Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Liquor

Cee Lo, the 'Green' behind Ty Ku

Ceelogreen

Musician Cee Lo Green may be a judge on the singing competition show "The Voice," but a new business venture has him dipping into the world of spirits. Green has joined the likes of P. Diddy, Bruce Willis and Dan Aykroyd as a celebrity liquor purveyor. He recently became an owner of Ty Ku premium sake and Asian spirits.

"We formed an alliance of libations and lifestyles," said Green after a taping of "The Voice." He retired to his trailer area where he traded his red sequin jacket for a plain white T-shirt and sipped on Ty Ku soju. "We want to corner the market with consistency and quality."

Green will help promote all of the Ty Ku products, his favorite being the Ty Ku Citrus Liqueur, a blend of low-calorie soju, fruit, tea and botanicals. The bottle illuminates, giving off a distinct bright green glow, leading Cee Lo to nickname the liquor "The Cee Lo Green, or the Incredible Hulk." 

"It’s very accommodating, like a gentleman so to speak," Green explained with a smile. "It’s very suave and sophisticated, soft-spoken but serious."

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-- Jenn Harris

twitter.com/jenn_harris

Photos: Ty Ku Citrus Liqueur, left; Cee Lo Green at the 2011 BET Awards. Credits: Ty Ku; Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Cooking with: Ross-on-Wye Perry

PerryWorking my way through British food writer Nigel Slater's "Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard," I came across a recipe for pork shoulder roasted in perry.

Perry? Made from fermented pears, perry's common in Britain, especially in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Commercial perry recently also has been called "pear cider," but some still make a distinction between the two. Traditionally, they're produced slightly differently. Specific varieties of pears are grown for perry (with names such as Mumblehead and Red Huffcap). 

My corner wine shop happened to carry Ross-on-Wye Perry. From the little town of Ross-on-Wye, it's a traditional rustic perry made by cidermaker Mike Johnson, fermented in barrels with naturally-occurring, wild yeasts. Ross-on-Wye is known for experimenting with a variety of barrels, such as rum, whiskey and brandy, for fermenting its pear juice. 

The Ross-on-Wye Medium Dry Still Perry isn't carbonated and no sugar is added, so it isn't bubbly and isn't much sweet. It recalls mead or a dry white port. It's suited for cooking. "Perry is an astonishing drink -- refreshing, dry and fruity," Slater writes. "A small bottle upended into a pot roast will ensure a moist result and leave you with a decent amount of fruity pot juices to spoon over." And it did.  

Ross-on-Wye Perry, about $9 for 500ml, available at Buzz, 460 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, (213) 622-2222, www.buzzwinebeershop.com. 

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Vodka goes vintage: Karlsson's Batch 2008 Gammel Svensk Röd

-- Betty Hallock

Photo: Betty Hallock / Los Angeles Times

One potato, two potato -- Karlsson's makes a vintage vodka

Karlsson's vodka. Click to enlarge.It’s not always easy being vodka. Odorless, flavorless, colorless vodka. What’s a neutral spirit got to do to gain some status?

Well, here’s one way. Swedish potato vodka maker Karlsson’s, whose Karlsson’s Gold already has emerged as the post-vodka-backlash darling of a certain breed of bartender, has introduced its first commercially-available vintage vodka. It’s made from one kind of potato (Gammel Svensk Röd or Old Swedish Red) harvested in the early summer of 2008 by farmer Bertil Gunnarsson in Cape Bjäre in southern Sweden.  

There's a notable difference between Karlsson’s vodkas made from certain potatoes from certain years. This I know because I tasted some of them, made from a 2004 crop of Minerva potatoes, 2004 and 2006 Solist potatoes, and 2006 and 2008 Gammel Svensk Röd (which, I was told, recall the Jerusalem artichoke). Karlsson’s Gold -- developed by Börje Karlsson, the creator of Absolut -- is produced each year from that year’s potato harvest in Cape Bjäre. It's a blend of seven "varietals" made from potatoes grown by the area's co-op of farmers, whose new-season crops are considered a Swedish delicacy (some selling for more than $100 a pound, Karlsson's says).   

I’m not going to tell you that I tasted lingonberries in the ’06 made from Solist potatoes. Or smelled more hazelnut in the ’04 Solist (actually, maybe I did). But flavor and aroma varied from vodka to vodka. According to Karlsson's, the year 2008 was dry and warm, resulting in potatoes more robust in flavor than those from wetter, cooler years. Only 1,980 bottles of the vintage were produced, available in just New York and California.

The Karlsson’s Batch 2008 Gammel Svensk Röd, nicely bottled with a neon-orange label, does make a smooth sipping vodka. It ought to. It’s $80 a bottle. 

Karlsson's Batch 2008 will be available in Los Angeles at retailers Wally's Wines, K&L Wine Merchants and Bar Keeper, and at bars such as Varnish, Bar + Kitchen at O Hotel, Sunset Marquis, SoHo House, Comme Ca, Bazaar and Bouchon. 

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-- Betty Hallock

Photo credit: Karlsson's. 

Beer cocktails blossom in L.A. bars

BeerCocktailsBeer cocktails, which mix hard alcohol with different varieties of craft beer, are appearing with increased frequency on menus at bars and restaurants across the city.

This novel approach to mixing has been spurred in large part due to the boom in the popularity of craft beer in Los Angeles, in addition to the always-creative state of affairs in the city's mixology scene.

A story in Friday's Calendar section takes a closer look at the tasty trend. Read all about it here.

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--Jessica Gelt

Photo: Matthew Biancaniello mixes up a beer cocktail with hops-infused gin, IPA and honey at the Library Bar in the Roosevelt hotel in Hollywood. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times.

Warm weather drink: A classic Gin & Tonic

Gin & tonic edit (1 of 1) Yesterday was the first warm evening in a while. (It’s going to be even warmer tonight.) To celebrate, and take in the splendiferous hot pink sunset, I had a gin and tonic. My new favorite combination is Hendrick’s gin  and Fever-Tree Premium Indian Tonic Water. The latter is very important. Once you’ve made your drink with this or one of the other serious brands on the market, you won’t be able to tolerate regular tonic water. Take away that sticky sweetness and you can actually taste the gin.

The perfect tall drink glasses are from Bar Keeper in Silverlake, which incidentally, not only stocks an array of bitters and such for your cocktail needs, but now that the shop has scored a liquor license, small batch spirits as well.

A few years ago, writer and blogger Emily Green (Chance of Rain) wrote a wonderful ode to the gin and tonic (with recipe) in our pages: Memorize it.

Bar Keeper, 3910 W. Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles; (323) 669-1675; www.barkeepersilverlake.com.

—S. Irene Virbila

Photo: Gin and tonic. Credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times

 

Bruce Willis on vodka and Polish warrior-kings

Bruce Willis is adjusting himself in the handsome leather chair in a suite at the historic Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, where right across the street his hand prints are being sized up by tourists. Acting oddly uncomfortable, the movie star squirms in the chair as if it were a hot seat. But all he is there to do is conduct two quick interviews with the media about a new vodka he is representing, and then lead a toast to 90 or so invited guests at the swanky pool.

If anyone could use a shot of the new Belvedere vodka, Sobieski, Willis himself seems to be the prime candidate. But after a few seconds of breaking the ice and sizing up the room, the "Die Hard" star focuses up and quietly explains that he became the pitchman not because of the success of Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' success hawking Ciroc or any of the other countless celebs endorsing booze, but simply "because I am a vodka man."

The 17th century Polish warrior-king Jan Sobieski III may be the patriarch for whom the modestly priced ($11 a bottle) vodka was named, but it is Willis who received a king's ransom for his endorsement. Belvedere gave him a 3.3% share of the company (no, not in the fledgling Sobieski but in the parent company, Belvedere) in exchange for use of his name, likeness and participation in the commercials in which the action star freely admits that he knows nothing about how to make the liquor. "But what do I know about saving the world from impending doom? Even less," Willis exclaims in the spot titled "Bruce Has Ideas," adding, "You see, I'm an actor."

-- Tony Pierce

Cedd Moses' 213 opens Las Perlas mezcal and tequila bar in downtown Los Angeles

Mezcal Downtown nightlife giant Cedd Moses and designer Ricki Kline strike boozy joy into the hearts of Angelenos again with a new mezcal and tequila bar called Las Perlas, which soft-opens at 7 tonight.

Located across 6th Street from Cole's -- Moses' most spirited reinvention of a historic business to date -- Las Perlas pays tribute to mezcal with the same meticulously researched flourishes that Moses' Seven Grand bar pays to whiskey and Scotch.

You won't find tacky worms in the bottom of bitter-tasting liquor here. Worms are for tourists, not for aficionados who know that premium single-village mezcal is as complex, smoky and distinct as any fine tequila.

The state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico is the most well-known producer of mezcal, and it's from this rustic, colorful, deeply traditional region that Las Perlas derives its design inspiration. The exterior boasts a flat, crudely hand-painted sign. Step inside and you'll see a rough wood wall topped with wrought iron, lots of warm wood flourishes, a porcelain-covered bar, custom chandeliers, Pullman booths, vintage windows, an outdoor patio overlooking 6th Street and large century-old, hand-blown Oaxacan mezcal bottles.

The kings of the cocktail menu are general manager Raul Yrastorza and Julian Cox, Rivera bar chief and Las Perlas consultant. Drinks are put together using house-made syrups, bitters, herbs, Mexican sugars and salts, as well as a lush host of fruits and vegetables from area markets. Garnishes include wild hibiscus flowers and fiery chapulines (lemon, garlic and pepper-roasted grasshoppers popular in Oaxaca).

The joint, which also has a pool table and a juke box, is named after the bubbles -- or pearls (las perlas) --  that form when a fine bottle of mezcal is shaken. It's something that mezcal devotees pay a great deal of attention to in Mexico.

Las Perlas, 107 E. 6th Street, Los Angeles. (213) 988-8355; www.lasperlas.la.

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo: An oak barrel used to age Oaxacan mezcal sits at the family-run El Rey Zapoteco distillery in the town of Matatlan, Mexico. Credit: Gregory Bull / Associated Press.


Sampler Platter: L.A. street food festival, giant lobsters, Bar Keeper wants liquor license and more

Vintage bar signs on the wall at Bar Keeper

Gargantuan lobsters rising from the seas and enslaving the human race... It sounds preposterous, but it's a potential and very real downside of global warming, which is building bigger lobsters without increasing the world's butter reserves. Perhaps someday, when the age of peak butter has passed, we'll look back at bread baskets and flaky, golden tarts as the harbingers of doom for a society on the brink of collapse. Until then, I salute our crustacean overlords.
-- Giant lobsters from rising greenhouse gases? NPR
-- Bar Keeper in Silver Lake is looking to get a liquor license by June. Food GPS
-- Palm oil production devastating Sumatran forests. CNN
-- Salami and Parmesan cheese used as weapons in supermarket battle. Telegraph
-- The search for the world's perfect stove. New Yorker
-- Arrowhead water bottles reduced by 21% (from 1 gallon to 3 liters). LiveCheap
-- Learning to appreciate cognac in Cognac. Los Angeles Times
-- L.A. Street Food Festival scheduled for Valentine's Day weekend. LAist
-- Vertical Wine Bistro changes it up with new chef Doug Weston. Eat LA
-- Roaming Hunger food truck tracking site goes live.
-- Tootsie Roll goes kosher. Palm Beach Post
-- Greek, Indian, Chinese and more: Vancouver's many cuisines. Los Angeles Times
-- Spicy kettle corn and more recipes from bigLITTLe. Goop
-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Vintage bar signs on the wall at Bar Keeper. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

Sampler Platter: 15-year-old cheddar, pudding cloth, McCall's meat coming to Los Feliz, Google map for food trucks

Hook's 15-year-old cheddar chees Old cheese, new butchers, old school Scotch, nouveau tamales and more in today's food news roundup.
-- Foie gras and chanterelle tamales from John Sedlar of Rivera. Los Angeles Times magazine
-- Upscale butcher McCall's Meat & Fish Co. to open in Los Feliz. Food GPS
-- An appreciation of pudding cloth, whatever that is. British Food in America
-- Hook's unveils 15-year-old cheddar. NPR
-- Florida woman allegedly attacks boyfriend with uncooked steak. The Smoking Gun
-- Eggnog martinis at Lola's in West Hollywood. Banana Wonder
-- Food swaps are catching on. The Globe and Mail
-- New Zealand police reward good drivers with licorice logs. Stuff
-- A Google map that tracks food trucks. Finally! Food Maps
-- Win a Scotch whisky aroma nosing and tasting kit from the Balvenie.
-- Pix from the "Eat: Los Angeles" book party at Traveler's Bookcase. Blackburn + Sweetzer
-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Hook's 15-year-old cheddar cheese. Credit: Mark Hoffman / Associated Press

Time for a hoedown! The Knob Creek bourbon shortage is over!

KNOB-CREEK-BARREL-DUMP_KYBB
If you're one of the die-hard bourbon drinkers who has been in a desultory mood, or worse, fallen into a deep bourbon-less depression since it was announced in early July that Knob Creek bourbon was going to experience a shortage, you can kick up your heels and rejoice. The Great Knob Creek Bourbon Drought of '09 officially ended today.

Never again will the folks at the Knob Creek distillery make the mistake of underestimating the liquor's popularity. After supplies dried up this summer (the bourbon ages in its cask for nine years) there was nothing to do but wait until the next batch of casks, dating to 2000, matured.

Today that bourbon was released from the barrels in a particularly rousing barrel-dumping ceremony. Next it will be bottled and shipped to a House of Spirits near you. And something tells me that Knob Creek won't be hurting from this little period of panic. A news release mentions that from June through September the Knob Creek website saw a 69% increase in traffic over the same period in the prior year.

Yup, there's nothing like playing hard to get to make a person want to drink you up.

--Jessica Gelt

Photo: Bill Newlands, president, Beam Global Spirits & Wine U.S. (right), and Fred Noe, the seventh-generation Beam family distiller (center), preside over the barrel-dumping ceremony. Credit: Brian Bohannon / Associated Press

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.