Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Liquor

Here's to your health, bacon haters!


The Health section of the L.A. Times is located smack dab in the middle of the Food section. (Someone with a sense of humor obviously devised the seating plan.) The setup means that all day long, Health section editor Tami Dennis and her colleagues have to listen to the Food section writers and editors talking about, well, food. And not necessarily the healthy kind.

Tami has been aghast at Times Test Kitchen Manager Noelle Carter's bid to come up with 1,001 things to do with bacon, starting with the candied bacon martinis, picture above. But it was Noelle's latest endeavor — candied bacon ice cream — that spurred Tami to take action, as you can see here.

In our defense, Tami, we preach a policy of all things in moderation. Why, this week alone, we printed a recipe for Gigantes (oven-baked white beans), which are just 249 calories per serving, including just 7 grams of fat and 11 grams of fiber. (Shouldn't that make them happy? Don't those health types like fiber?) And as you can see, we do plenty of salad recipes. (Those health types like salad too, right?)

In the meantime Tami, consider this an invite: We hope you are free Friday, because Noelle is planning on upping the ante. That's right. We're making deep-fried bacon. With bleu cheese dressing. For dipping. We don't have a definite time yet. But you'll know when it's ready — you'll be able to smell it.

— Rene Lynch

Photo credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

Recession? What recession? Make ours a double

LouisxiiiblackpearlHow about a $3,000 shot of cognac for your recession wallet?

In a darkly comedic twist on the current State of the Cocktail Hour, the PR folks at Rémy Martin seem to have confused the word “recession” with “reduction.” Or maybe the French cognac producer simply hired a bad English translator.

Normally a 750-milliliter bottle of its Louis XIII cognac retails for $1,800 and a 1.75-L. bottle of its Louis XIII Black Pearl Magnum is a cool $32,000. (For the record: An earlier version of this post said that a 1.75-milliliter bottle of Louis XIII Black Pearl Magnum cost $32,000. That is incorrect, and would also be insanely expensive. In fact, it is the 1.75-liter bottle that carries that price tag.)

But wait! Now you can taste them both for an amazing low price. According to a news release seemingly sent without a shred of irony, Rémy Martin is launching a “Perfect Pour” program that offers the cognac in smaller portions, “allowing more guests to enjoy this legendary elixir.”

Translation: Now you can saddle up to your participating swanky restaurant bar and order a 2-ounce pour of the Black Pearl Magnum for the one-time-only price of just $3,000! If that’s still a little out of your price range, don't worry. You can taste a half-ounce sip for the low, low price of $750. (Does a half-ounce even count as a sip?)

If you’re still waiting to see whether your rent check clears, you can always stick to the standard Louis XIII. He’s a mere $50 for the half-ounce dribble. Note that these are suggested retail sipping prices and actual retail prices vary. A half-ounce will set you back $70 at the London Hotel’s Gordon Ramsay restaurant in West Hollywood and $75 at the Esquire Bar and Lounge in Pasadena. The $3,000 shot of Black Pearl? Like Ramsay, nowhere to be found in Los Angeles.

-- Jenn Garbee

Join us on Twitter @latimesfood

Photo credit: Rémy Martin

Moment of St. Patrick's Day Zen: Bar 107

Bar107On my way back from lunch at Blossom (vegetarian rice noodle bowl with mini egg rolls and a ginger, lime iced tea) I popped into Bar 107, the over-priced but lovable 4th Street dive and somewhat smelly house of zealous kitschiness. In honor of today's venerable green-clad holiday, the party-centric watering hole swung its doors open at 6 a.m., and I was curious to check out the scene.

At 3:30 in the afternoon 107 already looked as if it had endured drunken revelry of epic proportions. Sweat and whiskey spray made the air wet and dense and a raucous two-piece band growled out Irish folk songs with a guitar and a beat-up accordion. A bartender dressed like an overgrown Leprechaun aggressively wished newcomers a happy St. Patrick's Day while stumbling punk rockers and bleary-eyed college kids ordered Guinness and Jameson's, happily plunking the latter into the former with abandon.

It was a scene to both tickle and warm the heart; however, I felt deflated. I caught a whiff of quiet desperation in the air, but maybe that was just my own sense of sorrow at having to step out of the surreal hive of celebration and into the wind-swept daylight to make the trek back to the office. Drinkless.

--Jessica Gelt

For a full list of tonight's festivities, check out Charlie Amter's list of St. Patrick's Day parties in The Guide.

Photo by Jessica Gelt


This week's L.A. Times recipes

All recipes that appear in the L.A. Times' weekly Food section are tested and perfected in our test kitchen before they're deemed fit to print. (That means you don't have to worry about a trial run before serving one of our recipes to company. Rest assured, it should work the first time out of the gate.)

Here's a look at this week's recipes:

BLD's hot fudge brownie sundae

Kushary (rice, lentils and pasta with tomatoes)

Turkish doughnuts with rose hip syrup (Check out the video above)

Nancy's chopped salad

Herbed pork chops with tomatoes, potatoes and spinach

Canton ginger kick

-- Rene Lynch

Our pick for wine of the week also happens to be a steal

Wine1_4 Here's what Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila has to say:

Young, but accessible, it's velvety and bright, the fruit tightly woven into the structure. Barely kissed with oak, it is a blend of Cabernet with 18% Cab Franc and a wee bit of Petit Verdot (barely 4%).

All this, and it's just $28? I'd say it's a gift.

It's her pick for wine of the week. Find out more here.

Photo: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Fairfax comes into focus: New restaurant/lounge to debut this summer in former Largo space

Fairfax2Fairfax, the new restaurant and lounge inside the former Largo space on Fairfax Avenue, is coming into focus. Co-owner Reg MacDonald gave the Daily Dish a sneak peek at his forthcoming restaurant (which will simply be called Fairfax) earlier this week.

"This is going to be a gasatropub-type place that everyone from the neighborhood can enjoy," he said. The former Tokio owner, and current Tinto partner, says the nearly 2,500-square-foot space, which he has stripped down to its brick walls, will feature a second-level dining area for 30 people, in addition to seating for 150 or so downstairs.

"This area could be great for a birthday party or meeting," the South African-born co-owner said from the second-floor perch, which overlooks the main dining area. MacDonald added that the kitchen, which will sit below the terrace-level VIP dining area, will be "enclosed in glass so everyone can see what's going on inside." MacDonald and his partner in the endeavor, Jordan Bucky, have already enlisted Jared Simons, who recently left Hollywood's Bardot nightclub, to design the menu and work full time at Fairfax. 

So what'll be on the menu?  "Simple gastropub-like food," said the budding restaurateur.  "It's going to be a basic, old-school neighborhood pub with a contemporary feel.  We'll have 20 different beers on tap, comfort food with nothing over $15 and lots of items in the $8 range." It's clear the Village Idiot's continued success nearby on Melrose Avenue is a model of sorts for MacDonald, and he admitted as much Wednesday. "The Village Idiot, Anisette and the Belmont are a few of our inspirations," he said. 

And just like the Belmont, expect a lively patio scene visible to those speeding by -- only here, it'll be Fairfax Avenue drivers who may be tempted to park and have a beer (or two).

"We're going to open up the entire front  section with an outdoor patio so you can see everything from the street," he said of the place, which he plans on opening sometime this summer. "This area reminds me of Rivington Street in New York, and we're really going to try and make something beautiful inside -- but not too beautiful to alienate anyone in the neighborhood." 

-- Charlie Amter

Photo: Charlie Amter/Los Angeles Times

Batter up: Ten restaurants to sample in Phoenix and Scottsdale


Welcome to Dodgers spring training 2009.

Please discard any lingering lamentations about tradition and Florida. Arizona awaits, with a shiny new $100-million stadium complex, beckoning fans to forget the economy for a few days and take refuge in the primal pleasures of baseball. Think heat, not humidity; saguaro cactus in lieu of swaying palms; fajitas instead of fried fish. Think Camelback Ranch in Glendale, the new spring home of the Dodgers.

Read more in this week's Travel section, and check out this list of restaurants to sample in Phoenix and Scottsdale, as well as this photo gallery of hot restaurants to try while you're there.

Photo credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Guac Bless America -- and protect us from Guaczilla


From The Guide:

While millions of football fans train their focus on the gridiron this Sunday, armchair gladiators of another sort will be battling it out for snack time supremacy at Guac Bowl 2009. It lacks the history of the Super Bowl and the culinary finesse of the Bocuse d'Or, but the Guac Bowl is no less fiercely contested.

Founded eight or nine years ago –- the controversy still lingers since none of the participants documented the hedonism of those early years –- the Guac Bowl started out as a friendly rivalry between roommates Adam Pava and Greg Steele, who each claimed they made the best guacamole. They invited a few friends to participate and serve as judges. It was a sedate affair with only four or five humble bowls of avocado dip.

Pava, an animation writer, took second place in that initial combat, which left him feeling less than satisfied despite the event's humble origins. So the next year, Pava decided to rig the competition. "I wanted to make sure I won, so I decided to add a category for presentation without telling anyone. Obviously, I won, since nobody else entered that category," Pava says. But the following year his competitors rose to the challenge, and a full-fledged annual rivalry was born, complete with divisions and trophies for best presentation, best traditional and best alternative guacamole.

Read more here. And if you're looking for some last-minute Super Bowl recipes -- including guacamole -- click here.

--Rene Lynch

Liquor sales slump -- with the exception of whiskey

Jackdaniels As the economy turns down, Americans are cutting back on their liquor -- with a major exception: whiskey.

Sales of bourbons such as Jack Daniels and Maker's Mark are bucking a slump in demand for distilled spirits that set in during the final months of last year, according to industry officials.

Read more here.

Photo: Bloomberg News

Wine judges are rather unsteady, study finds

Judging_wines Does this story in today's Business section surprise you?

A study by retired Humboldt State professor Robert Hodgson found that judges at the California State Fair wine competition scored poorly at giving the same wine an identical rating when they tasted it multiple times in a blind tasting.

"Consumers should have a healthy skepticism about the medals awarded to wines from the various competitions," he said.

What criterion do you use to buy wines? Are you swayed by medals, ribbons? (Me? I drink whatever S. Irene Virbila is drinking.)

-- Rene Lynch

Photo: Victor Jose Cobo / For The Times


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.