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RH at the Andaz

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, Wes and I have a tradition for our birthdays. The birthday boy gets taken out for a fabulous meal … somewhere. The destination is a closely-held secret, and the birthday boy never knows where he’s going to end up until we pull up in front of the place. Keeps things fun. I love surprises!

This year I had no idea where I was going to end up, mostly because of my horrendously unreliable memory. A mere two months ago, Wes read me a review by S. Irene Virbila in the Los Angeles Times of a new restaurant — a hotel restaurant, in fact, that got a rare rave from her. It sounded fantastic, and I promptly forgot about it.

So yeah, when we pulled up in front of the newly-renovated Andaz Hotel (formerly the Hyatt) in West Hollywood, he reminded me of that rave review and I said, “Ooh!” Very exciting!

Make no mistake — this is not just a hotel restaurant. Chef Sebastien Archambault is making some of the best French food in town.

RH is named for the hotel’s old nickname, “The Riot House” which comes from the days when rock ‘n roll musicians stayed there and would throw TV sets out the windows), and Chef Archambault cooks the food of his native Périgord in southwestern France while featuring California ingredients.

And what could be more Californian than a plate of seasonal raw vegetables and a tangy dip?

RH at the Andaz, West  Hollywood - Crudité plate

Raw parsnip … never had that before, only cooked. I rather liked it.

There was a cocktail menu, so of course we tried it out. First, Wesly got what they called the “Los Angeles” cocktail:

Not to be confused with the (superior) cocktail of the same name at Seven Grand downtown, this one has Woodford Reserve bourbon as its base spirit, with “Anjou pear” (muddled, perhaps?), cinnamon and agave syrup. It was tasty but too heavy on the agave syrup.

I got one called the “Red Ferrari,” described on the menu as being made with blanco tequila (I chose Corzo), pomegranate juice, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, fresh lime juice and agave syrup. I was confused by this one. It’s got “red” in the name and lists pomegranate juice as one of its ingredients, but there’s not a hint of red in this drink. I even asked our server to double-check, and she came back and assured me that the bartender had squeezed fresh pomegranate juice into the mixing glass. It must be the relatively rare white pomegranate, then, because I noticed neither the color nor much of the tartness. I did notice, once again, too much agave syrup.

Sadly, the cocktails were not very well-balanced and not that great, although they are at least making an effort. This was the only glitch in what would prove to be an absolutely spectactular meal.

Let it begin.

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Reason #112 why we love our neighborhood

When Wes and I were first looking for a house, we started in Highland Park. We liked the area, and figured we couldn’t afford Eagle Rock (and knew we couldn’t afford Silver Lake). We’d heard about a cool place there that stocked a lot of different kinds of sodas and soft drinks, so we made a point to stop there while looking around for open house signs.

We entered Galco’s for the first time. Our jaws dropped, and grabbed a shopping cart. Before us was an array of nearly 500 different kinds of small-batch sodas, an equal number of beers from all over the world, two long cases full of hard-to-find, old-school and regional candy bars (from Mallo Cups to my beloved Zagnut) and a deli counter making great football-sized sandwiches. Oh my.

When we wheeled our cart up to the counter, the girl at the register gave us an amused but friendly look and said, “Hm. First time here, huh?”

“How’d you know?” I said.

“Because you have an entirely full shopping cart with one of each item. Kind of a dead giveaway.”

We chatted as she rang us up, and we mentioned that we were looking to possibly buy a house in Highland Park. She lit up, said we’d love it there and could get some great deals, then glanced at the back of the line and said, “Ooh … you should talk to Angel back there.” From the back of the line a disembodied voice said, “You wanna buy a house in Highland Park, you talk to me! I’ve been in the business for 35 years!” We couldn’t see her because she was maybe 5′ tall in her stiletto-heeled leather boots. That was where we met the force of nature in her perfectly coiffed ‘do, Jackie O sunglasses, long thin brown cigarettes, silk jacket from a poker casino in Henderson, Nevada who was made of awesome and indeed named Angel, and 10 months later she put us in our house not in Highland Park, but next door in Eagle Rock.

We have Galco’s to thank for that, as well as a lot of great beer and great sodas. Here’s a wonderful 12-minute look inside their operation, guided by their owner and passionate engine John Nese.

Even though we’re not actually in Highland Park we’re right next door and it’s part of our neighborhood. Come on down to 5702 York Blvd. in Highland Park and let yourself loose in Galco’s. I suspect you’ll end up with a full shopping cart with one (maybe two) of each item.

It’s a swine of the times

A few weeks back Wesly and I met up with Mary, Steve and Diana at Langer’s Deli, which is widely recognized as having the best pastrami anywhere (and I even know some New York Jews who agree — let the arguing begin!). When we parked at their parking lot a block away, we saw the most bizarre mural painted on the building wall next to it.  For a few minutes we were scratching our heads and saying, “WTF?”


Finally Steve was the one to get it. “It’s swine flu!”   We thought the snot streaming out of the pig’s nose was the killer touch.

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Jewelry District Cocktail

Here’s one of the winning cocktails from the Los Angeles Downtown Sub-District Cocktail Competition of 2009 (details and rules here), judged by Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh.

Jewelry District Cocktail
(by Rhachel Shaw, Malo Taqueria)

3/4 ounce Bourbon (Bulleit)
3/4 ounce Applejack
1/2 ounce Sweet Vermouth (preferably Vya)
1/2 ounce Honey Liqueur (Barenjäger)
2 Dashes Orange Bitters
2 Dashes Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters (Fee Bros.)

Stir & strain.
Flamed Orange Peel – Cocktail Glass


South Park Cocktail

Here’s one of the winning cocktails from the Los Angeles Downtown Sub-District Cocktail Competition of 2009 (details and rules here), judged by Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh.

South Park Cocktail
(by Mark Blackhart, Drago Centro)

1-3/4 ounces Bourbon
3/4 ounce Dry Vermouth
1/4 ounce Coffee Liqueur
Dash Orange Bitters
Dash Peychaud’s Bitters

Stir & strain.
Lemon Peel – Cocktail Glass