National Cocktail Day Guide

Since Wednesday, March 24 is ‘National Cocktail Day’ many of us will be celebrating at home, because bars are still not open due to the pandemic. Here are some of my favorite cocktails and wine in a can to just pop open and pour. Plus, these high quality cocktails are more accessible and affordable for everyone 21+ years old. Enjoy at home and don’t drink and drive.

Rogue Ales & Spirits makes this easy! It’s one of the original craft breweries and distilleries, and ROGUE Spirits continues to create and grow its sparkling canned cocktail line with the recent launch of a Lemonade Iced Tea Vodka Soda and the Bayfront Vodka Party Pack. These ready-to-drink beverages are made with Rogue Spirits and 100% natural ingredients.

Not only do they offer an authentic, gluten-free, bar-quality taste, they are so convenient in a can. “We’re feeling all the spring vibes and are beyond ready to leave our house and enjoy the warm weather with a beverage in hand,” says Steve Garrett, VP of Business Development. “Rogue Spirits Sparkling Craft Cocktails were made for this type of outing.”

Forget the jigger, the strainer, the muddler and the shaker because ROGUE Spirits does all the work for you. “Canned cocktails were a fun next step for our brand,” says Jake Holshue, Rogue Head Distiller. “We use our Rogue Spirits Bayfront Vodka as the base and added natural ingredients to create bright and flavorful cocktails.

Another party in a box is the hard bubbly Fun Wine collection. Not only does it offers a low ABV, low-calorie, all-natural and lightly carbonated wine. It’s artistically inspired bottles are based on Miami’s distinct art, fashion and music culture. Created by renowned Miami graffiti and pop artist, Miguel Paredes, his art matches the bold and refreshing flavors. Since Sangria is a cocktail, I had to include Fun Wine, because they make the best sangria in a bottle. No mixing, cutting or shaking. Just twist the cap and pour. Other Fun Wine bubbly includes Coconut Chardonnay, Strawberry Rose’ Moscato and Cappuccino Chardonnay. Fun Wine is now available in the U.S. Visit www.funwine.com.

Cutwater Spirits transports you into a vacation state of mind while sipping one of the Tequila Margaritas, Tiki Rum Mai Tai, Bloody Marys or Vodka cocktails in a can. Their tequila offers a floral aroma with a smooth finish that complements their house-made mix of tart lime, pure cane sugar, and a hint of orange. (It’s tastes like Cabo in a can). Their Mai Tai offers pineapple and coconut flavors combined with their unique citrus mix to balance the brightness.

Babe 100 canned wine, not a cocktail, however it is refreshing like a seltzer with only 100 calories and zero grams of sugar.  Now you can drink Rosé, a Grigio or red wine made with a bubbly Cabernet and Syrah blend. This new canned wine is available at your nearest Target store. Order $50 online and have it shipped to your home for free.

SELTZY is made in small batches in the iconic mountain town of Jackson Hole, WY. As a part of the Roadhouse Brewing Co. family, their hard seltzer was created with a passion for craft with pure Teton water, 0 gluten, 0 added sugar, and 0 carbs. Seeking a libation at ‘Cocktail Hour’ Seltzy is refreshing, crisp, and comes in these uniquely delightful flavors – THE CRUSH is made with two mountain berries -huckleberry and lingonberry; THE CHILL – lime and ginger and KICKED BACK – cucumber and lychee. Experience all three seltzers with the 12 count Variety Pack. Click here to order and for a store locator near you – SELTZY.

Vide Beverages for a Sparkling Holiday

Photo by Jill Weinlein

This holiday season instead of hiring a bartender to make festive cocktails to serve with your holiday appetizers or meals, pop open a ready-to-drink VIDE Beverage canned cranberry or watermelon flavored vodka soda. 

One can is 5% ABV, 99 calories, gluten-free and contains zero sugar and zero carbs. They make great stocking stuffers for your favorite 21+-year-old on your holiday gift-giving list.

Courtesy of VIDE

Founded in 2019 by two college friends, Ryan Laverty and Sal Campisi, these entrepreneurs in their 20s noticed a gap in the ready-to-drink product market. They made VIDE with real vodka distilled 6 times, instead of using ‘malt’ or ‘sugar beer’ products made by some of the other spiked seltzer companies.

Their vision was to deliver clean ingredients to the modern, health-conscious drinker in a convenient recyclable can. 

Courtesy of VIDE

With their success of this vodka soda line, Ryan and Sal have big plans to expand the VIDE line with a new fundraising round for new products and more hires in 2020 and 2021. Recently they announced that the former Miss Universe, Olivia Culpo joined the VIDE team as creative director and investor alongside David Adelman, CEO of Darco Capital.

Culpo’s successful career includes modeling, acting, philanthropy and entrepreneurial endeavors. The Rhode Island native co-owns the acclaimed Back 40 restaurant and is impressed by VIDE’s rapid growth in the competitive canned cocktail space. 

“I grew up in the restaurant business and have always been passionate about the sense of community built around amazing food and drink. It’s a part of my DNA and what I associate with companionship and making memories with friends and family,” says Culpo. “After opening our family restaurant, The Back40, I knew I needed to do more in the hospitality space which is why I am so happy to have discovered VIDE. It is a high quality and health-conscious beverage which is exactly what I’ve been looking for in the hard seltzer space. I am so excited to work with Ryan and Sal to continue to grow this amazing business.”

Courtesy of VIDE Instagram

David Adelman, the CEO of Darco Capital, will work closely with Ryan and Sal to oversee the next round of financing. 

When Adelman met the dynamic duo, he knew they had a winning formula. “Their ability to bring an elevated elegance to this rapidly growing beverage category through a commitment to a healthy formula and high-quality ingredients shows a fundamental understanding of modern-day consumer values,” said Adelman

Sal said in an interview, “Olivia perfectly aligns with our brand. We’re so excited that she shares the same vision Ryan and I have had since we started this. We’re humbled to have Olivia and David on our team as business partners.”

VIDE is priced at $11.99 for a 4-pack of 12-ounce cans and can be shipped to over 40 states

This review was also featured in JustLuxe.

Cocktail of the Month: ABERFELDY Herbed Honey Smash

To raise awareness about the plight of honey bees, August 15 is the official National Honey Bee Day. It’s a day to raise awareness of the importance to protect bees as a critical species on earth. Beekeepers, beekeeping clubs and associations, and honey bee enthusiasts from across the United States celebrate and recognize honey bees contribution to human lives.

For the month of September it’s National Honey Month, and ABERFELDY Single Malt Scotch Whisky, known around the world as the “Golden” Dram” sent me bottle of their 12 years in oak Scotch Whiskey and a recipe to make a Herbed Honey Smash cocktail. This refreshing end of the day drink provided a sweet moment, while staying #saferathome.

Herbed Honey Smash Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients: 

2 oz Aberfeldy 12 Single Malt Scotch 

1.5 oz Lemon juice (or about half a lemon squeezed)

1 oz honey syrup 

*Honey Syrup: 100g of honey and 64g water, stir and leave to chill. Note: syrup will only last 3 days

4-6 leaves of soft herb (basil, mint, tarragon, etc.) 

Method: Add all ingredients to a shaker tin with ice. Shake vigorously and strain using a fine mesh strainer into a small rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with your fresh herb of choice and enjoy! 

Use any soft herb (basil, mint, thyme, tarragon, dill, marjoram or even cilantro) you’d like for different flavor combinations. For more herb flavor, steep your fresh herbs in your local raw honey before making syrup. 

I learned that ABERFELDY Single Malt Scotch Whisky has collaborated with the national, non-profit Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) organization in launching a Gardening Giveback Project, Together they are dedicated to working with beekeepers across the country to improve honey bee colony health and increase colony survivorship.

ABERFELDY has also committed a $10,000 donation to BIP to help support local beekeepers in their research, education and communication efforts to improve honey bee health and sustainability.

Right now, they are offering a limited-edition cocktail crate ($45) via ReserveBar, which includes everything you need to re-create the Herbed Honey Smash cocktail at home:

  • 1 bottle of ABERFELDY 12
  • 3 different flavors of honey
  • Seeds to plant and grow your own herbs / garnishes at home
  • Honey bear cocktail jars
  • Exclusive access to a virtual whisky and honey tasting on 9/17 with Holly Seidewand, BACARDI North American Malts Ambassador, and Miami beekeeper Nick Bofill (The Native Guy).

Through the Gardening Giveback Project, ABERFELDY and BIP are empowering beekeepers and bartenders across eight cities in the United States – Austin, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; Miami, Florida; Los Angeles, California; New York, New York; San Francisco, California to plant and maintain community garden-style bee sanctuaries by growing flowers, herbs and vegetables in dual purpose: to foster a healthy environment for bees while also cultivating ingredients that can be used in cocktails.

“As the single most important pollinator to agriculture, honey bees are a vital component in ensuring we have access to high quality, nutritious fruits, vegetables, and nuts,” Says Geoff Williams, President of Bee Informed Partnership. “We definitely appreciate ABERFELDY supporting our mission and are really excited to help bring the Gardening Giveback Project to life.”

10 Summer Beverages to Enjoy at Home

It’s summertime and due to COVID-19 many will continue to stay more at home than go out during the summer. I received a variety of beverages to try and review in time for Father’s Day and the beginning of summer.

Here are 10 of my favorites for sipping in the backyard, taking on a social distance picnic, or enjoying during a weekend brunch.

1. Cutwater Spirits transports you into a vacation state of mind while sipping their new Tiki Rum Mai Tai in a can. It’s a tropical paradise of flavors with a blend of Cutwater Barrel-aged Rum and Bali Hai Tiki Gold Rum. These two rums are mixed with pineapple, citrus and coconut flavors to provide a refreshing cocktail that can be poured over ice or sip from a chilled can. Tiki Rum Mai Tai won a 2020 GOLD Denver International Spirits. (It’s tastes like Hawaii in a can. This is a 12.5% ABV Mai Tai, so sometimes I dilute it with a sparkling water).

IMG_9212-22.Dads who love Bloody Marys on the weekend can make their own exotic concoction with Cutwater Sprits Fugu Vodka Spicy Bloody Mary It’s a Bloody Mary with a fiery bite. Just pour a can filled with Cutwater Spirits signature Vodka and our award-winning Bloody Mary mix. The flavor profile includes fresh ripe tomatoes, exotic spices and a generous sprinkle of pepper. Pour the 12 oz can in a jar glass, and add garnishes such as a celery stalk, skewers of cherry tomatoes, olives and gherkin pickles. For an extra special Bloody add a crispy slice of Applewood Smoked Bacon to absorb the zesty cocktail. (This Bloody Mary packs a punch in spiciness. I add ice to the glass and let it melt a little to soften the zesty kick with every sip).IMG_83813. Since Father’s Day is on Sunday, June 21, serve the World’s Greatest Father and family members 21+ Ohza Mimosas in a can. One 12-pack is equivalent to four champagne bottles of bubbly and a full juice carton. These mimosas are as good or better than making your own. Inside a 12 oz can is premium sparkling wine and real fruit juice, yet  80% less sugar and 60% less calories. (I love these mimosas and bellinis. They are sparkling, fun to drink and perfect to serve during Sunday Brunch).IMG_8159-24. Give dad a Crystal Head Vodka skull for Father’s Day. It’s distilled quadruple times and filtered seven times, with the final three filtrations through Herkimer diamond crystals makes this vodka easy drinking. It’s slightly sweet, silky smooth, and offers a hint of vanilla. Plus the eye-catching bottle is designed by world-renowned American portrait artist and landscape painter John Alexander. His work is featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Corcoran Museum and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. (Fun Fact: Actor and SNL Comedian Dan Aykroyd makes this vodka. He makes a beautiful rainbow colored bottle during PRIDE month).IMG_72565. For the tequila loving Dad, QUI Tequila offers a slight essence of hazelnut, vanilla and butterscotch characteristics. It’s a smooth and sophisticated tequila, not the type to down quickly with salt and a lime,” said Pete Girgis, president and co-founder of QUI. This spirit is named from the heart of the word te-QUI-la. They take the blue agave plants and discard the heads and tails, only using the juice of the heart. (This tequila is smooth and similar to a fine Scotch to sip slowly).34707FF1-D205-4C14-9CF1-E938335736DF6. The quintessential summer wine to sip during the day and weekend brunch is Domaine Houchart Cotes De Provence Rose served chilled. It’s an ideal summer wine to drink offering beautiful salmon color highlights, with hints of red berry and strawberry flavors. Notes of pear and peach, with a touch of goji berry and grapefruit give this wine an extra flair. Winning the TOP 100 BEST BUYS award in 2018 & 2019, Domain Houchart is a family owned 200-acre estate with 10 grape varieties located in Provence at the foot of Mount St. Victoire. The estate produces 55% rose’, 40% red and 5% white wines. (If you like Rose’ wine, you will love this one chilled and served with brunch fare or a charcuterie plate).IMG_74377. Canned cocktails crafted with Rogue Spirits are available for Father’s Day and this summer for home delivery or you can purchase it on shelves at Whole Foods. Rogue Spirits begins with two spirits – Rogue Bayfront Vodka and Rogue Spirits Gin. The vodka is the base for the Cranberry Elderflower Vodka Soda, Grapefruit Vodka Soda and Ginger Lime Vodka Mule. Rogue Spirits Gin is the base for the Cucumber Lime Gin Fizz. Go to buy.rogue.com for dad and family to enjoy. (These are refreshing, fruity and fun to drink).IMG_73248. Hard Ciders are the rage, especially an icy cold one during the summer. Austin Eastciders hard cider and spiked seltzers is lower in sugar and calories. It’s made with real cider apples that are sourced from Europe. These are rich in tannins and offer more complex flavors. With an alcohol by volume at 5%, these ciders contain about two-thirds less sugar than others. Plus they are gluten-free and certified kosher. (Popping open a can of Texas Honey Cider, I noticed a floral aroma and bubbly crispness. Taking a sip, the flavors include a hint of apple, and touch of Texas honey, cane sugar and brown sugar to produce a creamy caramel finish). 214917C9-BB93-435F-98E1-B09BD4E0FB589. GoKo Energy Drinks are excellent non-alcohol drinks and make a great cocktail mixer. They add natural flavor, a boost of energy and a sparkling kick to any mixed drink. GoKo Energy Sparkling Coconut Water Ginger & Lime makes a great Moscow Mule. Measure out three ounces of your favorite vodka (or any clear spirit will do) into a copper mug; add ice; then stir in GoKo Energy Sparkling Coconut Water Ginger & Lime. Squeeze a lime wedge and use as garnish to finish. (My friend Jeff makes these caffeinated beverages. Some are a little to sweet for my palate to drink alone, but as a mixer, these are dynamite).Screen Shot 2020-06-11 at 8.21.34 AM
10. Pali Wine is a Lompoc-based winery, along the iconic Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County. This ultra-high-quality wines sells bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Rose’ and Syrah at a fair prices. It employs environmentally friendly wine grape growing, and non-invasive winemaking practices. (Pali has tasting rooms that are a lot of fun to visit, especially in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone).

Weekends are extra fun sipping Ohza Mimosas

When four friends went out for the day to sail around Cape Cod, they brought a box filled with sparkling Brut, fresh squeezed juice cartons and cups to make their favorite brunch cocktail – mimosas. At the end of the day during clean up, they had to throw away bottles, cups and cartons. The environmentally friendly group realized that was a lot of waste and decided to reinvent how people drink mimosas. They discussed how there must be an easier way to enjoy fruit flavored bubbly mimosas without all the hassle and waste of plastic and bottles afterwards.

IMG_8376

After a lot of taste testing, these friends created Ohza Mimosas in a recyclable can. They discovered a premium quality Brut Sparkling Wine from the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York to bring out a subtle fruity flavor.

Ohza offers a big party of fun with small footprint afterwards. One 12-pack is equivalent to four champagne bottles of bubbly and a full juice carton. Ohza has up to 80% less sugar and 60% fewer calories than one batch of mimosas served at a restaurant or bar. Each can is 140 calories of easy sipping with 5% ALC/VOL. I

When you purchase a classic mimosa 12-pack, $3 from every order is donated to the United Way Relief Fund.

IMG_8381

Besides classic mimosa, they recently introduced classic bellini and mango mimosa. Each one is ideal to sip not only during brunch, but can be enjoyed during a picnic in your yard or at a park, while cruising in a boat, by your pool, tailgate this Fall and hopefully soon at outdoor music venues.

Order Ohza Mimosas online to be shipped to every state except KY, MI, MS and UT. Shipping is free on orders of $50 or more.

This review was featured in JustLuxe.

11 Hot Spot’s For Cocktails on Valentine’s Day in Los Angeles

Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, Celebrate Love with A Cocktail or Two!

  cid:image001.jpg@01D39B85.801EE3A0    cid:image003.jpg@01D39B85.801EE3A0  cid:image004.jpg@01D39B85.801EE3A0 

(Photos by Jerica Coert, Moretti Photo, & acuna-hansen)

Los Angeles has some of the most creative bartenders and mixologists in California. Here are 10 new cocktails that will be offered on Valentine’s Day at various hot spots in Los Angeles. If you don’t live in Southern California, here are the ingredients the mixologists shared with me to inspire you to make the same cocktail at home.Casita Del Campo- Pomegranate Margarita Blended

  1. Pomegranate Margarita at Casita Del CampoForget a bouquet of roses for your sweetheart. Instead, celebrate Valentine’s Day with a delicious spin on a classic margarita. It’s prepared blended or on the rocks with a pour of tequila, fresh squeezed lime juice, a splash of triple sec, pomegranate juice, and fresh pomegranate garnish. Open Feb. 14 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m; 1920 Hyperion Avenue, Los Angeles, (323)662-4255 www.CasitaDelCampo.com .
  2. Shot At Love at CHAYA Downtown  There won’t be any broken hearts for those who enjoy this libation created by Marco Currasco at CHAYA Downtown. Prepared with love with a pour of Deep Eddy Vodka, Yuzu Sake, muddled strawberries, lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white, and garnished with a Campari heart and lime twist. After sipping this, enjoy the special Valentine’s Day menu offered from 5 to 10 p.m. 525 South Flower Street, Los Angeles, (213)236-9577 www.TheChaya.com.CHAYA Venice - Love Potion Cocktail (1)
  3. Love Potion by Erica Venning at Chaya VeniceThis beautiful cocktail will give your the courage to declare your love for that special someone. Tantalize the taste buds with vodka, lemon, simple syrup, egg white, and pomegranate elixir. Chaya Venice is also offering a Bottomless Rosé Brute all night for just $15 per person. Open 5:30 to 10 p.m. 110 Nacy Street, Venice, (310.396.1179) www.TheChaya.com.
  4. Just Footloose at Springwill inspire you to give your loved one a twirl. Mixologist Freddy De La Paz creates an elegant libation made with Tarea Silver Tequila, Grand Marnier, blood orange, agave nectar, and lemon. Open from 5 to 10 pm. 257 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, (213)372-5189www.SpringLosAngeles.com.Spring- Drink, Pray, Love
  5. Drink, Pray, Love at SpringFreddy De La Paz is preparing a special cocktail on Valentine’s Day at Spring’s romantic Springside lounge. Prepared with Hangar One Rosé Vodka, Dolin Blanc, Luxardo Maraschino, and rose water, this cocktail embodies romance with every sip. After ordering your drink look over special four- course menu. Open from 5 to 10 pm. 257 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, (213)372-5189. www.SpringLosAngeles.com.
  6. Actually Love Actually – Freddy De La Paz also makes a lip licking cocktail to toast with your loved one in the Atrium of Spring. It’s a blend of Burnett’s London Dry Gin, strawberry, basil, and lime. This cocktail is to be enjoyed until every last drop. Open from 5 to 10 pm. 257 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, (213)372-5189. www.SpringLosAngeles.com.Sunset & Vinyl - Off Sunset 1 (2)
  7. Sunset & Vinyl’s Off Sunset – Mixologist Devon Espinoza creates a pretty drink that will elevate your mood. Sit at the bar or lounge to sip a Tequila Blanco, grapefruit, house grenadine, and jalapeño cocktail. This drink will have you dancing while listening to the classic record player spin records all night long. Open for Valentine’s Day from 6 to 2 a.m.; 1521 Vine Street, Los Angeles, (424)646-3375. www.SunsetandVinyl.com.
  8. The FLATS in Beverly Hills – Sit in the hanging basket chair in the bar and order one of Mixologist Shaun Summers’ beautiful Angel Face cocktails. It’s made with cranberry infused apple brandy and gin blend, apricot liquor, Nocino, and garnished with a housemade fruit roll-up. This drink will make you swirl before enjoying Chef Paul Shoemaker’s creative dinner. 8400 Wilshire Blvd. (310)909-7549. www.TheFLATSRestaurant.comThe FLATS - Angel Face Cocktail (1)
  9.  The Raymond 1886 offers Cupid’s Arrow – Mixologist Peter Lloyd Jones will get you in the mood for love this Valentine’s Day while sipping a pretty drink made with hibiscus, cava, and lemon. It’s bright, bubbly and will liven your spirits as if you were just struck by Cupid. 1886 is open Midnight on Valentine’s Day. 1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, (626)441-3136. www.TheRaymond.comThey Raymond 1886 - The Sazerac Cocktail (2)
  10. The Sazarac Lover – The Raymond 1886 – Peter Lloyd Jones creates a soulful cocktail that will warm your heart. It’s made with Ritten House Rye, Peychaud Bitters, Absinthe Rise, sugar cube, and a lemon peel. 1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, (626)441-3136. www.TheRaymond.com.Twohey's Tavern - Rose Bowl Cocktail (1)
  11. Sip a Rose Bowl created by Patrick Tang at Twohey’s Tavern This blush colored cocktail has a rosebud garnish to brighten your spirits. Prepared with Pisco, gin, rosé syrup, egg whites, and strawberry, this effervescent cocktail is easy to enjoy during your romantic evening with that special someone. Open for Valentine’s Day for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m., with the Bar open until 11 p.m. 2835 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, (626)449-2337 www.Twohey’sTavern.com.

A little bit of Disney Magic at the Bel Air Bar + Grill

 

(Photo by Bel Air Bar + Grill)
(Photo by Bel Air Bar + Grill)

Driving off the 405 freeway onto the Moraga exit, I noticed a striking two-story glass bougainvillea flower window in the front of the Bel Air Bar + Grill. I was invited to a tasting dinner by the owner of the restaurant Susan Disney Lord. She is part of American royalty – the Disney family, and the granddaughter of Roy O. Disney and one of Roy E. and Patricia Disney’s daughters. Her grandfather and great-uncle Walt Disney, co-founded of The Walt Disney Company.

Lord is a true California girl growing up in Toluca Lake, she now lives near the beach and close to her restaurant. Besides owning this restaurant, she is the President of the Roy Disney Family Foundation, participates on the Cal Arts CAP council, and is passionately involved with the Alzheimer’s Association by serving on the Board. She is also a wife, and the mother of five children that include two sets of twins.

Walking up the stairs into the private dining room, Lord was the first person to welcome me. When I remarked about the flowers on glass, she enthusiastically told me about its story.

Lord bought the landmark Bel Air Bar + Grill a few years ago and renovated the building. She commissioned an artist that she has known for about 30 years, Amanda Weil, to make a dazzling first impression of the restaurant.

These two ladies walked a few blocks up on Moraga to gain inspiration from the beauty of this So Cal enclave. They both appreciated the magnificent magenta colors of bougainvilleas growing freely. After taking a few clippings, Weil went to work.
At night, the nearby Chevron gas station’s bright lights, backlight the exquisite flowers on glass creating a visually beautiful moment as you walk in the door.

I told Lord that Weil’s piece is the new Georgia O’Keefe of art on glass. It’s spectacular.

Since Walt Disney founded and created Cal Arts with Lord’s grandfather Roy O. Disney, up in Valencia in the early 1960s, Lord has always had an affinity to the school known as “The Caltech of the Arts.”

Disney staffed the school with an array of his talented artists. Most of Disney’s movies including Frozen, Tarzan, Pocahontas were all made by many Cal Arts students.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Lord displays Cal Art students artwork on the walls throughout the restaurant. They rotate a few times a year or when a piece is sold, with all the money given to the student.

Standing together, Lord and I remarked about Zach Eins piece over the bar and multiple pieces upstairs. This talented artist uses a blow torch to burn images of human eyes and faces on wood. They are exquisite.

After construction took about one year, Lord hosted a “I survived the 405” party and everyone in the neighborhood came to have dinner, drinks and bond.

(Executive Chef Chris Emerling and owner Susan Disney Lord - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Executive Chef Chris Emerling and owner Susan Disney Lord – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

New to the restaurant is Executive chef Chris Emerling. Born in Springville NY, Emerling told me that he didn’t dream of being a chef as a young boy, “I wanted to be a snowplow driver, because it looked so cool.” However, as he graduated high-school, he enrolled in the Pittsburgh Culinary School and soon worked in mostly private clubs and high-end French restaurants including a kitchen in Lussaine, Switzerland.

He’s a kind chef, with a beautiful smile, and a perfect fit to work at Lord’s restaurant, because he seems to add a little “pixie dust” to each dish.

Trays of his fish and braised short rib tacos were passed around the room. These weren’t your everyday tacos, the fish was cold house-cured salmon with a crunchy jicama ginger slaw and the short rib tacos were accentuated with a carrot poblano salsa, chipotle and avocado.

(photo by Jill Weinlein)
(photo by Jill Weinlein)

As we sat at a long, elegantly decorated dining room table upstairs, I felt as if I was in a scene of Disney’s “Be Our Guest” in Beauty and the Beast. Multiple servers paraded into the room with long white plates in their hands. Each plate offered three individual appetizers that included a burnt orange colored, pureed, and chilled gazpacho with dill weed. The pixie dust Chef Emerling infused was avocado dots. Next to this amuse bouché was a four-minute poached egg that had a delicious tapenade made with a classic tomato, oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. Last was a luscious burrata topped with Emerling’s housemade duck prosciutto, herb poached mushrooms and sprigs of arugula.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Our next course was a colorful salad sampler trio, including the restaurant’s classic chopped salad that first appeared on the menu back in 1997. SInce it’s a Bel Air community favorite, Lord and Emerling kept it on the menu, and just heightened it with carrots, corn, garbanzos, Parmigiano-Reggiano and a sprinkling of honey balsamic on top. It was a real crowd pleaser the night I dined.

Another favorite was the Waldorf “Escoffier” salad. Don’t visualize a chunky mayonnaise salad, this one is pure elegance. In the 1930s, Auguste Escoffier was one of the world’s greatest chefs. A group of men in the Jantzen suite at the Hotel Waldorf-Astoria formed an epicurean organization who gathered at the Waldorf regularly and called themselves, “The Friends of Escoffier.”

Emerling’s Waldorf salad is not flat, but rises above the plate. Instead of chunky apples, his apples are sliced long and thin to peek out. Instead of celery, Emerling chops celeriac which is the bulb that grows from the stalks. Celeriac is the heart and soul of celery, offering a delicate and vibrant flavor to this fine dining dish. California walnuts are sprinkled around and then glistened with a delicate and vibrant 3880 French Escoffier secret sauce that only Emerling knows how to make so well.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Seafood dishes include grilled salmon that is half cooked and boosted with lemon, lovage – a herb that a few chefs are foraging in the local foothills, and dash of cream. It’s served with a potato and fennel sauté.
The scallops were served with four root vegetables that included carrots, kohlrabi, onion and celery. The roots change based on what chef selects at the markets. He makes a divine pickled pineapple to complement the scallops and drizzles an orange citrus emulsion before dusting it with a cilantro and red pepper luster. Emerling also creates this same sauce for the Market fish of the day.

Meaty entrees include a pan roasted juicy chicken with preserved cranberries and a delightful rosemary hash with chicken gastrique. His tender, slow braised pork cheeks were served with sweet potato gnocchi and peas, while his red wine braised short ribs are cooked for hours and served with roasted rainbow carrots, garlic mashed potatoes with charred poblano chilies to intensify the flavors.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

For dessert you must order the lemon tart with an Italian meringue. I didn’t care for the coconut infused chia pudding, however I know chia is the new ingredient to upgrade desserts. Expect to see more chia seed dishes on menus across Los Angeles, because they are high in fiber, high in omega-3’s, and plump up in liquid giving diners a satisfying fullness.

At the end of the feast, I walked back to my car, and noticed just behind the restaurant, a little cafe named The Shack. Owned by Lord, it’s a great alternative for to-go food from the same fine dining kitchen inside the Bel Air Bar + Grill. The Shack opens Monday through Friday for breakfast, snacks, soups, salads, sandwiches, coffee, smoothies and shakes from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Great-Uncle Walt and Grandfather Roy must be smiling with pride at Susan Disney Lord. Her winning culinary destination is an ideal spot to meet family and friends who live in the San Fernando Valley, or to go to before or after a UCLA basketball or after exploring the Getty Center.

The Bel Air Bar and Grill is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Happy Hour is available the same days from 4 to 6 p.m. Brunch is on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner is served nightly at 5 p.m. $$- $$$ 662 N. Sepulveda Boulevard. (310)440-5544.

Innovative Cart Service at The Church Key

The Church Key earned a winning reputation with foodies and locals raving about their unique wheel cart dining service. Celebrating their second anniversary, Executive chef Steven Fretz and General Manager Joseph Sabato decided to introduce the cart service for a creative lunch experience. I invited a friend to join me for lunch last week.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

A 1960s Pan Am beverage cart near my table was stocked with carafes of green tea, black tea lemonade, and little bottles filled with different housemade elixirs. Our server, Parker, recommended a eucalyptus elixer to be mixed with iced green tea. There is no alcohol, just pure, thirst quenching refreshment. Other glass bottles contained hibiscus, passion fruit and a Chai that Parker said goes really well with the black tea. “We make new elixirs weekly to change it up,” he said.

Fretz and Sabato started the cart service when they opened The Church Key to offer diners instant gratification. Instead of guests waiting for a server to take a cocktail or appetizer order, the wait staff approaches guests after they have been seated and offers a beverage and a dim-sum small plate. “Diners can sit back and relax while looking over the menu,” Sabato said. “For lunch, we thought an ice tea and lemonade drink cart would appeal to our guests. Arnold Palmers are instantly made right before their eyes.” He said they are thinking about decorating the Pan Am cart to look more like a retro-lemonade stand.

Each meal of the day is a unique dining experience. Chef Fretz graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and joined the Michael Mina Group before opening The Church Key. He earned a reputation for pushing boundaries and making classic dishes more exciting.
His lunch menu, printed on a white paper placemat, looks almost like a children’s menu in an easy-to-read font. A jar of pencils is placed on the table for guests to work on a maze on the menu, or try a word search. “We like to get playful and artistic with our dishes and dining experience,” Sabato said.

Lunch fare includes a Brussels sprout Caesar salad with slices of grilled chicken, shriveled tomato raisins bursting with flavor, crunchy sunflower seeds and Parmesan cheese. You won’t find romaine lettuce in this unique take on Caesar salad.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

The avocado croissant toast is layered with creamy avocado, pickled egg, Hatch chilies and layers of smoked salmon with lemon zest shavings and dollops of luscious creme fraiche.

My favorite dish was the bright green English pea falafel patty on a dark pumpernickel and oat bun. Be sure to add the fried egg to the truffled tahini and tomato mixed with parsley relish. A skewered tomato raisin, grilled green onion and clove of garlic accompany the veggie-style patty, making a pretty dish and oh so delicious.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Fretz’s creativity is evident in his French fries, which look like large steak fries, but are actually made from potato gratin. He prepares large trays of potato gratin, cools them, then cuts the gratin into long and thick sticks. Then he deep fries them and serves them with an aioli. They are a heavenly balance of salty, cheesy and creamy potato treats. Don’t be shy about asking for ketchup. I think these are the best fries in Los Angeles.

He also makes a tapioca crusted fish taco made with sea bass that is crispy on the outside yet moist inside. They are enhanced with a Serrano chili aioli, salsa verde, shredded slaw and chips with guacamole.

We had to sample dessert and ordered a plate of Fretz’s winning warm brioche donuts with a brown butter glaze and cinnamon caramel sauce. We each had one donut and took the last one home to enjoy later in the day.

Next time you want to celebrate a special occasion or want to meet a group of friends for lunch, brunch or dinner, reserve a table at The Church Key. The wheeling beverage cart service is one of Los Angeles’ most unique and fun dining experiences. $$ Open Monday through Sunday from from 11a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., for dinner. Sunday Brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 8730 W. Sunset Blvd. (424)249-3700.

This review was published in the October 29, 2015 Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers.

Barton G – Where Art and Food Collide

IMG_5337The truly one-of-a-kind, theatrically over-the-top dining experience at Barton G is nothing short of amazing. As servers bring enchantingly artistic culinary presentations from the kitchen to the table, the dining room fills with oohs and ahs. Every diner enjoys a glamorous and unique evening of avant-garde dishes complete with vaporizing cocktails.

If three-foot-tall desserts and outlandish presentations are not your cup of tea, perhaps Barton G might not be for you. These dishes demand attention.

The elegant décor is embellished with white textured felt walls and wood square paneling made from recycled wine barrels. Rows of single orchid flowers in small clear vases adorn the walls and taupe colored drapes are elegantly drawn back. Raised silver plated placemats embossed with the signature “B” invite diners to be seated.

Who is Barton G? The man behind the moniker is concept designer, restaurateur, author, and hotelier, Barton G. Weiss. He stages the most extravagant weddings, sports, entertainment and fashion events with an element of surprise and elegance. He also has been a guest judge on the popular television show “Top Chef”. Barton and executive chef Jeffrey O’Neill at The Villa by Barton G, housed in Versace’s former Ocean Drive mansion, wow guests in Miami and now they impress diners in Los Angeles.

The whimsical marble bar near the front of the dining room is a hub for servers gathering smoking martinis with namesDSC_0451 like Diamonds are Forever and Buddahlicious. These signature cocktails come from Barton G’s Below Zero Nitro-Bar and are crafted with liquid nitrogen—adding both a refreshing chill and high drama.

Friends ordered one of each and applauded when the cocktails arrived. Diamonds are Forever is made with citrus vodka, triple sec and lemonade. It’s served with a vodka Popsicle and sugar stick to stir into the vaporing cocktail creating a sweeter and more potent libation. There is a sparkling votive candleholder on the mirrored cocktail tray to hold your Popsicle stick after the vodka dissolves.

In the Buddahlicious drink, pear infused vodka is mixed with lychee and cranberry juice and served with a nitrogen Popsicle of pear vodka and a small golden Buddha. Rub his tummy for good fortune. I ordered the signature Sabrinatini martini served with a nitro-champagne swizzle stick and a solid chocolate monkey hanging down the side of the glass.

Sipping our drinks, we commented on every extravagant dish that left Chef de Cuisine Attila Bollok’s kitchen, especially the more whimsical plates with gigantic fishing lures standing upright and three-foot-tall silver forks.

Dining at Barton G is elegant dinner theater with the culinary creations as the starring act, thrilling your senses with both their jaw-dropping presentations and their heavenly aromas and flavors.

By 7:30 p.m. the restaurant was full of families celebrating a birthday, couples on dates to impress, and groups snapping photos to post on Instagram. These dishes are guaranteed to get many “likes” on your social media DSC_0453accounts because no other restaurant in Los Angeles offers artful cuisine on such a grand scale.

For example, the caviar cannoli appetizer is presented in a giant silver Humpty Dumpty serving piece filled with ice. Remove the top and find a plate of small rolled cannoli shells filled with black caviar and decorated with edible flowers. “It’s all about having fun and letting go,” Chef Attila said.

The fresh line-caught halibut ceviche is served in a clear glass and placed into a leopard print stiletto heel. This cold appetizer is mixed with a dollop of mango sorbet and small laughing bird shrimp. These crustaceans are sweet and raised without antibiotics or hormones. Chef Attila marinates the shrimp and halibut in leche de tigre (a citrus-based infusion) for an hour, then drains the liquid and pours it into a shot glass to serve with the ceviche in the shoe. Guests are to drink the shot before scooping the avocado mousse, mango sorbet and ceviche with a plantain chip.

Chef Attila also fries laughing bird shrimp and presents them in a large carnival-style popcorn machine with Old Bay spiced popcorn. Guests can dip the crispy treats into a Sriracha aioli or sweet chile sesame dipping sauce. It’s a fun, unusual appetizer to share with others.

The chopped sunflower salad, served in a large wooden bowl, includes arugula, sunflower petals, purple cherries and sunchokes dressed in a slightly sweet stone-fruit vinaigrette.DSC_0456

The soy marinated and coal roasted foie gras balances hot and cold temperatures and varying textures. The tender and rich foie gras is served with warm, smoked, seedless grapes and cold scorched honey and pistachio gelato and accompanied by black sourdough “charcoal” bread sticks. After a three-year ban on foie gras, O’Neill and Chef Attila wanted to hype up the classic dish with the deeply smoky bread and fruit to raise the flavor profiles. They succeeded.

Porcini pizzeola, a delightful, umami-forward vegan dish, is served with a potted green plant and a side of eggplant puree and chickpea croquettes.

Barton G’s quirky creativity shines with the lobster pop tarts, which are brought to the table in a retro-toaster resting in the two-slice heating frames. These pop-tarts, however, are made with crispy phyllo pastry, Pernod mornay sauce, and fresh Maine lobster.

Lobster lovers will also adore the creamy lobster trap truffle-mac n’ cheese made with a generous portion of large pieces of perfectly cooked lobster and mixed with a smooth and exquisite three cheese lobster sauce.

Our server, Hristina, was very professional and friendly, explaining the ingredients in each dish. When I looked with intrigue at a smoking treasure box at a nearby table, Hristina told me it was filled with chocolate. The treasures included a Valrhona 66 percent double chocolate bittersweet brownie with house-made Tahitian vanilla bean nitro ice cream, rich chocolate ganache and gold dusted chocolate spoons.

As the dessert service continued, I was in awe over Barton G’s “Let Them Eat Cake” tribute. A silver Marie AntoinetteDSC_0475 bust was placed before me with an elaborate hairdo of pink cotton candy piled over two feet tall and styled like a wig. Several delightful petite cakes surround the dish.

I marveled at the baked Alaskan Everglades dessert with a large croaking neon eyed frog and a huge piece of seven-layer red velvet ice cream cake, wrapped in toasted meringue and topped with a full size candy apple to represent the ‘cherry’ on top.

My jaw dropped one last time when a three-foot tall whimsical bird arrived on a platter with four different double chocolate sponge cake bombs. The dessert, “Crazy Bird Gets The Worm” offers cakes of butter toffee, chocolate mint cream, banana praline, and a peanut butter powder with crackling snickers inside.

When it comes to innovative cuisine and over-the-top glamour in Los Angeles, it doesn’t get better than Barton G.

$$$ Open Sunday through Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday the restaurant is open until 11 p.m. 61 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310)388-1888.

This article was published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on July 9, 2015. It is also published in GPSmyCity – https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/los-angeles-631.html

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