Showing posts with label malo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label malo. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Buvare: 'Twas the Punch Before Christmas

Every once in a while, something will strike such a perfect chord with me that it's as if The Universe just WANTS me to be happy. And that's how I felt when I saw this flier for Rum Dood, Barkeeper, and Kraken Rum's 'Twas the Punch Before Christmas contest at Malo Cantina. It was just an equation for success! A great drinkin' blog, a great bar shop, my favorite dark rum I hadn't had yet, all under one roof at one of my local haunts. Sign me up!
For the contest, Rum Dood had posted the rules, to concoct an original recipe containing citrus, spice, spirits, sugar, and some sort of “weak.” The six selected finalists were mixing up large batches for this event at Malo. And I had a ticket.

It was a particularly blustery night when two of my friends and I huddled together, walking through the rain-tinged wind to Malo. Once in the toasty upstairs, it felt as if the holidays were finally upon us; a warm and lively scene highlighted by laughter and the sound of pouring punch.We didn't really waste any time and gravitated first to the station of Zach Patterson from STK. He was serving up a concoction titled "Port of Portland Punch", an iceberg covered with fresh mint and fresher-than-fresh lime zest (he was zesting as we approached) had our mouths watering before we had a glass. This punch was a velvet smooth mixture of Kraken Black Spiced Rum, Canton Ginger Liqueur, Benedictine, Green tea, Lemon, Gum syrup & Tahitian Vanilla/Citrus blend, topped with Prosecco. My palate was excited - and this was only stop #1?? Zach's punch literally made me swoon, the magical blend of Tahitian vanilla and lime mingling like creamy key lime custard, but finishing clean and spicy. Living in LA by way of Portland, OR, naturally we began an instant rapport over the city, the next punch-man down the line chiming in, Mr. Blair Reynolds of Portland tiki culture fame. We slid down to his station and he poured us another slam dunk.Blair (of called his recipe "Blackheart Punch," a blend of Cruzan Black Strap Rum (my favorite!), Cruzan Amber Rum, Iced black tea, Cinnamon syrup, Lemon & lime juice. Another popper on the tongue, the cinnamon syrup a superb bond for all of the flavors. I could have stayed in this room all night, back and forth between these two bowls, but then what if they only got better?!In the next room, Jason Schiffer (from 320 Main in Seal Beach) was topping off his gorgeous "Tonjok Punch" with some bubbly. Already promising, we held out a glass. The curious contents included Bols Genever, Batavia Arrack, Root, Depaz Cane syrup, Simple syrup, Lemon juice, Peychaud's bitters, topped with Chandon Brut. While I was intrigued and impressed with the creativity, the overall effect was quite stiff (as in alchoholic!) and not quite as refined flavorwise as I had hoped for. This was also when we realized we were a wee bit tipsy and visited the snack table!Next we hit Chuck Taggart's "Ponche Relejante" ("Relaxing Punch"). Boy, this was even more intense! Alright, check this out: Gran Centenario Rosangel tequila, Del Maguey Minero Mezcal, fino sherry, Licor 43, Guaycura Liqueur de Damiana, Demerara sugar, Té de 7 Azahares (Mexican “7 Blossoms” tea), lemon & lime juice, Fee’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged bitters, Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters (get Chuck's recipe here). The smoke of the mezcal hit me first, a splash of kerosene in an otherwise smooth floral mixture. His punch was risky with its flavor profile, and I had to give him props for that! But the drunker I was getting on this school night, could not finish my potent glass.By Chris Bostick's (The Varnish) "Punch You in the Eye Punch," I felt like perhaps someone had (even my photography got... fuzzier). This was based around green tea-infused El Tesoro Silver Tequila, with Scarlet Ibis Rum, Aperol, Benedictine, Cucumber Demerara syrup, Lemon & grapefruit juice, topped with Ting Jamaican soda. As much as I wanted to love this (big Varnish fan here), that pesky Aperol took the flavor away from a drinkable punch realm for me. It was a slow sipper, and the pleasure of punch in my opinion is enjoying its potability whilst the tipsy just creeps up!Lastly, a nice lady was mixing up hot buttered Kraken Rums, which at the time sounded lovely, but after a few sips just didn't seem to be the right proportions. Noticing the full glasses about the perimeter of the room, I could see we were not alone in this impression.
So back to the beginning we went!We revisited with Zach and Blair, "reassessing" their pleasant punches before traipsing down the steps with our punch glasses for a quick taco in the dining room. By the time we made it back upstairs, the winners had already been decided (whoops! We hadn't even gotten to vote yet!). Chuck Taggart won the judge's award, while the people picked Zach Patterson. Both well-deserved!
A festive night in all, I left happy, and more pleasantly plump than a $12 ticket has ever left me before! Can we do this once a month, guys??

Click here for some more holiday party punch recipes!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

En Vitesse: Quick Bites

To quell some of my writer's anxiety over larger blogpost projects/series (ah hem, Russia) I decided to blast out my IT list for the week.. An amuse-bouche for us bon vivants.

After a few weeks tightly nested in my apartment due to flu and post-holiday debt, I returned to the nightlife this past week with relieving success. One of my first stops was a civilized cocktail at one of downtown LA's newest hidden treasures, the Association (110 e 6th st). Hoping to cater to locals as a "neighborhood pub", this English-style boozer's modest elegance will surely draw the savvy set, with incredibly fresh cocktail ingredients, a killer whiskey/Scotch collection and a buffet of boutique bitters topping the bar. An LA-original, the Brown Derby cocktail (bourbon, benedictine, bitters and flamed orange peel) topped the classics list, while an off-the-menu Elderflower Gimlet refreshed the palate. You won't spot this dwelling passing by though, as there is no signage - Under the neon glow of the newly reopened Cole's marquee keep watch for a stag doorman in front of a heavy black door (an exact replica the 10 Downing Street door - the official residence of the British prime minister in London).

On the topic of drink... A new mixology trend seeping down the West coast (and about time) is the effervescent BEER COCKTAIL. Known previously to me only by my summer favorite the Trailer Trash Margarita, hangover-cure-all the Bloody Beer, and of course Irish Car Bombs.. This movement (examples pair hefeweizen with gin, lime and elderflower; Sapporo with blackberries, vodka and chambord) is taking my guilty pleasure for ale-mixing to a whole new level...

Dinner parties need to come back in a huge way this Spring, OK? This past weekend, my friend and hostess-with-the-mostest Nicolette casually last-minute invited a group over for enchiladas on her patio.. I wasn't expecting the several trays of hand-rolled enchiladas, Spanish rice, handmade tortilla chips and enough delicious fresh salsa to feed a firehouse. As always, she spared no expense to regale a perfect experience (all the way through espresso service). It was the most delightful surprise meal I have had in weeks.

On the town, I once again thoroughly enjoyed my tacos (chicken mole, spicy carnita and carne deshebrada) last night at Loteria Grill's Hollywood Blvd outpost (just go already) and recent brunches at Silverlake favorite Malo (I could drink spicy cucumber "brunch" margaritas with breakfast everyday...) and a fluffy crabcake benedict and mimosa at laid-back posh spot Taste on Melrose. Yes, it tastes good to be back, LA...

Speaking of tasting, Catherine made my mouth water today with this recipe for HOMEMADE OREOS... Enough said.

And finally.. How can I thank Paul enough for passing along this NYTimes article and gut-busting recipe involving, drumroll please.. Woven bacon. I give you, the Internet-famous BBQ'd-pig-overload, the BACON via LATimes and my crappy cellphone

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Croquer: Malo Mañana

Malo Cantina on Sunset, perched on the border of Los Feliz and Sunset Junction (and cozied up to Elliot Smith's famous wall) has long been one of my favorite spots for an all-around pleasant dining experience. While from my first visit I admit to taking petty issues with this and that, it was the content satisfaction upon leaving and desire to return that made the lasting impression. Sure, the bar is dark, cramped and sticky, the dining room drab and dinny, and the patio an extension of the concrete parking lot... But Malo is also the first tequila bar I've frequented where a bartender has gone out of her way to engage me with her vast knowledge of her subject, where I actually learned a thing or two about tequila-making and mescal, and enjoyed samples from their extensive collection to wash down the scrumptious beef and pickle tacos. She kept me coming back, saddling up at the bar, ready for my next course (and tastes!).
Then I tried the Al Pastor.
It's been a happy honeymoon ever since!
So when I heard the news about Malo's new weekend brunch undertaking, naturally I was excited although aprehensive. Could they make the cut and hold onto quality? Or would they suffer the common fate of a watered-down excuse for more open business hours?
True to form, I was quick in line to find out.

First I will admit what I initially was going to omit, that in one weekend, I actually brunched at Malo.. twice. So then, now that it's out in the open, Saturday: It was a late start, we rolled up outside a 1:15 (brunch ends on both days at 2:00pm). The dining room only had a few occupied tables, but we opted to dine al fresco, which was equally sparse. I was immediately taken with the menu, the cover listing many new "brunch cocktails". The first several were standards, with "brunch" tacked onto the name, but as I read my mouth began to water (and wonder). I decided to try the refreshing sounding Cucumber Margarita (fresh cucumber, Milagro silver, tabasco, lime, agave nectar) and my date decided on the Watermelon Margarita (fresh watermelon, Milagro silver, basil). Both hit the spot, although the cucumber was slightly on the watery side. I ordered the Chilaquiles con Huevos, which were delicious if not overwhelmingly one-noted - The large mound of homemade chips were sauteed with eggs, cheese, drenched in a tangy salsa roja and sprinkled with green onion. What the dish lacked was a side. A small dent into the mountain and I was ready for a flavor compliment of some kind. I would recommend this dish, but definitely to share. My date had the Huevos Rancheros which were picture-perfectly baked in a cast iron skillet, made up of 2 fried eggs, black beans, corn tortillas, cheese and ranchero sauce. After another round of Malo's tart house margaritas, we were sufficiently pleased and ready for our day sitting on astroturf sunning, in a warehouse parking lot sipping carbonated wine in a can and Colt 45 (that's another post entirely).

When Malo seemed the only logical choice for brunch on Sunday, I knew I would definitely get a review out of the weekend. We arrived before noon, to a surprisingly similar desolate scene. A table outside was harder to score this time however, as there appeared to be several long tables reserved. We were seated in a sunny corner, so immediately required margarita refreshment. Despite the multitude of options, I went with the Cucumber again, as I was told the Fresa Margarita was incredibly sweet (though the allspice and black pepper listed ingredients intrigued me). Today I opted for the Pozole Poached Eggs, and my date the Scrambled Egg Tostadas per the server's suggestion. Not a bad hint at all, the homemade tortillas were piled high with black beans, scrambled eggs, cheese, tomato, green onion and nopalitos (cactus meat), covered in a spicy creamy "Oaxacan" sauce. Delicious! I was envious, until I tried my pozole.

I had missed this on the menu the previous day, thank goodness for second chances. This dish is truly an innovation. Two foods high on my fave list are perfectly poached eggs and homemade chicken pozole. I can't say I would have ever thought to combine them though. The cast iron skillet set in front of me held two eggs exquisitely poached in the rich tomato broth (adding an amazing depth of flavor to the eggs) with shredded white chicken, hominy, corn tortillas, cheese and green onion. The only thing left to be desired was a little spice, which a few dashes of Tapatio completed.
It was the perfect brunch meal.. Not too heavy, but tantalizing and comforting.
I know Malo is only a couple of weekends into their brunch service, and in maintaining their reputation for reliability, I know in coming weeks nabbing a patio table, much less any won't be nearly as easy.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Buvare: Margarita

Nothing says lazy weekend Summer afternoon in the West quite like a frosty salt-encrusted thirst-quenching Margarita. They are also my favorite cocktails to mix at home and for guests, whether squeezing from fresh fruit, experimenting with different flavors or guiltily indulging in an americana bastardization of the libation. Here are some of my notes on making a crowd and tastebud pleasing marg.

Perfect Scratch Cadillac Margarita
All you really need for a perfect margarita is decent tequila, lime juice, orange liquor, and salt. The classic Cadillac uses Cuervo 1800 and Grand Mariner, but I also like Suaza Hornitos and Cointreau.
Follow a 3:2:1 ratio - 1 1/2 oz. tequila, 1 oz. fresh lime juice, and 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier. Shake over ice and serve in salt-rimmed glass.

Fiddling with a Classic
I always tend to follow this basic mixing recipe to start, but sometimes when I'm in the kitchen my puckish (if not wreckless) creative side takes over. Muddled fruits, juices, peppers and herbs later, I either have a new favorite or an occasional sour frown. When mixing in bulk or for large numbers of people, sometimes the hand-crafted details (particularly the fresh squeezed juices) can prove awfully laborious. Luckily Trader Joes has introduced a remarkably affordable ($1.99 bottle) and tasty mix, sans nasty preservatives. This weekend while entertaining I tried muddling fresh pineapple with a lime wedge to start, adding Hornitos, triple sec, splash of OJ, splash of Guava nectar and topped the shaker off with a dash of Trader Joes mix. Shaken and served on the rocks, glasses rimmed with margarita salt I tossed with some smoky chili powder. It was a hit! Moral: Don't be afraid to experiment and see what a Jalepeno Cilantro Margarita might taste like. In fact, one of my favorite cocktails of all time was a spicy twist on a margarita. Colosso, a [sadly now-deceased] tapas bar in southeast Portland concocted the Zirkpatrick, a delicious cocktail combining housemade black pepper-infused Tequila shaken with pure pomegranite juice and fresh lime, served on the rocks with a salted rim. The spice of the pepper was perfectly offset by the juicy tannin of the pomegranite and tartness of the lime. Simple tweaks anyone can do that can add a whole new dimension include adding some fresh clementine or tangerine juice, muddling a fresh apricot or some mint leaves, shaking in a couple blackberries, mixing in coconut and other tropical fruit juices, or simply floating some nice cognac on top. Have fun with it!

The Trailer Trash Margarita
Sometimes the foodie in you needs a vacation. For lazy days by the pool, I prefer this old "family" recipe (apparently a priest taught my mother... Amy Sedaris also endorses it in her hospitality book I Like You). This margarita has a different effect than the standard tequila-only brand, creating a mellow buzz that is just right for an afternoon in the sun. Start by emptying 6 oz (1/2 can) of frozen limeade concentrate into a blender. Save the other half in another container for the second round! (There will always be another pitcher.. be warned!)
Fill the empty concentrate can 2/3 with tequila of your choice (don't waste the fancy stuff on this recipe). Fill the last 1/3 with triple sec. Pour in a bottle of light mexican lager beer (I like Pacifico) and top the blender with lots of ice. Pulse until smooth and watch for the froth (I sometimes add the beer slowly as I blend so as not to overflow). Pour in Schlitz glasses, garnish with lime and enjoy the float down the river!

Another Round, Please!
Now that we've thoroughly discussed margarita-making at home.. what about those warm Los Angeles summer days that are SO lazy, you don't even feel like making your own margarita? Well, Lord knows this is most of the season, so let's quickly one-off the prime watering holes for margs in the neighborhood.
Drumroll, please.

10. Barragans: Go on Wednesday for $2.50 margs - But you'll need about triple your average intake (the buggers are deceptively small).
9. El Compadre: Home of the famous Flaming Margarita - Just don't spill the singed 151 into your drink.. Makes the whole thing taste like lighter fluid.
8. Casita Del Campo: Serve doubles and a darn good blended marg, great patio too.
7. Mexico City: A dependable, appropriately dosed, balanced margarita every time.
6. El Chavo: A classic - No frills, but who can complain about a $5 marg??
5. Malo: A tart, stiff standby. Great with their pineapple-infused tequila too.
4. El Carmen: Knows how to make a good 'rita. Just avoid the spicy jalepeno version.
3. Lava Lounge (RIP!): I swear there were egg whites in this frothy masterpiece.
2. L' Scorpion: Solid top shelf tequila bar delivers - and has a killer happy hour.
1. El Conquistador: Heroin moonshine trumps any day. (But if you don't feel like blacking out, try the banana blended margarita - I know, I know, just TRUST ME!)