Sipping Wine and Cocktails By The Sea

IMG_0980Sitting on the roof-top garden at the Sonoma Wine Garden’s I finally met the talented mixologist Rob Floyd. With his movie-star good looks, he entertained eight foodies and me for over two hours with his show-stopping cocktails paired with sous chef Jefferson Reyes cuisine. While talking to our group, I discovered that Floyd lived in Park La Brea twice.”I loved living there while raising my two boys,” Floyd said.

The first time he moved into Park La Brea was in 2001 after being an actor in New York. Known for his role as “Mallory” on the science fiction television show Sliders, Floyd also worked with James Cameron in the television series Dark Angel. He lived in Park La Brea for almost two years. Then in 2008 to 2009, Floyd moved back into the safe and fun development.

After working at Chateau Marmont and opening the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills with Jose Andres, Floyd founded the Cocktail Theatre delivering engaging stories with unique performances while mixing unforgettable specialty cocktails. Top celebrity chefs consult with Floyd often in creating the perfect cocktail to be paired with a special dish.

After Jeremy Umland opened the Sonoma Wine Garden in the Santa Monica Place rooftop dining deck, he wanted a top-notch cocktail program and connected with Floyd. That was an excellent decision.IMG_0967

Our first course was a crunchy beet and polenta aranacini filled with risotto and goat cheese and served with a saffron aioli. It was paired with Floyd’s Lock and Low’d beer cocktail made with BrewLock Heineken. We learned that BrewLock is a new system designed to deliver draught beer at the right level of carbonation, creating a smoother and less bitter beverage. Floyd mixed this beer with an orange infused Bourbon. The citrus and lemon got our palate ready for the second course of a warm and smooth falafel slider served with a tzatziki yogurt sauce. Farmers Market fruit and cheese boards arrived with creamy burrata, chestnut honey, walnuts, a fig and cherry compote and slices from a Marcona almond baguette.

It went nicely with Floyd’s Bitterly Cherry cocktail. “Taste is 90% of smell,” Floyd said. He used Nolet’s gin with lemon, simple syrup, cherry bitters and bubbly club soda. It’s his version of a Tom Collins.

Our third course was a colorful Petaluma salad with farro, spicy arugula, sliced fuji apples, bacon lardon, sliced grilled chicken, feta cheese and dressed with a mild lemon and mustard vinaigrette.

IMG_0981Floyd brought out a burner to our table with sprigs of rosemary and glasses filled with Old Fashioned cocktails. He burned the rosemary, placed it inside the lowball glass filled with Bulleit Rye, simple syrup, angostura bitters, and a twist of orange. As the herb was smoking, Floyd put a silver cocktail shaker over the glass to infuse a smoky flavor. It was served with a giant ice cube. The size of the cube kept the cocktail cold, yet takes longer to melt, so it doesn’t water the cocktail down like crushed ice or smaller cubes.

Raves among all were voiced when we tasted Reyes lamb meatballs on top of linguine with his special marinara sauce, Percorino cheese, Fresno chili and intensely green and sweet Castelvetrano olives.

A plate of Branzino fish was decorated with seasonal squash puree, roasted cherry tomatoes, capers, green and yellow pattypan squash, accompanied with a plate of roasted white and purple cauliflower.

Our dessert was a recipe created by the first chef at Sonoma Wine Garden, a Kaiserschmarr’n. This caramelized Austrian pancake souffle was cut into small pieces like a bread pudding and served with whipped cream, almonds, golden raisins and brandied apples. This paired perfectly with Floyd’s pumpkin spice martini infused with Crystal Head vodka, Kahlua, Bailey’s, pumpkin syrup and vanilla foam.

With plenty of seating outside, I walked inside the the wine-cellar-styled bar and admired the stunning chandelier made from wine bottles.IMG_0968
Besides serving great food prepared by Executive Chef Garee Battad and sous chef Jefferson Reyes, Umland offers a wine club with a $25 membership. Members receive an enomatic card upon registering into the club. The Enomatic is a wine machine capable of preserving wine for up to four weeks. It serves two oz. up to a full pour in a glass perfectly, giving everyone the chance to taste premium wines by the glass at a much more affordable price than purchasing a bottle. Wine members receive 10% off every time they re-fill their enomatic card, priority notification and discounted tickets for wine tasting dinners and events. Best of all, members have access to Sommelier reservations with table-side custom wine pairings done by David Jones.

Sonoma Wine Garden is a ideal place to meet others passionate about wine, cocktails and good food.

Open for lunch Monday – Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner service begins 2:30 to 10 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Come for brunch at 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 395 Santa Monica Place, #300 (424)214-4560.

Parts of this article was published in the November 20, 2014 issues of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

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