try at the Marina’s new Seed + Salt – all of it vegan and gluten free

3 things to eat at the new Game (in the historic Masa’s space) on Nob Hill

Ideal neighborhood market Bom Dia opens in Noe Valley

Hottest new pizza openings of the year

Every Friday: 25 NEW RESTAURANTS TO TRY IN THE BAY AREA

Picnic on Third - new, healthy, gratifying in SoMa

Picnic on Third – new, healthy, gratifying in SoMa

Underrated & Established Spots

4 things to know about the new chef and menu at Gitane

RN74 from a vegetarian perspective – an array of creative new vegetarian dishes

Oliveto’s innovative new sound system addresses noisy dining

Wine Country

Napa Valley newcomer: what to love at Archetype in St. Helena

FacebookShare
Written by in: Top Tastes | Tags: ,
Dec
15
2014

Imbiber

Cocktails at Archetype in St. Helena (Napa Valley)

Cocktails at Archetype in St. Helena (Napa Valley)

My Top Drink Articles: December 1-15

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some of this coverage here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Special Features & Year-in-Review

Bay Area Holiday Dining Survival Guide

2014 Bay Area Food & Drink Trends

Cocktails

RN74 from a vegetarian perspective – an array of creative new vegetarian dishes

Beer

Visiting the new Brewcade (beer with vintage arcade games) and Tap 415 in the Westfield Centre

Wine & Sherry Lists

4 things to know about the new chef and menu at Gitane

Wine Country

Napa Valley newcomer: what to love at Archetype in St. Helena

FacebookShare
Written by in: Imbiber | Tags: ,
Dec
15
2014

Wandering Traveler

Faith & Flower -

Faith & Flower – sipping a Harry Winston

The Best (& Less Than) LA Cocktails 2014

Photos and article by Virginia Miller

Melrose Umbrella Co.

Melrose Umbrella Co.

A few weeks ago, I returned to LA (past years of recommends here), a region where I spent 12 years of my life and still have family — where I used to frequent music venues and continue to dig into its endless (vastly spread out) food enclaves.

Drink research is easier to manage. For a city that has vastly improved in terms of quality cocktails in recent years, it’s still not exactly overflowing with dream drink destinations as many of my favorite cities in the world are. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of standouts, but I find it pretty easy to keep up on the notable newcomers each year.

Sassafras in Hollywood

Sassafras in Hollywood

Let’s get the not-so-stellar out of the way. My recent returns have yielded a number of spots that fall into underwhelming or decent — and sometimes even bad — categories. Sassafras in Hollywood charms with live Dixieland-meets-soul bands playing from a balcony overlooking a bar that is decidedly Disney-ified New Orleans under a sprawling faux oak tree with interior walls painted to look like an old Southern mansion. Enter this “house” and linger over a drink on vintage furniture. The cocktails are fine – of the simple ginger beer or soda or basic classics kind – but they have definitely improved from what they were when they first opened. The place is more about the kitsch and invigorating-but-deafening live music, although beware: you won’t be able to speak a word to your friends right next to you when bands are playing.

Melrose Umbrella Co.

Melrose Umbrella Co.

Melrose Umbrella Company, open since January in Fairfax, is absolutely beautiful. They win big points in my book for being decidedly chill and not obnoxious, even on a weekend, which can be hard to come by in LA. Unfortunately, drinks can be unbalanced as with a far too sour (and you’re talking to the queen of sour who can’t stand too-sweet cocktails) Romance Without Pressure ($14), a mix of Oxley gin, passion fruit, cucumber and grapefruit — a hint of simple syrup would have let the flavors sing instead of the whole thing coming of as puckeringly sour and flat. Twig & Berries ($12) fared much better in terms of balance, however, with a vibrant garden mix of muddled red grapes, red and orange bell pepper and lemon with Dos Armadillo Reposado Tequila, perked up with little heat from Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur.

The Commissary at the Line Hotel

The Commissary at the Line Hotel

Worst service award goes to The Commissary, upstairs from Roy Choi’s new POT restaurant at the Line Hotel (more on POT in my next LA dining article). I was eager to see what Matthew Biancaniello, who created the menu, has been up to since the 2011 days when he first impressed me as one of LA’s real standout bartenders at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, realizing it wouldn’t be the same without him behind the bar (he’s been doing these intriguing pop-ups). Though the garden atrium setting next to the pool on the Line Hotel rooftop could be seen as “magical” from some angles, the experience is also a bit odd, while serving cocktails in plastic tubs (to take poolside) is not merely odd but annoying.

Cocktails in a plastic tub at The Commissary

Cocktails in a plastic tub at The Commissary

Far worse were female bartenders who acted disinterested to downright rude with the women among us yet fake-friendly with the men.

The cocktails ($13)? They tended towards herbaceous and garden-fresh as one would expect with Biancello recipes (like passion fruit and Calisaya liqueur in a White Fir), but in the case of a Gin & Juice, it was frustrating to pay $12 for basic well gin (City of London) mixed with one juice in a plastic tub, even if earthy-fresh beet juice and gin is tasty. With literally no other components – and without being a more complex gin like St. George Terroir or the like — it felt like a case of one of those little-effort cocktails that costs the same as labor-intensive cocktails.

And now for the 3 standout new-ish bars, 2 of them in restaurants and all 3 of them in Downtown LA, which as far as I’m concerned has become one of the very best parts of LA for food and drinks lovers:

BAR JACKALOPE inside SEVEN GRAND

Bar Jackalope

Bar Jackalope

After my recent mind-blowing travels around Japan, I more than appreciate the concept and inspiration behind Bar Jackalope, opened in January and hidden in the back of Seven Grand (one of the first better cocktail bars that opened in 2007 after years of hunting for quality cocktail spots in LA – it’s way too mobbed for me to bother going any more but it was one of the early signs of change in LA. It’s also home to over 400 whiskies, among LA’s largest).

Bypass the noise of Seven Grand (although you’ll still hear its live bands through the wall in Bar Jackalope) and ring the back doorbell in the hallway. Despite the speakeasy nature of such a set up, Jackalope is not pretentious and the intimate bar is blessedly mellow and chill, like the great (and often tiny) Japanese bars. In fact, what the doorbell and regulation does is exactly what it needs to do, which is keep the space intimate and relaxed.

Bar Jackalope's cozy few tables

Bar Jackalope’s cozy few tables

One key difference from countless incredible bars in Japan is certainly the whisk(e)y selection, although it is still a broad and in-depth selection, covering all whisk(e)y categories from American to Scotch. But as those of us who have traveled around Japan know, the bottles available behind so many of the best bars in Japan are unreal, rare and shockingly affordable — bottles we would never see elsewhere or if we did, would be at a huge premium for a taste. So for those of us who “have tasted it all” or have extensive whisk(e)y selections at home, it can be disappointing to pay a lot for a dram that is not that rare.

View from my LA loft rooftop (thanks, AirBnB)

View from my LA loft rooftop (thanks, AirBnB)

But the plus is that Jackalope’s attentive staff are very helpful with recommendations, there are options by smaller pours, allowing people to create flights or taste a few — and there is a cigar porch, another very welcome aspect. Besides whiskies, there are three basic cocktails only: The Highball, which is ubiquitous everywhere in Japan (and served beautifully here), an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan.

All black leather, dark woods, mounted jackalope heads and candlelight, this place is wins high marks for seeking to bring a touch of Japan to the US.

FAITH & FLOWER

Faith & Flower cocktails

Faith & Flower cocktails

Coastal Luxury Management (CLM) — the group behind Los Angeles Food & Wine, Pebble Beach Food & Wine and my Monterey favorite, Restaurant 1833 — opened Faith & Flower this Spring. It’s one of the more striking dining rooms in LA (a city with plenty of striking dining rooms): lush with greens, leather booths, velvet, crystal chandeliers, feather fans and, as at 1833 in Monterey, absinthe and amaro carts.

F&F's bar

F&F’s bar

Chef Michael Hung came from San Francisco’s La Folie and Michael Lay moved from bar manager at 1833 to oversee the program here. His cocktails ($10-14) are a key draw at Faith & Flower and some of the most refined in LA, whether a perfect English Milk Punch (Jerry Thomas’ 1862 recipe, utilizing the fantastic Smith & Cross rum, among other spirits, for added funk and complexity) or a classic Adonis cocktail from Harry Craddock’s 1933 recipe, layered with Fino sherry, Royal Combier orange liqueur, house orange bitters, angelica root tincture and subtly bitter, aromatic Bigalette China-China Amer.

F&F's

F&F menus arrive in specially designed books & vintage books

The Harry Winston cocktail is a favorite and one of the best showcases for Japanese blended whiskey I’ve tasted in a cocktail in any city (including Tokyo and Kyoto!). Nikka 12 year Japanese whisky is combined with King’s Ginger liqueur, kuro sato (an Okinawan black sugar) and house teapot bitters (various herbs and spices), garnished with a flamed orange twist. It’s bracing and elegant, bold and balanced.

While you can savor the drinks over lunch or dinner in F&F’s gorgeous dining room, there is a separate bar area that is first come, first served along the long, inviting bar housing an excellent and wide-ranging spirits selection.

Faith & Flower's dining room

Faith & Flower’s dining room

BESTIA

Bestia's bar

Bestia’s bar

Bestia has been at the top of every kind of restaurant list since it opened in 2012 and is still one of the hardest reservations to secure in town. Despite almost deafening noise when the place is full, I found the bar (first come, first served, though I’d recommend getting there before they open) not overwhelmingly loud, with the full menu available.

Bestia — from chef Ori Menashe (former chef de cuisine at the wonderful Angelini Osteria), his pastry chef wife Genvieve Gergis and restaurateur Bill Chait — succeeds on all fronts in what can easily be a tired category: modern Italian. The food and the wine list (thanks to wine director Maxwell Leer) are all impeccable and I found not a misstep anywhere (note: the wine list has a section just for Riesling, God bless ‘em. There is also a strong list of whites from my favorites like Croatia, Slovenia, Loire Valley, Austria, Hungary, as well as reds from Italy, France, Spain. I loved a dry 2013 Falkenstein Spatlese — $16 a glass — from Mosel, Germany).

Bestia cocktails

Bestia cocktails

Likewise, service is attentive and servers are far more knowledgeable than many an LA hotspot. Though I am used to servers who know their wines and cuisine (and are often sommelier level) here at home, that is not the average server in a destination Los Angeles restaurant. Here, the staff know their food and drink. The bar staff are crafting impeccable cocktails created by LA bar great Julian Cox. Thankfully, execution follows suit and the many drinks I tasted have that all-important sense of balance — and are delicious. In fact, I was most impressed by these cocktails over most LA offerings namely because of a sense of harmony and sophistication.

A twist on a classic Toronto

A twist on a classic Toronto

Our adept bartender served us off-menu twists on a Toronto cocktail and and one of my all time favorite cocktails for nearly a decade, an Old Pal (bartender’s choice drinks are $13).

On menu (Cox’s recipes), I was impressed with the refreshing yet complex layers of Buena Alli ($14), mixing blanco tequila, espadin mezcal, lemon, quince jam, orgeat, bergamot bitters and seltzer. The Vermonster ($14) was another elegant standout, served up, martini-esque with Barr Hill gin, Dolin Blanc vermouth, Strega, orange bitters and a fig leaf as garnish. If only Bestia wasn’t so hard to get into, this would be one of my top LA hangouts for food and drink.

FacebookShare
Written by in: Wandering Traveler | Tags:
Dec
15
2014

Imbiber

5 Wine Picks for December

Article by Virginia Miller

Many wines cross my desk or are tasted at numerous restaurants and bars I visit almost night… For December, here are 5 wines that stood out in the last 4 weeks, whether by the bottle or tasted at a local restaurant/bar.

1. 2012 Margalleau Vouvray Sec Chenin Blanc ($16)
Recently at Gitane, I fell for the mineral, citrus notes of a layered 2012 Margalleau Vouvray Sec Chenin Blanc from Vouvray, France ($11 glass, $32 carafe, $44 bottle). It averages around $16 retail.

2. 2012 Jean-Marc Brocard Chardonnay from Chablis ($20)
During a recent return to French wine mecca RN74, I savored more excellent white and red Burgundy by the glass, one of my favorite wine regions in the world. My favorite of a number of half pours was the balanced acidity and yellow orchard fruit of a 2012 Jean-Marc Brocard Chardonnay from Chablis, France (I do so love Chablis). For purchase at K&L Wines.

Photo Source: riccicurbastro.it

Photo Source: riccicurbastro.it

3. 2009 RicciCurbastro Franciacorta Saten Brut ($35)
This Italian sparkling wine from Italy’s Lombardy region is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, delivering a bright burst of acidity with unexpected notes of vanilla lavender, baked apple and toasted almond. This wine is a refreshingly affordable alternative to Champagne. For purchase at Binny’s.

4. 2012 m2 Wines Tormenta Tempranillo ($22)
From a 24-year-old vineyard on the east side of Lodi, comes this unexpectedly balanced, pleasing Tempranillo. The medium-bodied red is dark and lush, balanced by acidity. Purchase via m2’s website.

5. 2012 Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo ($23)
Another balanced offering from Lodi and Bokisch Vineyards (try their Albarino at Picnic on Third) is this medium-bodied Tempranillo, delicately smoky with blueberry, subtle tannins and leather notes and acidity.

FacebookShare
Written by in: Imbiber | Tags:

Site Admin | Log out | Theme: Aeros 2.0 by TheBuckmaker.com