Thursday, September 27, 2007

Do You Drink Well?

Just to make sure, check out this new drinkers' guide from Zagat's, appropriately called After all, if you're going to do something, do it well!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Bartender Diaries – Vincenzo Marianella

Do I sound like a crazed fan to refer to Vincenzo Marianella as the “cocktailian deity of Los Angeles?” Luckily, I would be in good company if I do. He has been named Best Bar Chef (2006) by and L.A.’s Best Bartender (2006) by Anthony Dias Blue of The Tasting Panel Magazine.

A forerunner in the movement toward quality cocktails in Southern California, Marianella’s drinks are made with nothing less than juiced-before-your-eyes ingredients, nothing bottled or pre-mixed. Perfectly balanced sweet, and spirit, and tart, and bitter. My new favorite cocktail of his doesn’t even have a name, yet. It is made with marmalade, rum - some other stuff - and is garnised with a floating slice of jalapeno. It is soft yet spicy, with just enough kick to grab your attention.

With a desire for adventure and keen to see the world, Vincenzo left his native Italy for New York City, in 1999, and worked at 7 MOMA. However, it was during a trip to Australia that he found deeper inspiration within the wide world of high-end cocktails. While “down under,” he attended Sydney’s Australian Bartending Academy, and showcased his talents at exclusive events.

With his passion for Mixology ignited, Marianella collected and studied antique and modern cocktail books, and returned to his native Italy where he added the Dimensione Bar School in Cerviniano Del Friuli to his growing resume.

Armed with drink knowledge and bartending experience in Europe, America and Australia, Vincenzo felt ready to take on England, where he would hone his craft. Marianella tended bar at Smollensky’s, in the heart of London, and kept an eye on drinks presented in reputable cocktail establishments such as LAB, The Player, Match Bar and AKA.

While in London, Vincenzo also became acquainted with fellow Italian, Master Mixologist Salvatore Calabrese, who is considered one of the best bartenders in the world. Calabrese (then at Library Bar) became a sort of mentor to Marianella, who has brought some of those bartending secrets Stateside.

Upon return to Los Angeles, Marianella spent months searching for the right place to settle and practice the true art of Mixology. At the first informal interview with Donato Poto, owner of Providence, Vincenzo explained his philosophy toward fine bartending. During their second meeting, less than a week later, where they were joined by Michael Cimarusti (Co-Owner/Chef of Providence and former Head Chef at The Watergrill) the chemistry among the trio was electrifying, and Marianella joined the team.

Providence opened its doors in June, 2005. By the end of 2006, Vincenzo had been recognized and awarded in publications such as Los Angeles Magazine, L.A. Times, Variety Magazine and was invited to collaborate with Food and Wine Magazine for a "Cocktail Clinic."

(Portions of this piece are taken directly from the bio I wrote for Vincenzo’s website.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Meet Me in Monterey...

With our hectic work and (separate) travel schedules, Jason and I try to grab a little quality time where we can. We usually aren’t in the same town for more than a few days at a time, so a weekend getaway is the perfect opportunity to tune-out from computers and cell phones, and tune-in to each other!

Our weekend getaways are geared around what we love most – food, cocktails, wine, a little nature and, of course, a little luxury.

On a recent getaway, we snuck out a little early on a Thursday afternoon and drove north up the 5 Fwy to Hyatt Regency Monterey, which has just undergone a $45 million rennovation. The rooms are stylish and comfortable with simple lines, natural colors and intriguing, artful décor (even the bathrooms are sleek!). The lobby’s Fireplace Lounge features large glass windows overlooking an outdoor patio and golf course. (It's almost like never having to leave the outside.)

The Monterrey / Carmel area is very animal-friendly, as exemplified by its famous movie-star-and-animal-activist resident, Doris Day. The Hyatt keeps with the dog-loving community, welcoming pets throughout the property, and regularly hosts the “Paws For A Cause” Happy Hour benefiting Monterey County’s SPCA. Tickets are on sale now for the SPCA’s annual fundraiserWild Celebration” on Sunday, October 14.

After we pet the pooches on the patio and sampled a round of freshly-squeezed juice cocktails in the Fireplace Lounge, we headed into TusCA Restaurant to fill our bellies with seasonal delights.

We were there toward the end of summer and had the most gorgeous heirloom tomato salad which the chef had just bought that morning. Yellow, orange and red tomatoes were drizzled with olive oil and basil paste, and we slathered roasted garlic on freshly made bread.

That palate opening first-course was followed by an earthy, creamy risotto, and then a sumptuous duck dish. Obviously, every meal needs a little liquid accompaniment, and TusCA’s long and impressive wine list leaves the mind spinning with options! We wrapped up our experience with a three-cheese plate and the rest of our bottle of choice.

And, need I tell you, that by the time we finished a leisurely dinner, we began to feel re-acquainted, and had the best night’s sleep in a long time.

(the Aquarium, Cannery Row and the Four Seasons in Silicon Valley – and wine dinner at Quattro – coming soon…)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bourbon Ball

Kentucky Bourbon Festival

The Kentucky Bourbon Festival ends with a bang, otherwise known as The Great Kentucky Bourbon Tasting and Gala. (I call it the Bourbon Ball.) For those of you who haven't attended the Bourbon Ball, I can explain it as something akin to a liquor-lover's prom, where drinking is not only allowed but encouraged.

As limos and shuttles pull up to the activities center in Bardstown, Kentucky, a line of tuxedo'ed and coiffed liquor vendors, distillers and other afficionados forms down the block. Diamonds are sparkling and everyone is eyeballing the person next to them. It's the Beverly Hillbillies living on Wysteria Lane. It's JR and Sue Ellen, had they lived in Louisville instead of Dallas. It's a who's-who of bootleggers and moonshine makers, generations after Prohibition.

In short, its a hoot!

Upon entering the hall, each person is handed a red canvas bag. Turns out that Bourbon's major players have set up tasting booths around the hall. In addition to offering up tastes of their product neat, on the rocks or with water, most also have featured cocktails. And, each booth has its own glass, which attendees stash in the red bag, and take home. It struck me as a rather dangerous proposition - sticky glasses clinking against one another in a bag, as we all wander from drink to drink. But, it worked out ok, and I actually got my collection home, in tact.

Some companies create themes for their tasting booths, as did Maker's Mark. They decided to play on the word for whisky and created the Whi-SKY experience, creating an airplane ambiance. (Need I tell you how this delighted my pal, Alberta Straub, hostess of OnNetwork's Cocktails on the Fly).

Guests were handed "boarding passes" while waiting in line, which featured the Signature Cocktails for that year. Master Distiller David Pickerell (pictured with me here) also has a passion for Mixology, so he created this year's Signtaure Drink appropriately named the Mile High Manhattan.

The booth looked like the hull of an airplane, and the servers were dressed as air hostesses. The glasses were dipped in the red wax which identifies the Maker's Mark bottles.

Even Billy Samuels, son of Maker's Mark founder Bill Samuels, was part of the fun, and welcomed party go-ers in a pilot uniform.

I made my way around the room sampling Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, Bulleit, and so on. Purely for educational purposes, of course. I mean, it would have been rude not to try them all, no?

My favorite cocktail of the evening was the one made with Booker's bourbon. Booker's is one of the small batch bourbons made by Jim Beam.

Fred Noe is the seventh generation Master Distiller in the Jim Beam family. In fact, his face has just been added to the label, alongside his forefathers. His father's name was Booker, and I learned each of the small batch bourbons are named for sentimental reasons. (More on that in my Jim Beam distillery tour coverage, coming soon...)

So, if the Kentucky Derby isn't enough to lure you to America's heartland, the Kentucky Bourbon Festival should be added to your drinker's to-do list. I can assure you - it's a ball!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Will I See You in San Francisco?

Don't forget about Tuesday's Square Off at the Ferry Building in San Francisco! This exciting cocktail competition is brought to you by Om Organics, Square One Organic Vodka and Chow Magazine. Judges include Jacques Bezuidenhout, The Liquid Muse, and Editor from Chow and an audience member to be selected at the event.

This is gonna be a fantastic event - hope to raise a glass to the winner with YOU!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Amaranta Spices Up the Valley!

Wondering where to indulge north of the 101?

Amaranta is a tequileria-meets-high-end-Mexican-restaurant which boasts nearly 400 kinds of 100% blue agave tequilas. From smoky to floral, blanco to anejo, there is something to suit every tequila-loving palate.

The Margarita Menu features 15 staples, in addition to several more which rotate with the seasons. During its July opening, watermelon margaritas were a popular item. For fall, a tamarind margarita hits the spot. All the drinks are made with fresh juices, not bottled sweet-n-sour, and it shows. (I recently tried the cantaloupe margarita and loved it!)

The Cazuela Margarita comes in a pottery bowl with two straws. (What better way to “get friendly” on a first date?) It is made with Casadores tequila, wedges of lime, lemon and grapefruit and a splash of Squirt (Mexico’s most popular soft drink!)

Instead of chips, house-made corn tortillas are brought to every table, along with three kinds of salsas. Definitely order the guacamole, made to taste, tableside. (Extra cilantro, hold the onion, not-too-hot? You can have it your way!)

Amaranta takes pride in the quality of its succulent entrees, and doesn’t cut corners. For example, the pork carnitas and the lamb (Cordero en Barbacoa) are each marinated for 20 hours, then slow cooked for 4. I tried the sweet and savory chicken enchiladas in mole (chili chocolate) sauce.

The Coconut Flan is a creamy little piece of heaven and the Dulce de Leche "crepas" with ice cream are great to share.

Happy Hour happens DAILY – even weekends – from 3 – 7 with drink and food specials. Every other Wednesday listen to live music from 7 – 10, and a DJ spins every other Friday.

Become a Tequila Connoisseur! Monthly tequila classes feature several kinds of tequila and are limited to a dozen people, so make a reservation! (Cost $35)

Try the Tequila Kiss (something between a Margarita and a Bloody Maria) at brunch, served from 11:30 – 3:00 pm.

Take It To Go! Not only is there a fine selection of tamales, quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos and meat off the grill but also a selection of Mexican handicrafts, imported directly from around the country. Buy your family dinner, and a little gift for yourself! (As if that yummy meal is not present enough!)

Photo Credit: Howard Wise

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Get Your Motor Running With V-Twin Wine

"It's not that bikers have gone soft," says Scott Del Fava, brand manager of V-Twin Vineyards. "We're just conspicuous consumers; we like the finer things in life."

The 2005 V Twin Zinfandel was launched in March, catering to the "bad boys" (and girls) of biking who have evolved beyond the "outlaw biker" image as they enter their 40's and 50's. Family oriented with an appreciation for a good meal and, let's face it, the bucks to buy a Harley, the people behind V Twin declare, "These ain't no sissy wines!"

The company is also fostering an online community, the “Easy Rider Wine Club,” that allows members to post photos of their bikes, share news and information, and participate in events and activities.

The grapes for V Twin come from an estate vineyard nestled into Dry Creek Valley in Santa Rosa, California, where cool, foggy mornings give way to sun-filled afternoons. The result is a sassy Zin which holds up to spicy sausage, a big old hunk-o-charbroiled steak or a sloppy pulled-pork sandwich.
As Scott puts it, "After a long weekend ride, I like to open a bottle while waiting for the grill to heat up. This wine is good – damn good!”

(Personal Aside: When my French, "white collar" dad turned 60 - he got his first tatoo. Several years later, he now has about 5 of them... and got his motorcycle license through Harley Davidson. All I can say is that I know what is going into his Christmas stocking, this year!)

Pour a little power in your glass with this debut vintage, and keep an eye out for planned releases such as: River Run Chardonnay®, Poker Run Cabernet®, Redwood Run Zinfandel®, Toy Run Rose®, Bike Week Merlot®, – and a special Reserve V-Twin Zin® with a flaming skull on the front label.
Catch Ya at Ketchup!

If you find yourself enjoying a "steak - frite" on the Champs Elysees and have a hankering for some of the good old tomato-based condiment we Americans can't live without, you'd likely be met by snarls and up-turned noses.

Luckily for Angelenos, our demand for Ketchup is more, shall we say, tres chic...

I finally got over to one of Sunset Blvd's most fun recent additions. Another seen-and-be-seen incarnation from the uber-Hollywood Dolce Group (half the cast of That 70's Show are investors), the vibe at Ketchup is young, hip and surprisingly unpretentious. Jack is a sweetheart of a bartender (don't drinks taste so much better with a cutie serving them?) and one of the owners was overheard asking a colleague, "Did you see me with Paris on TMZ?" (Perhaps there are some un-jaded scene-sters left in this town...)

Speaking of down-to-earth, Ketchup's Happy Hour menu features humble feel-good morsels such as cheesy mini sliders sitting upon fab mini rolls (with baked-in asiago, maybe...), and gussied up "three-way french fries" come: topped with parmesan, sweet potato fries coated with sugar and pumpkin spice and spicy shoestrings. (Trust me - these are dangerous. But worth it.)

As expected, the condiment tray features several variations of ketchup - spicy, mixed with ranch, and so on, tempting even a high-brow foodie into dunking their edibles.

Drinks are are simple and playful. Grape Crush features the grape-based Ciroc vodka and grape Kool Aid; the Honeymooners has strawberries and champagne; the VeeV Ginger Mint features that acai liqueur you've probably encountered by now; and Basic Instinct is made with Absolut Citron, Chambord and is served with a pretty sugar rim.

And, if you've been paying attention to the Ketchup coverage, you have surely heard about their Yoo Hoo cocktails. The American Psycho is a lip-smacking blend of Absolut Vanilla, Yoo Hoo and coffee liqueur and the Chocolate Hooville features Kettle One, Amaretto and Yoo Hoo. Any thought of dessert becomes almost obsolete when sipping one of these decadently delicious babies.

If you're looking for the masters of Mixology, this is may not be the number one stop on your Map of Stars. However, if you are looking for one of the hottest spots in town to have a great time, some good eats and refreshing libations, have your driver maneuver the Strip. And, if you're there during prime hours, wear something fabulous. You never know which gossip site may have their bloggers-with-cameras waiting outside...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Voulez Vous <<Bouvez>> Avec Moi?

As of September, I have a new monthly cocktail column that I'm very excited about! It runs in Where Magazine, which is a "what's happening in town" travel publication. It is found in most Hyatts, Westins, Four Seasons, etc. across the US and parts of Europe.

I write "Cocktail Corner" which runs on the Travel Buzz page and features cool travel gadgets and, now, my liquor features!

The coolest part about this particular column, for lil ole me, is that it prints around a million pages per
month, and my pic and bio run with it!

My sister, Amy (who lives in France) took a moment away from her busy job at Givenchy to grab a copy of the Paris edition for me. She scanned it and emailed it over so I can put it in my portfolio.

I couldn't resist sharing it with you Sipsters! (Thanks sister!)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

$49.95 Peanut Butter

Will Save You When Disaster Strikes...

or so we're informed by fear-mongering Survival Food Store. This canned peanut butter, imported from New Zealand of all places, has an indefinite shelf life (gag) ensuring gourmet nutrition when the Terrorists, Commies or Nazis strike again.

Other specialties include canned brown bread (reduced from $79.95 to $52.45 per can) or a can of "pork chunks" (reduced from $119.95 to $88.95)

Those culinary delights, a semi-automatic and a couple of twinkies, will make you a well fed National Hero when the world comes to an end. Hallelujah!

Friday, September 14, 2007

True or False?

Is this statement correct?
Bourbon is made in the county of Bourbon, Kentucky.

False! Bourbon County is a "dry" county. In fact, most of Kentucky is made up of dry counties. However, in the civilized parts of the state which do allow liquor, like the Bourbon Trail in Nelson County, there are 7 bourbon distilleries.
What Makes Bourbon Bourbon?

And, Why Is Scotch Aged in Bourbon Barrels?

I'm spending more time touring distilleries than I am in front of my computer (thank God) so look for Kentucky Bourbon Festival coverage next week. In the meantime, here are some things I learned today:

In order for a spirit to boast the name "bourbon" and not be simply "Kentucky whiskey," it must follow these guidelines:

- Be made from at least 51% corn
- Be aged a minimum of 2 years
- Be aged only in new, charred, American white oak barrels

Interesting Tid-Bit: After aging and "dumping," many of the used barrels are then sold to Scotland to be used to age Scotch. Because Scotland is colder, the spirit doesn't expand into the wood the way it does in the warmer climates. Therefore, it is important that Scotch be aged in a barrel which already has some strong flavor in the wood.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Bartender Diaries - Marcos Tello

A One In Seven Grand…

When I met Marcos (down at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans) the first thing that bowled me over was his pure, unadulterated passion for cocktails. This is something I crave, respect and relate to in a person. (Cocktail “geeks” of the world, unite!)

Of course, his boyish good looks, mischievous grin and high energy are the next qualities that hit with a wallop. When all that registers, and you sit yourself down in the illustrious Seven Grand for one of his well-crafted cocktails, that’s where the real fun begins.

This LA-native “got his feet wet” bartending at friends’ parties at the age of 17. When he turned 21, he started bartending at T.G.I.Friday’s. But, he considers his bartending job at Island’s, in 2005, as the first place where he got to “take a crack at Mixology.” He explains, “We did specialty drinks. That’s when I fell in love with the craft.”

His enthusiasm for cocktails grew and he enrolled in Gary Regan’s Cocktails in the Country, in 2006. Upon return to LA, with a few more tricks up his sleeve, Marcos began designing drinks for the Hacienda Golf Club, where he worked closely with the chef to create symbiotic menus. From there, he bellied up to the bar at Table 8, where he met his cocktail co-conspirator, Damian Windsor.

The two founded their own cocktail consulting company which helps restaurants and bars to retrain bartenders (when to shake and when to stir) and instill impressive cocktail programs. In fact, they have just been hired to create the cocktail line-up for this year’s Emmy Awards. (Way to go, guys!)

Both Marcos and Damian can be found behind the bar at Seven Grand, in downtown LA, most days of the week. If you have not been there yet, you are definitely missing something. It is masculine and gritty and glamorous, all at the same time. It’s the kind of watering hole where lawyers, artists, “Hollywood types” and cocktail connoisseurs all play pool together, while imbibing a quality beverage.

Vincenzo Marianella (one of my all-time favorite barmen who is currently at Providence – and on The Liquid Muse lineup) came up with Seven Grand’s original cocktail list. Five of his drinks remain, while Marcos and Damian have since added more. Marcos recalls, “When Cedd (Seven Grand founder) came back from London and saw what they were doing, we added 10 drinks of our own and categorized them according to the old standards of the 1890’s: punches, fizzes, juleps, daisies, crustas and sours.”

Marcos is a sponge for learning from the top guys (and gals) in the country, and while in New Orleans, this past July, he took a Mint Julep class with Chris McMillan at the Ritz, who is known for the best juleps in the country.

Marcos and Damian oversee the bar staff at Seven Grand, ensuring that every drink is as good as the last. “We make sure bartenders are stirring for a 30 seconds and shaking for a good 10 seconds. Ramos Gin Fizz, for example, requires shaking for a full two minutes. If necessary, we hand it off to each other. That dedication breeds a bartender who has pride in their work and can balance their cocktails.”

They’ve gone so far as to create a bartender manual for the crew, which is strictly enforced. Marcos says, “We do trainings every month. They know that if they aren’t up to par, they could be out the door. On top of that, they have to learn everything about whiskey. We are constantly asked questions about whiskey so we have to be on top of our game. We give everyone a whiskey bible.”

Seven Grand is the kind of place that pays attention to every important detail, including glassware. (I shot a video of Marcos at Seven Grand giving a glass presentation for The Liquid Muse Cocktail Show, a few weeks ago. That will be going up shortly.)

When not honing his craft behind the bar, Marcos pursues theatre and sports. He runs the LA Marathon annually, and challenges himself with a new physical activity each year. He shares, “Last year, it was rock climbing. This year it’s surfing.” I’m guessing that if he approaches those endeavors with the same gusto as Mixology, he’ll be tearing up Hawaii’s North Shore before the year is out.
Star Suckers

All That’s Fit to Suck Down on the Red Carpet

I offer a hearty “well-done” to two of LA’s most prominent Mixologists, Marcos Tello and Damian Windsor who created some gossip worthy cocktails to accompany this Sunday’s 59th Annual Emmy Awards:

Fade to Black
We haven’t stopped believing that Tony and his family made it out of the diner.

2 parts Jim Beam Black® Bourbon
¾ parts sour cherry purée
¾ parts fresh lemon juice
¾ parts egg white
2 Dashes of Peychaud’s® Bitters
Top up with Cherry Club Soda

Shake the first five ingredients vigorously and strain into an ice-filled hi-ball glass. Top up with Cherry Club Soda and stir.
Sour cherry purée: 1 can of sour cherry preserves, 4 oz. Peter Heering® Cherry Heering, and 2 oz. water, blended well.

Down the Hatch
This drink is enjoyed by Losties, Others and Tailies alike.
1 ½ parts Hornitos™ Reposado tequila
¾ parts lime juice
½ part simple syrup
1 part pineapple juice
1 tsp sweet ginger puree

¼ part egg white

Dry shake vigorously, ice and shake again. Strain onto fresh ice in a highball. Granish with a lime wedge and cherries on a toothpick.

The Dwight Delight
Celebrate your Dundie Award with a toast of the Dwight Delight. It goes well with bacon.
1 1/2 parts Makers Mark® Bourbon
1 part Starbucks™ Coffee Liqueur
1/2 part lemon juice
1/2 part orange juice

Shake and strain over ice into a rocks glass, garnish with an orange twist.

The McSteamy
The debate continues...the dreamy or the steamy...whatever.
2 parts Courvoisier® Exclusif Cognac
1/2 part Lemon Juice
1/2 part DeKuyper® Orange Curacao
1/2 part DeKuyper® Blackberry Brandy
4 blackberries

Muddle the blackberries in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add the ingredients and shake vigorously with ice. Strain onto fresh ice in a rocks glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

The Manhattan Mode
Break out your poncho while sipping our favorite assistant.
1 1/2 parts Knob Creek® Bourbon
≤ parts fresh lemon juice
1/2 part simple syrup
1 part fresh orange juice
2 dashes peach bitters

Shake all the ingredients with ice and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice, garnish with a peach slice

Ari Margarita
“Join the entourage”
2 parts Hornitos™ Reposado Tequila
1 heaping barspoon agave nectar
1 part fresh lime juice
2 oz. cucumber foam*

In a mixing glass dissolve the agave nectar into lime juice by stirring with a bar spoon. Add the Hornitos™ Tequila and shake and strain into a half salt-rimmed cocktail glass. Top with cucumber foam.
Cucumber foam: 4 oz. each: cucumber juice, sugar syrup, egg white and water. Add all to a .5 liter dessert whipper and charge with a cream bulb, shake vigorously and chill.

The Cheerleader
Toast the cheerleader, save the world
1 1/2 parts Canadian Club® Whisky
≤ parts Belle de Brillet® Liqueur
≤ parts fresh lemon juice
1/2 part honey syrup
3 Dashes of Peychaud’s® Bitters

Shake all ingredients and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, add a pear slice on rim of glass.

*Images courtesy of Darko Zagar

Prefer a little wine with your Award Shows?
Beaulieu Vineyards is being served for the 4th consecutive year at the Governors Ball at the Shrine Auditorium, immediately following the show. The 2005 Beaulieu Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay and the 2003 Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon at the table and will be paired with Master Chef Joachim Splichal's impressive menu. Also, in keeping with the green eco-friendly theme of this year's Primetime Emmy campaign, following the celebrations, all 2400 empty BV bottles will be recycled.

Finally, while you’re enjoying all these drinks, don’t forget to thank the Academy for one more reason to party…

Monday, September 10, 2007

U.S. Senate Declares September “National Bourbon Heritage Month”

(Doing My Civic Duty at the Bourbon Festival, this weekend!)

This unanimous declaration by the U.S. Senate, in early August, reinforces bourbon as “America’s Native Spirit.” In doing so, it celebrates the family heritage, tradition and deep-rooted legacy that the bourbon industry contributes to the United States.

(Legal disclaimer from Washington: The resolution also calls for consumers who enjoy bourbon to do so responsibly and in moderation.)

“This is a great honor that the U.S. Senate has bestowed upon the bourbon industry,” said Bill Samuels Jr., president of Maker's Mark Distillery. “The tradition of family heritage, authenticity and craftsmanship behind bourbon is what has made it an American Icon.”

“This recognition is a long time coming … my great-grand-daddy would be proud,” said Frederick “Fred” Booker Noe III, seventh-generation Jim Beam family member and native of Bardstown, Ky. “The U.S. Senate is recognizing bourbon’s unique place in American history and we’re looking forward to celebrating this September.”

Well, I can tell you that I look forward to celebrating the other dark meat, I mean spirit, at the Bourbon Festival in Louisville Kentucky, this weekend. After my whirlwind weekend during the Kentucky Derby a few months ago, I realized how much more I have to learn about the American "spirit."

After a few days of bourbon tastings, cooking with bourbon and Saturday night’s bourbon ball gala are on the agenda, I'm hoping to have discovered a thing, or two. If you will be among the 50,000+ people celebrating, e-me and let’s share a cocktail!

*Photo credit: Claire Barrett
Yoga and Wine

I invited my friend, Jackie, to come along. “Do we have to work out?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied. “But after seventy-five minutes, we get to have a wine tasting.”

I’ve never been a big “yoga person.” I know its super trendy and good for you - blah, blah - but whenever I’m at Whole Foods, for example, and run across those self-righteous “new-found” yogi-types (with the tight little asses and snotty little attitudes) I just feel like letting my cart ram right into their shiny little BMWs.

Well, the Yoga and Wine class at Exhale in Santa Monica must attract a different crowd all together. It was AWESOME! Dave Romanelli, who also teaches “yoga and chocolate” (clever man) and “yoga and country” (I def want to try that), touts that in order to be “Livin’ the Moment” we need three strengths: mental, emotional and spiritual.

He led us through a variety of poses without making anyone feel like a flunkie for not contorting into just the right position. He also threw out cool quotes from people like Jimi Hendrix (something about how we search for ritual to bring together the fragments of ourselves). And, he played some early 70’s music (like The Doors) instead of that ohm-shanti New Age crap. (If all yoga classes were like this, I’d go all the time.)

David also compared us (writhing and bending and sweaty) to the grape vines in Sicily (now that’s a stretch ba-dum-bum). He regaled the mojo of a vine that can withstand the hot, dry climate of Sicily (sorta like the Valley – but with Mediterranean views) and compared its unwavering roots with the ones we should make to remain in connection with ourselves, via the yoga mat. (Ok, a little mumbo-jumho but frankly, he had me at “Sicily.”)

After all the twisty - bendy stuff, we laid on our backs and David went around to each person and rubbed violet oil on our arms and necks to help us relax, in anticipation for the next ritual. (The one that we were all waiting for…)

Blissed out, stretched out and smelling wonderful, we each sat cross-legged on our mats with a glass of Arancio Grillo (white) and a glass of Arancio Nero d’Avola (red) and David told us a little about each. In the Grillo, we were looking for scents of jasmine, green pepper and green tea. It is suggested to pair well with seafood, white meat and pasta with veggies.

The Nero d’Avola hints at dark fruits like cherries and blueberries, and nuts. Amazingly, in a yoga class, he even suggested we drink this with (gasp!) a steak! (Did I mention this was my kind of yoga?) We were also treated to the Arancio dessert wine, Passito Hetake, as well as cheeses and pesto sandwiches.

All I can tell you is that I’m signing up for his next class. I hope to see you there. Before I run into you at Whole Foods, anyway…
Drink A Salad!

The Liquid Muse "Sustainable Sips" Organic Cocktail Class

If you weren't at the Hall & Oates / Spinners concert at the Hollywood Bowl (seems like half the town was!) then you should have been at The Liquid Muse Sustainable Sips organic cocktail class at Bar Keeper, in Silverlake!
What fun we had!

Square One (certified) Organic Vodka was my liquor sponsor and I once again featured the Farm Fresh Caprese Martini. People enjoy trying this drink because the herbs and veggies naturally lend themselves to an organic beverage, and not so many people are familiar with the more "savory" cocktails.

The version I used on Friday is made with vodka, tomato water, angostura bitters, freshly squeezed lemon juice and garnished with a caprese skewer - tomato, marinated mozzeralla and a basil leaf.

I've sung the praises once before of Bar Keeper - a cocktail-lovers' dream world - but here it is again!

Joe and Anna Keeper are some of the nicest folks you'll run across in LA. And, their ecclectic bar store has everything from cocktail books, to shakers to antique glasses to t-shirts. It is one-stop shopping for any birthday or holiday gift giving! (Sipsters outside LA, you can visit their website.)

Bar Keeper does these events once a month, featuring a different guest speaker. Next time, Joe himself will give an Absinthe presentation. And, I hear some of our buddies from up North may be down in the coming months.

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