Exploring the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, my husband and I wandered into True Food Kitchen for an early evening drink after witnessing a spectacular sunset.
The manager Serene Murray welcomed us and escorted us to the bar. She introduced us to bartender Renn Hershey and asked him to make us a few of their upcoming Valentine’s Day cocktails.
As we sat on stools at the long, solid wood bar, we watched Hershey pour, shake and garnish a variety of drinks. There is a produce bar behind the bar, for him to freshly juice citrus and ginger to dazzle each one.
(Mixologist Renn Hershey creates four special cocktails for Valentine’s Day – “Hot in the Dark,” “Bows and Eros,” “War of the Roses,” and “Love a Pear.”)
We started by sharing a spicy tequila-based cocktail called “Hot in the Dark.” Hershey told us that it is made with Greenbar Distillery tequila, one of his favorite spirit makers. Greenbar Distillery is a local, award winning husband-and-wife company founded by Melkon Khosrovian and Litty Mathew. They began making spirits in 2004, working with organic farmers who grow aromatic produce to enhance the flavor of their vodka, gin, tequila, rum, bitters and liqueur. Greenbar distributes the world’s biggest portfolio of organic spirits in lightweight bottles with 100 percent recycled labels. They give back to earth by planting a tree for every bottle sold. To this day, they have planted over 500,000 trees.
Hershey used Greenbar’s IXÁ organic tequila for this cocktail. The tequila is handmade the traditional way from fully mature agave plants.
After a generous pour of tequila, he added lime juice and a little pomegranate juice for a float of pretty pink color. It was poured into a shallow, champagne coupe. This type of saucer shaped stemmed glass, was originally designed in the 1600s for sparkling wine and champagne in England. Filled to the rim, Hershey topped it with a sliced jalapeno pepper, giving the drink a little kick.
We ordered the kale guacamole and baked pita chips. The guacamole was chunky with slices of pink grapefruit, chopped cilantro and roasted poblano pepper. It’s crunchy with toasted sunflower seeds and healthier than traditional guacamole and tortilla chips.
The next cocktail was made with another Greenbar organic spirit – a dark Crusoe rum made with organic molasses, offering a dense caramel aroma. Named “Bow and Eros,” Hershey added fresh ginger juice and honey syrup, coconut cream and a squeeze of lime juice. It tasted similar to a mellow piña colada. Served in a highball glass filled to the top with ice cubes, the frothy yellow beverage was adorned with a pineapple crown leaf and spear of fresh pineapple chunks.
This drink goes well with one of the four pizzas on the menu. The simplest is a Margherita and the sweetest is the butternut squash with smoked onion, kale, vegan almond ricotta, and dried cranberry. The most savory pizza is the chicken sausage with tomato and roasted fennel.
The most festive looking drink is the “War of the Roses” made with Smirnoff vodka and rose petals. Hershey adds pomegranate juice and rose petal syrup and tops it with a Prosecco float, a slice of lime and a pinch of dried rose petals for decoration. Served in a tall champagne flute, this cocktail pairs well with one of the five bowls on the menu. My favorite is the spicy Panang curry bowl filled with organic potato, long bean, bok choy, carrot, Thai basil and a coconut shrimp broth.
We finished with a pleasing, smoky flavored pear and vanilla flavored bourbon drink titled, “Love a-Pear”. The cocktail offers the essence of cinnamon with a trace of lemon juice. It’s hearty and pairs nicely with one of the six entrées, especially the sustainable seabass with grains drizzled with an umami sauce and served with broccolini, sugar snap pea and roasted mushroom.
Hershey said the lasagna Bolognese with housemade chicken sausage would pair nicely with any of the four drinks or a glass or bottle Italian Cannonau Sella & Mosca “Riserva.”
For a sweet ending, the flourless chocolate cake adorned with caramel, vanilla ice cream and cocoa nibs promotes a look of love with each spoonful. The four amorously appealing cocktails we enjoyed are available starting Feb. 10 through Valentine’s Day for $11 each. The regular craft cocktail list is also available.
True Food Kitchen is open for lunch and dinner starting at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, Saturday and Sunday open for brunch 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Weekend dinner after 4 p.m. $$ 395 Santa Monica Place, Suite 172 (310)593-8300. For other locations, go to truefoodkitchen.com.
This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park La Brea News on Feb. 9, 2017 – Find True Love at True Food Kitchen