LA Weekly Tacolandia 2014

Tacolandia Header

One day I will return to normal, I keep telling myself, knowing I am full of lies. Not in that cute, convenient way The Doctor is, but a real, tangible way that needs tender, loving care and a good swift kick in the ass. I would also like to order more time and energy, please. With a side of fries. July is never an easy month for me; it’s my birthday month for one thing, now throw in house/dog sitting, catching up with friends, blogger events, and of course, Steffie’s wedding – which is three weeks from today!

All of my writing, reading, and artistic endeavors have come to a grinding halt in the meantime, but whenever I have a moment (and a bit of energy to string a couple of sentences together!), I think of Glass of Win and say to myself, “I should probably get on that.” So here I am, getting on it, with my recap of the second annual TACOLANDIA.

Continue reading

4th Annual Taste of the Eastside

Taste of the Eastside

4th Annual Taste of the Eastside

On June 1st, the fourth annual Taste of the Eastside took place at the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens in Cypress Park. Taste of the Eastside is a food & drink festival that showcases the evolving and diverse food scene of the eastside neighborhoods of Silver Lake, Echo Park, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Los Feliz, Atwater and beyond.

You ready to dig in?

Continue reading

26th Annual Vintage Bouquet Food and Wine Event


26th Annual Vintage Bouquet Food and Wine Event

The most miraculous of miracles occurred on April 27th, 2014. Picture this: Beverly Hills; a stunning manor sitting atop a hill, with sweeping landscape views of Los Angeles. The grounds are immaculate in both care and beauty and the weather is perfect. That’s right. It wasn’t too chilly, nor was it scorching hot. It was as ideal one could hope for the 26th Annual Vintage Bouquet Food and Wine Event.

Why do we gather to sample the best of the best in food and wine, you ask? Refresher Course:

The Barristers of the Beverly Hills Bar Association and the Beverly Hills Bar Foundation established the Vintage Bouquet Food and Wine Event in 1988 to raise funds for various causes including, but not limited to, Wills For Heroes (a free program to provide wills to firefighters, police and first responders), free programs for victims of domestic violence, The High School Blue Car Project, which educates high school students about the law.

Over the years, the Foundation has enhanced the community by funding a number of nationally recognized and emulated legal literacy and preventive law programs as well as community service projects including, but not limited to:
- Free Wills for Fire Fighters and Emergency Responders
- Free Monthly Legal Clinics
- Free programs for victims of domestic violence
- Free one-day seminars to help individuals understand their legal rights
- Free programs to elementary students about tolerance and diversity
- Free programs to high school students about the law
The Foundation is also proud of its long-standing support and association with Public Counsel, conceived and founded by the Beverly Hills Bar Association more than 30 years ago and now the nation’s largest pro bono law firm. The Foundation, the Association, and Public Counsel share a deep commitment to helping others through volunteer service, a cornerstone of the Foundation’s tradition of excellence.

Still with me? Fantastic. Below the jump is a grand sampling from the 26th Annual Vintage Bouquet Food and Wine Event:

Continue reading

Event: Food & Wine and Buick Discovery Tour

Buick Discovery Tour in Westlake Village

I stared blankly at the e-mail in my inbox, wondering how on earth she found me. Me, one of the rare unicorns who do not drive in Los Angeles. Yet there it was in my inbox. Buick. As in the oldest American automotive company still in production. Inviting me to the Food & Wine Buick Discovery Tour! Shriek!
I thought I was going to have to break our hearts and say no, no, I couldn’t possibly go to your event – but wait. What was that, Buick? You teamed up with Food & Wine Magazine to tour across the nation together with three top chefs who will be demoing their amazing, award winning food? Plus wine? At the Four Seasons? Well…all right. Time to zip along and give the 2013 Buick Discovery Tour a test drive!
You really twisted my arm there, Buick.

Buick’s first commercial car: The 1904 Model-B

Waterfall and Pond - Four Seasons Westlake Village
Pond & Waterfall – Four Seasons Westlake Village

The event itself took place in the far reaches of the San Fernando Valley, which I struggled to grasp why at first; upon realizing it was the Four Seasons, though, I understood perfectly. The above photo was taken in their majestic backyard.

Cheese Plate - Buick Discovery Tour
Cheese Platter

We arrived with just enough time to register and grab a plate of appetizers: cheese, crackers, fruits and meat. The day was divvied up into three rotating, 30-minute modules for three separate groups, organized by color. My group, Team Grey, was the first to be taken out to the Buick Test Drive.

Buick Discovery Tour
Buick Verano

Now, long time readers of Glass of Win know that your beloved hostess does not drive. I’d warrant to say most of you even know I do not, nor have I ever, possessed a driver’s license. I break out into hives and hyperventilate if I am put in the driver’s seat of a car. Any car. Hence, my lovely assistant and car enthusiast, mom. Mom and I are very close and half of our positive mother/daughter bonding during my childhood came from road trips. Being born with a chronic illness, it is all too easy to grow up with memories of ones parents exclusively associated with time spent at hospitals; thankfully, though, I have these road trip memories to balance that out.

Buick Discovery Tour - LaCrosse
Buick LaCrosse

Mom and I spent many hours going from central California to her little hometown in Southern California, then the big move across America had mom going warp speed down America’s great highway with her elderly mother, my older brother and my bratty 6 year old self. When it was time to say goodbye to New England, my mom refused to go without first taking a long, leisure camping road trip up and down the New England states – plus Washington D.C. for good measure. Our biggest road trip of all soon followed: three weeks trekking across the U.S.A. Just mom, a preteen me and my cat, Mr. Destiny. It was amazing and made our life living back east come full circle. We drove into Pennsylvania, and we drove out.

Mom test driving a Buick
Mom test driving her first Buick

Between the Verano and LaCrosse, mom enjoyed the LaCrosse. She described it as being an effortlessly smooth drive, “zippy” like a sports car but still practical and a good size. She was especially smitten with all of the technology going on on the dashboard. All right, mom, I know it’s called the Buick Discovery Tour and you want to drive off into the sunset, but we have to get going to the modules in my wheelhouse!

The Olive Orchard - Olive Oils
The Olive Orchard

As we waited for the next session to empty and be set up for our group, The Olive Orchard was demoing several of their flavored olive oils. My favorite was actually the hot pepper flavored olive oil. Yum!

Demo by Raphael Lunetta - Buick Discovery Tour
Chef Raphael Lunetta of JiRaffe

Raphael Lunetta - Owner and Chef of JiRaffe Restaurant
Food & Wine Magazine ‘Best New Chef’ Raphael Lunetta

Our first demo was provided by chef Raphael Lunetta, owner and chef at JiRaffe Restaurant in Santa Monica. You may recognize him as a guest judge on Bravo channel’s Top Chef. “The Surfing Chef” as he is known in some circles, is also a native Southern Californian, growing up in the same area as his restaurant now resides. As we’re always proud of our own, mom insists a trip to JiRaffe is in the near future. OK, the press kit she was eyeballing for the rest of the day might have influenced her declaration just a tad.

Filet of Beef with Potato and Pear Gratin
Filet of Beef with potato & pear gratin
red flame grapes, sautéed swiss chard, julienne hearts of palm, Madeira reduction

Working with limited space, 25 minutes and even a blackout, Chef Lunetta proved his mutton as he whipped up this amazing dish. The aroma of garlic, butter, shallots and Madeira was making my mouth water; the trays circulating the individual sampling’s arrived in just the nick of time! The message Chef instilled upon the audience was that good, quality and impressive food does need not take all day to prepare. He was able to take a couple of questions before our time was up, and I found this one to be worthy of passing on:

Q: Does meat need to be room temperature before cooking?

A: Chef Lunetta said this was an “essential” method for French cooking, and to be done especially if you intend your meat to be rare in the center.

Ben Roche at Buick Discovery Tour
Ben Roche of Baume and Brix

Progressive Pastry Demo by Ben Roche
Ben Roche

Time to move on to our third module: Progressive Pastry with Ben Roche. Oh, Ben. Ben. Ben. Ben. Firstly, I had the luxury of a front row seat and all I could do was resist the urge to banish my mother to the back of the room with a temperamental, “You’re cramping my style, mom!” and make moon eyes at the man on stage. Then he said something about being from Chicago, my heart was broken and I bravely soldiered on. Oh, well. At least there was going to be dessert to drown my sorrows in, right? OK, back to professional mode. Ben was the pastry chef at the famous (infamous?) Moto, known for its avant-garde molecular gastronomy as well as co-wrote and co-starred in “Future Food” on Discovery’s Planet Green network. His latest endeavor with colleague Thomas Elliot Bowman is the savory/sweet culinary adventure, Baume & Brix in Chicago.

Dessert: Yuzu Chiboust
Yuzu Chiboust
coconut rice pudding, caraway ice cream

I think there is something of a mad scientist inside all innovative pastry chefs; baking is indeed the edible side of chemistry and I think I caught a whisper of Dr. Jekyll in Chef Roche as his recipe began to spring to life. It was an instant crowd pleaser; I think I caught a few distinguished looking middle aged Asian women licking their plates. Just sayin’.
Favorite quotes from Chef Ben include:
“Don’t pour hot sugar in a high molten lava speed spinning bowl of death.”
“You use a candy thermometer. I have robot eyes. I can tell when it’s done.”
“If you happen to have liquid nitrogen just lying around…”
“If you need a big fire for a small amount of time, light up [some] rice noodles.”

Wine Demo - Buick Discovery Tour
Wine Demo with Michael Green

Michael Green schooling us on Wine
Michael Green, wine man extraordinaire

I don’t know how to adequately describe Michael Green. To say he is a connoisseur of wine would be an understatement. He is Bacchus himself: jovial, bombastic and utterly zealous about wine.

White Wine Sampling
White Wine from Rodney Strong Vineyards

How to Order Wine Demo
Our Wine Sampling

With his unique grandiose charisma, Michael taught the audience the “Six S’s of Wine Tasting”: see, swirl, smell, sip, swish and spit. He broke down the intimidating barriers of wine, delving into the nitty gritty of the glorious libation; making it fun and accessible even to the most timid of wine novices. We played with the ways food can influence the taste wine, using a lemon to enhance the sweetness of a Chardonnay and a nibble of high cacao chocolate to bring out the woodiness of the red. It was all very scientific, really. Of course, since this was a no spitting kind of demonstration, we had no choice but to enjoy our wine as the demonstration moved out to our final speaker.

Chef Michael Psilakis
Chef Michael Psilakis of Kefi | FishTag | MP Taverna | No Kitchen Required (TV)

The eldest first generation son in a traditional Greek family on Long Island New York, the self-proclaimed “Philosophical Chef” Michael Psilakis took us on a journey to help us appreciate his approach to food and life. Chef Michael had a pyramid of priorities that went something akin to: Food. Restaurant. Family. The food and work came first. All of the hard work, the accolades, the success – what more could he want? Then his father, the man who inspired him the most, dies and Chef sat down to write down his memories. Upon reflection, Chef realized that everything important his father ever said, advised or bonded with him was over food. His father used food as the catalyst to plant the seed for memories. Food is life.

Food Demo Monitor - Michael Psilakis
Food Monitor

As Chef Michael prepared his sampling, my eyes were continually drawn to this television monitor with the camera angled over the demonstration space. That way the audience could see what Chef was doing as he did it. Clever.

Michael Psilakis - Gyro Spiced Slider
Gyro Spiced Slider
Tsatziki sauce, cornichons to garnish

My mother’s eyes lit up as this beauty was served. She is a nut for Greek food, while I am a little more reserved about it. After taking a bite of this tender morsel, however, I wouldn’t hesitate to let Chef Michael steer me in the direction of more dishes from his father’s homeland. Simply delicious and unique enough to mix up the usual BBQ fare. Perfect to serve at a summer barbecue.

Yours Truly with How to Roast a Lamb
Yours truly with How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis

As a surprise, Chef Michael gifted everyone in the audience with a signed copy of his book, How to Roast a Lamb. Over 300 pages of gorgeous Mediterranean food to try at home!

Definitely not a terrible way to spend a Sunday. If you find yourself able to hop on the Buick Discovery Tour, I say take that ride.

Event: LACO à la carte Series

I could really never be accused of being a fancy-pants kind of person with fancy-pants tastes and inclinations, but I have been known, from time to time, to wipe the dust off my finest duds, slap on a couple pounds of make-up and run a brush through my hair for an evening of class. Case in point: the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra “à la carte” series, which runs annually to raise funding for LACO: benefiting their community engagement programs as well as the concert series so they may continue to bring music and joy to others.

What exactly is an a la carte series, you ask? From the press release: “Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) offers music lovers an opportunity to enjoy five intimate, elegant and entertaining “LACO à la carte” fundraising events pairing delectable international cuisine and exclusive musical performances in the spectacular private homes of the consuls general of the Czech Republic, Armenia and Austria as well as at Pacific Palisades’ historic Villa Aurora (Germany) and a magnificent private estate in Pasadena (China). Adding a special flourish to the season and illustrating that music truly knows no boundaries, each event features a different style of cuisine complimented by a salon performance by LACO musicians and guest artists.”

Out of the five programs, I was able to attend two: Germany à la carte, at the historic Villa Aurora in Pacific Palisades, and Austria à la carte held at the Brentwood home of the Austrian Consul General. Each night featured salon performances – which is an old world carry-over term for a small group of musicians performing in an intimate setting. I would guess that no more than 80 people seemed to be in attendance at both the Germany and Austrian a la carte evenings, so I count myself lucky to have been able to be there!

Food for both the Germany and Austrian à la carte was provided by The Spot Gourmet.

Germany à la carte

Official Description: Concertmaster Margaret Batjer is spotlighted on the occasion of her 15th anniversary with LACO at a cosmopolitan evening showcasing the culinary riches of Germany hosted by Villa Aurora in Pacific Palisades. This spectacular artists’ residence and historic landmark, set high on a hill overlooking the Santa Monica Bay, is described as a “true castle by the sea” by German novelist and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate Thomas Mann, who, along with playwright Bertolt Brecht and filmmaker Fritz Lang, is one of many famed émigrés to have socialized there with such icons as Charlie Chaplin. Batjer performs a selection of works tailored to the enchanted evening.

It was quite the journey to get up to Villa Aurora as it was at the tippy top of a hill, the very opposite of where attendees had to park. A van took people in sets of six, winding up and up until we arrived at a very unassuming gate. Going through said gate delivered guests to a fabulous tiled courtyard of the Moorish artists retreat Aurora Villa.

LACO Germany a la carte
Descending to the Courtyard

My favorite architectural feature of Aurora Villa:

LACO Germany a la carte
Carved Wooden Beam Heads

Wine, beer and water was available alongside appetizers whizzing by on carried silver trays. It took all of my will not to just follow them into the kitchen, or wait directly outside of the kitchen door so I could pounce on each fresh tray.

LACO Germany a la carte
Hollywood Blonde Beer. Even better with lime.

LACO Germany a la carte
Salmon & Sour Cream on Savory Pancakes

LACO Germany a la carte
Cobblestone Chardonnay Wine

LACO Germany a la carte
Bratwurst with Prepared Mustard

The back patio offered spectacular views of Los Angeles, stretching all of the way to the Pacific:

LACO Germany a la carte

LACO Germany a la carte

As much as I’d like to stick around and admire the views, it’s time for the salon performance.

LACO Germany a la carte
Piano in the Salon

LACO Germany a la carte
Margaret Batjer on violin

Our program featured Margaret Batjer on the violin, performing Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 3 in G major, Op. 30 in three movements, and Brahms Violin Sonata in D minor, Op 108 with four movements.

After the lovely music, it was time to gather to the library for the buffet set up by The Spot Gourmet.

LACO Germany a la carte

LACO Germany a la carte

LACO Germany a la carte

My favorites included sauerbraten, roasted potatoes, baby carrots, rustic breads and the black forest chocolate cookie (with gooey cherries in the center!). My lovely assistant (AKA Mom) loved the salmon and cabbage rolls with sauerkraut.

We sat among German-born, the Chamber Music enthusiasts and patrons of the Arts, and the wife of the German Consul General. Our conversation took an interesting turn with Helena, an 80-something year old tapestry artist who had words of female empowerment and encouragement for both my mother and I. Her doting younger husband stood by her all evening, a human shield as Helena shuffled along with her walker. They were the cherry on top of an already enchanting evening.

Austria à la carte

Official Description: Karin Proidl, Consul General of Austria, hosts an evening at the stately Austrian residence in Brentwood that illuminates the dazzling cultural and musical vibrancy of Vienna with a lively performance by LACO Principals Josefina Vergara, violin II, and Nico Abondolo, bass, who are also husband and wife. Vienna, with its delightful sidewalk cafes, pastry shops, prized beers and white wines and compelling art, music and architecture, is also celebrated as a haven for gourmands with the emergence of a sophisticated culinary movement, embracing fresh, seasonal and local produce.

The Austria a la carte evening was definitely more intimate, as it took place in proper residence, owned by the Austrian government to house their Consulate Generals for something around forty years now.

Consul General of Austria in Los Angeles Karin Priodl and LACO a la carte Chair Mahnaz Newman
Photo Credit: Jamie Pham | via Laura Segal Stegman Public Relations

Representing her country with a welcoming grace and an air of strength every woman in position of power ought to possess was Austrian Consul General Karin Priodl. My feminist senses were tingling just knowing this single, childfree woman was our hostess of the evening. I had to fight the urge to hug her and cry, “ROCK ON, SISTER! SOLIDARITY!” Refinement is an acquired skill for me.

The evening started with h’orderves, wine and conversation.

LACO à la carte: Austria
Cheese Toast

I’m probably the best frenemy of an event server; I’m always happy to see them, but I want them to put a halt to their procession through the crowd so I can get in a quality photograph. Unfortunately, most of my photos were taken as other hungry attendees descended on these quick bites.

LACO à la carte: Austria
Proidl Wines

Soon it was time to gather in the salon and enjoy the set by husband and wife duo: Josefina Vergara, violin II, and Nico Abondolo, bass. It goes without saying that they are dizzyingly talented, but Nico also charmed us with his wit and commentary throughout the performance.

LACO Principal Violin II Josefina Vergara and Principal Bass Nico Abondolo in performance
Photo Credit: Jamie Pham | via Laura Segal Stegman Public Relations

The program was broken into five sprightly pieces: GF Handel – Sonata VIII for violin in four movements; Francois Couperin – Troisieme Concert in A major from Concerts Royaux in five movements; JS Bach – Sonata for violin and Continuo in E minor, BWV 1023 in two movements; Bela Bartok – Selections from 44 Duos for violins, arranged by Nico himself; and Astor Piazzola – Five Tangos for violin and double bass.

All of that culture certainly whips up an appetite, so it was time to head over to the buffet and enjoy some Austrian food provided by The Spot Gourmet Catering.

LACO à la carte: Austria

LACO à la carte: Austria

LACO à la carte: Austria
Dessert Tier

Once again, Spot Gourmet knocks it out of the park with this authentic Austrian feast. As I was sitting among both Austrian-born and Austrian-descendants, I heard first-hand just what was spot-on. My favorites of the night include: pork loin with dijon, red cabbage salad, spaetzle with garnet yam and chocolate cake with kirsch.

For me, the highlight of these event is not the food (GASP!) nor the wonderful music, but the lovely people I sat with at each meal and got to know over food. Music and food: uniting foreign relations since the dawn of civilization. Well played, LACO. Well played.

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra


Event: Backyard Winemaker Dinner – San Luis Obispo

Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant

Last week I told you about Apple Farm Inn – the boutique hotel in San Luis Obispo, right off the 101 freeway. The purpose of my visit was to experience the Backyard Winemaker Dinner, a monthly dinner focused entirely around the wines of a featured local winemaker. On this evening, the wines of Pipestone Vineyards were sampled, and there to introduce and educate us was Jeff, who along with his wife Florence, operate and own Pipestone Vineyards. Specializing in handmade Estate Grown Rhône-style wines from Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, & Viognier and a dry farmed Zinfandel, Pipestone Vineyards also boats sustainable green farming techniques such as solar-power, composting and drip irrigation system.

Pipestone Vineyards Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant

As the dinner focused around the wine, chefs Stephan Walls and Steven Smeets had the task of not only figuring out which dish would highlight which wine, but how to incorporate this dinner around their locavore and seasonal eating philosophy. Their Ode to the Tomato menu, initially designed in 2011 to highlight the tomatoes of Sycamore Mineral Springs and other local farms, returned to the dinner table once again.

Backyard Winemaker Dinner - Apple Farm Inn

Backyard Winemaker Dinner - Apple Farm Inn
Crostini – Fig Jam – Manchego

We started our evening off with some nibbles and ‘champagne’ from the Apple Farm private label; mixing and mingling as diners filed out onto the expansive patio and found a seat for themselves and any company. Annette, my sister, and I grabbed our name placards and placed them down on two fine looking seats in front of the gazebo. I made her sit to my left, as I am left-handed and did not want to bump elbows with a stranger, thus making a jackass out of myself!

Backyard Winemaker Dinner - Apple Farm Inn

As our hosts introduced the venue, vineyards and food, we started off with some snacks:

Backyard Winemaker Dinner - Apple Farm Inn
Pickled Sweet Onion and Yellow Beets

Backyard Winemaker Dinner - Apple Farm Inn
Casteleavano Olives

I love a salty-sweet bite to wake my taste buds up. I had just a nibble, though, because it was soon time for the first course and first wine pairing from Pipestone.

Backyard Winemaker Dinner - Apple Farm Inn
Pipestone 2008 Grenache

Backyard Winemaker Dinner - Apple Farm Inn
Tomato, Eggplant Soup with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano

I was pleasantly surprised at how prominent the eggplant came across in this soup. I like that the cheese was light, though I did add some pepper for an extra zip.

Backyard Winemaker Dinner - Apple Farm Inn
Tomato tartlet with duck confit, goat cheese, and roasted garlic

Backyard Winemaker Dinner - Apple Farm Inn
Pipestone 2009 Zinfandel

I get a little nervous with any dish that carries duck because of how very wrong it can go. However, the duck here was pleasantly light and the crust of the tart easy to cut through. The zinfandel was definitely made for food; and not for my palate to drink on its own.

Backyard Winemaker Dinner - Apple Farm Inn
Grilled Pacific swordfish with tomato balsamic reduction sauce
Tomato, bulgar and pine nut pilaf

Backyard Winemaker Dinner - Apple Farm Inn
Pipestone 2008 Syrah

I wasn’t very fond of the swordfish, but the bulgar pilaf was was an overall crowd favorite. Something healthy, right? I did not finish the Syrah; it was too woody for my liking.

Serenading Spencer - Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant
Our entertainment

This is Spencer, the ridiculously talented son of the manager of Apple Farm Restaurant. He not only serenaded us the entire night, but took to our light jabbing at his young age and music knowledge with a good spirit. I was impressed when I saw him the next morning working as a server in the restaurant. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and is much deserved of this shout out. Holler, Spencer!

Backyard Winemaker Dinner - Apple Farm Inn
Cabernet marinated flat iron steak with tomato chimichurri

Backyard Winemaker Dinner - Apple Farm Inn
Pipestone 2008 Rhone style red

I ate more of this steak than I care to admit. I am sad that I could not get my camera to focus appropriately, but the masses were demanding their meat and I could not fiddle with it any longer. This dish inspires me to soak a nice cut of beef with some red wine and grill it. Hmmm – ideas…!

Backyard Winemaker Dinner - Apple Farm Inn

Backyard Winemaker Dinner - Apple Farm Inn
Upside-down caramel pecan and green tomato pie
point Reyes bleu cheese creme anglaise

I was too full to eat the entire dessert, but it was a very sweet ending to a great night under the stars. The port, which I do not believe was Pipestone, was a rich addition that I appreciated. Man, I love port.

It was an incredible evening of good food, good wine and good conversation. I think more restaurant/vineyard team ups need to trickle down here in L.A. County, though I would definitely say this event is worth making the road trip for. My sister told me she’s never had a happier birthday and that sentiment alone is worth my endorsement of the Apple Farm Backyard Winemaker Dinner series.

Pipestone Vineyards
2040 Niderer Road
Paso Robles, CA

Apple Farm Inn & Restaurant
2015 Monterey Street
San Luis Obispo, CA

The meal and drinks were on the house, but all opinions and wording remain my own!

Drago Centro Fall Cocktail Tasting

I kid you not it was approximately 100 degrees on the day the fall cocktail tasting at Drago Centro was scheduled. I’m not being hyperbolic, either; I don’t need to be with 100 degree weather. It’s true fact. So by the time I sat down on the sofa of the outdoor lounge I was more than ready for a cool libation (or two, or ten.) Thankfully some bites off of the bar/happy hour menu were also provided so prevent outright disorderly conduct. Ben.

Autumn Cocktail Preview - Drago Centro
autumn’s deluge
karlsson’s vodka, breckenridge bitters, white grapes, lemon, simple syrup, arugula, prosecco

When I read “prosecco” I foolishly assumed this would be sweet, but it was rather bitter. It kind of grew on me over the course of the night, but the highlight for me was the booze-soaked raisins.

Autumn Cocktail Preview - Drago Centro
il tagliere di affettati | charcuterie

Autumn Cocktail Preview - Drago Centro
fried gnocco

While I wasn’t a fan of the fried gnocco, I could have eaten most of the charcuterie plate by my lonesome. Great house selection.

Autumn Cocktail Preview - Drago Centro
break maiden
larceny bourbon, fig shrub, byrhh, mint

I wrote one word to describe this drink: “Burny.” I stand by my opinion. I would not care to order anything with bourbon; it is just not my liquor of choice.

Autumn Cocktail Preview - Drago Centro
il tagliere di formaggi assortiti | cheese selection

The camembert with apricot and candied walnuts were amazing. It was very difficult to share this!

Autumn Cocktail Preview - Drago Centro
campfire dawn
pierde almas puritita mezcal, clear creek eau de vie of douglas fir, scrappy’s lime bitters, fee bros. mint bitters, sugar

Smoky and strong. In other words, I am too much of a pansy for this drink.

Drinks at Drago Centro
through the looking glass
oxley gin, earl grey tea, cardamaro, sugar beet syrup, citric acid, cream, nutmeg

Sweet and heady. Still a little too boozy for my sensitive palate, but I could handle this one better than most.

Autumn Cocktail Preview - Drago Centro
la pizza al pesto
pesto, ricotta, spinach, bacon

An interesting combination of toppings that I would love to replicate, though I’d swap out the bacon for prosciutto.

Autumn Cocktail Preview - Drago Centro
indochina ti
smith and cross rum, coconut milk, thai basil, red bell pepper, serrano date syrup, lime, angostura bitters

A little too outlandish for me, but this spicy potion was well received by the other guests.

Autumn Cocktail Preview - Drago Centro
savoy rouge
bank note scotch, creme yvette, house rose vermouth, reagan’s orange bitters, cocktail kingdom wormwood bitters

Another “burny” drink that was appreciated by finer drinkers than I. Strong and stiff.

Autumn Cocktail Preview - Drago Centro
la pizza margherita
mozzarella, tomato, basil pizza

This flatbread pizza was my favorite, as it was the simplest. At only $4.00, it is a sure-fire steal for a crowd pleasing happy hour snack.

Autumn Cocktail Preview - Drago Centro
tapatio blanco tequila, prickly pear cactus, cardamom honey, chive, lime, orange blossom water

I was looking forward to this drink all evening, and was slightly disappointed that it did not meet my desire for sweetness. Still, this one was another crowd favorite and my palate eventually warmed to it, or at least was morbidly curious enough to continue to sip it.

Autumn Cocktail Preview - Drago Centro
il calzone ai funghi e tartufo
filled pizza, ricotta, mushrooms, truffles

Get rid of the truffles and I’d be all over this. I’m over the truffle craze (truthfully, I never got on that bandwagon and cannot fathom it.) The truffles overwhelmed everything else and it was a little too heavy after everything we’d eaten. Great for soaking up a lot of alcohol, though, so apropos? I’m glad this was a favorite with the others; more margharita for me.

Autumn Cocktail Preview - Drago Centro
American Hillbilly
bulleit rye, pancetta and rosemary infused maple syrup, lemon juice, bar keep baked apple bitters, forbidden bitters

My favorite drink of the night, hands down, and I’m not just saying that because I am the descendant of hillbillies. Or am I? Sweet, slightly savory, this was like a boozy spiced cider and really hit the spot for me. The rosemary was just the hint of outdoorsy that added a twang of banjo touch.

Autumn Cocktail Preview - Drago Centro
i due kobe hamburgers
mini kobe beef burgers, mushrooms, fontina

I sneaked two of these tasty morsels. Definitely one of my favorite bar bites of the night.

Cocktails at Drago Centro
rosie carver
fords gin, aylesbury vodka, lillet rose, smoked infused ice

Another sturdy, medicinal drink. Can I just order a mojito? Whisky sour? Sidecar? These drinks are just too high-brow for me, someone who drank PBR in a non-ironic way.

Autumn Cocktail Preview - Drago Centro
la panna cotta alla vaniglia
vanilla panna cotta, market berries, rosemary puff pastry

Another bit of food I was forced to share, but did not want to. For someone who went 29 years without trying panna cotta, I seem to be making up for it now.

Autumn Cocktail Preview - Drago Centro
long for yesterday
pink pigeon rum, espelette syrup, tempus fugit creme de cacao, miracle mile chocolate chili bitters, cream, soda

Another deceptive drink that I was expecting to be sweet but ended up being bitter. Ah, well. At least I enjoyed the chocolate dipped biscuit that adorned it!

If you’re into strong, stiff cocktails where you really taste every single one of the fresh ingredients and quality alcohol, I definitely recommend planning a cocktail date in your near future. This tasting was a celebration of bar manager and mixologist Jaymee Mandeville’s creativity, and a rather shameless exhibition of my taste in drinks. As for me, I’ll be eating the bar bites and sticking to the kind of drinks that come with little paper umbrellas.

Drago Centro
525 South Flower Street
Los Angeles, 90071
Tel: 213.228.8998

FTC Disclosure: While the drinks and bites were on the house, all wording and opinions remain my own!