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looka, <lʊ´-kə> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look"; in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans, it is usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.  

2. --n. Chuck Taggart's weblog, hand-made and updated (almost) daily, focusing on food and drink, cocktails as cuisine, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news of the reality-based community ... and occasionally movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, travel, Macs, liberal and progressive politics, humor and amusements, reviews, complaints, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.

Please feel free to contribute a link if you think I'll find it interesting.   If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.

Page last tweaked @ 5:25pm PDT, 3/27/2009

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If you like, you are welcome to send e-mail to the author. Your comments on each post are also welcome; however, right-wing trolls are about as welcome as a boil on my arse.
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Buy my New Orleans music box set!

Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens

"Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans" is a 4-CD box set celebrating the joy and diversity of the New Orleans music scene, from R&B to jazz to funk to Latin to blues to zydeco to klezmer (!) and more, including a full-size, 80-page book.

Produced, compiled and annotated by Chuck Taggart (hey, that's me!), liner notes by Mary Herczog (author of Frommer's New Orleans) and myself. Now for sale at your favorite independent record stores (such as the Louisiana Music Factory, because you should be supporting local New Orleans retailers) or via Amazon if you insist.

The box set was the subject of a 15-minute profile on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition" on Feb. 6, 2005, and a segment on Wisconsin Public Radio's "To The Best of Our Knowledge" on Apr. 3, 2005. Here are some nice blurbs from the reviews (a tad immodest, I know; I'm not generally one to toot my own horn, but let's face it, I wanna sell some records here.)

*      *      *

"More successfully than any previous compilation, Doctors... captures the sprawling eclecticism, freewheeling fun and constant interplay of tradition and innovation that is at the heart of Crescent City music." -- Keith Spera, New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"... if you DO know someone who's unfortunate enough to have never heard these cuts, press this monumentally adventurous box and its attendant booklet upon them. It's never too late to learn" -- Robert Fontenot, OffBeat magazine, New Orleans

"... the best collection yet of Louisiana music." -- Scott Jordan, The Independent, Lafayette, Louisiana.

"[T]he year's single most awesome package" -- Buddy Blue, San Diego Union-Tribune

"This four-CD box set doesn't miss a Crescent City beat ... For anyone who has enjoyed the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, this is Jazz Fest in a box. ***1/2" -- Dave Hoekstra, Chicago Sun-Times

"... excellently compiled, wonderfully annotated ... New Orleans fans will know much of this by heart, though they may not remember it sounding so good; those who don't know what it's like to miss New Orleans will quickly understand." -- Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press.

"... a perfect storm when it comes to reissues. This box set is musically exciting, a complete representation of its subject matter, and just plain fun to listen." -- Charlie B. Dahan,

"... one of the best impressions of a city's musical blueprint that you're likely to ever find." -- Zeth Lundy,

"... an unacademic, uncategorized album that suits the city's time-warped party spirit." -- Jon Pareles, The New York Times

How to donate to this site:

Your donations help keep this site going. PayPal's the best way -- just click the button below, and thanks!

You can also donate via the Honor System, if you wish (but they deduct a larger fee from your donation and I keep less).

(Also, here's a shameless link to my Amazon Wish List.)

Buy stuff!

You can get Gumbo Pages designs on T-shirts, mugs and mousepads at The Gumbo Pages Swag Shop!

Looka! Archive
(99 and 44/100% link rot)

2009:   Jan, Feb, Mar.

2008:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2007:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2006:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2005:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2004:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2003:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2002:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2001:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2000:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

1999:   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

My Photos on Flickr
My Darlin' New Orleans...

The Flag of The City of New Orleans

Shop New Orleans! Visit the stores linked here to do your virtual online shopping in New Orleans. The city needs your money!

Greater N.O. Community Data Center
New Orleans Wiki

Gambit Weekly & The Times-Picayune
Scat Magazine
WDSU-TV (Channel 6, NBC)
WGNO-TV (Channel 26, ABC)
WNOL-TV (Channel 38, WB)
WTUL-FM (91.5, Progressive radio)
WVUE-TV (Channel 8, FOX)
WWL-TV (Channel 4, CBS)
WWNO-FM (89.9, classical, jazz, NPR)
WWOZ-FM (90.7, Best Radio Station in the Universe)
WYES-TV (Channel 12, PBS)


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.

2 Millionth Weblog
A Frolic of My Own
Ashley Morris (in memoriam)
Blogging New Orleans
Dispatches from Tanganyika
Home of the Groove
Humid City
Library Chronicles
Mellytawn Dreams
Metroblogging N.O.
People Get Ready
Da Po'Blog
Suspect Device Blog
The Third Battle of New Orleans
World Class New Orleans
The Yat Pundit
Your Right Hand Thief
Cocktail hour.

"We are still heartily of the opinion that decent libation supports as many million lives as it threatens; donates pleasure and sparkle to more lives than it shadows; inspires more brilliance in the world of art, music, letters, and common ordinary intelligent conversation, than it dims." -- Charles H. Baker, Jr.

   The Internet's most comprehensive
   and indispensible database of
   authenticated cocktail recipes,
   ingredients, reseearch and more.
   By Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)

Museum of the American Cocktail
   Founded by Dale DeGroff and many
   other passionate spirits in Jan. 2005.
   Celebrating a true American cultural
   icon: the American Cocktail.
   (Their weblog.)

Blogging Tales of the Cocktail

*     *     *

The Sazerac Cocktail
   (The sine qua non of cocktails,
   and the quintessential New Orleans
   cocktail. Learn to make it.)

The Footloose Cocktail
   (An original by Wes;
   "Wonderful!" - Gary Regan.
   "Very elegant, supremely
   sophisticated" - Daniel Reichert.)

The Hoskins Cocktail
   (An original by Chuck;
   "It's nothing short of a
   masterpiece." - Gary Regan)

*     *     *

Chuck & Wes' Liquor Cabinet
   (Frighteningly large, and would
   never fit in a cabinet)

Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Book Collection
   (Constantly growing)

Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Menu
   (A few things we like to
   drink at home, plus a couple
   we don't, just for fun.)

*     *     *

Peychaud's Bitters
   (Indispensible for Sazeracs
   and many other cocktails.
   Order them here.)

Angostura Bitters
   (The gold standard of bitters,
   fortunately available everywhere
   worldwide. Insist on it.)

Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6
   (Complex and spicy orange
   bitters for your Martinis,
   Old Fashioneds and many more.
   Order them here.)

Fee Brothers' Bitters
   (Classic orange bitters,
   peach bitters and a cinnamony
   "Old Fashion" aromatic bitters,
   plus new lemon & grapefruit bitters!)

The Bitter Truth
   (A new brand of bitters
   from Germany: orange, lemon,
   aromatic bitters and more!)

Bittermens Bitters
   (Fantastic new small-batch
   bitters company with forth-
   coming products including
   Xocolatl Mole Bitters,
   grapefruit, "tiki" spice,
   and sweet chocolate bitters, wow!    Due to launch 6/09)

*     *     *

   (Camper English)

Ardent Spirits
   (Gary & Mardee Regan)

The Art of Drink:
   An exploration of Spirits & Mixology.
   (Darcy O'Neil)

Bar Mix Master
   (Brad Ellis, New Orleans)

Beachbum Berry:
   (Jeff Berry, world-class expert
   on tropical drinks)

   (Seamus Harris, N.Z. & China)

The Chanticleer Society
   (A worldwide organization of
   cocktail enthusiasts.)

Charming Cocktails
   (Cheryl Charming)

The Cocktail Chronicles
   (Paul Clarke's weblog)
   (Group drinks blog by Vidiot,
   Mr. Bali Hai, Kosmonaut,
   Chico and me).

The Cocktail Circuit
   (Joseph Mailander)

Cocktail Nerd
   (Gabriel Szaszko)

Colonel Tiki's Drinks
   (Craig Hermann, Portland OR)

A Dash of Bitters
   (Michael Dietsch)

Dr. Bamboo
   (Craig Mrusek, bring art and
   alcohol together for a
   better tomorrow!)

Drink A Week
   (Alex and Ed)
   (Lauren Clark)

   (Robert Hess)

Drink Dogma
   (Bobby Heugel, Anvil Bar & Refuge,
   Houston, TX)

Drink Trader
   (Online magazine for the
   drink trade)

Esquire's Drinks Database
   (Dave Wondrich and
   his forbears)

Fine Spirits & Cocktails
   (eGullet's forum)

Happy Hours
   (Beverage industry
   news & insider info)

Imbibe Magazine
   (Celebrating the world in a glass.    All-new site with recipes and back issues!)

In the Land of Cocktails
   (Ti Adelaide Martin & Lally Brennan,
   "The Cocktail Chicks," of Café Adelaide
   & Commander's Palace, New Orleans)

Jeff Morgenthaler
   (Bartender & mixologist, Portland, OR)

Jimmy's Cocktail Hour
   (Jimmy Patrick)

Kaiser Penguin
    (Rick Stutz, bringing us cocktails
    and great photographs)

King Cocktail
   (Dale DeGroff)

La Fée Verte
   (All about absinthe
   from Kallisti et al.)

Liquid Architecture
   (Kim Haasarud)
   (Ladies United for the
   Preservation of
   Endangered Cocktails)

The Ministry of Rum
   (Everything you always wanted to know)

Le Mixeur
   (The Munat Bros. host
   cocktail gatherings in
   Seattle, and write about them
   here. I'm jealous that I can't go.)

The Mixoloseum
   (Blog, cocktail chat online
   & Thursday Drink Night!)

The Modern Mixologist
   (Tony Abou-Ganim)

Moving at the Speed of Life
   (Keith Waldbauer, Barrio, Seattle WA)

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
   (Sando, LaDove,
   Swanky et al.)

Mr. Mixer
   (Hundreds of cocktail recipes ...
   in Hungarian. Well, why not?
   Sajnos, nem beszélek magyarul.)

The Munat Bros.
   (Seattle-based brothers and
   ardent proponents of fine drinking.)

Off the Presses
   (Robert Simonson)

Oh, Gosh!
   (Jay Hepburn, London)

Rowley's Whiskey Forge
   (Matt Rowley)
   (Matt Robold, The Rum Dood)

Save the Drinkers
   (Kevin Kelpe, Boise, Idaho!)

Scofflaw's Den
   (SeanMike Whipkey & Marshall Fawley)

   (Marleigh Riggins & Dan Miller)

Spirit Journal
   (F. Paul Pacult)

Spirits and Cocktails
   (Jamie Boudreau)

Spirits Review
   (Chris Carlsson)
   (Beverage Tasting
   Institute journal)

Thinking of Drinking
   (Sonja Kassebaum, Chicago)

Trader Tiki's Booze Blog
   (Blair Reynolds, Portland OR)

Two at the Most
   (Stevi Deter, Seattle)

The Wormwood Society
   (Dedicated to promoting accurate,
   current information about absinthe)

*     *     *

The Tiki-licious Luau Spirited Dinner, July 17, 2008
   (Eleven dishes of wonder by Chef
   Chris DeBarr, with fabulous
   tropical cocktails by Jeff "Beachbum"
   Berry and Wayne Curtis. Full review
   of the 11-dish, 4-course meal, with
   photos and recipes for all 5 drinks.)

Let's eat!

New Orleans:
Culinary Concierge (N.O. food & wine magazine)
Mr. Lake's Non-Pompous New Orleans Food Forum
The New Orleans Menu
Notes from a New Orleans Foodie

Food-related weblogs:
Chocolate and Zucchini
Honest Cuisine
Il Forno
KIPlog's FOODblog
Mise en Place
Sauté Wednesday
Simmer Stock
Tasting Menu
Waiter Rant

More food!
à la carte
Chef Talk Café
Chowhound (L.A.)
Food Network
The Global Gourmet
The Hungry Passport site and weblog)
A Muse for Cooks
The Online Chef
Practically Edible
Pasta, Risotto & You
Slow Food Int'l. Movement
Southern Food & Beverages Museum
Southern Foodways Alliance
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
Zagat Guide

In vino veritas.

The Oxford Companion to Wine
Wine Enthsiast
The Wine Spectator
Wine Today
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers

Wine/spirits shops in our 'hood:
Colorado Wine Co., Eagle Rock
Mission Liquors, Pasadena
Silverlake Wine, Silverlake
Chronicle Wine Cellar, Pasadena

Other wine/spirits shops we visit:
Beverage Warehouse, Mar Vista
Wally's Wine & Spirits, Westwood
The Wine House, West L.A.


Reading this month:

Lisey's Story, by Stephen King.

The Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi.

In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan.

Listen to music!

Chuck's current album recommendations

Luka Bloom
La Bottine Souriante
Billy Bragg
Cordelia's Dad
Jay Farrar
The Frames
Sonny Landreth
Los Lobos
Christy Moore
Nickel Creek
The Old 97s
Anders Osborne
The Proclaimers
Professor Longhair
Red Meat
The Red Stick Ramblers
The Reivers
Zachary Richard
Paul Sanchez
Marc Savoy
Son Volt
Richard Thompson
Toasted Heretic
Uncle Tupelo

Tom Morgan's Jazz Roots

Miles of Music

New Orleans

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

No Depression


Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV

Long Beach Bayou Festival

Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA

Talking furniture:

WWOZ (New Orleans)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream

Bob Walker's New Orleans Radio Shrine
   (A rich history of N.O. radio)
   (Comprehensive listings)

Air America Radio
   (Talk radio for the
   rest of us)
Joe Frank
Grateful Dead Radio
   (Streaming complete
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
   (Freedom, CA)
KRVS Radio Acadie
   (Lafayette, LA)
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
   (Science fiction radio)
Raidió Idirlíon
   (Irish language & music)
Raidió na Gaeltachta
   (Irish language)
RootsWorld's Rootsradio
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
   (Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)

Films seen this year:
(with ratings):

In the cinema:
Frost/Nixon (****)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Director's Cut (****)
Hellraiser: Bloodline (**)
Serenity (*****)
Third Man Out (***)

Lookin' at da TV:

"Battlestar Galactica"
"One Tree Hill"
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
"The Simpsons"
"Top Chef"
"Father Ted"


A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)
American Museum of Photography
California Museum of Photography, Riverside
International Center of Photography

Ansel Adams
Jonathan Fish
Noah Grey
Greg Guirard
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
Herman Leonard
Howard Roffman
J. T. Seaton
Jerry Uelsmann
Gareth Watkins
Brett Weston

The Mirror Project
(My pics therein: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.)

My photographs at Flickr


The Abominable Charles Christopher
by Karl Kerschl

The Amazing Adventures of Bill,
by Bill Roundy

Bloom County / Outland / Opus,
by Berkeley Breathed

Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

The Boondocks,
by Aaron McGruder

Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson

by Garry B. Trudeau

Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley

Get Your War On
by David Rees

by Jonathan Rosenberg

L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz

by Peter Blegvad

Lil' Abner,
by Al Capp

Lulu Eightball,
by Emily Flake

The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner

by Walt Kelly

Suspect Device,
by Greg Peters

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak


Polly Ticks: (Progressive politics & news)
Daily Kos (My favorite political weblog)
Eschaton (The Mighty Atrios)
Hullaballoo (The Mighty Digby)
Media Matters for America (Debunking right-wing media lies)
Orcinus (David Neiwert)
PostSecret (Secrets sent in via postcards; astonishingly beautiful, funny and sad.)
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
TAPPED (The American Prospect Online)
Think Progress
TruthOut (William Rivers Pitt & Co.)

Borowitz Report
(Political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Fray (Your stories)
Landover Baptist (Better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (Opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (Scarily funny news/satire)
"Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis", by David Neiwert. (Read this.) (Not the actual White House, but it should be)

Weblogs I read:

American Leftist
The BradLands
The Carpetbagger Report
Franklin Avenue
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
Jesus' General
Making Light
Neil Gaiman's Journal
Not Right About Anything
August J. Pollak
Sadly, No!
This Modern World
Your Right Hand Thief

L.A. Blogs

Friends with pages:

mary & rick
mary katherine
michael p.

The Final Frontier:

Astronomy Pic of the Day
ISS Alpha News
NASA Human Spaceflight
Spaceflight Now


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site

Made with Macintosh

Hosted by pair Networks

Déanta:  This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple iMac 24" and a G4 15" PowerBook running MacOS X 10.5 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work. (I never could get used to all those weblogging tools.)

LOOKA! Bia agus deoch, ceol agus craic.

Hot Sausage Seven Widow's Kisses Pete Fountain Tuba Fats' Jazz Funeral

 "Eating, drinking and carrying on..."  -- Adelaide Brennan

  Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Yeah, I know, this post's dated the 25th.   That's when I meant to post it. It actually went up today, which is Friday the 27h. I procrastinated. So what else is new?

So long, Eddie Bo (1930-2009).   Man, this comes-in-threes stuff is a huge drag. First Snooks and Miss Antoinette, and then on Saturday we found out that the legendary New Orleans piano player, R&B and funk-meister Eddie Bo (born Edwin Bocage) passed away as well.

"He was one of the last great New Orleans piano professors, kind of a bridge between Professor Longhair and Allen Toussaint," said New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival producer Quint Davis. "Everyone now has to remember to check their bucket on their own, without Eddie to tell us."

Born Edwin Joseph Bocage, Mr. Bo grew up in Algiers and the 9th Ward. He was heavily influenced by the piano style of Professor Longhair; he also gravitated to the jazz phrasing of George Shearing, Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum.

After graduating from Booker T. Washington High School, he served in the Army. Upon his return to New Orleans, he studied arranging and composing at the Grunewald School of Music, a training ground for scores of professional musicians.

He fronted various bands and wrote and released singles for the Ace, Ric, Apollo and Chess labels. In addition to "Check Mr. Popeye," which was inspired by the cartoon character, his hits included 1969's "Hook and Sling," which reached No. 13 on Billboard's R&B chart.

Other artists fared well with his songs. Little Richard adapted Mr. Bo's "I'm Wise" as "Slippin' and Slidin." Etta James scored a 1959 hit with his "Dearest Darling." He is credited with writing Oliver Morgan's signature "Who Shot the La La."

There was a writeup in the New York Times as well.

This shot is from a performance at Little Pedro's in Downtown L.A., about 7 weeks after Katrina. Eddie, as well as many other New Orleans musicians, were touring hard during that time -- most to raise the image and awareness of New Orleans in the aftermath of what happened, and some ... because they had lost their homes and had might as well tour. (Eddie's home was okay after Katrina, though.)

Eddie Bo

Of all the shots I took that night, this is the one I really like:

Eddie Bo 
and me

So long, Mr. Eddie, and thanks for all that great music.

Speaking of Snooks and Miss Antoinette ...   Here are some fantastic photos by Zack Smith of the jazz funerals of these legendary New Orleanians, "where Indians, Skull and Bones Gangs, Baby Dolls and brass bands rolled side by side with a horse drawn hearse -- all gathered to set the body and spirit free."

The Downtown L.A. Bar Crawl.   "Wanna go on a downtown bar crawl, on me?"

Well ... that's a silly question.

My good friend Marleigh had pitched a story to the folks at Foodbuzz about the renaissance of cocktailian culture in Los Angeles, which until about 2 years ago was a dismal place to drink. "Vodka bars" were the big thing -- a whole wall of lots of different spirits that, to paraphrase Sam Kinsey, taste rather pleasantly (or not) of nothing. Overly sweet Cosmopolitans might have been the best thing you'd get, and the abominable green "appletini"-thing ruled the day. (Fortunately, that swill has been smothered with a pillow and properly buried.)

If you tried to order something classic, like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned, your reaction upon being served would range from disappointment to outrage. Sazerac? Forget it. Martini? You'd be served chilled, tasteless vodka with nary a hint of vermouth (which was probably just as well, since the vermouth had probably been sitting there since 1985). This was one of the reasons we built our home bar -- it was one of the only places we could get a good drink.

Not any more.

With the opening of Seven Grand a couple of years ago, and several more great bars to follow, the quality of cocktails at the level of fine cuisine has skyrocketed, and now it's much easier to get a truly world-class drink in Los Angeles.

It's still not easy to go out for drinks here, though, the main reason being that the city is so big and spread out that you inevitably end up having to drive to get where you're going, and of course drinking and driving are a no-no. Fortunately there's at least one area in the city where you can get around easily by foot and cab, and that's Downtown. Marleigh decided to focus her story on the Downtown L.A. bar scene, and so off we went. Here's the map of our destinations, shamelessly purloined from Marleigh:

The Map o' the Crawl

First stop was at Church and State Bistro, where the kitchen is headed by Chef Walter Manzke, formerly of Bastide. It's a perfect little French bistro, and our friend Michel Dozois (who also brings you Névé Ice in all its shapes and forms) was behind the bar that night.

Michel's one of the folks from whom you can ask for bartender's choice and you'll get something lovely. He asked for a base spirit, I said tequila, and out came a Hemingway Daiquiri in which a blanco tequila (Partida) had been swapped for the white rum. Maraschino, lime and grapefruit juices round it out ... so lovely.

Church & State Bistro: Tequila Hemingway Daiquiri

Papa's Partida

2 ounces Partida blanco tequila.
1 ounce fresh lime juice.
2 teaspoons maraschino liqueur.
2 teaspoons fresh grapefruit juice.

Shake with ice, strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.

You know, you just feel comfy and warm and instinctually relaxed when you sit at a bar where you see stuff like this lined up:

Michel's Bag O' Tricks

Yes, indeed. Michael turned out some great stuff that night, among them a Zaya rum sour (using the new Trinidadian Zaya), something tasty yet non-alcoholic for Wes, who was still on meds at the time that restricted his alcohol intake), a Ward Eight, a Rob Roy, something for Marleigh that had watermelon juice and tequila in it ... and we were only just getting started.

As much as we wanted to stay (and the food looked and smelled great), it was time to move on, next to Cole's, one of L.A.'s two venerable French dip sandwich joints, and the one currently claiming to be the inventor of same (I love the squabbles between them and Philippe's as to who was really first). Cole's had been closed down for a few years, but was bought, restored and reopened by Cedd Moses, downtown businessman extraordinaire whose mini-empire of watering holes includes Seven Grand, The Golden Gopher and The Broadway Bar. Cedd's done another fine job with Cole's, not the least of which includes the delectable sandwiches:

Cole's: Roast Pork French Dip Sandwich with Blue Cheese and Bacon Potato Salad

That would be Roast Pork with Blue Cheese, accompanied by a fantastic Bacon Potato Salad and, of course, a whole cup of jus in which one is to dip one's sandwich. Good atomic mustard, sweet garlic and spicy dill pickles, comfort food like grilled cheese and tomato soup (but, bizarrely, no French fries, waaah!). Best of all, there's a gorgeous bar in front, an old-time saloon making spot-on classic cocktails for $10 -- Sazeracs, Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, Martinis, Death in the Afternoon, proper Daiquiris, even Lillet with Orange (the favore aperitif of one Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and a classic). The cocktail menu there is supervised by my friend Eric Alperin, a marvelous bartender, and his business partner Sasha Petraske of New York's Milk and Honey. Oh, and speaking of Eric and Sasha ...

The VArnish is now open! This is relatively old news for L.A. drinkers in the know, as they've been open for a bit over a month now. Eric's been working on this place like a monster for months, and we've been climbing the walls with anticipation.

It does not disappoint. In fact, it could very well be my ideal bar, or at least close to it. There's no sign from the street, very little indication that it's even there. In the very back of the dining room of Cole's, there's a nondescript wooden door, which could very well be a closet. The only indication that there's something interesting behind it is a small framed drawing, like an illustration from an old 19th Century cocktail book (which is almost certainly its origin) of a cocktail, in a classic coupe). That door opens into a small but well-laid out space, the bar immediately to your left -- no barstools, but a nicely padded edge ideal for leaning and communing with your bartender. That might even be Eric on a slower night, but for the most part he's the warm, gregarious and extremely welcoming host. Behind the bar you're likely to see some of L.A.'s best, including Matty Eggleston (also of the The Hungry Cat), Chris Ojeda (formerly of Osteria Mozza) and Marcos Tello (also of The Edison).

The booths and tables are cozy, jazz plays in the background (it was Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five when we were there last ... *tear of joy*) and occasionally there's even some live music. Mostly, though, we're there to drink beautiful drinks while we bask in that space.

Varnish: Tools of the Trade

"Oh wow!" exclaimed our friend Devin when we took him there. "Erlenmeyer flasks!" Well, almost. Technically these are Florence flasks; Erlenmeyer flasks are conical. But you get the idea ... they have some fun with their ingredients and their display. The plethora of jiggers of several sizes is also a great sign -- because great cocktails, especially ones in which we're dealing in amounts like 1/4 ounce, are measured.

Ojeda at work

It's so much fun to watch these guys work, and on slower nights to have the opportunity to hang out and talk. On cocktail crawl night that was impratical due to the weekend crowd -- we crammed into a booth and stayed there most of the night -- but on several subsequent weeknight visits it's a bit quieter and more relaxed. For me, that's the time to go.

The cocktail menu is relatively short, in a way -- eight items, classics and new ones. Let's get started, shall we?

Remember the Maine

This Manhattan variation is one of my very favorite drinks, and one we've talked about here before. I surely don't mind talking about it again. This was the first time I'd ever had this in a bar, and it was lovely. (I also love that the cocktails come out in couples, not the conical cocktail glasses.)

Remember the Maine
(a.k.a., "McKinley's Delight")

2 ounces rye whiskey. (I use Rittenhouse at home; tonight it was Old Overholt)
3/4 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth.
2 teaspoons Cherry Heering.
1/2 teaspoon absinthe or Herbsaint (we had the latter at the bar).

Stir with ice, strain into chilled coupe, garnish with a proper Luxardo cherry.

Matt and Niki had this one:


That's The Business, the exact recipe for which I don't have, but was made with gin, fresh lime and honey. Yum.

Dan got this one:


That might look like a julep (or perhaps a smash, as it's not in a silver julep cup) at first glance, but that's The Varnish's presentation of the classic Stinger. Rather than serve it up it's over crushed ice here, served with a metal spoon-straw.


Savoy Hotel version, 1930:
1-1/2 ounces brandy.
1/2 ounce white crème de menthe.

Modern version:
3 ounces Cognac.
1/4 ounce white crème de menthe.

Stir with ice, strain over crushed ice and serve with spoon-straw, garnish with a sprig of mint.

You can substitute any base spirit for your Stinger -- Bourbon works particularly well. I have to confess that crème de menthe is one of my least favorite ingredients in the bar, but I have made Stingers successfully with Rumpleminze, the 100 proof peppermint schnapps that's quite an excellent product. It's drier than crème de menthe, but more than twice the proof, so it'll make a somewhat deadlier Stinger (perhaps a wasp as compared to a bee).

Then we all got one of these:


Quite frankly, one of the best Martinezes I've ever had. Just gorgeous. To be served a drink like this in an actual bar these days makes me weep for joy. The recipe below is how they're usually served, but I like mine half-and-half with the gin and vermouth. (Actually, the bitters are traditionally Angostura, but I like orange a lot better in this).

Martinez Cocktail

2 ounces gin.
1 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur.
2 dashes orange bitters (try 1 dash each of Regans' and Fee's).

Stir and strain; garnish with a lemon peel.

Then Marleigh got this, another relative rarity these days:

Bronx Cocktail

The Bronx Cocktail

2 ounces London dry gin.
1 ounce fresh orange juice.
1/4 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce dry vermouth.

Shake and strain; no garnish.

"Hey," Marleigh asked Eric, after he came to the table to offer smiles and hugs to go with the drinks. "Was that a bottle of Amer Picon I saw behind the bar?" Indeed it was. Turns out that when Maman Alperin takes regular trips home to Paris, Eric gets a "Qu'est-ce que tu veux, cher?" and brings back many bottled delights ... or as much as she can stuff into her suitcase. A few minutse later Eric returned with his bundle of joy:

Picon Punch

Yep, that's a Picon Punch, another first for me in a bar, as Amer Picon isn't distributed in this country (skipping the part about Picon's formula change and how it's not the way it was back in the Golden Age). Even at its reduced proof and different recipe it still makes a fine, fine drink. If you're not at The Varnish and want to make one at home, you can substitute the new reformulation of Torani Amer, or make up a batch of "Amer Boudreau", Jamie Boudreau's Amer Picon substitute.

This is the national drink of the Basque people.

Picon Punch

2-1/2 ounces Amer Picon (substitute Torani Amer or Amer Boudreau).
2 barspoons grenadine (about a teaspoon).
1 ounce brandy.
Club soda.

Fill a tall glass with ice. Add the amer and grenadine. Fill with soda and stir. Float the brandy on top. Serve with a straw.

Bliss. Merci, Mme. Alperin!

Sadly, the time came to move on to our next destination. We'd already covered Seven Grand multiple times and would certainly do so again soon, and we wanted to make it to our last destination before it closed.


Rivera is a relatively new restaurant just across from the Staples Center on Flower, the brainchild of chef John Rivera Sedlar. The food is pan-Latin (including Spain) and they're very, very serious about their cocktails and tequila.

Sugar Sex Magic

This one was called Blood Sugar Sex Magic, and although it contained no red hot chile peppers it did contain rye whiskey, red bell pepper, agave nectar and basil. I love the savory element in cocktails, and this one had a beautiful balance of savory, spice and sweet.

We were happy to have run into our friends Christine and Ray (beverate director at Malo in Silverlake and sous chef at Craft in Century City, respectively. They had walked over to Rivera with us, and this was Ray's drink:


Okay, how gorgeous is that? The Donaji was made with a great smoky mezcal, fresh citrus, muddled and whole pomegranate, agave nectar, and chapulin salt. Yes folks, that's finely ground fried grasshoppers and/or crickets (a staple of down-home Mexican cuisine) mixed with salt to rim the glass. Very, very good.

I was still fairly stuffed from my big sandwich at Cole's, and as tempted as I was to get a plate of Ibérico ham I decided to wait until Wes and I went to The Bazaar for his birthday (more on that in a bit), so instead I tried one of their desserts.


This was a Baba Cachaça -- a small round brioche-like bun that was split, soaked in syrup and cachaça and piped full of sweetened cream, served with caramel sauce, blood oranges and grapefruit. Simple, delicious and liquor-soaked (can't beat that last bit).

I ended up ordering another drink for which I didn't get a picture: the Añejo Honey Sour, with Partida añejo tequila, fresh lime and honey syrup -- very simple but very nice.

Finally Julian, our gracious host for our visit (who had given us the full tour of the place when we arrived) brought out one final lagniappe -- servings of their house infusion that they call Tequila de Mujer, or "Women's Tequila," described as "a tribute to the madres, abuelas and tias around whom Latin culinary culture revolves." There'll be a rotating selection of these, but the one we were served was a beautiful añejo tequila that had been infused with fresh vanilla bean and just a touch of sweetness (I was guessing a bit of agave nectar and a touch of honey). It was one of the most delicious beverages I'd tasted in ages.

Then, it was time to drink lots of water, go home and pass out.

Los Angeles, as if touched by a magic wand, is now a wonderful place to drink. We'll be making a beeline back to Church and State, especially when Michel is behind the stick, to sample more cocktails and their amazing-looking food (they do roasted marrow bones, I'm so there). Seven Grand has been a perennial favorite, and we can't wait to go on a Sunday or Monday night, sit in front of our friend John Coltharp and learn about whiskey from him (and learn we do, every time we talk to him about whiskey). The Varnish may need to install teleport pads soon; after we brought our friends Devin and Chris, visiting from Denver, Chris said that he wished he had a wardrobe in his bedroom that, Narnia-like, would provide a portal that led to The Varnish. Rivera's menu, cocktails and tequilas beckon as well.

Now there's Copa d'Oro (dangerously close to my work) and Westside Tavern to hit too!

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  Friday, March 20, 2009

All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.   But as of tonight it's the end of the line for our friends aboard the Battlestar Galactica, and the rag-tag fleet she protects.

Image by Andrew Seklir, associate producer/lead editor, "Battlestar Galactica"
Courtesy of Darth Mojo

Part Two of "Daybreak," the series finale of "Battlestar Galactica", is tonight at 6, and it's hard to remember the last time I've anticipated a TV series finale with such excitement. ("The Sopranos," maybe.) This show is certainly the equivalent in quality of any of the best shows ever on television, include the aforementioned "The Sopranos," "The Wire," you name it. And from what little we've heard, they are indeed going to send the old girl off in style.

Some of the best writing about BSG is being done by Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune, Alan Sepinwall of the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Brad Templeton of the EFF, the Galactica Science weblog, edited by artificial intelligence scientist Michael Hall, and Jacob Clifton at Television Without Pity. There's tons more, just do some googling later on.

You also may have heard that last Tuesday a panel discussion on "Battlestar Galactica" was held at the United Nations. Here's coverage from Sepinwall and Ryan, who were there, and if you're interested here's the entire two-plus hour session, which was recorded (but unfortunately only available in the stone-knives-and-bearskins format of RealVideo, ugh):

Special Event: UN Public Information Department, Sci Fi Channel to co-host a panel with Battlestar Galactica creators to raise profile of humanitarian concern. The discussion will explore some of the themes that are of importance to both the United Nations and the critically acclaimed television show: human rights; terrorism; children and armed conflict; and reconciliation and dialogue among civilizations and faiths.

The panel will be moderated by Academy Award-winning actress and producer Whoopi Goldberg. Oscar-nominated actress Mary McDonnell, Emmy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated actor Edward James Olmos, and Battlestar Galactica creators and executive producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick will participate in the panel.
[Webcast: Archived Video - 2 hours and 4 minutes ]

  • Introduction- Opening remarks by Kiyotaka Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information and Dave Howe, President, Sci Fi Channel.  Dave Howe introduces the Battlestar Galactica Overview video clip. Moderator Whoopi Goldberg says a few words and introduces the BSG panelists: David Eick, Ronald D. Moore, Mary McDonnell, Edward James Olmos.
    [Webcast: Archived Video - 15 minutes ]

  • Human Rights- Battlestar Galactica video clip and discussion with Craig Mokhiber, Deputy Director, New York Office, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
    [Webcast: Archived Video - 35 minutes

  • Children and Armed Conflict- Battlestar Galactica video clip and discussion with Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
    [Webcast: Archived Video - 30 minutes

  • Terrorism- Battlestar Galactica video clip and discussion with Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning, Executive Office of the Secretary-General.
    [Webcast: Archived Video - 20 minutes

  • Reconciliation and Dialogue Among Civilizations and Faiths- Battlestar Galactica video clip and discussion with Famatta Rose Osode, Minister and Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Liberia to the United Nations.
    [Webcast: Archived Video - 20 minutes ]  

Finally, a stray photo ... a set of dog tags from the Colonial Fleet, found on the deck during the stripping and evacuation of the Battlestar Galactica, before its mission to rescue Hera Agathon from The Colony. They were apparently dropped by a crew member, who knew this would likely be a one-way trip.

Dog Tags, Colonial Fleet

So say we all.

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  Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lá Fhéile Pádraig shona dhaoibh!   Or, Happy Indigenous Celtic Religion-Destroying Busybody Missionary Day, depending on your point of view.

In Ireland it's a national bank holiday. Here in the States, I sit toiling away at work, trying to ignore the prevalence of green beer (invariably cheap, watery later). You know how I feel about that. Black beer, not green! Have a Guinness or a Murphy's or a Beamish ... or a Smithwicks or something.

Of course, one of my favorite things to have on a day like today is a good, hot Irish lamb stew, but I won't have time to make any today alas. A lot of people on this side of the pond will be having corned beef and cabbage (which I'll be having tonight, in fact, at the home of some friends). In Ireland, though, folks are more likely to be having this:

Bacon and Cabbage

1 gallon water.
3 cups coarse kosher salt.
6-1/2 pound bone-in pork shoulder roast (Boston butt), excess fat trimmed.
3 large heads of garlic, halved crosswise.
1-1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns.
1 large head of green cabbage, cut into 6 wedges.
2 large onions, peeled, ends trimmed and quartered 1 pound carrots, peeled, cut crosswise in half, then quartered lengthwise.
Fresh thyme sprigs.
Spicy mustard.

Combine 1 gallon of water and salt in heavy large pot. Stir until salt dissolves. Add pork. Cover and refrigerate 1 day.

Bring pork in salt water to boil. Boil 10 minutes. Carefully drain salt water. Fill pot with enough cold water to cover pork. Bring water to boil over high heat. Add onions, garlic and peppercorns. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover; simmer gently until pork is very tender, about 3 hours. Transfer pork to large pan. Cover; keep warm.

Add cabbage and carrots to cooking liquid. Boil until vegetables are almost tender, about 15 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Before continuing, rewarm over medium-low heat.) Using slotted spoon, transfer vegetables and garlic to serving platter.

Cut pork into thick slices; arrange on platter with vegetables. Spoon some hot cooking liquid over pork and vegetables. Garnish with thyme. Serve with mustard.

Serve with hot boiled potatoes or scallion champ, which is even better. Or, if you want more cabbage with your potatoes, try some colcannon.

And there's always some Guinness cotton candy for dessert. (Thanks, Carol!)

The most important question, though, is ... what are we drinking tonight?! Well, I began wtih that above, but let's go into some more meaty detail. Besides avoiding green beer, we should generally be avoiding anything green to drink (unless it's Chartreuse or absinthe, neither of which are particularly traditional Irish tipples). I'm continually gobsmacked by the number of so-called "Irish" drinks that are called such merely because they are made to be green, usually with the addition of horrifying amounts of green crème de menthe, surely one of the foulest substances known to man. So let's skip most of the minty green cocktails, shall we?

I've got a lovely whiskey selection to choose from -- I think we may sample from the Midleton Very Rare and the 21 year old Bushmills Malt. I'm going to be in the mood for mixing, though, so let me again bring out two of my Irish originals. If either or both look interesting, please do give them a try and let me know what you think.

The former of these was my riff on a cocktail I can find nothing about in print or on the intarwebs, but was sent in by reader Chris V., who said he had heard was the preferred drink of Peter Lawford during the Rat Pack days, a 2:1 gin:Cointreau mix with a rinse of pastis called a Preview. I've since updated my riff with the proper Green Fairy. The latter is my tribute to Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová after they won the Oscar for "Falling Slowly." I've changed the garnish a bit -- I used to have a thin lemon twist tied into a knot to represent their couplehood, but as they're now splits as a couple (but not as musicians, say thankya) a regular ol' lemon twist will do.

I recommend a blended Irish whiskey of your choice for these. For mixing I like Tullamore Dew.

St. Dominic's Preview

2 ounces Irish whiskey.
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier.
2 dashes Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6 (or 1 dash each Regans' and Fee's).
Few dashes absinthe.
Orange twist.

Combine first three ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir for 30 seconds.
Rinse a chilled cocktail glass with absinthe, and discard excess (or leave it in if you like).
Strain cocktail into glass and garnish with the twist.

#     #     #

The Swell Season Cocktail

2 ounces Irish whiskey.
1/2 ounce Becherovka.
1/2 ounce Punt E Mes.
1 dash Angostura Bitters.
Lemon twist.

Combine ingredients with ice in a mixing glass and stir for 30 seconds.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lemon twist.
Fall slowly into your favorite cocktail sipping chair, relax and listen to The Swell Season's album, or anything by The Frames.


More Irish cocktails.   There's always the Emerald, which fortuately is not a description of its color. It's another Manhattan variation, the Irish version of the Rob Roy, in which you mix Irish whiskey 2:1 with sweet vermouth, and make the bitters orange ones. Lovely indeed.

Sam Kinsey reminded me of this one, which I haven't had in a while, and is an original by Dave Wondrich, appearing in his book Killer Cocktails:


2 ounces Irish whiskey.
1 ounce Lillet blanc.
1 teaspoon Cointreau.
2 dashes orange bitters.

Stir and strain, lemon twist.

GreggO sent this one along this morning, created by our pal Jackson Cannon at Boston's Eastern Standard. This looks fantastic, and I'll bet it'd be super deadly with Irish brown bread.

Bushmills in the Afternoon
Adapted from Jackson Cannon, Eastern Standard, Boston)

1/2 slice (about 3/4-inch thick) of artisanal wheat bread or Irish brown bread.
2 ounces Bushmills Irish whiskey.
1 egg.
1/2 ounce honey syrup (1 part honey dissolved in 1 part warm water).
1/2 ounce fresh orange juice.
Dash of Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6 (or other orange bitters).
Freshly grated cinnamon, for garnish.

In a mixing glass, muddle the bread with the whiskey for 1 minute, then pass the mixture through a tea strainer into a cocktail shaker, pressing on the bread to extract all of the whiskey (you should get about 1-1/2 ounces). Add the egg, honey syrup, orange juice and bitters and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Fill the shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 30 seconds to 1 minute longer, until the drink is frothy and well-chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a small pinch of freshly grated cinnamon.

Jaaaaaaysis ... that sounds good.

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  Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sazerac crawling, and a look back.   "Hmm ... too bad we can't really go try a Sazerac at every single bar in town."

"Why not?"

Thus began The Great Sazerac Crawl of 2001, in which Wesly and I, during one of our annual trips back home to New Orleans, decided that we needed to do some comparing and contrasting. We had just finished a gorgeous Sazerac at Bayona, and although it was untraditionally served in a cocktail glass rather than a rocks glass it was really top-notch.

Sadly, my notes from that next few days are long gone, but we had a LOT of Sazeracs -- I'd say we probably hit at least 15 different bars and restaurants. Most were just fine, some were spectacular, a few were truly rotten, but of all the spaces where we quaffed them, our favorite space was this one:

&Wes at the Sazerac Bar, 2001

Alas, the photograph is dim and blurry, a side-effect of eschewing flash in an attempt to preserve some atmosphere. In case you're wondering, yes indeed, it's the Sazerac Bar at the former Fairmont and former-and-soon-to-be-once-again Roosevelt Hotel. I have to confess that we did want to smack a few of their bartenders at the time -- simple syrup premix with bitters added to it does not make for a potable drink -- but there was no better space for us to have one of what is undoubtedly my favorite cocktail. (I have no idea why some of their bartenders took that shortcut back then -- adding the bitters in properly measured amounts separately from the simple syrup takes all of five seconds extra -- but I have no doubt that the reincarnated bar's standards will be nothing but top-notch, with beautiful Sazeracs made from scratch.)

The bar itself, the gorgeous murals, the banquettes (sadly removed a while back, but due to be restored) and all that history ... this promises to rise to becoming one of the finest bars in the country. One really great way to achieve that, in addition to hiring creative, cocktailian bartenders who'd bring their own original concoctions to the bar, would be to look back into their own history.

Here's an old Sazerac Bar menu from my collection, which I'm guessing dates to the early 1940s - please correct me if anyone remembers the exact years when you could get a Sazerac for 60 cents!

Bar menu, Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans, 1940s

Click on the photos for enlarged versions, and let's start reading that menu:

Bar menu, Page 2

The Sazerac, of course tops the list, with the Grasshopper listed second, interestingly -- supposedly invented on the other side of Canal at Tujague's. Martinis, natch (with a proper amount of vermouth, please; i.e., some rather than none!). The New Orleans staple anisette, Ojen (which is in dwindling supply -- it's actually not made anymore, and New Orleans has all that's left. Find it at Martin Wine Cellar and Vieux Carré Wine and Spirits, and on the menu at Lüke and Commander's). Look at those classics ... Aviation, Jack Rose ... yum. Let's not forget the classics; everything old is new again.

Bar menu, 
Page 3

More classics, and more locals: The Ramos Gin Fizz, of course, which here should be better than those served at any other bar on the planet. The Bayou Swizzle -- anyone still have the recipe for that? Rickeys and Sours and Punch, oh my! Perhaps we'll see punch bowls appearing in this bar again, as the preferred tipple of the 18th and 19th Centuries makes its way back to 21st Century bars.

Bar menu, 
Page 4

Bar menu, 
Page 5

The Sazerac Company no longer makes the pre-bottled Sazerac Cocktail, but I suspect we'll see the signature glasses for sale, perhaps a 21st Century version?

Bar menu, 
Page 6

Bar menu, 
Page 7

There's the Bayou Swizzle again, rather prominently featured. I'd really love to know what was in this (besides the warmth of a Southern sun and the subtle tang of a bayou breeze, of course).

Bar menu, Page 8

I imagine the Ramos Gin Fizzes will be more expensive (but worth every penny), and I'll bet the sandwich menu, if they offer one, will be a bit more exciting. Actually, the reopening of this bar and hotel is tremendously exciting. See you in June for a Sazerac!

(This is crossposted to the Roosevelt Hotel's blog -- thanks to Rick for nudging me to write it.)

I have to have the last word.   Well no, not really ... I'm not one of those kinds of people. (Except when I am.) What I mean is, I have to have a Last Word Cocktail as often as I can, because it's one of my very favorites. We were at The Varnish the other night (quickly becoming my favorite bar -- more on that later) and not only do they know it well there (natch), but the waitresses are knowledgeable enough to even suggest it.

Turns out we might not even be quaffing this lovely drink if it hadn't been rediscovered by our pal Murray Stenson of the Zig Zag Café in Seattle. Paul Clarke writes about how the Last Word came back, and how it's become "the definitive Seattle cocktail."

I just have one thing to say to you.   Double-u double-u double-u dot Old Jews Telling Jokes dot com.

Just go. Two new jokes per week. (Who need to go to the Catskills anyway?!)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cocktail of the day.   Yeah, I know I haven't posted since Mardi Gras. Yeah, I know I'm a lazy bastard. God Emperor of Procrastination. Now, let's move on and have a drink.

Wes was just grabbing bottles and letting ideas burble forth in his head the other night, and came up with this really delicious variation on the Perfect Martini. I couldn't find anything in CocktailDB with this particular combination of ingredients, so in the amazingly unlikely case that nobody's thought of it, we need to try to get him to name it. He's thinking of it, and I'll update with a picture tonight. In the meantime ...

Okay, I think the drink has been officially named now. I suggested this one, which is only fair, since Wesly came up with the brilliant name for what was to be come my Réveillon Cocktail, when I was just about to give it a really, really stupid name. "Anodyne" means something that relieves or eliminates pain, and it was particularly appropriate as he came up with the drink while suffering a bout of pretty nasty neck and shoulder pain. (He was being persnickety, after a bit of googling revealed that a "true" anodyne is only applied externally; I said, "It's a great name, so hush," or something like that.) It's also the name of Uncle Tupelo's final album, and they're one of my favorite bands of all time, so we get an extra level of oomph in the name.

The As-Yet-Unnamed 

The Anodyne Cocktail
(by Wesly Moore, Los Angeles, 2009)

2 ounces Beefeater gin.
1 ounce Lillet blanc.
1/2 ounce Punt e Mes.
3 dashes Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6.
Orange peel.

Combine ingredients with ice. Stir for 30 seconds and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Flame the orange peel over the drink, and garnish with the orange peel.

This is really, really tasty.

The New Cocktailians: L.A.'s Cocktail Culture Renaissance.   We're getting noticed. More and more ... and once again, move over San Francisco!

The cocktail renaissance in L.A. that began a couple of years ago is in full swing, with more great places opening with staffs that are serious about cocktails. The L.A. Weekly's Jonathan Gold, who spends most of his time writing about food, takes a look at our cocktails-as-cuisine culture and does what we're trying to get people to do -- treating cocktails as seriously, and with the same serious expectations, as we treat fine food from chefs in fine restaurants.

His article, "The New Cocktailians", is excellent, and is accompanied by his Where to Drink Now in L.A. cocktail guide, and a lovely slideshow featuring a bunch of friends of mine at The Varnish, Seven Grand, The Doheny, Comme Ça, The Hungry Cat and more. I've been to almost all the places in the cocktail guide, and the picks are spot-on, although he's missed a few odd things ... for instance, the reason the Greyhound tastes so good at the Hungry Cat is because it's their "Greyhound Proper," made with Plymouth Gin and not tasteless vodka (something he would have learned had he actually read the menu).

Early next week I'll be posting about a downtown L.A. cocktail crawl perpetrated by myself, Marleigh of SLOSHED! and Matt of RumDood ... stay tuned.

Now, go out and have a drink!

Bistro 45.   As you may recall from about four years ago, we were crushed when our favorite local restaurant Cinnabar closed, and we thoroughly enjoyed our last dinner there. We'd become friends with the chef, Damon Bruner, and his wife, and in the ensuing years had enjoyed many one-off underground dinners they'd done, both at their own home and at others. A few months back we were elated to hear that Damon had taken over the reins at Pasadena's Bistro 45 -- YAY!

Two weeks ago Monday we finally got our lazy asses over there. Damon's still in the process of completely revamping their menu, and we got our first tastes of his food in a restaurant setting in a good long while with a prix-fixe he did for Valentine's Day. Some food lovers decry Valentine's Day, given the packed houses and the necessity to do fixed menus due to the huge crowds -- many of them think that that's a really bad night to go to a restaurant. True, it's not quite as romantic as you might want it to be, with tons of other couples around too, but in this place we had no worries whatsoever about the food. Damon's really great at doing this kind of menu and service. Let's have a look.

Bistro 45: Oyster with Champagne-Ginger Granita, with Potato Lollipop, Creme Frache and Caviar

The amuse, a variation on one of Damon's longtime signatures, was Oyster topped with Champagne Granita, with Potato Lollipop, Crème Fraîche and Caviar. He's been doing raw oysters on the half-shell topped with some kind of savory granita for years, frequently varying the flavors, but the concept and the texture and the flavors are always brilliant. This is one of Wesly's favorite dishes ever, and as for me ... well, I don't like raw oysters. This might sound odd for a New Orleanian, but I don't. I love oysters in pretty much every other form, though -- fried, charbroiled, stewed, in soups and gumbos and what have you. But I don't never go out to no ersta bar and sloip down dem roy erstas on da half-shell. That said, I eat Damon's oysters. He might just get me to be a convert, although I can't exactly see myself having much luck sitting at the oyster bar at Acme, asking the shucker, "Say bra ... where's the champagne granita and the sake-ginger granita at?" I will get a strange look.

The accompanying potato lollipop is one he's done before too, a really fun, crisp little bite of thinly-shaved potato fried with a stick between the two layers, and a dab of crème fraîche and caviar. Hawt-shaped, of course, because it's Valentine's Day and ya gotta.

Oh, and the advantage of knowing the chef in a restaurant is when you tell him how much you love a dish like this, he sends out seconds!

Terrine of Foie Gras with Cranberry Glaze & Organic Baby Greens

When we were watching the "Top Chef" finale last week, we both smacked our foreheads at Rocco DiSpirito and his "Oh, I'm so tired of foie gras" comment. "He's the kind of guy who says something just to hear himself talk," was Wes' observation. I agreed, and noted that out of all the chefs at that table, who's the only one without a restaurant who has to make a living hawking his cookware on QVC? 'Nuff said. (I do think Rocco's a talented chef, if he'd just cook.) We cheered when Branford Marsalis came back with, "I think Rocco's crazy. I could eat foie gras every day."

Me too. And we need to get more of it before that stupid ban goes into effect in 2012. But I digress.

Terrine of Foie Gras with Cranberry Glaze & Organic Baby Greens, mmmmmmmm. I love foie gras terrine, alone or in a charcuterie plate or hell, just send me out another slice willya?! Simple presentation on a bit of French bread crouton, and I loved the tartness of the cranberry glaze. We frequently get sweeter fruit compotes or sauces with foie gras (not that there's anything wrong with that), but I really enjoyed how that bit of tartness helped cut through the unctuousness of the foie. (I didn't get seconds on this one though, phoo.)

Oven-Roasted Canadian Whitefish with Preserved Lemon and Chive-Herb Sauce

Our first entré, a beautiful Oven-Roasted Canadian Whitefish with Preserved Lemon and Chive-Herb Sauce. The fish had a really lovely flavor, a bit oily, and the tangy preserved lemon was gorgeous with that. (I wished I'd had a bit more of that, actually.) This is the kind of simple yet beautifully flavored dish we really missed from Cinnabar, and here we go again! I forgot to write down the wines (grr), but this went well with a German kabinett Riesling.

Char-Grilled Prime Beef Tenderloin with Marinated Portobello and a Winter Truffle Madeira Demi-Glace

On to the heavier protein -- Char-Grilled Prime Beef Tenderloin with Marinated Portobello and a Winter Truffle Madeira Demi-Glace, perfectly cooked, lots of earthy flavors with the beef, a fabulous sauce. We drank an Australian Shiraz with this one.

Chocolate and Strawberry Hearts with Dual Sauces

More hears, because, as I said, ya gotta. Chocolate and Strawberry Hearts with Dual Sauces -- layers of cake, mousse and ganache or glaze. You can always get me with dark chocolate and raspberries.

Oh, all that, plus a celebrity sighting -- Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance were sitting two tables down from us. They have some rather prominent friends -- let's hope they get some of them to come to Bistro 45. As for us, we've got to get busy and start exploring Damon's new menu. Yay!

February Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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