Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tell It Tuesdays: Dry Bar | Los Angeles

          Salon: drybar
          11677 San Vicente Blvd.
          Los Angeles, CA 90049

          Drink Damage: Mimosa | Free
                                                                             Blow out | $35

Interior Swag: Spell saloon, take away an o, and you've got hottest new place to have a drink and have your hair done at the same time. Cameron Webb is "the creative mind behind Drybar's branding and identity" according to the website, and let's just say this guy is spot on. The decor is sophisticated and feminine without being pretentious or too girly. Lots of gossip and fashion magazines are spread out on the counters, and hair products for purchase line the walls, yet the joint remains elegant and clutter-free.

Bwood2Service: My stylist was so bubbly and extremely friendly. The look I wanted wasn't represented on their menu, so just like a mixologist, she created an original on the spot to satisfy my request.

Food and Drinks: My appointment was at 8:15 in the morning, so I passed on purchasing the cute little bags of dried mixed fruit, salted sunflower seeds, and chocolate covered pretzels. But when it came to the mimosa, I just had to accept. After my amazing 10 minute scalp massage I already felt like a million bucks, so drinking a glass of champagne only completed my fantasy of living a life of luxury.

themenuGo-Back-Again-Ness: There isn't a bar in town where I leave looking better than when I arrive. I'll definitely become a regular at this chain. I was in and out in 45 minutes and treated like a VIP from the moment I walked in. Alli Webb and company are onto something big here and I hope they call when it's time to create the original drybar cocktail.

Friday, May 27, 2011

ModernMom.com Cocktail

I am thrilled to announce my involvement with ModernMom.com! I will be contributing to this fabulous site for women several times a month with my expertise from the cocktail world.

Today's drink is a fun drink for this Memorial Day weekend.
Click Here for the complete recipe!

What will you be cooking up this weekend? I'd love to hear your plans and see some pics of your creations!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Poor Girl's Skinny Margarita

Yes, my obsession with Bethenny Frankel's Skinny Girl Margarita is exhausting. After today's post, I promise to take a long break from the Margarita family, or any cocktails with the word skinny attached. But, after watching my first episode of Bethenny Ever After the other night and hearing her order the Skinny Girl at a restaurant pre Skinny Girl brand, I thought I'd make that version for myself. I drink shots of tequila with a squeeze of lime all the time, but I've never added a dash of triple sec before. (Plus BevMo! was sold out of the Skinny Girl today and I was craving it.)

Bethenny's Original Skinny Girl
2 ounces tequila
Dash of triple sec
Squeeze of lime wedge

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wine Wednesday: La Granja Wines | Spain

I'm a minimalist. Even when it comes to wine, the simpler the label design the more likely I am to purchase the bottle. So when I tracked down the Syrah, Tempranillo, and Tempranilllo Garnacha produced by the Spanish La Granja winery and sold at Trader Joe's, I was impressed by design alone.

The amazing price helped ($3.99), as did my recent connection with Louis Geirnaerdt via Twitter. Known as the "Lion King," or brand proprietor for La Granja, his passion for his product prompted me to try three of his wines which he affectionately referred to as "the rooster, the zebra, and the piggy."

The growing region for the grapes is found in the Northern half of Spain. Most of my time in that country was spent in Granada, Sevilla, and Barcelona, far from the vineyards producing these affordable wines. Please note that my next trip will not include a single visit to a church or a museum...it's all about the wineries!

Of the three bottles I enjoyed, the "Zebra" is my favorite. Produced in the traditional growing region Carinena, this wine is toted as "an everyday drinking soft rounded juicy wine, with rich ripe raspberry flavors." How can you go wrong with that?! I paired it with sun dried tomato and goat cheese sausages for a spectacular meal.

My second favorite was the "Piggy" from the D.O. Carinena region. Similar flavors to the Zebra but slightly milder to my palate. Third place was the "Rooster," which I will definitely try again despite my awarding it the bronze.

Next time you are in Southern California, swing by a TJ's for your own taste test. You're in for a very pleasant surprise.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tell It Tuesdays: Campanile | Los Angeles

Restaurant: Campanile 

                   624 South La Brea Avenue
                   Los Angeles, CA 90036

Drink Damage: Palmina Tocai Friuliano, Santa Barbara 2009 | $13/$52

Interior Swag: There's no question that the restaurant is beautiful. The bar is long, and the dining room is composed of a great room and smaller adjoining rooms. An element of old Hollywood is clearly evident and if you talk to the owner Mark Peel there's even a great story about how Lolita got her name.

Service: This is complicated. I liked that the bartender refilled my half empty chardonnay without my having to ask. But it was all downhill from there. 

The owner, Mark Peel, came over to us and quite proudly announced that the menu will change every night. I ordered the Seafood Stew ($18) which was described like this: shrimp, halibut, snapper, cipollini, onions, fava beans, lobster sauce. Sounds great, right?  Then it arrived with clams and muscles. The menu had not been updated. 

I refused it and declined their offer to make a new dish. It took forever to prepare this stew the first time and my friends and family were finished with their meal. However, the bartender kept asking me over and over and over again if I was SURE I didn't want something else. It was exhausting.

Food and Drink: Bread, butter, and a glass of wine. Can I even write this review? 

Go-Back-Again-Ness: No way. To top it all off, one creepy old guy (who sits at the end by the windows almost every Saturday night) even stopped by on his way out to say to me, "You know why they gave you muscles? Because you've been a bad little girl." Um, gross. Lucky for me there are hundreds of restaurants in this town that are better than this one.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rule #49: Have Hints To Leave

Rule #49: Hinting for People to Leave

Sometimes people overstay their welcome at the bar. The drinks have been cleared, the check has been presented, and the hint has been dropped on them like a piano yet they'll continue to sit and chat as if it's their living room. Here are a few things you can do to encourage a departure.

1. If the bill has been paid but your tip is sitting in there, take it.
2. Clear everything away. Every empty glass, crumpled napkin, and knotted cherry stem should disappear.
3. Ask them to scoot their bar stools closer together so you can better serve some of the people who are waiting for a seat behind them.
4. Place other people's drinks down on the bar in what was their space.
5. Order an appetizer for the people waiting to sit, even if they didn't ask for food. Lay out a place setting with as many napkins and utensils as you can.
6. If none of that works, tell the squatters that you've arranged for them to be seated at a table where they will be more comfortable and can hear each other talk.
7. And if you really need to get the point across, give them a new bill for the cocktails they are about to drink.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Non-Fiction Friday: Hotel Hobo

Except for hair that was a few days from its last wash, this young man did not look out of place. And even the cleanliness of his hair was somewhat normal for our hotel, which was blocks from the beach. Any surfer and quite a few women will tell you that "ocean hair" is a look to be desired and impossible to replicate without an actual dip in the sea. So in his case, slightly scruffy didn't set off any internal alarms.

This guy was tall and handsome, with East Coast looks. His wavy strawberry blond hair was swept perfectly to the side every time. He could have easily been a model for a Hampton's mail-order catalogue (if there is such a thing). Always alone and not interested in conversation, he'd stay for one drink at our hotel lobby bar, pay with cash, and take off.

We saw him a lot. This wasn't that strange since some people did check in for long term stays, but his wardrobe was extremely limited for a guest at a luxury beach hotel. Same slacks and sweater every visit, which was every other day. But he smelled fine and shaved frequently.

As time went on though, things changed. He started to act weird. Murmuring to himself. Awkward neck and shoulder ticks surfaced. The hair turned from wind and sand fabulous to greasy gross. The shaving stopped and the five o'clock shadow became a full-on beard.

But he still paid for his drinks and never caused any trouble at the bar. Oh, he always left a buck.

Then, one afternoon as I was setting up for the evening shift, I heard a ton of commotion down the corridor. Lots of men were shouting. It sounded like there was a struggle going on.

Just as I was about to go see what was happening, three hotel security guards came around the corner with our regular who was handcuffed and struggling to be free from their grasp. It took all three guards to get him out of the hotel.

Apparently he was secretly living in the lower half of the hotel for a while, moving between the pool bathrooms and the spa facility. He would shower and shave in the men's locker room, then switch over to the pool bathrooms at night when the spa was closed. He used the towels, mouth wash, toothbrushes, combs, razors...

It was when they found him shirtless in front of the bathroom sink with a needle stuck in his arm that prompted them to put a stop to the madness.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Jalapeno Margarita

Today's drink is called the Jalarita, pronounced HOLLA-RITA. Take your classic Margarita and add a thin jalapeno floater on top for a fiery twist.

3 ounces tequila
1 ounce sweet & sour
1/2 ounce triple sec
Squeeze of 2 lime wedges
Squeeze of 2 lemon wedges
Floater of Jalapeno juice (go easy!)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tell It Tuesdays: Angel's Piano Bar | Santa Monica

Restaurant: Angel's Piano Bar
                   2460 Wilshire Blvd.
                   Santa Monica, CA

Drink Damage: Dealer's Choice | $8
Margaritas | $6   Sangria Pitcher | $12

Interior Swag: Bars like this are hard to come by, especially on the west side of Los Angeles. Bravo to the owners/investors/creators of Angel's who developed a venue that fosters conversation and relaxation over trendiness and hype. Despite its glamorous interior the setting is unpretentious and extremely welcoming.

Service: Our server was great but Patrick the bartender really stole the show. He impressed me with his aromatic "Dealer's Choice" cocktail, blueberry vodka shot, and "Double & Flip." The manager also stopped by our table to chat for a bit, dressed from head to toe in the spirit of a 1940's supper club.

Food & Drink: Our table ordered pork sliders, pizza, and fried pickles. Let me just say now that those were the most amazing fried pickles I've ever had. It' ll be double order next time around.

Go-Back-Again-Ness: I think my girlfriend summed it up when she said, "I think I've found my neighborhood bar."

Happy Blog Day 2 Us

100 blog posts ago and a 4 hour rainy traffic-jammed drive to Palm Desert, my sister and I had an epiphany. We decided to change the name of our book, start writing a blog, fire up a Twitter, build an online store, and create a little brand for ourselves. Our book launches soon and needless to say, we'll be skipping the virtual cake for the real stuff!

We want to say thank you to all our amazing readers whose clicks, comments, and connections make blogging every day an absolute delight. It's time to celebrate!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Manners: Rule #38 | Don't Force an Issue

Rule #38: Don't Force an Issue

When the bar or the kitchen makes a customer's drink or meal wrong, and the customer not only refuses to consume it but decides against any sort of replacement, don't force the issue. Offer a replacement or an entirely new selection once or twice, but never three times. Chance are that the person is already upset about the mistake in the first place, and bringing it up again over and over will only make the matters worse. Besides, maybe she'll just end up drinking her dinner.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Weekend Night Dinner: Mini Burgers and Beer

Mini burgers are easy to make and always summon "oooos" and "ahhhhhs" when presented. Make them as appetizers or for a main dish, but be careful not to over cook. To make the buns you can use a pasta cutter, cookie cutter, or a plain old drinking glass.

1 pound beef (I bought mine pre-formed)
Loaf of bread
Crumbled goat cheese

Side Dishes
Mixed green salad, Baked beans & BEER

Friday, May 13, 2011

Non-Fiction Friday: Drink Demo Thing

Prepare for the unexpected. That's what comes to mind when I think back to my drink demo last week. It was the night of the cookbook photo shoot (remember I said I'd be tweeting all those photos and then those dang Santa Monica mountains got in the way?). Four of my original drinks were being photographed along with the food dishes created by other people. One of the people organizing the event thought it would be fun for me to do a drink demo after the shoot was over. And I, always looking for an opportunity to plug our book (see?) thought it was a great idea too.

Then, at the last minute, my location switched from one of the most beautiful home bars I've ever seen to one of the most beautiful jacuzzi steps I've ever sat on. This brings me back to the prepare part, because I've never practiced making a drink on my lap before. Here's what I did wrong along the way:

1. I forgot the shaker in the house. Someone had to get it for me.
2. The soda water exploded all over the patio. Should have opened it earlier.
3. I started to shake ALL the ingredients in the shaker. More explosions.
4. I forgot the high ball in the house. Someone had to get it.
5. The lime was so dried out I would have squeezed blood out of my hand sooner than a drop of lime juice.

Look. I'm not going to take myself too seriously here. I was making a drink, not saving the world (I'm watching Mega Mind right now). But, as I venture out a little more with promos for This Girl Walks Into a Bar, I should probably well, expect the unexpected.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tell It Tuesdays: Lilly's | Venice

Find Lilly's French Cafe & BarRestaurant: Lilly's French Cafe & Bar
1031 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291

Drink Damage:
Jameson | $10
Patron Silver | $10
Aquinas Pinot Noir | $10
Sierra Nevada | $5.50
Fat Tire | $5.50

Interior Swag: No swag. Simple. Wood floors. Wood tables and chairs. Minimal decor.

Service: Excellent. Our waitress was wonderful (and another waiter...more on that below).

Food & Drink: I had the broccoli soup and cheese plate. Absolutely wonderful food. The rest of our party ordered Salmon, muscles, onion soup, burgers, beef stew, beef tartar, and everyone was happy.

My only complaint revolves around my drink, and my guess is that the bartender was new at her job. I ordered a Patron Silver neat. My cousin ordered a Jameson on the rocks. My glass contained the smallest pour I've ever seen in my life. My cousin's glass, which was the same size as mine, was filled to the top. Here's the problem. There should be no difference portion wise, between a drink that's ordered neat and a drink on the rocks. Take out the ice of one drink and the liquid levels should be the same.

I called a waiter over to ask him about the difference (I'm turning into such a drink diva). He agreed with me that something was wrong and offered to bring me another drink. I refused, not wanting to be the prima dona that I probably am possibly turning into. A few minutes later, the waiter showed up with another Patron Silver neat. The pour was clearly made using a jigger one again, but you can't win them all.

Go-Back-Again-Ness: Sure. I'll just order a Jameson on the rocks next time.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday Manners: Rule #61 | Automatic Gratuity

Rule #61: Alert Customers to Automatic Gratuity

In a lot a restaurants, a sentence in small italics at the bottom of the page lets customers know that for parties of 6 or more, a gratuity of 18% will automatically be added to the check. For the most part, people are comfortable with this as long as the service is good.

However, when presenting the check, it is still your responsibility to let the party know that gratuity has been added. If you forget to tell the party, and they double tip, you need to let them know, before they leave the establishment, that a gratuity had already been added. If the double tip was intentional, it's your lucky day. If it wasn't, better to deal with getting it corrected now then in a few days when your manager may think you're someone who can't be trusted.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Sangria | Red

To me warm weather means sipping chilled wine. But it doesn't have to mean white wine. The red wine sangria is so satisfying, mouth-watering, and pleasing to look at that it's worth the little effort it takes to make. The best part is that if refrigerated, it lasts up to a week, giving you a great reason for back-to-back parties.
Ingredients (serves 30-40) 
6 bottles of red wine
1 bottle of brandy
1/2 bottle of triple sec
1 cup of sugar (add more as needed)
6 apples
6 lemons
6 limes
6 oranges

Step 1: Slice all the fruit and put into a large beverage jar or drink cooler
Step 2: Pour in the wine, brandy, and triple sec
Step 3: Add the first cup of sugar and stir the mixture well
Step 4: Refrigerate the sangria for a few hours, then taste. Add sugar as needed.
Step 5: Keep refrigerated until your guests arrive (24 hours is ideal)
Step 6: Serve in a glass pitcher that reveals the fruit. If refrigerated, the sangria will last up to a week.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Trinket Tuesday: Lush Life Ice Shots

What could be better as the warm weather approaches than stocking up on the fun summer drink supplies. Lush Life offers these cute little ice shot glasses that will get your home pool party off to festive start. I found mine at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but you can also order then directly from Amazon.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Monday Manners: Rule #27 | Upselling Alcohol

Rule #27 | Appropriate Upselling

If someone orders a vodka tonic, don't you dare automatically pour him a top shelf brand. Use the well liquor in the speed bar that your establishment has designated for all non-specified drink requests. The difference in price can be significant and can make someone beyond irate. That being said, a few dollars more per drink can be good profit and good for your tips. You can feel comfortable suggesting or offering a better or higher priced alcohol than the well. For example, "If you haven't tried Tito's Vodka yet it's amazing. Want to try it?" Or "I'd love for you to try Tito's Vodka in your drink." Giving your customer the option of how their drink is made is most important.