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Archive for May, 2013

Negroni Week Finale: A Pair From Hinoki & The Bird

On this final night of May and final night of Negroni Week, why not conclude with a pair of winning Negroni variations from the restaurant reviewed on this site today, Hinoki & The Bird? After all, bar director Sam Ross and chef/owner David Myers have concocted a menu that includes a whole category of Negronis.

You can get the traditional Classic Negroni, or a “White Negroni” with Amère Sauvage replacing Campari and no hard spirit involved.

Kingston Negroni

Kingston Negroni

What you really want is the “Kingston Negroni,” a powerhouse adaptation with the deep caramel depth of the funky dark Smith + Cross Jamaican Rum in place of Gin. Gran Classico adds more sweetness and syrupy texture, replacing Campari. An orange twist adds a subtle citrus levity and a glacier size single rock makes this heftier cocktail refreshing.

Or, consider the “Harajuku,” far more starely and elegant than the Tokyo neighborhood its named after. Here, the spirit is Hakushu Single Malt Whiskey, then there is Gran Classico again, and Maurin Quina for the sweet element, all finished by a few drops of chocolate bitters. That last part breaks the 1:1:1 magic ratio of Negronis. I won’t be too strict on the rule since it’s a sterling drink.

Gordon's Cup; Harajuku Cocktail

Gordon’s Cup; Harajuku Cocktail

These are two excellent choices for closing out the week-long Negroni celebration on an innovative note. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the Classic Negroni either. You just can’t lose when it’s Negroni Week.


Restaurants: Hinoki & The Bird, Los Angeles

We can all learn a few lessons about taking a step back and re-inventing yourself from David Myers. It hasn’t been an easy road for such an immensely gifted chef. If ever there was an example of how a chef must be both a businessman and innovative entrepreneur in the hyper competitive restaurant world of today, here it is. With Myers’ latest opening of Hinoki & The Bird in February, the chef has once again proven his strength of executing a focused, detailed vision in the front and back of the house into one of Los Angeles’ premier dining experiences.

Perhaps the bird with Hinoki is a phoenix, rising high above the Century City office towers to tell diners across the vast traffic-clogged metropolitan landscape that Myers is back, folks. The Los Angeles restaurant of the moment is not a pop-up. It’s not a tricked-out truck. It’s here, with a head-scratching name, at the bottom of the most expensive condo building west of the Mississippi.

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Myers has teamed with a longtime protege of his Kuniko Yagi to craft this Silk Road inspired concept that really can’t be pigeon holed into a specific cuisine or style. The indoor-outdoor patio and cocktail fueled vibe certainly is pure Los Angeles. A dish of kale “crispy and raw” certainly fits in these parts. Chili crab toast with spicy cucumber veers towards Singapore, while pumpkin toast layered with goat cheese and an almost fruity miso jam borrows from the classic Malaysian street vendor dish. Sambal skate wing echoes Indonesia. Crispy marinated chicken wings would be right at home in a Shinjuku izakaya. Caramel braised pork belly follows the direction of claypot chicken from Vietnam, made famous by Charles Phan with his iconic dish at San Francisco’s The Slanted Door.

Lobster rolls? Clam chowder? Are we at Har-vuhd Yahd? No, this lobster roll is definitely not what you eat in the rough along the Maine coast and the chowder wouldn’t exactly be similar to what you’d find at Durgin Park.

What Myers and Yagi have created is a restaurant that invigorates assorted loose inspirations from all around Asia, prepared then with a serene Japanese aesthetic, and fully unafraid to borrow influences from anywhere in this country or the world. It’s a bold risk by Myers to not follow a clear path and he completely hits the mark spot on. Who really needs to be so specific when describing a restaurant? Even the menu descriptions are barely one step above vague. And yet, with all of the gorgeous diners accenting the suave surroundings inside the bustling room or the glittering outside covered patio, there is a wonderfully clear narrative leaving the kitchen. This is an intensely personal restaurant of Myers’, one that you knew would be the project to bring him to the top ring of this city’s dining scene again. (more…)


Negroni Week Thursday: The Power of Punt e Mes

Thirsty Thursday of Negroni Week brings the power of Punt e Mes to the table.

What in the world is Punt e Mes? Does it have to with football special teams or rowing in British terms?

Punt e Mes is a common substitute for sweet vermouth in cocktails, both Negroni inspired and not. It’s a hazelnut colored Italian sweet vermouth that has more spice and herbal flair than the very syrupy traditional sweet vermouth, being a particular nice addition to the even more vehemently herbal and spicy Campari.

For your Negroni variation tonight, you can of course simply follow the 1:1:1 ratio of a Negroni with Gin, Campari, and Punt e Mes instead of sweet vermouth.

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Or, how about some more Mezcal? Yes, I know this website has lots of Mezcal recommendations, but it’s hard to beat the stellar smoky agave based spirit. Try the “Mezcal Amores,” a mystical love letter Negroni variation, courtesy of Seattle’s Jay Kuehner. (more…)


Negroni Week: Aged, On Tap, or the Boulevardier

Negroni Week continues with an experimental Wednesday if you will. You’ve made the Negroni as smoky as Kansas City BBQ and made it molto Italiano by replacing sweet vermouth and Gin with Cynar and Fernet Branca.

Now let’s head to the lab/ barrel room.

Of the many liquids Portland, Oregon is known for excelling at (rain, coffee, craft beer, Pinot Noir…), it is also a city with a top flight cocktail scene. Pretending to be a cocktail history scholar, you can pinpoint the Portland cocktail emergence to one drink project by one bartender at one bar. That would be the Barrel Aged Negroni by Jeffrey Morgenthaler at Clyde Common. The ingredients are no different than your standard 1:1:1 Negroni, just as the Count himself would have drank in Florence some 90 years ago.

Except Morgenthaler took a page from the spirits playbook, employing the aging method and barrels that many high-end distillers use to enhance their spirits. Morgenthaler’s Negroni is standard with Campari, Beefeater Gin and Cinzano sweet vermouth. However, before being stirred, the trio gets aged two months in Tuthilltown Whiskey barrels to achieve a taste as crisp as autumn, smooth as Fred Astaire.

"Boulevardier" at Cyrus

“Boulevardier” at Cyrus

It’s a revelation, trust me. The concept born a few years ago has now exploded and bartenders from Singapore to Dublin now are aging cocktails and brewers have followed suit aging their beers in used spirit barrels, so now it is UNcommon for a brewery not to have some form of a Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Russian Stout in its lineup.

Yet few, if any of these barrel aged drinks have achieved the refined elegance of the Clyde Common Barrel Aged Negroni. It is as much a part of Portland’s DNA today as Lewis and Clark or the Rose Garden. (more…)


It’s Negroni Week! Start with the Bottecchia

It’s that time of year again!

No, I’m not referring to the fact that with Memorial Day yesterday the summer grilling season is (un)officially upon us.

Our friendly bartenders across the country who are as obsessed with the Negroni as I am have officially deemed this final week of May as Negroni Week. Why not? Every week is Negroni Week for me, alternating between tinkering with the tried and true formula, and simply enjoying the classic 1:1:1 ratio of Campari, sweet vermouth, and Gin. It’s as simple and consistent as cocktails get.

The drink’s somewhat nebulous history dates back to the 1920’s when Count Camillo Negroni was a regular at the Bar Casoni in Florence. The Count enjoyed his Americanos very much (Campari and sweet vermouth topped with soda water), but one day he asked for a stiffer Americano with Gin replacing the soda water.

Barrel Aged Negroni at Clyde Common, Portland

Barrel Aged Negroni at Clyde Common, Portland

And the legend was born. Except, the Negroni itself can mean all sorts of things besides the classic cocktail that the Count ordered in Florence and was brought to America by Americans who frequented the popular Bar Casoni. (more…)


Your Memorial Day BBQ Menu

With Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer/ official start of the summer BBQ season just a few days away at the end of this holiday weekend, let’s get you ready for the big backyard BBQ Monday.

Appetizers: Being a fan of dips, hummus, salsa, and guacamole are pivotal. Take some pita bread or corn tortillas, fry them in hot oil, and call them chips, instead of the usual Tostitos variety. For the guacamole, make sure there are plenty of tomatoes and a cup or so of fresh lemon juice per avocado to be mashed together. For the hummus, purée 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1/3 cup Tahini, with a 15 oz. can of dried chickpeas. Feel free to add any embellishments. I’m a big fan of turmeric or curry powder added to the chickpea mix.

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This year, try Melissa Clark of The New York Times‘ fun spicy/sweet/salty nuts mix to munch on. You can’t go wrong with anything goat cheese stuffed or bacon wrapped. Perhaps bacon wrapped prawns and goat cheese stuffed dates? Or bacon wrapped dates and goat cheese stuffed…that doesn’t work for prawns.

You certainly want some chicken wings too, perhaps with Sriracha based marinade to jazz up the BBQ. (more…)


Wine of the Week: 2011 Forlorn Hope Wines, Alvarelhao, “Suspiro del Moro,” Silvaspoons Vineyard, Alta Mesa, CA

There are a lot of double takes wine drinkers have when they consider this beautiful wine from an obscure grape by a tiny young 1,000 case strong California winery.

Where is Alta Mesa? Do a Google search and the first result will be a memorial park (which happens to be located across the street from where I attended high school back in the day, interesting coincidence).

The name of the winery. It’s not exactly a conventional name, would you agree with me?

The suspense of “Suspiro del Moro.” What could that mean? You almost expect the wine label to have Zorro’s mask on it.

And of course, how in the world do you pronounce “Alvarelhao?” What is Alvarelhao? Some letter must be out of place there. Isn’t it a type of salt cod?

The Suspiro del Moro, Alvarelhao, Forlorn Hope Wines

The Suspiro del Moro, Alvarelhao, Forlorn Hope Wines

Amidst the head-scratching, question posing, and butchered pronunciations, 41 year old Matthew Rorick is crafting some of the most eye-opening wines today in California. Slowly, the rigid days of Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon or hit the road are becoming part of the past thanks to risk-takers like Rorick. There is, yes, hope, for the less tried and true varietals to shine because of Forlorn Hope. (more…)