Monday, October 22, 2007

Bourbon & Branch: Speakeasy and drink easy!

I've been wanting to share my experience at Bourbon & Branch for a long time...especially since they have my favorite black Ann Taylor shrug and have been impossible to reach. But that's all part of the allure of the place. To get in, you make a reservation (not an easy feat to get a good time) and then knock on a plain wooden door in the middle of a not-so-nice downtown area of SF. You say the password (ours was 20's inspired) and then they let you in.

It's like stepping into the Prohibition Era. Gorgeous cast iron ceilings, candeliers, soft candelight, cozy booths, and ornate pink velvet wallpaper adorn the place. It smells like a dusty, musty, wonderfully old attic, and is smaller than I expected. The bartenders are clearly pros, shaking and mixing like well-choreographed modern dancers. The crowd is mixed-- some young, some older, all hip and relaxed looking as they turn to look at the incomers.

The menu, to my delight, matched the stumbled-into-a-time-machine ambiance. It is lengthy and is LOADED with cocktails, almost all of them antique recipes. Also an amazing list of bourbons, whiskeys, and other spirits. The cocktails all have the list of ingredients, plus a comment on its historical context or origins (i.e., for the White Lady I had, below, "A favorite at Harry's New York Bar in Paris, 1929"). In other words, my perfect heaven-- a combination of history and cocktails, what bliss!!! What better way to see through the lens of a past era that many have pointed out is so similar to ours, as to sit in this jewel box of a bar and drink the same cocktails that were drunk nearly 100 years ago?! I ordered two of the cocktails over the course of our visit, and they were FABULOUS.

The first was the White Lady. It came shaken up hard in a sugared martini glass, frothy and foamy, light as a feather and with delicious, lemony cocktail flavor. It went down super-smoothly and was totally refreshing. It had only a simple few ingredients: gin, cointreau, sugar (I think), fresh lemon juice, and egg white. Yes, egg white, which lent it that fabulous foaminess. I looked it up later and it goes by other names such as the Delilah, Chelsea Side-Car, and Lillian Forever. It is basically a sidecar made with gin instead of brandy. So good I vowed to make it at home and pray the gin kills any potential salmonella.

The second I had was a Widow's Kiss, a favorite in the 1890's (for real!!!). It was wonderful and reminiscent of a crisp fall day by the fire-- golden in color, warm in flavor and effect. It contained calvados brandy, Yellow Chartreuse, Benedictine and angostura bitters, and I believe it was stirred. Not a cocktail I would ever think of making myself, although now I would. Yellow chartreuse is a liquor originally made by monks in France, and is a bright yellow true to its name. Benedictine is also monk-y. It's a type of cognac with many herbs and spices in it, believed to be the oldest liquor ever made according to Wikipedia. I did a little research and found some interesting articles on the drink. Here's a good one. Fabulous, fabulous.

B&B was a wonderful experience and the drinks and ambiance were both absolutely charming. I can't wait to go back. In the meantime, I am excited to explore some of the old-time cocktails that I saw on the menu there for a little taste of the past.


Monday, October 15, 2007

The Little Door opens to me again, yay!

I had the pleasure of returning to The Little Door again last week. It was wonderful as always, and this time packed with clientele including some celebs, judging by the Pap who we found waiting outside after our meal. (I gave him my best angle.) I could not resist once again having the seared foie gras...just the thought of it was irresistible. I also had a glass of a wonderful Torri Mor Willamette Valley 2005 Pinot Noir. Man, was that good. Thought I'd try it since I recognized the label as one of my favorite Pinot Gris choices from my wine tasting party. It did not disappoint-- jammy, smooth, fruity yet dry goodness that I always come to look for in Oregon wines.

I also had a deliciously simple arugula salad which was on special. In a lovely nod to the season, it had "wonderful pomegranate seeds" on it. It also had a light, zingy champagne vinagrette and tasty, shaved Onetik cheese on top. I learned on the internets that this is a Pyrenean sheep blue cheese which comes from Basque country and goes particularly well with red wines. (I can confirm that allegation.) The salad was awesome, crunchy, and refreshing. I would try to recreate it at home in a second.

My companions all loved their dishes, which included the intriguing pistachio crusted goat cheese tart appetizer. In the end we split two of the flourless chocolate cakes. I was lucky enough to take the remains of one of them home.

Another fabulous meal at Little Door-- cheers to that!


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Vermont on Vermont

L.A. is so gorgeous right now, I can hardly stand it. The cool breeze/sunshine thing that I adore is in full swing.

As I've been walking through my lovely Los Feliz neighborhood today running errands, it definitely strikes me to write about my dinner at Vermont (on Vermont Ave. in Los Feliz) last week.

The first thing I noticed as I met my fellow diners was that this place has a great, cozy little bar attached. Good to know, especially since it has an intriguing cocktail list and a wine list with lots of good ones by the glass.

The ambiance in the restaurant is grown-up, elegant, and far more subdued than in the bar, which has a red-light hipster vibe to it. I was amused that the two entities co-exist in their little state of Vermont. The menu had yummy looking appetizers. I had the mussels, which were delicious. The gentlemen both ordered a tempura spicy shrimp roll which they loved.

The entree focus is definitely on protein at this place. I had a crispy white fish that was fantastic. Others at the table ordered a steak which was also very nice and halibut. Everybody was pleased with their choices. I was excited that the portion size, though a bit on the large side, was manageable and the plate was beautifully arranged. The fish was simply done but served piping hot and saltily delicious with its crispy outside and flaky inside. YUM!

To drink, I had a superb Edelweiss martini, which was essentially a vodka martini with elderflower essence. We also had Chimay beer, one of my favorite belgian brews, and some blanc de blanc bubbly that was light and delicious. For dessert, I ordered the only down-point of the meal-- a flourless chocolate cake that was heavy but not rich enough for my taste. Then again, I had just had The Little Door's flourless chocolate cake previously, which was incredible, so I couldn't help but compare the two. Next time I'll probably skip dessert and go for another Edelweiss.

All in all, a lovely setting to bring parents, clients, or others you wish to impress for a solidly good protein-centered meal with nice drinks to match, for reasonable-leaning-towards-pricey prices. I will definitely go back, and I for sure want to check out that intriguing little bar attached. (I hear they have an open mic night on Mondays, too...interesting...)

Food: Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket (3)

Ambiance: Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket(3.75)

Overall: Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket (3.5)

To read Yelp! reviews, click here.

For an explanation of our ratings system, CLICK HERE!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Little Door - and apologies for being MIA!

So, so sorry, dear readers/eaters, for being MIA. The ebb and flow of work-life hit a bit of a riptide for me (and I know Emilia has had a similar spell)...but now I'm back and I hope to continue to add delicious tidbits to this long-neglected little journal in the near future.

The past month has not been a big eating out month for me, but I did have a wonderful dinner at The Little Door at 3rd and Crescent Heights in Hollywood recently.

The place is gorgeous-- a truly romantic spot. It's got a French-Mediterranean vibe with lots of soft lighting, chandeliers, and a massive outdoor dining spot draped in the canopy of a tree. When you walk in, true to its name, you go through a charming little door. When I went on a weeknight, the place was packed. The tables are big and rustic, but the food is very gourmet and elegant.

I started with the marvelous roquefort-stuffed grilled figs wrapped in prosciutto, which came with a perfect mesclun green salad and port wine reduction drizzled around the plate. Truly rich and delicious. I then had another appetizer (since they looked sooo good I couldn't resist having two for my meal, a thing I do often). This one was a fabulous, fabulous seared duck foie gras with poached peaches, on top of a light and fluffy, slightly sweet pistachio pancake. I tasted other dishes such as seared scallops, pork with North African spices (which I found kind of ironic), and a beet salad. All were yummy and my companions seemed to enjoy them.

The wine list was exhaustive and we drank a nice Pinot Noir and finished with some bubbly. I also had a super-rich but seriously great flourless chocolate cake, which was tough to pick over the cheese plate but so good. I ate a bit and was in heaven. I took the rest home and proceeded to eat a couple of bites every night after work for a few days, and was in heaven. Really, really good. They don't mess around.

All in all, a wonderful place that I hope to return to soon. Word of warning, it is sort of silly expensive. But even so, I was not disappointed!

For reviews of The Little Door, click here.

Food:Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket(3.75)

Ambience:Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket (4)

Overall:Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket(4)

For an explanation of our ratings system, CLICK HERE!