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Finding a good michelada is no easy task. Many restaurants just get it wrong—I find Clamato to be the main culprit. I have witnessed too many restaurants filling a glass half way with the tomato-clam juice concoction and topping it off with a Mexican beer. It takes more than those two steps to master the perfect michelada. The beer, spices, lime juice and sometimes Clamato (if invited to the party) need to come together and do the salsa. My hunt for restaurants that share a similar belief led me to travel out a little outside of the eastside, but not too far, and into three very different neighborhoods.
Here’s a list of restaurants doing it right:
YXTA: The location is off the beaten path (near Skid Row), but the restaurant is in a neat industrial space with really cool Dia de los Muertos style artwork, and more importantly, has a great happy hour. Yxta’s micheladas (pictured above) are on the milder side, served with lots of ice and a chili-salted rim that yields the right amount of salty spiciness. The food is okay, but isn’t anything to write home about. The guacamole is a standout and is uniquely topped with pumpkin seeds. 601 S Central Ave., Los Angeles, 90021
La Loteria Grill: This has been a long-time favorite of mine for brunch. They have a fresh-and-simple-is-better mentality that really appeals to me. The Studio City location is my favorite of the three, mainly because they have the best parking situation (lots of free spaces). They do five different takes on the michelada, but being a creature of habit, I always get the Michelada Clasica. It’s one of the best I’ve ever had with a mixture of worcestershire, maggi, Tapatio, and lime juice that comes in a glass of ice and beer on side. The worcestershire and maggi combo adds a rich piquancy while the Tapatio and lime provides a nice kick. It’s a perfect complement to their Huevos Divorciados,which are topped with red and green sauce and served with black beans and papas con rajas. 12050 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, 91604
Echo Park’s Allumette, in the former Alston Yacht Club space, had been on my list for a while, so I was excited when I was invited to try it out. I’d heard some complaints, mostly about portion sizes, but I rarely encountered any kvetching about preparation and flavor. I suppose that’s because both are meticulously spot on. Each and every dish at Allumette is conceived and served with careful deliberation and a boatload of ambition—I can’t imagine that head chef Miles Thompson ever sleeps. It’s true that the portions are small (it’s billed as a tasting menu) but if you can get past that, you’re in for an artful, and wildly unique, food experience.
The menu at Allumette is divided into five sections that go from light to more substantial. Close to the top is a must-have Fried Oyster served with a creamy kimchi dressing and diced Asian pear for brightness. You should not attempt to share this small and savory treat—order your own. You can share the Ankimo, which manages to be both delicate and rich. Its base is a very smooth round of monkfish liver that sits in ponzu sauce and is topped with sea grapes. The pretty little flowers are a nice visual touch.
The seafood theme, quite prevalent at Allumette, continued with the Poached Octopus. Beluga lentils made this dish hearty while the fried egg added a certain sultriness. “But grapefruit?” you ask. Yes, it’s true. You wouldn’t expect tart citrus to work with this, but it really lifted the combination and kept it from becoming too heady.
Northern Michigan has a lot to offer. Not only is it beautiful, with unbelievable scenic drives and gorgeous lake views, the food scene is also pretty spectacular. With a baby in tow, we didn’t hit up the type or amount of restaurants that we usually would, but we definitely ate well. And that’s the thing about this part of the country—the local produce is outstanding, the fish is fresh, the ice cream is creamy and the prices are super affordable, so you don’t really need to do any fine dining to have a great gastronomical experience.
Being pregnant at Christmas is a little harrowing. I really want to drink….many drinks! But, even if I can’t, I thought I’d be unselfish and share a great drink recipe from Allston Yacht Club in Echo Park with you. This Christmas/ Chanukah-ready concoction is called the Accursed Fruitcake, and it got the seal of approval from my husband, who is allowed to drink. Sigh. He says it embodies everything he loves about winter—it will make your friends and family all warm and festive.
Here’s the easy recipe:
2 oz Applejack
1 Tbs inebriated fruit*
Top with apple cider, and add a Splash of Ginger Beer.
Stir and serve in iced highball glass.
* For the inebriated fruit, you can use dried versions of any or all of following: cranberries, cherries, apricots, blueberries, peaches, candied ginger, white and dark raisins. Boil for 10 minutes. Drain and pour the fruit into a container. Add ¼ cup of sugar for every pound—a pound will make a ton of drinks. Now just add a few cinnamon sticks, a couple of cloves, and allspice. Cover with brandy and let sit until needed.
And, if your not up for making your own drinks, Allston is serving up 6 holiday cocktails until December 30th.
Elements Kitchen just became one of my new favorite restaurants. For one thing, it’s very accessible—we took the train and walked just a few blocks to its location, right next to the Pasadena Playhouse—and for another, it’s not a snooze. And that’s saying a lot, considering much of the fine dining in Pasadena plays it too conservatively.
I liked Elements from the moment we walked in. The service was friendly, the crowd very mixed, the music (mostly) good, and the décor leafy. Plus, I like the confidence that an open kitchen exudes, and this one, helmed by Owner/Chef Onil Chibás, really lights up the dining room.
Constructed by Michel Dozois of Névé Ice, the cocktail menu features 4 main themes: Berry, Rhubarb, Citrus and Spirit. I chose the French Maid, a none-too-sweet mixture of brandy, lime juice, cucumbers, simple syrup and mint. Josh got the refreshing Blueberry Southside Fizz with gin, lime juice, soda mint and blueberries.
I’d only been to Desert Rose once before, and just for drinks, so I was excited when I got an invitation to try it out for lunch. I’d heard good things about their Mediterranean menu and remembered their big patio, a nice refuge from the bustling Hillhurst Ave., feeling very vacation-y.
We started with the Blue Crab Cakes. Crisply fried and super crabby (down with bready filler!), they were served with an addictive citrusy dressing and had a delicious hint of curry. The grapefruit chunks were a nice touch. We paired the appetizer with the Lucid Whiskey Sour, a Maker’s Mark/Cointreau cocktail served in an absinthe-rinsed glass.
I have a major burger compulsion, so I was extra happy when I heard they were serving a Lamb Burger. The patty was very juicy and perfectly pink inside with a healthy slab of feta cheese. I love a brioche bun, and this one had a flaky texture that put the focus on the meat and cheese, which is how I like it.
There’s no doubt about it: LA is having the weirdest summer weather in recent history. It’s all anyone can talk about (just check your Facebook if you don’t believe me). So, when we finally got a brilliantly sunny and warm Sunday, we couldn’t resist—we had to throw a barbecue!
I served my own mixed drink creation to get the party started. I’ve named this the Maker’s Peachy Palmer. It’s a mix of Maker’s Mark, peach iced tea, and homemade lemonade. Honey was also involved. Not to brag, but it was pretty delicious. Recipe after the jump.
Along with these veggies, we also grilled some succulent chicken and lamb from Glendale’s Central Grand Market (Map It). This small market has a great selection of meat and a deli case that features some of the dreamiest hummus, labneh (check out my GCM-inspired shallot yogurt post), eggplant dishes and feta varieties around.
A good mimosa is redundant. You can use the cheapest champagne and any old orange juice, and they’re still alright. But a good bloody mary is a rare and glorious thing. It requires balance—enough vodka to give it punch, enough tomato juice to give it body, enough Tabasco to give it kick, and enough worchestershire (or reasonable alternative) to give it character. A lot of things can go wrong.
Here’s my list of eastside restaurants that get it right:
Edendale Grill (pictured): This is one of my go-to brunch spots for two reasons: the ivy-clad patio all tucked away in the quiet part of Silverlake and the magnificent bloody mary. It’s one of the best I’ve ever had with lots of spice and enough ice that it stays chilled to perfection but doesn’t get watery. Plus, they garnish with lemon, lime and three olives! They used to include celery, but for some reason, they’ve stopped, which is slightly disappointing but not a deal breaker. About their food, it’s not spectacular, but they assemble a satisfying bagels and lox plate, and their BLAT is one of my faves.