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SONOMA (HEALDSBURG): H2 Oh! [Spoonbar at H2 Hotel]

By Nora Zelevansky / November 8th, 2010

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How pretty are these cocktails?  This is long overdue once again, but my camera/computer sitch is only just back in commission.

This makes twice in the town of Healdsburg that I've had cocktails that have blown my mind.  First was at Cyrus, where I think the drinks were conceived by the same genius, Scott Beattie.  Second, well, let me explain:

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Sistah C. & I went to Spoonbar at the new cool kid hotel on the square h2 (which is owned by the Hotel Healdsburg people).  Their other hotel is swankier and has been around for a bit, but this has a truly eco and youthful vibe.

With that in mind, h2's restaurant has created this bonkers mixology program, which includes the Cucumber Collins (see left above) with a mixture of fresh and pickled cucumbers and yuzu and the Siddartha (above right) with Thai coconut milk, lemon verbena and St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur.

Pair drinks like those with a sampler of appetizers like the below with local cheese, fried risotto balls, spicy lamb meatballs, fried olives and house cured ones and you've found Nirvana.  Don't forget the oysters!

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Not to sound like a character on You Can't Do That On Television, but usually I hate all things liver. However, apparently that truth is overruled by how much I LOVE olives and all things friend, because these olives stuffed with chicken liver just SLAYED me.

SO. DAMN. GOOD.

And you thought wine country was all about wine.

Happy Monday!

xo – N.

LA (HOLLYWOOD): THE BEST NEW BLOW OUT SCENE

By Nora Zelevansky / September 16th, 2010

FoxyFridays

You know what's awesome?  Not having to do your own hair.

You know what's not as awesome?  Spending thirty arm cramping minutes trying to pull a round brush through your stringy locks (as if the back will ever actually look good).

But you know what's really really awesome?  Getting your hair done and then ALREADY BEING where you're going.  See, I'm a grandma.  But Harroin Salon is in right smack in the middle of club, bar and scenester restaurant-hub Hollywood.

With their new "Foxy Fridays" promotion, you can get a $35 blowout (way discounted from the normal price) and free cocktails and snacks and already be basically at the center of the action.  Don't think of it as getting your hair done.  Think of it as a pre-party that makes you look good.

It's for real and they do a great job.  I know because I experienced it myself last week.  Yup and then I partied hard.  Across town.  At a baby shower.  WHATEVER.  I already admitted that I'm a grandma.  It doesn't mean that you should be.

xo – N.

P.S. Sorry no pics of the straightened hair.  I've been lazy lately in that regard, I know.  But trust me.  They did good.

LA (WESTWOOD): THE BEST BELL PEPPER SMASH

By Nora Zelevansky / March 25th, 2009

2009_03_25WestsideTavern(Westside Tavern’s Westside Smash Cocktail)

Lately, every time I go out for drinks, I get stuck bar side trying to place my cocktail mood.  Starting from when drinking age commences (which, growing up in my NYC world, was far earlier than probably bares mentioning), one tends to go through drink phases; as in “that’s my drink.”  See cocktail choice is a matter of taste, but drinks can also help you affect postures or underline identity.

Beer? You’re just a regular unpretentious dude or a laid back girl who can hang with guys. Martini? You’re a salty broad with a touch of class or a 007 operative (shaken, but never stirred). Vodka tonic? You’re drinking pretty regularly, right? Long Island Iced Tea?  You’re deeply immersed in the Greek system or maybe just a very drunk 16-year-old. Peach schnapps? You’re, well, puking.  At least if you’re me.
Once people get older, maybe people settle on a long term favorite or abandon hard liquor altogether for red wine.  But I’ve never been a big fan of structure or sameness, so I often find myself staring hard at the drink menu (or bottles lining the bar) wondering, what can I order that’s not too sweet, not too harsh, not too boring, not too filling etc.?
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Well, this past weekend for a Daily Candy scout, chef and managing partner Warren Schwartz (ex-Executive Chef of Whist at Viceroy Santa Monica) gave me (and T., who came with as a favor) a tour of his brand new domain, Westside Tavern (opening today).  Sadly, I didn’t have time to partake in delicious menu items from Hot Smoked Trout with Potato Crisps with creme fraiche and a poached egg to Grilled Four Cheese & Tomato Sandwich or Roasted Butternut Squash Agnolotti with brown butter, fried sage and crushed hazelnuts.
But I did get to sit down with Warren and sample four of the restaurant’s signature cocktails (masterminded by pre-Prohibition era inspired Mixologist Ryan Magarian) and I was blown away.  Above is my favorite of the drinks: a Westside Smash with hand pressed spearmint, aviation new western dry gin, freshly squeezed lemon juice, freshly extracted red bell pepper juice, house made clover honey syrup.  I’m not usually a gin girl, but this was out of this world.  It was not too sweet, not too intense, not remotely odd despite the veggie component; just the perfect combination of fresh and flavorful.

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(CLICK TO EXPAND IMAGES: Grapefruit Rickey With St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Mango Daiquiri With Angostura Bitters, and Signature Cantaloupe Cucumber Deluxe)
All the cocktails far exceeded anything I’ve had in quite a longtime.  So, I guess that’s a recommendation.  Anyway, now I can say that (as long as it’s available) a Bell Pepper Smash is my drink.
I wonder what that says about me.
xo – N.