Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fun on a Stick: Liquorsicles!

Popsicles are seriously my favorite dessert. They're fresh, they're fruity, they're cold... and now they're even better, because they're alcoholic! I can practically hear '90s television icon Bill Nye the Science Guy rolling in his grave (figuratively speaking, of course. Wikipedia assures me he is still alive, but let's just go with it, ok?), as EVERYONE knows liquor doesn't freeze! Well, it does, you just have to get it really, really, really cold with a really, really, really fancy freezer. Or you can give this recipe a try - no government-grade freezer necessary.

Strawberry Margaritacle!****
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup water
10 strawberries
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp tequila
2 tbsp Grand Marnier

Muddle strawberries, set aside. In saucepan, combine sugar, water and lime juice, simmering over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add muddled strawberries, tequila, lemon juice and Grand Marnier, stirring until mixed. Pour into popsicle molds* and cover with foil. With a knife, make a slit in the center of the mold; insert popsicle stick into center of mold and freeze for 10-12 hours. ENJOY!

These little suckers can be tricky - they melt quickly - but they're worth the effort. However, if you're not up to the task and live in NYC, check out Counter NYC, whose cocktail popsicles have been keeping the East Coast cool all summer long.

Sticky, sweet and seriously good - give them a shot!

****Here's the secret for those of you who wonder how these bad boys freeze - the % of alcohol is low enough to let the frozen water/juice keep it all together. Boozehounds - keep the tequila to a minimum!

* If you don't have a popsicle mold, pour margarita mixture into small Dixie cup, and store on a baking sheet. For best results, pre-freeze the baking sheet!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hump Day Cocktail of the Week: Let's Get Savory!

Say the word Daiquiri and many people probably flinch with memories of poolside Spring Breaks gone awry with one-too-many of the super sweet slushy drinks, but this Summer, reclaim your rum with this savory, grown-up version that's sure to impress.

Tomato Daiquiri
3 Fresh Cherry Tomatoes
2 oz. Aged Rum
1 oz. Lime Juice
1 oz. Simple Syrup
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Muddle Tomatoes in a mixing glass, add remaining ingredients, shake, strain and pour.

An easy and natural replacement for tomato's pièce de résistance, the Bloody Mary, try adding a dash of hot sauce or pepper to achieve a truly heavenly sweet-spicy mix with just enough acid to balance it out. A cayanne pepper/sugar rim might be another fun way to kick this classic into high gear. Salud!

Family Food, Italian style

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, there used to be a little, family-run restaurant in Encino called Toto's. It was unpretentious, affordable, but most importantly, AWESOME. We were regulars there until Toto's closed in the 90s, and I still regard their Puttanesca and Arrabiata sauces among the best I've ever had. Since then, my love affair with Italian food has taken me all over the city (with varying degrees of success), but on a recent jaunt to Culver City, I found myself in major flashback mode when i discovered Brunello Trattoria, another family-owned-and-operated joint that delivered quality, authentic Italian food, without putting the squeeze on your wallet.

Nestled on a quiet strip of Washington Blvd near La Cienega, Brunello boasts a small, but reasonably-priced Chianti and Supertuscan-heavy wine list (not like you were looking for Napa Cab anyway, right?), but the real star is undoubtedly the food. With Italian staples like pasta, pizza and hearty meat and poultry dishes (I ordered and fell in love with the Petto di Pollo al Limone, which had heaping portions and fantastic, fresh, clean flavors), and a Daily Dinner Pasta Special (my next trip will have to be on a Friday, with several people who will let me tell them what to order, because I want two of that day's specials: Orecchiette con Salsicce e Rapini and the Spaghetti Sfiziosi. You don't need to know what is in those dishes - just YUM!), there's definitely something for everyone.

Nothing on the menu is over $20 (the Ossobuco breaks the bank at $19.50), and the vast majority of these well-portioned dishes are in the $10-12 range, a steal considering the quality of food served! I dined with a friend, and we had two entrees, one app, a bottle of wine and an espresso for $89 (pre-tip), a veritable steal in Los Angeles.

SIGHTING: In case you're not convinced by my recommendation, I spotted well-known and respected L.A. food critic Merrill Shindler enjoying his meal, chatting with the owner, and departing with a hug. If he's a regular, it can't be a bad sign :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hump Day Cocktail of the Week: Michelada

I love beer. I love cocktails. What then, could be better than a beer cocktail? While in Acapulco last year, I discovered that there's more to Mexican adult beverages than Margaritas and Cervezas, namely, a sassy little sipper known as a Michelada. Never heard of it? Fear not! It's easy to craft, tasty to serve, and guaranteed to spice up your upcoming fiestas (not to mention impress your guests with your conocimiento of all things Mexicano.).

Here's a recipe that was recently served up by Absolut 100 at the Street & Savory benefit for Citymeals-On-Wheels in New York.

Absolut 100 Michelada Cocktail (Created by Audrey Saunders and Kenta Goto, Pegu Club, NY, NY)

1 part Absolut 100
4 parts Negra Modelo
1/2 part lime juice
1 tsp Cholula hot sauce
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp Maggi*

Rim High-ball glass rim in lime juice and roll in mixture of kosher salt and alpeppo pepper. Build in glass: lime juice, Cholula Hot Sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Maggi, Absolut 100. Stir, add ice and top with Negra Modelo. (*Maggi is a Nestle-brand bouillon; feel free to add a dash of soy sauce instead!)

For those of you who like to make your beer-drinking and liquor-drinking separate occurrences (Mom always warned you not to mix the two!), a simple Michelada can be prepared by adding lime, hot sauce (it doesn't get more classic than Tabasco), Worcestershire and soy sauce to a beer of your choosing (Calorie-conscious? Corona Lite is perfect!), served in a salted mug. Enjoy and Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Paint Your Summer Red!

Let's face it: the best part about rules is the joy of breaking them, so why don't you get a little wild with wines this summer? Like the old "white with fish, red with meats" adage, the "rules" of wine are bending and breaking more quickly than a Hollywood marriage, and I'm jumping to the pulpit to sing the praises of (gasp!) a chilled red!

Like many red wine drinkers, I'll begrudgingly accept a crisp Pinot Gris or nice Rose on a hot summer afternoon, but I find myself missing the strong, bold punch that only a great red can pack. Thankfully, I've recently discovered that one of my favorite varietals, Malbec, is seriously, seriously tasty when served chilled. A spicy wine commonly crafted in Argentina (among other places, but I like to imagine I'm savoring Buenos Aires flare), Malbec is making a splash on wine lists across LA, but it's an approachable wine that's equally suited for backyard BBQs.

Now, I wouldn't recommend sticking any old bottle of red in the fridge (I'd steer clear of chilled Cabs, for example, which tend to be too tannic to be tasty cold), but don't think twice about chilling that bottle of Malbec. When chilled, it's soft mouthfeel soars, but a kick of spice on the tongue and a touch of plummy-cherry keeps it from falling flat, and it practically begs to be eaten with charred meats (I was not kidding about this BBQ thing!). I'm not a red meat eater, but I imagine it would do quite well with a slightly-bloody steak, and I'm salivating at the thought of washing down a raspberry-chipolte grilled chicken breast with a chilled glass of my pick, Black Mountain Malbec, available at Trader Joe's for $5.99.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Vacay-in-LA: FIG-tastic

In this tough economy, more and more Angelenos are saying "adios" to their fancy summer vacations and opting to stay a little closer to home during these summer months, but that doesn't mean you'll have to survive the recession sans resort-style R&R. For a true treat with vacation flavor, head to FIG restaurant in Santa Monica, located in the comfortably swanky Fairmount Miramar Hotel.

The uber-beachy restaurant serves up fresh local ingredients on an innovative menu that melds Contemporary American cuisine with just enough whimsy and fun to put you at ease. I recently stopped by and was wowed by the weekend brunch menu, which reads like a bacon lover's guide to greasy-but-Delicious eating. We taste-tested the fish and the mushroom-poblano tacos, which were light and tasty when served up on hand-made corn tortillas, and we'll be back to check out the awesome smelling chilaquiles (If you've never heard of this dish, it's a Mexican version of b-fast heaven on a plate. Trust me.) and the simple, yet fresh watermelon salad, which consists of watermelon, basil, flax seed and vodka: four ingredients that come together to spell yummy with booze.

I'm also slightly in love with the weekend's Eggs and Kegs special, which gives you your choice of breakfast dish, accompanied by endless premium draught beer, all for the "bargain" price of $39. Our recommendation? Reserve a poolside table, come early and get your money's worth by drinking on the cheap all day long. Just don't forget sunscreen and a designated driver!

Tip: In addition to an exciting (though not cheap) dinner menu with offerings like Roasted Jidori Chicken and Local Halibut, FIG has a killer artisan cheese menu. Paired with a charming cocktail program (try the Blood Orange and Beet Margarita; it's an awesome color and delightfully tart), a cheese flight and cocktail hour is the perfect way to make the most of your mini-vacay - without breaking the bank.