Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Jessica Gelt

Tales of the Cocktail 2012: The Varnish wins Best American Cocktail Bar

Cedd Moses' downtown drinking den The Varnish took the title of Best American Cocktail Bar at the Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail on Saturday night. It was a big win for Los Angeles, which was well represented in nominations, and one that brought L.A.'s influence on the national cocktail scene into clear focus.

An elated Moses took to the stage at the rowdy awards accompanied by the Varnish crew including mixologist Eric Alperin (who was also nominated in the category of American Bartender of the Year).

"Seven years ago I came out here and everybody was laughing about the bars in L.A.," said Moses later. "And I said I was going to do great cocktail bars in L.A. The redemption is good."

The Varnish beat out three other bars in the final stages of the competition including Brooklyn's Clover Club, Washington D.C.'s Columbia Room and Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston. It was also in the running for World's Best Cocktail Bar, but that award went to London.

The celebrations following the awards soon spread to all corners of the French Quarter with many of L.A.'s finest bartenders and bar owners in a feel-good state of mind.


Dinner tonight! Pan-fried spicy chicken.

Daily Dish get s a new address.

Forklore: Root loop.

--Jessica Gelt

Photo: Eric Alperin, center, enjoys the L.A. win with Cedd Moses, left. Credit: Jessica Gelt / Los Angeles Times.

FigOly to open July 27 in downtown's Luxe Hotel

The patio at FigOly, which opens July 27
FigOly, a sleek new modern Italian restaurant from "Top Chef" alum Alex Reznik (La Seine), is ready for its close-up in the newly renovated Luxe Hotel across from L.A. Live, with an opening date set for July 27.

Featuring three distinct dining areas, including a large outdoor patio overlooking the hustle and bustle of the corner of Figueroa and Olympic (from which the restaurant derives its name), FigOly also has recruited barman Matthew Biancaniello, who has made a name for himself with his verdant brand of mixology featuring farmers market produce at the Library Bar in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

The space is ritzy, with a VIP patio and dining room that is accessible through the kitchen and a bar that glows a variety of flashy colors.

FigOly recruited Matthew Biancaniello for the barThe menu includes warm buffalo mozzarella topped with macerated strawberries and black pepper ($11); Piemontese pasta tossed with porcini and hen of the woods mushrooms, ricotta salata, cherry tomatoes and Marsala ($16); beef cheeks and oxtail paired with gorgonzola polenta, shallots and sotto aceti ($27).

Drinks include the Mamma Mia (tequila and muddled red bell pepper, scallion, cilantro, lime, agave syrup, and applewood-smoked salt) and Easter Island (vodka, cucumber, Peruvian mint sprigs, and lime with ginger-spiked champagne).

Reservations for opening week are being accepted only via Twitter, which involves a clever marketing ploy that requires people publicly Tweet @FigOly along with the number in their party and the date and time of the desired reservation. Management will then confirm via direct message.

FigOly at Luxe City Center Hotel, 1020 S. Figueroa St., L.A. (213) 743-7600; www.figoly.com.


For the wine geek: the cork presenter

The grand aioli party

Food at the Apple store

-- Jessica Gelt

Photos: Top, the patio at FigOly; bottom, Matthew Biancaniello pours a drink. Jessica Gelt / Los Angeles Times

Campanile launches controversial anti-DineLA menu

On Thursday Campanile general manager Johann Drolshagen issued a statement explaining the restaurant's new anti-DineLA Restaurant Week menu, which offers diners multi-course dinners and lunches for just $35 at chef Mark Peel's iconic Los Angeles restaurant.

Campanile's website features the DineLA logo in a crossed-out red circle, and the restaurant has posted a statement on its Facebook page and issued a news release that reads in part:

We are not opposed to dineLA, but over time dineLA and its sponsors [OpenTable, Amex, etc.] have begun taking more out of the restaurant community than it is contributing. The costs associated with participation have grown to the degree that it is prohibitive of any restaurant to deliver a true value to their customers. The only ones to benefit are the marketing companies and the sponsors. This is true with this promotion and the market as a whole.

The release concludes, "Finally, please do not let our final message be that dineLA is bad. That’s not the case; it’s not how we feel; and, it is not the message we want to send."

Other chefs have not been outspoken about the purported pitfalls of DineLA. Chef Mary Sue Milliken of Border Grill says the cost of participating in Restaurant Week is not prohibitive.

"The cost is really affordable for the kind of promotion and exposure that the program offers," Milliken says. "You can’t get a 1/20th page ad in the L.A. Weekly for the price it costs to be in dineLA."

She also says, "The people who run the program are deeply thoughtful and receptive to evolving it, and year after year I think it gets better. So I don’t feel like there’s any ... sitting back and watching the program take off and collecting their money — they are constantly working to tweak it and make it better."

Peel was not always so sour on dineLA and is shown in multiple pictures at kickoff events on DineLA's website, including at a 2010 cooking competition where, according to a news release, "Campanile and the Tar Pit executive chef/owner Mark Peel’s guinea hen dish was declared the winner against Ford’s Filling Station executive chef/owner Ben Ford and Water Grill executive chef David LeFevre in today’s kick‐off dineLA Restaurant Week Quickfire Challenge competition."

DineLA started in January 2008 with 140 participating restaurants and chef Neal Fraser on the advisory committee. At the opening-day press conference Fraser told The Times that he had been pushing for an event like this for years and that he hoped to see L.A. become a "destination city" for diners. That year, participating restaurants saw a 25% increase in business during dineLA, according to organizers.

In 2009 participation in DineLA grew from 143 to 172 restaurants. This year -- DineLA's 5th -- more than 300 restaurants are involved. Organizers say that last year's event set a record by attracting more than 35,000 diners to L.A. restaurants.


Happy National Lollipop Day!

Dinner Tonight! Yakitori!

Royal/T in Culver City closes.

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo: Chef Mark Peel during happier times with DineLA. Credit: DineLA

Muse to open new Hollywood club called Sound in August

Muse Lifestyle Group, the company that opened Hollywood's frenetic Playhouse nightclub, is set to open another Hollywood venue called Sound in early August.

Located on the hectic club row of Las Palmas, Sound will be a uber-modern space featuring a sleek industrial look and two bars. Projections, video content and state-of-the-art lighting and sound will be a big part of the experience and will be moderated by video servers developed by V Squared Labs.

V Squared founder Vello Virkhaus explains how the servers work in an email:

"The video servers are epic prime systems developed by V Squared Labs that send content to all the projectors at Sound to deliver a one-of-a-kind, truly dynamic environment. The video servers will be sending our customized 3D mapped content and effects to the 8 projected zones in the venue. The 3D projection effects developed include illusionistic video which is video mapping that tricks the eye into seeing what cannot be believed and executes real-time effects that react to the environment."

The servers will help Muse Lifestyle Group owner, Rob Vinokur, realize his goal of making Sound a different club with each visit.

"One night could be an outer space theme and the next might be a dark forest," says Vinokur. "It's designed to be an ever-changing, ever-evolving space, offering a new environment and adventure every night."


Joining the grand aioli party

Food at the Apple store

New in WeHo: Laurel Hardware

--Jessica Gelt

Photo: Muse Lifestyle Group

MB Post chef David LeFevre turns 40, plans guest-chef dinner

MB Post chef David LeFevre turns the big 4-0 today and to celebrate he's planning a very exciting edition of his "Can You Dig It?" guest chef and featured farmers series.

On July 16, he'll welcome Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (Animal, Son of a Gun); Matt Molina (Mozza); Steve Samson and Zach Pollack (Sotto); and Zoe Nathan (Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry), who will create a five-course menu featuring fresh produce from Coastal Farms, Windrose Farms and Harry's Berries.

Why? Because 40 goes great with green.

On the menu:

Jon Shook & Vinny Dotolo: Gem lettuce, pickled beets, bread crumbs, green garlic crème fraîche.
MB Post: Hamachi grilled over white oak with summer tomatoes and bitter green pesto.
Matt Molina: Orecchiette with sausage and swiss chard.
Steve Samson & Zach Pollack: Veal cheek alla vaccinara, bitter chocolate agrodolce, semolina gnocco.
Zoe Nathan: Fresh corn cake with sweet rose creamery corn ice cream and strawberry rhubarb compote. Cookies served with spiked milk.

The cost is $80, or $115 with wine pairing (tax and gratuity not included). Reservations are available for two seatings, 5:45, 6 and 6:15 p.m.; or 8, 8:15 and 8:30 p.m.

Manhattan Beach Post, 1142 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach. (310) 545-5405; www.eatmbpost.com.


5 Questions for Ilan Hall

5 Questions for Mark Gold

The Animal team at Le Grand Fooding Milan

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo: Chef David LeFevre inside his restaurant MB Post. Credit: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times.

Adam Fleischman gets stake in L.A. Creamery, creates wild new flavors

FleischmanAdam Fleischman, the busy entrepreneur behind Umami Burger, Umamicatessan, 800 Degrees and Red Medicine, has acquired an ownership stake in L.A. Creamery. In addition to helping the local company grow distribution for its ice cream (which Fleischman has long served at Umami Burger), Fleischman is creating a host of wild new flavors.

The most interesting is called Porc Phat and is made with Spanish Iberico lardo, Asian pears, hazelnuts and pure mint gel. Other flavors include: Moonshine + Caramel Corn; Absinthe (made with the actual spirit and created specifically for an adult root beer float that will debut at Umami Burger Anaheim on July 2); and Mezcal, made with mezcal and orange liqueur.

Fleischman joins L.A. Creamery at an auspicious time for the company since it just launched a new website, which ships pints overnight to fans across the country.



Battle of the Burgers: The H-Bomb burger.

Oyster night is Thursday at Cliff's Edge.

The French and their vegetables.

--Jessica Gelt

Photo: Adam Fleischman. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Oyster night is Thursday at Cliff's Edge

Oyster night at Cliff's Edge
Designer extraordinaire Dana Hollister has built a marble-topped oyster bar in a shady nook of the already lovely back patio at her Silver Lake restaurant, Cliff's Edge. Right now it comes alive only on Thursday nights when the restaurant begins shucking mollusks at 6 p.m. and doesn't stop until they're all gone. 

Get there early, though, because happy hour lasts until 7 p.m. and during that time all oysters go for $1. After that a half-dozen costs $12 and a dozen costs $20. A 19th century French Empire chandelier hangs over the oyster bar and behind it a mirror serves as a menu for Champagne and white wine by the glass as well as whatever oyster-related cocktail the bar has dreamed up.

Cliff's Edge has been busier than ever since chef Ben Bailly took over the kitchen, and oyster night already has a great draw. Eventually Hollister would like to offer oysters at least four nights a week and maybe even put some stools at the bar, which would seat diners on a first-come, first-served basis.

Cliff's Edge, 3626 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A. (323) 666-6116; www.cliffsedgecafe.com.


The French and their vegetables.

Canned beer makes a comeback!

"Praise the Lard" aprons and t-shirts. Don't we all?

--Jessica Gelt

Photo: Jessica Gelt / Los Angeles Times



Bobby Green's 1933 Group thinks big with Sassafras and Idle Hour

Bobby Green
Bobby Green, the face behind the 1933 Group, which owns Bigfoot Lodge, Bigfoot West, Thirsty Crow, Oldfield's Liquor Room and the recently opened La Cuevita in Highland Park, is taking his theme-bar flair to Hollywood with a new Southern-style bar called Sassafras.

Scheduled to open sometime in July, Sassafras is Green's most ambitious project to date. To build it he dismantled an old Gothic home from Savannah, Ga., and reassembled it in the bar. When you enter you can see three sides of the home and you can actually walk inside and get comfortable.

The booze list will focus on barrel-aged cocktails and house-made sodas and there will always be free hard-boiled eggs. In addition, small bar snacks will be on the menu, including gumbo and cornmeal biscuit sliders with smoked ham and blackberry jam.

Once he's done with Sassafras, Green will jump straight into his first full restaurant endeavor in North Hollywood. It's located in the barrel-shaped former La Cana restaurant, which was originally opened in the 1940s and called the Idle Hour. Green intends to restore both its original name and its original old-school feel.

For more on Green and 1933, check out this nightlife story in Calendar.


Online Paso Robles wine country trip planner.

Test Kitchen tips: Homemade gelato.

Dinner tonight! Galician fish stew.

--Jessica Gelt

Photo: Bobby Green inside his new Highland Park tequila bar, LA Cuevita. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

The Offspring celebrates record release at Chronic Tacos

The skate punk band the Offspring is releasing its ninth record, "Days Go By," at a party at Chronic Tacos in Huntington Beach on June 26 from 5 to 7 p.m.

It's an event sure to be filled with a certain kind of bro: backward baseball caps, chain wallets, lots of tattoos and questionable facial hair. Ladies in bikini tops, high heels and small skirts will also be in abundance.

Also in attendance? Competitive eating champion Takeru Kobayashi, because nothing says, "I like to party with the Offspring" like watching a 128-pound Japanese man wolf down dozens of tacos in minutes. (Kobayashi currently holds a number of world records, including one for eating 14 Twinkies in 1 minute and one for consuming 337 chicken wings at Wing Bowl XX.)

The Offspring will be on hand to sign autographs on its new record, hand out custom Offspring T-shirts and take in a performance by a mariachi band.

Chronic Tacos, 328 11th St., Huntington Beach. (714) 960-0339; www.eatchronictacos.com. www.offspring.com.


Canned beer makes a comeback

Beer brewed from yeast found in beards!

Food editor Russ Parsons: Why I love Italy

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo: The Offspring plays the Nova Rock Music Festival in Nickelsdorf, Austria, earlier this month. Credit: Balazs Mohai / Hungary Out.

King Eddy Saloon sold to team behind the Library and Spring Street bars

Skid Row's last authentic dive bar is going belly up. But not before it throws one helluva party. King Eddy Saloon, which has been serving downtown Los Angeles since 1933, has been sold to Michael Leko and Will Shamlian, who also own the Library Bar and Spring Street Bar.

King Eddy Saloon owner Dustin Croick says the deal has been in the works for about a month; he confirmed the sale on Wednesday afternoon at the bar. Bill Roller, 74, who lives in the hotel directly above the bar and has been managing the bar for 35 years, was also present--as were the bar's usual cast of colorful characters, drinking $3 cocktails and chatting over plastic pitchers of cheap beer.

KE1"Bill's the heart and soul of this place," said Croick, whose grandfather Babe Croick purchased the bar in the 1960s when it was a solid "blue-collar, workingman's hangout." Babe moved his family to L.A. from Chicago and made his money running downtown parking lots before buying the bar.

Leko's team issued a statement calling King Eddy "the holy grail of dive bars" and promising that his team has "every intention of maintaining the mythical status King Eddy's has earned over the years while giving it a much-needed face lift."

Reached later by phone, Leko confirmed the sale and said the bar's history was its biggest draw. Leko said he intends to "kick the dust off it and bring it up to date" so that others can learn about its legacy. (It reportedly has the oldest liquor license in L.A.)

The sale became imminent after the building housing the bar--the 120-year-old King Edward Hotel--entered bankruptcy and was sold to new owners, at which point the bar's lease had lapsed.

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.