Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Downtown Move

Yes, this past weekend, I finally moved downtown. I'm very excited as some of the best bars in LA are now within walking distance. Cole's/Varnish is literally less than two blocks away. Already been there twice in two days. Oh crap, maybe I'm too close. Wait, too close to quality booze? Never.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Boozin' in Boston

So, It's about time I talk a bit about my visit to Beantown. Afterall, that was last month.

Weeks before flying across the country, I made sure to do my homework, collecting information on bars I wanted to try out. I mean, who knows the next time I'll be in Boston. Of course, I had several non-drinkers (including my infant nephew who's a real lightweight) in tow, so it was a bit too tough to hit ever bar on my list (there were over a dozen). Still, we managed to make it to some pretty enjoyable drinking locations.

Fortunately, one of our destinations was the Samuel Adams Brewery. Mind you, what's brewed here is not what you buy at the grocery store. The Boston location is strictly an R&D brewery. Each of their recipes comes from this location, aside from the most ubiquitous, the Boston Lager, which was first formulated in a plain old kitchen. We were able to taste some of their beers, which is always nice, and picked up a few souvenirs from the gift shop. All in all, a good tour.

While we were at the brewery, we were informed that a local restaurant, mere steps from the brewery has the privilege of being the only place you can get a certain beer Sam Adams brews. It was tasty. This is a picture of the tap.

My first cocktail experience in Boston was during our dinner at Green Street (formerly Green Street Grill). It's tough to judge a cocktail program solely by the menu. I take that back. Usually, it's quite simple to do so. If I see the words "sour mix", "chocotini", or a plethora of suggestive cocktail names, I've got a pretty good handle on their cocktail program. On the other end of the spectrum, however, it's a bit more difficult. From the menu alone, I was excited about Green Street. That changed when I tasted their take on an East India House Cocktail. Or, at least I THINK that's what they were trying to do. The predominant flavor was that of the orange juice, and not fresh orange juice. It may very well have been freshly squeezed at some point. Maybe the day before? On top of poor taste, the numerous tiny glaciers pointed to poor training for the bartender who poured it. Shaken drinks served up should have absolutely no floating pieces of ice. If there's a few, I'll just ignore it, but it was as if he had actually tried to get as many ice chips in as possible. This is why I double-strain my shaken drinks and tip my hat to all the barmen who do the same. Needless to say, I switched to beer, which was a much better experience. A good beer menu, it seems, is less likely to betray you than a good cocktail menu. Makes sense.

On Sunday, we made it out to brunch at Eastern Standard. It. Was. Awesome. The cocktails ranged from great to fantastic, and the food, likewise. Cocktails imbibed include: Pimm's Cup, Pisco Sour, Sazerac, Harvey Wallbanger, etc. We shared. Almost everything was very well balanced. The Sazerac was one of the best I've ever had, though just a whisper on the sweet side. After a nice discussion with one of the resident cocktail folk (Kevin, I think?), we were graced with free samples of a lovely sour topped with foamy egg white and Fee's Barrel Aged bitters, giving a delightfully sharp cinnamon nose. A fantastic brunch I would love to repeat. It's near Fenway, so know if it's a game day or not, but certainly make your way down for some tasty treats, both potables and edibles.

Lastly, we made it to Drink. While they do have a great program there, I was less impressed than I intended on being. Large ice, good. Small cocktail glasses, good. Recommending flavored "martinis"? Shame on you, Drink. I know it's tough to say no to a customer, but steering them to a more respectable libation is perfectly acceptable. If they ask for a "chocotini", teach them about the Brandy Alexander. If they say "anything with vodka" (overheard three times in under an hour), it becomes more difficult, though still not impossible. I am glad that one bartender (I believe in response to one of the aforementioned vodka requests) suggested a Last Word, so there is certainly an effort to improve the clientele, even if it's not by refusing to make espressotinis.

One of the things I noticed is that even the cocktail bars have some pretty good beer lists, a concept not found much in Los Angeles. If I ever make it back, I'll definitely try Drink again, but most of my effort will be spent getting back to Eastern Standard. I miss it already.