Crisped rice over chocolate, chocolate peanut butter bar
The Farmer’s Market at Third and Fairfax is a Los Angeles landmark. However, when my out-of-town friends used to ask me to take them, I always suggested we walk around there, grab a donut at Bob’s and perhaps an appetizer at Loteria, and have a full meal elsewhere. Since the opening of Short Order and Short Cake at the Farmer’s Market, I’ve been the one suggesting to friends that they Meet Me at Fairfax and Third.
Short Cake is one of my favorite bakeries in Los Angeles. In addition to offering one of the largest selections of consistently delicious treats, you can get your coffee fix with Verve coffee from Santa Cruz, and enjoy savory open faced toasts.
More pastries at Short Cake
Front: Cereal cookie topped with cornflakes
Rear: Brunette with pine nuts & thyme
Short Cake baker Hourie Sahakian
Armed with excellent recipes and a heart-warming smile, pastry chef Hourie Sahakian took an unlikely path to running such an impressive bakery. Short Cake was the passion project of renowned pastry chef Amy Pressman. Pressman met Hourie at the gym, and before she know it, Hourie was working the line with Pressman at Test Kitchen. Following Pressman’s devastatingly premature passing at the age of 53, Hourie went from protégé to running the show. Fortunately, Short Cake is in great hands.
Jam crumble bar, Nancy's Favorite Chocolate Chip, and Genevieve's Walnut Shortbread
They just keep on coming
Short Cake, just like Short Order, takes pride in using fresh and local ingredients.
Black Forrest Custard Shake
If you love milkshakes, Short Cake is going to be your new favorite place. I couldn’t stop drinking this Black Forrest Custard Shake, despite my stomach already hurting from my irresponsible binging on pastries. Fortunately Mark of iFlipForFood helped me with the pastries, and a run-in with a couple distinguished friends meant I had help with the milkshakes.
Nastassia Johnson enjoys a Short Cake milkshake
I don’t know why I was even surprised to find dessert connoisseur Nastassia “Let Me Eat Cake” Johnson and Julie “Hunter of Cool” Wolfson (plus her sweet daughter) sitting at Short Cake’s inviting counter. Mark and I had no qualms crashing the ladies who lunch gathering.
A peek inside the Short Cake kitchen
I also appreciate that Short Cake is an open kitchen where you can see the talented crew at work.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t warn you to show more restraint than I did with the pastries in one visit, because you’ll want to visit Short Order upstairs. Chef Christian Page, formerly of Eva, is using only the highest quality ingredients to make great burgers and other dishes.
Chef Christian Page at a pop-up at Harvard and Stone bar
My first time at Short Order, I was sitting at the bar, enjoying a couple cocktails from LA’s finest Julian Cox, and polishing off a burger while periodically glancing at Short Order partner Nancy Silverton a few seats down to see if she was enjoying some new menu items. I had never met Chef Page before, but he made his way down the bar excitedly telling me and a few other patrons about some new grass-fed beef he was excited about. He asked if I’d want to try it. I obviously said yes, expecting a few bites of ground beef. Nope – he brought me out another full beef patty. It was so delicious I polished off the whole thing. Normally I feel pretty gross after a whole burger, but after having two burgers made with high-quality meat, I still felt great. Short Order recently launched a new menu and I’m looking forward to checking it out.
Disclosure: pastries were hosted
Short Cake 6333 W. 3rd St. Stall #316
Los Angeles, CA 90036
There is definitely a template to food and drink public relations events. Heck, they pretty much run themselves. The PR representative reserves a table at the restaurant, and invites writers to fill the table. Once there, writers order a drink or two, the account rep orders a sampling of the menu, bloggers take some pictures, and everyone digs into the spread.
If the food’s great, the account rep lets the dinner run its course, making sure everyone feels comfortable and has everything he or she needs. If the food’s not great, here comes more drinks and great stories to distract you from what your mindlessly stuffing your face with. Usually you are surrounded by the same familiar faces, but occasionally you get to explain to the out of place mommy blogger this internet thing they keep reading about in the newspaper called Twitter (I should note that I have met some awesome, hip mommy bloggers as well). Eventually the chef comes out to say hello, and after multiple hours of eating and gossiping, desserts are picked at by full and tired writers. It’s a pretty rough life, let me tell you.
Jacques Slade destroys the competition
As my months remaining in LA turned into mere weeks, PR dinner fatigue got to me. As grateful as I am to have opportunities to try outstanding food that my paltry non-profit salary cannot support, I love food for more than just what is on the plate. At PR dinners, you don’t have control – of the length of the meal, the direction of conversation, and there’s always the fear that you’ll be stuck sitting next to that one blogger you can’t stand. I’ve turned nearly all media dinners the last few months, choosing instead to gorge on cheap tacos with dear friends.
One PR email that didn’t immediately get filed away was for a Nike event at the Montalban theatre. My three reasons for accepting were:
1) I’ve been trying to hit every old theatre in LA, and I had never been to the Montalban. I wanted to expeience the historic space. Drinking some cheap wine and looking at some shoes on display would be a small price to pay to cross this off my list.
With a little help from my friends
2) I wanted to see how a major company like Nike did a PR event. Nike took over an entire theatre in Hollywood – the possibilities were endless and I felt safe assuming it would be a nice change from the scripted restaurant media dinner.
3) PR rep Ashton Stronks is in a very small group of PR folks who never pitch me anything that isn’t of interest to me and worth while. Several large PR companies don’t take the time to tailor pitches to each writer. They take a shotgun approach and see what lands. Ashton, Eddie Allen, and Veronica Rathbourn are among the few that have never wasted my time and I’ll give almost anything they send my way a shot. PR is all about relationships and trust, right?
More PR Events Should Have DJs
I’m glad I trusted Ashton because I had a blast at this event. It started as I expected, stuffing my face with fried food and a glass or two of red wine as I explored the showroom. Once Ashton noticed I was satiated, she told me to head upstairs and put on a Nike workout outfit they had picked out. I was then sent to the stage where I was informed that we would be split up into teams and competing in athletic tests. Now is about the time I began silently cursing Ashton for letting me be the only glutton to loiter around the fried food and wine earlier.
As I surveyed the room, I didn’t see a single other food writer. Sports, technology, lifestyle – everyone was represented. And let me tell you, they were much fitter than the folks I usually see at a three hour eating frenzy.
We took turns lacing up the newest Nike+ basketball sneakers and competed in physical tests like vertical leap, jump rope, and running. I was very impressed by the accuracy of the sensors in the Nike+ shoes (my vertical – not quite as impressive, though I did kick some ass in jump rope). After my workout, I was able to see a ton of statistics all recorded by my Nike+ shoes.
The best part was that the competition brought us together. I didn’t know anyone going into the event, but our competitive spirits (and the requirement that we work together in hopes of winning sneakers) made it a memorable event.
As soon as I finish writing this post, I’m going to jump on an elliptical at 24 Hour Fitness. This is not exactly the type of environment where I need to know my hang time and vertical. But I still wish our team had won the competition – the shoes are swag as f*ck. I bet if I walked onto a basketball court for a game of pick-up in my Nike+ sneakers I’d be one of the first white guys picked – and then kicked off the team pretty quickly when they see my sloppy lay-up.
I believe I can fly - playing ball on the rooftop of the Montalban
My takeaway lessons from the experience:
1) Nike knows how to throw an event. After the competition, we drank beer and played basketball on the decked-out roof of the Montalban, with beautiful views of Hollywood.
2) Nike is an industry leader for a reason – they are still innovating and making killer shoes.
3) It’s important to mix up your routine and say yes to unusual invitations. You may just be pleasantly surprised.
I know summer is officially here for three reasons: most of my drinking occurs during daylight, I can’t bring myself to wear anything besides shorts, t-shirts and rainbow sandals, and Chaya Downtown’s patio has once again been converted into a beautiful Japanese beer garden.
Beef tongue, mushroom, & date skewers ($2-3)
The menu hasn’t changed much from last year, but you won’t be hearing any complaints from me because it’s affordable and delicious. OK, fine, I do have one complaint: they aren’t offering my favorite dish from last year, but that’s because the coffee BBQ pork stayed on the menu looooong after the Beer Garden concluded last year.
King Salmon Sashimi Salad $6
Fearless Sake Flight $14
You can’t come without trying at least one skewer cooked on a yakitori grill, but since meat on a stick is not exactly a balanced diet, order the King Salmon Sashimi Salad to add some ruffage to your diet.
When it’s time to wash it all down, you can of course get beer and cocktails, but I’d recommend trying a flight of sake. I like my sake on the dry side, so the fearless flight was a no-brainer.
Spicy Tuna & Shishito Pepper Tempura 7$
I love shishito peppers, so this was a must order for me. By the time it reached my table and took a bite, I completely forgot it was stuffed with spicy tuna. It was a pleasant surprise, to say the least.
Grilled White Corn with Feta Cheese $5
Do not skip the corn. Creamy, crunchy, and a little spicy. I’ll take another, please.
One item not on the menu last year that I tried was the brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts are having a moment here in LA and this version yielded a lovely crunch with the addition of citrus bringing out more subtle flavors.
Once again, Chaya Downtown transformed their patio into a beautiful spot to grab inexpensive eats and sip on beer, sake, and cocktails after a long day of work.
525 S. Flower Street, Los Angeles
Monday through Friday, 4 pm – close
Through Aug. 31, 2012
I’ve been pretty good this year about hitting most important museum exhibitions in Los Angeles this year. After a large brunch, walking around a museum on a sunny day just really hits the spot. Where I haven’t been so good is visiting small galleries. Galleries seem like a lot of hassle for maybe 20 minutes of hit-or-miss art. One show that I’m grateful I visited is Patrick Martinez’s “Lovely Day” solo show at Known Gallery at 441 N. Fairfax Ave.
Culture of Honor, 2012
What drew me to “Lovely Day” was Martinez’s focus on exploring masculinity and the male psyche in Los Angeles. I’ll forever be fascinated by what makes LA unique, the challenges and opportunities available to all communities. “Culture of Honor” (above) is a good example of how Martinez plays with “thuggish” archetypes but demasculinizes them with childish elements. “I wanted to use a Los Angeles male archetype to present this idea: It’s a beach setting. The proud male doesn’t know how to swim, but he’s sporting this ‘I don’t give a shit’ attitude – but he really cares. Moreover, he doesn’t want to drown,” Martinez explains.
You're killing them, 2011
Several of Martinez’s pieces feature neon lights – doesn’t get much more LA than that.
Build or Destroy, 2011
Yea man, yea (African American blanket), 2011 & I got you, I got you (Mexican blanket), 2011
You only have a couple days to check out the gallery, but if you do, be sure to bring quarters! Just as you’d find in any LA car wash, Martinez brought in vending machines and filled them with custom toys as well as stickers of his neon pieces. If you can’t afford to buy one of his pieces, you can at least go home with a one-of-a-kind sticky hand or sticker.
Patrick Martinez’s “Lovely Day” runs through July 7, 2012 at Known Gallery, 441 North Fairfax Avenue.
Dave Fernie and Steve Livigni Were Responsible for Getting the Party Started at Art Beyond the Glass
I’ve recently become fascinated by bartenders. I have the utmost respect for chefs doing traditional and creative cooking, but they are not always the best interviews. Loooong hours in a fast-paced but largely behind-the-scenes profession attracts a certain kind of personality – not one always suitable for civilized company.
Bartenders, on the other hand, are always ready with a story and are professional chit-chatters. A great bartender can effectively read a customer’s needs and make them feel at ease, hoping to cultivate a regular. Another reason bartenders fascinate me: children rarely say they want to grow up to be a bartender. It is not unusual to hear chefs say that they can’t imagine working anywhere besides a kitchen. Bartenders, however, are by-and-large a creative bunch who fell into the profession and are always looking for new creative outlets.
Lindsay Nader of Pour Vous presents her creation: Awesome Possum. Made with Auchentoshan Classic, strawberry soda, vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberries, I felt lucky to be the first to try one of the event's most buzzed about drinks.
Lindsay's reaction after trying her new drink for the first time. As my friend @Vxronica said, "She's so pretty that it should be illegal."
On June 17, bartenders from the best bars in LA were given the opportunity to showcase their creative extra-curricular activities as well as show off their drink-slinging. The beautiful patio of Sadie in Hollywood was taken over by drunken degenerates (bartenders and cocktail geeks) for one magical afternoon of day-drinking and dancing. Below are some scenes from the overwhelmingly successful event:
Me and Art Beyond the Glass Co-Founder Daniel Djang (Thirsty in LA) enjoying Lindsay Nader's cocktail
Mia Mastroianni of SoHo House Getting Pumped for Day Drinking
Pablo Moix of Pour Vous, Harvard and Stone, La Descarga live paints a mural
Auction piece by China Morbosa of Eveleigh
Julian Cox (Sotto, Picca, Short Order, Playa, Rivera) and Dave Whitton size each other up. Do I spy one of Julian's rare bottles of Del el MagueyMezcal?
Josh Lucas (The Writer’s Room and The Magic Castle) is quite the showman. All eyes were on him for his magic show.
Magic show by Josh Lucas (The Writer’s Room and The Magic Castle) was quite the entertaining crowd-pleaser. Ron Dollete can't believe his eyes!
Funny story: Jen Len (Drago Centro) and Zahra Bates (pictured, Providence) were putting raffle tickets in a metal bucket. The sun burned a hole through some of the tickets!
Esther Tseng (E*starLA) sharing a devilish laugh with Caroline on Crack
Auction piece by China Morbosa of Eveleigh
Ricky Yarnall of Bar|Kitchen with Nick Zacharzuk and Molly
Dave Fernie of Pour Vous in beast mode, dropping beats that Julian Cox (Picca, Sotta, Short Order, Rivera, Playa) is picking up
Mia Mastroianni of SoHo House Shows Off Her Sailor Jerry Rum Curls
Brent Falco of Cole's and I had a nice chat about her beautiful Japanese mixing glass
Mia Sarazan of Areal brings the intensity
While it was great fun seeing so many familiar & lovely faces, it was also a great opportunity to make new friends. The problem when you mix dancing & alcohol, sometimes you have so much fun that you forget to trade contact info. If anyone knows the above dancers, please tell them to contact me – I need to learn some new moves!
Art Beyond the Glass co-founders Daniel Djang (Thirsty in LA) and Zahra Bates (Providence) check last minute details before the amazing event
“We love this life, this world and the possibility of expression that it allows. We love what we put in the glass and give to our guests, but more than that we love the person that sits before us. To be clear, I am in love with what we do together, I am in love with how we do it, and I am in love with the unintended outcome of what we do.
Yes, this is a love letter to my city, to the people I work with and my community at large. I have never experienced such joy, such beauty or such love all in one day, all in one room and all for one thing. Art; in and beyond the glass is the celebration of…well, of everything.”
Beauty. Community. Love. – three words to sum up my favorite cocktail event of the year!
Jaymee of Drago Centro guest bartending at Neat for Sangrita Tour
LA’s best boozy party last night wasn’t in Hollywood or on the Sunset Strip. It was in a small, dark bar tucked in a strip mall in middle-of-nowhere Glendale. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Neat is a welcoming, come-as-you-are bar in Glendale. Serving primarily neat spirits accompanied by a refreshing sidecar, Neat provides a glimpse of how bartenders drink when they aren’t behind a bar. Local cocktail legend Aiden Demarest (The Edison, First & Hope, The Spare Room, Seven Grand… impressed yet?) opened Neat last October, and it’s laid back vibe and talented bartenders keeps the place busy despite being an area without any foot traffic.
Cari doing her Sangrita thing at Neat in Glendale
One of Neat’s talented bartenders is Cari Hah (formerly of the Blue Whale Bar) and Cari’s got sangrita on the brain. Cari and Jaymee Mandeville (Drago Centro) “crafted with love” five original sangritas and the beautiful, spunky duo is taking the menu on tour.
Last night’s sponsor was Milagro Tequila and Siete Leguas will be sponsoring the tour’s next stop at Las Perlas on Tuesday May 29, 2012.
Anthony Polcino of Soft Pipes and Beat Club DJing at Neat
Bringing the fun(k) was DJ Anthony Polcino. He had quite the challenge – while half of the people were there to do some serious sangrita drinking, there was an Armenian graduation party taking up most of the place. We’re talking catered food, balloons, and they even brought their own Armenian dance CD.
Anthony is the kind of guy that wants every single person to be happy, so catering to this mixed crowd was probably frustrating for him and hilarious for the rest of us. As always, he pulled through. You can find him DJing at City Tavern Fridays and Saturday nights, or rocking out at clubs like The Viper Room and Harvard and Stone with his awesome bands Beat Club & Soft Pipes.
Jaymee making me the most wonderful deconstructed Whiskey Sour
My dear new friend Cari and my dear old friend Bulleit Rye
It was so much fun, that for the second time in my life, I walked out on my tab. Apparently, The Minty and I drank more than we thought – the tab we split was just hers, not ours. Treasure Tip: If you want to get away without paying your tab, don’t friend the bartenders on Facebook.
Jeremy Back of City Tavern getting drunk with me, per usual
Jaymee slows down just long enough to strike a pose
Someday I’ll be able to afford the car payment and have a place where I can handle a dog so I can finally steal Jaymee away from Jeremy.
Aiden, I love your bar, but you must be stricter about kicking out fools that lay down in Neat. They act like they own the place or something.
Jaymee & Cari doing... wait, what is going on down there?
Sharing some Westside Love with Neat
The Ultimate LA Question: Was it worth driving across town for?
Hell ya. I’ll see you for Round 2 at Las Perlas on Tuesday!
“Walk in my shoes and cross my path
Game was for grabs, making ’em crash
Took in a section and giving they back
Fuck the money, fuck the fame, this is real life
An insight to my trill life”
Gentleman rockers, be warned: Haim rocks harder and is hungrier, sexier, & more badass than you.
The Girls of Haim: Alana, Danielle, and Este (L-R)
I’ve considered pursuing a career in three different fields over the past decade. I finally settled on a career in public policy, but for awhile there it looked like either music or food could overtake it. I was pretty obsessed with learning everything I could about the music industry, so much so that I was afraid all of this information in my head would go to waste.
I ended up teaching a class at UCLA to mostly musicians about different business models the music industry might adopt in the future. If my students invited me to a show, I did my best to make it. When my rambunctious student Este Haim invited me to see her perform with her two sisters, little did I know I’d be in the presence of future rock stars.
For someone not connected to the music industry, I got to a lot of shows. I’m talking three a week these days. I never write about them because if you are passionate about music, you don’t need me to tell you that Radiohead at Coachella or Bon Iver at Hollywood Cemetery are going to be essential, life-affirming shows.
But this you need to hear: Haim is the real fucking deal. I’ve seen them frequently over the past few years, but I was completely blown away when I saw Haim open for Portugal. The Man at UCLA’s Royce Hall. They took it to the next level and are ready to blow up.
After creating quite the buzz at SXSW, others are beginning to catch on: NME , LA Times, Vogue, The Guardian, & NME again, and many more. Featuring sisters Este, Alana, and Danielle Haim, as well as Dash Hutton on drums, there is nothing they can’t do. All three sisters are multi-instrumentalists, songwriters, beautiful singers, and have played with your favorite indie rock bands. From writing 3-minute radio-friendly pop gems to jamming and shredding for 10-minutes, Haim has the chops to appeal to a wide audience and still remain a favorite of fellow musicians.
Here are a couple videos I shot of Haim rocking out at the Hudson Block Party in West Hollywood:
Speaking of the Hudson Block Party… wow, what an event. I’m still processing everything I saw at this WeHo event on Sunday. Let me get this out of the way: it was a super scene crowd. The day drinking and partying attracted your typical tatted, bro-dudes and Mother-Not-Approved girls. Also, it was a bit of a meat market. That said, it was the best people watching in the city and LA desperately needs more outdoor events like these where people can converge and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of our fair city.
True Love Found at Hudson Block Party
In addition to catching a great set by Haim, there were great musical performances by LP, Saint Motel, and White Rabbits. By the time Jason Bentley took the stage to end the party with a DJ set, people were drunk, horny, and having a great time.
True Love Can Be Messy, and very public, with creepers
Every once in awhile, you’d see a familiar face, and ask yourself, “What are you doing here?” I saw from Rumer Willis (of Bruce Willis & Demi Moore fame) dancing, Christopher Masterson (Malcolm in the Middle) DJing and wandering about, and “One Mic” Nas just chilling backstage with his friendly security detail.
Jason Bentley of KCRW
Drinks were much better than last year – gone were the bright blue concoctions and replaced with a normal bar. I stuck with Plymouth Gin & Tonics and Jameson Gingers, but Vodka Red Bull was the drink of choice for most party-goers. The food was nothing special (tacos, pizza), but better than you’d expect at a block party like this. The Hudson was promoting their new Weekday Brunch which launched yesterday, so maybe I’ll swing by sometime to see how they do with a full kitchen.
Day Drinking + Dancing All Day
If you were looking for an excuse to get together with your friends for a relaxing day of drinking, music, and catching up, Hudson Block Party probably wasn’t for you. But if you love a good party, or some serious PG-13 people watching, keep an eye out for the next Hudson Block Party. There’s nothing quite like it.
The two-day JazzReggae music festival at UCLA’s intramural field returns for the 26th year this weekend to entertain those of us not hitting the road this Memorial Day weekend. As always, Sunday May 27 is Jam Day and Monday is billed as Reggae Day.
Organized by a staff of all UCLA student volunteers, the festival features an especially impressive line-up for Sunday’s Jam Day. The Roots are back to headline for the first time since 2008, and they are supported by Booker T. Jones, who is collaborating with $uestlove on the album The Road to Memphis. Jam Day also features Gary Clark Jr., who can groove and shred as well as anyone in the game today.
If you are feeling nostalgic for Y2K, relive the year 2000 with Reggae Day headliner Shaggy. You’ll have “It Wasn’t Me” stuck in your head all of next week, guaranteed. Also featured on Reggae Day are Tarrus Riley, Collie Buddz, Alison Hinds, and Don Carlos.
In addition to great music, UCLA JazzReggae Festival features eclectic community vendors and art projects. If you’ve ever wandered around the UCLA campus wondering what it would look like if it didn’t have a diversity crisis, this weekend is your chance to see for yourself.
LA desperately needs more opportunities to get out of their cars and get outside to meet new people while enjoying live music, food and drinks. MOCA’s sold-out Transmission LA events made that very clear. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait long for an opportunity to see some wonderful bands and do a little day drinking.
Last year, The Hudson and The Churchill put on their first block party. I had a great time, but it could have used more space and definitely another bar or two. Well, the organizers evidently agreed because this year, they’ve taken over the neighboring bank parking lot to double the event’s size!
Sunday May 20, there will be 4 full bars, 2 stages, and plenty of food for sale. As for the music, it’s exponentially better this year. Of Montreal DJ set, White Rabbits, Saint Motel, and Haim, who have been building up so much buzz they are about to burst. Bring your dancing shoes, get your day drink on, and meet some scenesters while soaking up some sun.
If I could move anywhere in LA right now, it would be downtown. When the sun finally sets and the super moon comes out, I get an uncontrollable desire to hop on the 10E, throw on some M83, and discover every nook and corner of our city’s new center. You know, because the city is my church. Here are five places that I’m constantly drawn to downtown:
Pig Ear Salad at UMAMIcatessen
Trying to decide on a downtown restaurant to meet up with a few friends? Make your life easy and tell everyone to meet you at UMAMIcatessen. You’ve heard restaurants bragging that they offer something for everyone; Umami actually does.
If you are an Angeleno and haven’t had an Umami burger yet, you are out of excuses. There are eight locations in Southern California, and many, many, many more on the way. Don’t be surprised if you see Umami’s gourmet burgers ($10-12 mostly) paired with local craft beer & fun sides available in all corners of the country in the next 7 years.
When Umami was ready to offer downtown residents easy access to its Truffle Burger (a must try Umami bomb featuring truffle cheese & glaze), Manly Burger (beer-cheddar cheese, smoked-salt onion strings, & bacon lardons), and vegetarian Earth Burger, just another Umami burger outpost wasn’t going to cut it. This is downtown we are talking about.
You can still get these delicious burgers at UMAMIcatessen, but there is plenty more on offer. Umami Burger founder Adam Fleichman tells TreasureLA what makes UMAMIcatessen so special, “UMAMIcatessen is unlike anything on the West Coast. There are a lot of creative food options all under one roof. From Pigg by Chris Cosentino to Umami Burger to the great deli items at The Cure to Spring for Coffee, you could eat here every day for a year and always get something new.”
To make UMAMIcatessen unlike anything on the West Coast, Fleichman called on the help of some friends. Instead of doing the coffee program himself, he asked his go-to coffee shop (also one of mine) Spring for Coffee to man the espresso machine and offer pour-overs from the finest roasters like Sightglass and Stumptown.
The restaurant also features a reliable cocktail menu courtesy of the busy Adrian Biggs. Don’t feel like a burger? Get your deli on with bagels, fish, and soup courtesy of Chef Micah Wexlar of Mezze. Rounding out The Cure’s menu is corned beef, a chicken salad, and the recent hot topic – a thick-cut pastrami sandwich, all from the in-house Umami team.
For kick-ass charcuterie, Adam brought in Chris Consentino from San Francisco’s Incanto. Consentino is famous for his creative devotion to offal, but I found myself surprised at how traditional most of the menu was on a recent visit to Incanto. For UMAMIcatessen, Consentino was allowed to loosen his tie and have fun with his cured pork products. His rotating pork elevator in the beautiful dining room is my favorite reason for visiting UMAMIcatessen.
Unlike some of the other spots on this list, UMAMIcatessen isn’t for foodies looking for something you can’t get elsewhere. Instead, UMAMIcatessen is one of the five places to visit downtown because it does so many things well, all in one place.
On far too many Friday afternoons, when my friends ask where I want to go to dinner to kick off the weekend with a bang, I yell, “Baco!”
What is a baco you ask? It’s a bread taco with brilliant and aggressive Spanish-inspired flavor combinations. I’m not going to waste my time telling you all the virtues of Baco Mercat. Make a reservation, get your butt in a seat, and just start ordering everything. Bacos, great cocktails, vegetable dishes – I haven’t had anything bad on the menu yet. Now that Chef Josef Centeno has left Lazy Ox Canteen and devoted his time fully to Baco Mercat and his upcoming Tex-Mex concept Bar Ama, you’ll be seeing his name buzzed about for years to come. Baco Mercat
408 S. Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Mexicali Taco & Co.
The moment I sent in my deposit for grad school this coming fall in Boston, I got the most intense urge for tacos. I immediately jumped in my car and barreled down the 10E to get to my hands on a Mexicali Vampiro – a cheesy quesadilla-like creation featuring wonderful carne asada and an addictive garlic sauce. My craving was satisfied, but for only about 15 hours. The next day, I was back at Mexicali for another Vampiro, as well as cachetadas (crispy open-faced corn tortilla, more bomb meat, chipotle aioli), carne asada fries, and pretty much everything else on the menu.
On most days, you’ll find co-founder and Chef Esdras Ochoa at the register, walking you through the menu, and ensuring you have an awesome experience. Whether you dine-in or take-out, you’ll be leaving with a doggy bag full of positive energy, smiles, and a desire to return immediately. Enough of my blabbering – here are some excerpts from an interview I did with Edras:
“We started as a street vendor on 1st & Beaudry, and it was imperative to us that we stay in or near Downtown LA. Our initial search was within a 5 mile radius of the parking lot that we started at, and once we saw our current location, we knew right away that the space had potential while still serving the direct community around us. We received so much love at 1st & Beaudry that we really wanted to stay in the area because of the personal relationship that we established with our patrons.
“Currently, DTLA is one of the hottest spots in LA in terms of the food scene…and not just with high-end type restaurants, but restaurants that serve great ethnic foods in a comfortable setting that allows customers to feel relaxed in their dining experience. In our case, we really want to bring the common taco experience from Mexicali with a slightly modern twist in terms of our dining room decor. It is simple and minimal in decorations, but with the benches and colors, should give you a slightly rustic yet homey feel. The DTLA diner is sophisticated with their palates, but also different from Beverly Hills diners, so we feel that DTLA is really ‘home’ for us.”
“We have been overwhelmed with the support that we have received since becoming a brick and mortar. People come in with smiles saying how happy they are for us to have a restaurant, and of course they leave with smiles after having some good food! It was very important to us to bring the same type of ‘backyard grilling’ feel to an enclosed restaurant. There is something about cooking outdoors with the DTLA night skyline behind you that was very attractive for not only us, but all of our patrons as well. It almost felt like a food adventure to pull up to the street stand and order your tacos while we were grilling.
“Nothing has ‘surprised’ us as we entered the transition thinking that it would be a great challenge. There are a lot of business aspects that have to be taken care of and it is a lot of hard work overall with the long hours, etc. However, there is no greater satisfaction than to have happy customers smile while they enjoy our food and give us a compliment or handshake as they leave the restaurant. That truly makes our day!
“In addition, the biggest personal gain for myself, Javier & our business partner Paul is all the friends we have made through Mexicali. We hope to serve great food, but also place a lot of importance in making sure the people we serve know who we are, we know them, and thus makes the food more enjoyable. Every person that walks through our doors is not only a patron, but could be a true friend–which has happened on many many occasions. That is the greatest reward from this venture, and we hope to continue it for years to come!”
As my departure date for Boston approaches, I have a feeling I will be gorging at Mexicali Tacos all the time – all the while realizing that I’ll never find anywhere in Boston that can satisfy my taco cravings like founders Esdras Ochoa & Javier Fregoso can.
If City Tavern is my go-to midweek drinking spot, Villains Tavern is my weekend getaway. Nestled in downtown not far from Handsome Roasters, Villains Tavern is close to the bar of my dreams.
No cover? Check.
Beautiful design? Check.
Live music every night, with an Americana folksie twang? Check
Craft beer and a good cocktail list? Yes, please.
Villains Tavern is a place where everyone is welcome, it’s lively without being uncomfortably crowded, and the people are always friendly. Best of all, need a break from the music and dancing? You can hang by the bar or the other side of the patio and you wouldn’t even know that there’s a concert going on.
As a bonus, co-owner Dave Whitton creates seasonal cocktail lists that are more ambitious than the space requires. Formerly of Seven Grand, Dave has even created a shrub menu to feature one of my favorite cocktail trends – infusing vinegar instead of simple syrup with flavor.
Treasure Tip: When the place gets packed on the weekend, I skip the main bar and go to the bar by the stage. You can’t get a shrub cocktail there, but you can get a shot and a beer for $12. Choose any craft beer – Craftsman, Golden Road, Eagle Rock, they are all there. For shots, I always go with Bulleit Rye or Fernet. Delicious, quick, affordable – it will get you right back to the dance floor or shuffleboard.
Dave explains, “I wanted to do the shrubs to add layers and complexity to the spring menu while not turning off the everyday drinker. Making them accessible to everybody was the challenge and a really fun, tricky process. I want Villains to always feel like an escape from the norm, a place you want to take everyone you know. A bluegrass/Americana circus with live music that is always at a moderate level. An experience – Jack the Ripper meets Jimi Hendricks.”
Transmission LA: AV Club at Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
Me wandering the trippy halls of MOCA Grand
I wasn’t able to get this up in time before the short-lived Transmission LA: AV Club exhibit at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA closed, but I wanted to give them a much-deserved shout-out. While LACMA, the Gettys, Norton Simon, and Huntington Library have all found their groove and identity, MOCA is still searching for theirs. The long-awaited and massively popular Art in the Streets showcased MOCA Contemporary’s ambition and desire to attract a young, hip crowd, but it’s poor curation also showed an institutional focus on style over substance. The Under the Big Black Sun Geffen Contemporary exhibit was simply bad, with few redeeming qualities.
Just when I was starting to lose interest in MOCA Contemporary, they sucked me back in with Transmission LA. Mike D of the Beastie Boys did a wonderful job curating a worthwhile exhibit, but thanks to a big check from Mercedes, MOCA was able to do much more. Enter Roy Choi doing a Kogi pop-up during free outdoor performances by big names like James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, Diplo, Santigold, and Thom Yorke (!!!).
For a couple of weeks, MOCA succeeded in doing something quite difficult: bringing all different kinds of hipsters under one roof to party. Music hipsters, foodies, art hipsters – all having a great time under the … well, even if you can’t see the stars downtown, they are there. Bravo to MOCA for doing something truly special.
The most exciting time for cocktail geeks is when a new temperate season begins because it means brand new cocktail menus. Spring must be just around the corner because new menus are popping up all over town.
Bending Over Backwards to Entertain
I was recently invited to check out the Spring cocktail menu at Naya Sunset in Silverlake. I was skeptical at first because on a previous visit to Naya, I was not too impressed with the drink list. Once I read the fine print on the invitation, I discovered that the new cocktail list was created by Joel Black (Caña, Doheny, Comma Ca). That was the only hook I needed, and the night was full of more surprises. In addition to passed Indian street food from their new lounge menu, Naya brought out a DJ, a fire-eating belly dancer, and a couple drummers for accompaniment. Naya knows how to throw a party in their beautiful Spacecraft-designed lounge.
My favorite drink of the night was the Rocky Patel. Chivas 12 Year blended Scotch whisky, smokiness from Laphroig 10 Year Islay Scotch whisky, and Zaya 12 Year old rum with a 15-minute infusion of espresso beans. Coffee beans were floated on top, giving me a pleasant surprise when I’d take a mid-conversation sip without looking.
If you are going to swing by Naya, I recommend spending some time in the lounge on Wednesdays and Sundays. Wednesday entertainment the band Stellar, Elvez Del Toro, and dance artist Push from 8-11pm. On Sundays from 8-11 pm, there are belly dancers, fire eaters, percussionists, and a DJ.
3705 West Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Drago Centro head bartender Jaymee Mandeville
You can always rely on Drago Centro to have an interesting new cocktail list each season thanks to talented head bartender Jaymee Mandeville. For the Spring, she crafted ten inspired new libations that will be sure to satisfy any palate.
Stepchild, Night and the City, Nebbia Rosa
I started the night with the Stepchild. This will satisfy someone looking for a sweet drink, without actually being too sugary. Black Grouse Blended Scotch, Cardamaro, Kumquat Cordial, Orange Juice – nice rich mouthfeel on this one.
Perhaps the best and by far the most complex drink of the night was the Night and the City. This loose riff on the Bloody Mary includes Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Bittermens Hellfire, Miracle Mile Candy Cap Mushroom Bitters, Heirloom Tomato Shrub, Black Pepper and Squid Ink Syrup, and Fresh Horseradish. The smoke and peppery flavors were memorable.
The Nebbia Rosa is a pleasant Mezcal negroni with Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Campari, Bittermens Citron Sauvage, and Dolin Blanc. The bitter Campari dominates, but ends with a nice smokiness from the Mezcal. While the Night and the City is a destination cocktail to begin a night, the Nebbia Rosa is the variation on a classic what I’ll turn to when it’s time to reflect on an eventful evening.
Head bartender Jaymee Mandeville telling a story
I’m always a sucker for Fernet, and I’m trying to explore tequila more so The Airstream libation started off my second round of ordering. Pueblo Viejo Blanco Tequila, R. Jelínek Fernet, Toasted Coconut Infused Demerara, Fresh Lime, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Egg White – the creamy drink was less complex than the rest of the menu, but it’s single note did have a nice flavor.
Yellow Jacket Fever
The prettiest cocktail of the night was the Yellow Jacket Fever. Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin, Yellow Chartreuse, Chamomile Infused Honey, black peppercorns. This is the drink to order if you want to impress your date or business client.
Once again, Jaymee has put together another successful list to launch the new season. If I win the lottery, I’m going to hire myself a personal driver so I can go back to Drago to finish the rest of the cocktail list.
525 South Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Picca Launches Julian Cox’s Pisco-Centric Cocktail Menu
Picca Twig and Berries cocktail
Just the other day I wrote, “Rivera, Playa, Short Order, Picca, Sotto – when I go to any restaurant serving Julian Cox’s cocktail creations, I don’t even bother looking at the wine or beer list. Cox’s lists are among the most reliable in the city.” For Cox fans like myself (please don’t read that out-loud), any new cocktail menu release is a cause of celebration.
Picca is a rare breed of restaurant that seemed to have gotten everything right. A lovely space, strong management, a great mixology program that was designed to fit the concept, and most importantly, an extensive menu by one of LA’s most exciting chefs that begs for frequent visits just so nothing is missed.
After trying Julian’s complete new menu, the two pisco stand-outs on the new list are the Twig & Berries (above) and an untitled cocktail that was the subject of a fierce naming competition. Twig & Berries includes pisco, blueberry coulis, creme de peche, fresh lime, wray & nephew canela tincture, and blueberry foam. Stunning.
Everyone who came for the cocktail menu launch was given an entry form and a free taster of a cocktail featuring Sloe gin, Pisco Torontel, hibiscus tea, lemon juice, evaporated cane juice, egg white, and a cherry on top. The winning entry and this delicious cocktail’s new name? “Sloe Motion Fo’ Me.” Nicely done.
9575 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90035