Food + Drink / Insights

5 Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail Stops

Drop in for tastes of world-class wines.

July 19, 2013

Wine trail

The 78-acre Bacara Resort & Spa is nestled on a bluff between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains along the scenic Gaviota Coast.

Pali Wine Co.
On most days there are more than 16 wines to sip, plus wine on tap direct from the barrel at Pali Wine Co.’s contemporary tasting room. Sit outside on the small patio and try a lovely Pinot Noir. 116 E. Yanonali St., 805-560-7254

Municipal Winemakers
Located in a former dive shop, Municipal Winemakers’ Dave Potter has created a chill spot a block from the beach to pour his versatile red blends; his white wines often sell out by summer’s end. 22 Anacapa St., 805-931-6864

Grassini Family Vineyards
Tucked away in the historic El Paseo, the tasting room’s salvaged-wood bar (from a sunken 19th-century barge, no less) evokes the Old West, while the wines are fresh takes on classic varietals from Happy Canyon. 813 Anacapa St., No. 6, 805-897-3366

Margerum Wine Company
Order up some house-made flatbread from Intermezzo Bar + Café next door while tasting proprietor Doug Margerum’s inky M5—a blend of five red Rhone-style varietals. 813 Anacapa St., 805-845-8435

The Tasting Room at Bacara Resort & Spa
A new addition to the sprawling oceanfront resort property, The Tasting Room showcases more than 75 wines from the extensive Foley Family Wines portfolio of more than 15 wineries. (Founder Bill Foley has an ownership interest in Bacara.) Sip on an estate-grown Pinot Noir and check out the ongoing updates to the hotel, which sits on the Gaviota Coast at the gateway to Santa Barbara’s wine country. 8301 Hollister Ave., 855-968-0100

See more things to do on a getaway to Santa Barbara>>



Mel's Drive-In Marks Milestones

The most legendary after-hours joint on the Strip celebrates two anniversaries.

May 13, 2013

Forty years ago, director George Lucas immortalized Mel’s Drive-In in American Graffiti.

Fifty years ago, if you happened to be stumbling out of a club along the Sunset Strip in the wee hours, and your eardrums were still vibrating from a long night of listening to what would become rock history, and your stomach implored you to add nourishment to your revelry, chances are you might wander a bit east to 8585 Sunset and Ben Frank’s brand new coffee shop—open 24 hours—for a session of comfort-food scarfing and people-gazing.

Today, all Angelenos know the place as a Mel’s Drive-In location, because director George Lucas retrofitted and used the San Francisco location of the chain in his 1973 classic, American Graffiti (the film celebrates its 40th anniversary this year). But back when it was just Ben Frank’s, it was a casual palace of Googie design, built a half century ago by architects Lane and Schlick. The building featured stylistic touches of the future: geometric angles, steel beams, and an altered A-frame roof. It was an audacious establishment run by Arthur Simms, who moved to LA after World War II and operated the MGM commissary for a time.

Luminaries such as Frank Zappa, The Rolling Stones, Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, and Phil Spector occupied booths there. It’s rumored that the group Buffalo Springfield was formed in the parking lot. In 1965, a casting call that ran in Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter for performers who would become The Monkees asked for “spirited Ben Frank’s types.” In Ron Jeremy’s autobiography, he mentions signing autographs for Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain there.

The Mel’s chain took over the space in 1997 and changed the vibe to reflect American Graffiti’s sense of nostalgia. The inscrutable countenance of a young Lucas hugging a movie camera and wearing a USC Trojans letterman’s jacket looms large across one wall, along with other stills from the movie. But there are also framed photos of a new era of creatives, like Diddy and Lindsay Lohan. No matter the year or the star wattage, the site itself forever remains a monument to LA’s fast cars, fast food, small talk... and big dreams.

—Michael Ventre


The Art of the LA Happy Hour

Driven by an A-list that takes its deals and drinks seriously, LA revamps happy hour.

February 25, 2013

The Polo Lounge’s SazeracThe Polo Lounge’s Sazerac.

Though the two-martini lunch is only a glamorous memory, that doesn’t mean Angelenos aren’t conducting business over drinks. Mineral water and iced tea may be the midday norm, but in the late afternoon, the Hollywood power crowd eschews mod mixology trends, opting instead for traditional cocktails.

As beverage manager at The Polo Lounge, Rob Rouleau mixes with—and for—Los Angeles’s influencers. “People come here and want to be transformed,” he says, “and drink a classic like a Negroni, Manhattan, Old-Fashioned, or Sazerac.” Rouleau notes that although many abstain at lunchtime, the end-of-day drink is the deal maker’s ritual. “Meetings tend to take place a little later in the afternoon and people are more inclined to close a deal—or the week—with a cocktail.”

Shaw Jones, head bartender of The Grill on the Alley in Beverly Hills, welcomes his regular crowd of agents, producers, and politicians with tried-and-true Old-Fashioneds, martinis, and Manhattans. “At 4:30 or 5 p.m. we get a lot of people coming in for a cocktail. That time of day gives them a bit more freedom to conduct a meeting and share a drink.”

Anthony Greco, mixologist at Windows Lounge at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, sees the powerful imbibing Sazeracs and Negronis, which are served in classic rocks glasses or coupe glassware.

Danielle Katz, marketing manager at Mr. C, reports that its clientele enjoys the classics with Cipriani’s continental twist. “Our customers tend to order a martini, Negroni, Old-Fashioned or Manhattan. Also, we are famous for our Bellini. Cipriani is known for a more European style of service, which means smaller glasses for cocktails.” This allows the regulars to enjoy a libation, keep their business meetings on track, and glide into LA’s famously early dinner hour without stumbling.



Moon Juice Comes to Silver Lake

The Venice-based juice brand is opening a second outpost in Silver Lake.

January 22, 2013

The many flavors of Moon Juice.

With the popularity of her 400-square-foot storefront on Rose Avenue in Venice soaring since its launch in 2011, Moon Juice founder Amanda Chantal Bacon is opening up a massive second outpost in Silver Lake to serve her Eastside aficionados. The new 1,200-square-foot retail space promises a modern ’50s vibe with plenty of room to sit and chat. “There’s a real awakening with people wanting to not just look good, but to actually feel good. Now it’s about being healthy and clean on the inside… Juicing works. That’s the reason everyone loves it.”


Chef David Myers Talks Hinoki & The Bird

Myers ups the ante in Century City with the Asian-inspired restaurant.

January 18, 2013

David Myers

All -star chef David Myers (Comme Ça, Sona) is back with a new restaurant concept, Hinoki & the Bird, which recently opened in the luxury condo building The Century, in Century City. Although this is Myers’s first venture in a residential space, it’s given him “the opportunity to play with creative ideas that can’t necessarily be done in a restaurant space—like an amazing, over-the-top picnic for 20 in the middle of the property’s garden.”

Inspired by Myers’s travels across Asia and along the Silk Road, the menu “is about bringing together flavors and ingredients that have inspired me in my travels, and very delicately weaving them into the incredible ingredients of California.”

The restaurant’s name, derived from a Japanese tree, the hinoki or cedar tree—“revered for centuries for its clean, distinctive fragrance”—represents the menu philosophy, while, according to Myers, “the bird personifies our constant culinary quest, traveling the world for inspiration.” 10 W. Century Dr., LA, 323-782-1104


Fergie's New Wine and Vineyard

Fergie gets spirited away with her Santa Barbara vineyard and wine.

January 14, 2013

Fergie at her vineyard, Ferguson Crest.

Eight-time Grammy Award-winning singer Fergie is turning over a new (grape) leaf with her Santa Barbara vineyard and signature wine, Ferguson Crest. Begun with her father, Pat Ferguson, the wine is a passion project for the two, who are hands-on in the production. “My father has been a horticulturist all his life. We spent a lot of our time with him growing blood oranges, guavas, artichokes, macadamia nuts, figs, and strawberries,” says Fergie. “When my father took an interest in wine later in life, it was only natural for us to want to work on this project with him.”

In 2012 the singer launched a new aptly named red-blend varietal called Fergalicious. “We wanted to make a really great blend, and upon tasting it, it basically ended up naming itself.” Although it is her Viognier and Syrah that are really scoring big. Of the vineyard, Fergie says, “It is truly a labor of love.” On February 12, Fergie will be at The Wine House (2311 Cotner Ave., LA, 310-479-3731) for an in-store event.



DeLeón Tequila Releases a New Spirit

Just in time for the end of days—at least according to the Mayans—an ultrapremium spirit.

December 17, 2012

DeLeón Tequila’s Leóna has a stopper carved wth Mayan masks and snakes.

Just in time for the end of days—at least by the ancient Mayan calendar—DeLeón Tequila is releasing an ultrapremium spirit called Leóna that embodies the purest expression of agave with the refinement
of French-oak-barrel aging.

DeLeón Tequila founder and CEO Brent Hocking discusses this ambrosial blend and why you should be sipping tequila this holiday season.

Most people associate Champagne with the holidays. Why should they consider tequila instead?
BRENT HOCKING: At the highest end of the spectrum, tequila makes a tremendous gift. Brown spirits are always more popular around the holidays because of their extra body and complexity. I can’t think of anything better than to sit around the tree on the holidays with loved ones and enjoy a very fine añejo or extra-añejo.

 How has tequila evolved from a cocktail mixer into a fine spirit in its own right?
BH: Tequila is such a sacred, refined product down in Mexico. The first ones introduced in the US were not necessarily of high quality, but when it’s done right, it is one of the most elegant spirits out there. Tequila can be so unique if it is made of 100 percent agave without artificial flavors, colors, or other components. It has the same qualities as a Cognac or a fine Scotch, and can be served on the rocks or with a splash of anything.

What went into making the inaugural release of Leóna?
BH: When I first launched DeLeón Tequila in 2006, I put some of the tequila in barrels from Château d’Yquem and locked them away. When I came back to them years later, the tequila inside was golden brown and had taken on the aromas of Sauternes, nuts, honey, caramel, and mocha, with a long finish that leaves you wanting more. I would compare it to a finely aged Cognac or Scotch, only lighter. To package it, I designed a special black box with a python-skin flask on one side, and on the other, a bottle of Leóna with a stopper carved with Mayan masks and snakes, the ancient Mayan guardians of sacred territory that we’re now using to guard the sacred juice of Mexico. It makes for a tremendous gift.

—Eric Rosen


The Dish on L & E Oyster Bar

Celebrating its one-year anniversary, L & E oyster bar dishes about the queen of shellfish.

December 10, 2012

Raw oysters on the half shell at L & E Oyster Bar.

So much for the age-old adage of only eating oysters in months that end in “R”—the in-demand bivalve has swept the palates of Eastside hipsters into a frenzy, making finding a seat at Silver Lake’s de facto oyster headquarters—the petite L & E Oyster Bar, which celebrates its one-year anniversary in January with the upstairs expansion opening sometime in the new year—a challenge. Co-owner Tyler Bell explains why oysters are the perfect choice any month.

Why are oysters great year-round?
TYLER BELL: Oysters are a perfect food. They are full of protein, omega-3s, and other vitamins and minerals like copper and iron. At L & E we jokingly call oysters “nature’s multivitamin.”

What pairs best?
TB: We have had wines and beers that I would have sworn wouldn’t work, but I have time after time been proven wrong. US and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, along with Champagne, Muscadet, and Chablis are perfect with Pacific oysters. For Atlantic oysters, we love to pair them with Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, and Champagne. Vinho Verde and Albariño were big hits this summer, as was Grenache Blanc.

What’s the best way to enjoy oysters?
TB: L & E serves raw oysters on the half shell with mignonette and cocktail sauce, both of which are made in-house. Our horseradish is grown specifically for us in California without pesticides, fungicides, or fertilizers. We send out lemon wedges, too! But Chef Spencer Bezaire’s takes on classic oyster dishes like Rockefeller and Casino are unlike any grilled oysters I’ve ever had. The hushpuppies are made with fresh corn and served with a chili-honey sauce—you won’t find that in Mississippi! Our fried oysters are pretty spectacular as well. 1637 Silverlake Blvd., LA, 323-660-2255



2 Healthy Stews from The Ranch at Live Oak Malibu

Chef Rob Dalzell shares stew recipes from the health and wellness retreat.

December 07, 2012

Butternut Squash Stew with Chickpeas.

Rob Dalzell, executive chef at The Ranch at Live Oak Malibu, has created the perfect holiday gift—stews that are both tasty and healthy. The Ranch’s week-long health and wellness program is unique in that it encourages guests to learn healthy eating habits by joining Dalzell in the open-air kitchen as he masterfully prepares nutritious, meat-free meals. The communal experience provides guests with a great meal and great take-home knowledge.

The new seasonal stews are no different than Dalzell’s usual low-fat, simple, and delicious fare, featuring a variety of fresh produce. Here, Dalzell shares the secrets behind two stew recipes, sure to impress at a holiday gathering or satisfy as a quick evening meal on a colder night.

Butternut Squash Stew with Chickpeas

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon of harissa (or more, to taste)
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups of canned chopped tomatoes
1 19-ounce can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen petite green peas
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

In a Dutch oven or heavy stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion until translucent and just starting to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently to keep the garlic from burning.

Stir in the harissa, cinnamon, and coriander, and cook for 30 seconds to release the fragrance from the spices. Add the squash and tomatoes, stir to incorporate the spices, and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring a few times.

Add the chickpeas, green peas, and parsley, and continue to cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve hot, over couscous or rice.

Kale, Sweet Potato, and Chickpea Stew with Cumin, Paprika, and Lime

1/2 of a large bunch of kale, cooked in salted boiling water for 5 or 10 minutes, until soft but still bright green
1 cup chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch dice
Olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of basil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 Tablespoons golden raisins, soaked till soft and chopped
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of cumin
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper

Warm a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, red pepper, and basil, and cook until the shallots and garlic start to brown.

Add the sweet potatoes and cook until they start to brown and soften. Add the stock, cooking until it’s thick and syrupy.

Add the chickpeas, paprika, cumin, raisins, and about two cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer until the sweet potato is nice and soft. You might need to add a cup or two of more water as you go along, to keep it at a consistency that you like.

Chop the kale into small pieces and add to the stew. Cook until everything is mixed and hot throughout. Add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper.

—Michelle Soriano
Photograph and Recipes courtesy The Ranch at Live Oak Malibu


Bel-Air Bar + Grill Reopens

Susan Disney Lord reopens Bel-Air Bar + Grill.

November 13, 2012

Bel-Air Bar + Grill’s Red Velvet Ding Dong.

Tucked into the mini neighborhood located where Brentwood and Bel-Air meet (along Sepulveda at Moraga), the Bel-Air Bar + Grill will open its doors once again in mid-November after an 18-month renovation. Purchased five years ago by “accidental restaurateur” Susan Disney Lord, granddaughter of Roy Disney, the family-friendly restaurant will retain the hallmarks of its watering-hole status with a revamped exterior and updated interior. Artist Amanda Weil designed the photographic installation of magenta bougainvillea on the new 22-foot-tall, exterior-facing glass stairwell.

“I wanted the art to be local,” says Lord. “But no palm trees.” The stairwell leads to a new private dining room upstairs, replete with fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Getty Center. A new kitchen will be dishing out a “more health-conscious” menu but old favorites like the chopped veggie salad will be carried over. “If you live in a city as large as this one, you need your local community, and this is it for this neighborhood.” 662 N. Sepulveda Blvd., LA, 310-440-5544

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