A Brief Review of DineLA Summer 2019

DineLA restaurant week happens two times a year, the first is in summer and the second is in winter. It is one of the many events throughout the year where restaurants get to showcase their menus to new clients tasting their offerings for the first time or regular clients that are familiar with the restaurant. We just concluded the summer DineLA which was running from July 12 – 26. Have no fear if you missed it this summer, the winter DineLA restaurant week will begin on January 17 and run until January 31.

Summer 2019 saw 100 restaurants from around Los Angeles participate. There were restaurants for every budget and every type of occasion. During past DineLA events, we have visited Firefly, Granville, The Front Yard, and Michael’s on Naples. This summer, we visited:

  • Lotus & Light
    Located in the Lakeside Shopping Center
    Address: 345 N Pass Ave, Burbank, CA 91505
    Hours: Daily 11 am – 9 pm
    Phone: (818) 562 – 7777
    Yelp: 4 Stars (272 reviews)

    This was our second visit to Lotus & Light. The first time we visited was for dinner during DineLA Winter 2019 so on our return trip we decided experience the lunch menu. We are happy to report that the lunch menu is just as delicious as the dinner menu. The most significant differences between the two is the lunch menu consists of a 2-course (appetizer/entree) meal with a non-alcoholic beverage included while the dinner menu consists of a 3-course meal (appetizer/entree/dessert) with a glass of wine included. The upside of this is while most restaurants contain carry over between the two menus each has options specific to the time of day. Lotus is home to Matthew’s favorite desert Ca Phe Sua Affogato. It features beignets, vanilla ice cream, and a side of Vietnamese espresso topped with condensed milk (see picture below). A great way to end ours and any meal!
  • Green Street Tavern
    69 W Green St, Pasadena, CA 91105
    Hours: Sunday 11 am – 9 pm; Monday – Thursday 11:30 am – 9 pm; Friday 11:30 am – 10 pm; Saturday 11 am – 10 pm
    Phone: (626) 229 – 9961
    Yelp: 4 Stars (1,273 reviews)

    This was our first dining experience at Green Street Tavern and we knew very little about the restaurant prior to our dinner. Green Street Tavern is a cozy, hole-in-the-wall restaurant compared to other restaurants and bars in the area, but that is part of its charm. One downside is that the cocktails available can only feature wine as a base (i.e., if you’re looking for liquor, this is not the place to go). What they may lack in cocktails is made up for by the food, especially the short ribs which were port wine braised with orzo goat mac and cheese and garlic green beans. Green Street has a well curated beer and wine lists, and the knowledgeable staff will readily assist you in finding the perfect pairing.
  • Charcoal Venice
    Address: 425 Washington Blvd, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
    Hours: Sunday 10:30 am – 2:30 pm, 5 pm – 10 pm; Monday – Thursday 5:30 pm – 11 pm; Friday 5:30 pm – 12 am; Saturday 10:30 am – 2:30 pm, 5 pm – 10 pm
    Phone: (310) 751 – 6794
    Yelp: 4 Stars (475 reviews)

    We first discovered Charcoal because Andrew attended a Billy Harris hosted charity dinner with the meal prepared by two-star Michelin award-winning Executive Chef Josiah Citrin. Chef de Cuisine Joseph Johnson helms the day to day operations of the kitchen and will be making his own mark on the LA dining scene for many years to come. Charcoal is an upscale family style restaurant where all fare is prepared over open fire. The food is supplemented by an excellent wine and cocktail program. The DineLA menu afforded us the opportunity get a taste of most of the current menu. We do not have a standout this time, because the whole menu harmonizes together so well. We were very pleased with both the options and service during our visit and we highly recommend this location going forward.
  • Wood & Water
    Address: 13359 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
    Hours: Sunday 11 am – 9 pm; Monday 4 pm – 9 pm; Tuesday/Wednesday 4 pm – 10 pm; Thursday – Saturday 4 pm – 11 pm
    Phone: (818) 855 – 1661
    Yelp: 4 Stars (237 reviews)

    This was our first dining experience at Wood and Water. The restaurant is the home to an inventive cocktail program and flavorful menu. The dining space takes advantage of the ambiance of the natural light from a centrally located fireplace. This makes a fun dining experience, but not photo friendly for our purposes. Matthew ordered the duck ragu (pappardelle, fried rosemary, parmesan) and Andrew ordered the pork chop (asian marinade, whole grain dijon mashed potatoes, quick pickled purple cabbage). For cocktails Matthew ordered the Smoke on the Water (house vanilla Woodford Reserve, smoked ice cubes, flamed rosemary, brandied cherry, rosemary simple) and Andrew ordered the New Fashion (Elijah Craig, cinnamon & brandy-marinated cherries, orange bitters, orange twist). The servers we polite, however service in general was slow. Also as a reminder the restaurant is located on Ventura Blvd. so parking can be difficult to find, so plan in advance.

Even though DineLA is over until January, we wanted to pass on our experiences at these restaurants because we had such a great experience at each place we visited. Each restaurant has different price ranges and different options from both the bars and kitchen. This just goes to show that just because it is not the most expensive dinner does not mean you will not have delicious food. When DineLA comes around in January, we recommend looking at the website and seeing if you can find your new favorite Los Angeles culinary delight.

Thanks for reading! Cheers friends!

A Review of Brew at the LA Zoo

Every August for the last 9 years, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens hosts a unique beer festival. For those of you who may not be familiar, it is called Brew at the L.A. Zoo.

This year, breweries, cideries, and a winery set up shop for the evening and poured tastes during the festival. In addition to all of the tastings, there was live music, pop-up zoo talks, food trucks, and animal discovery stations.

You are greeted at the entrance where they check IDs, scan tickets, and hand out the cups. You then begin your tasting journey by ascending the steps to the first tasting area. This year it was Firestone Walker Brewing Company and The Dude’s Brewing Company. Firestone had our favorite beer of the night called ZinSkin (ABV: 8.3%). According to Firestone’s website, ZinSkin was made from zinfandel grape skins that were fermented with one of their wild beers in 100% American oak barrels for 10-16 months.

From there you pass through the gift shop area and begin to see all of the animal discovery stations. These animal discovery stations are run by zoo staff and showcase some of the smaller animals that call the zoo home. Some of the animals, such as the snakes, you were able to touch if you were gentle. From there the zoo became your oyster. There were tasting and live music locations set up around the zoo, but some areas of the zoo are closed during the event.

However, as with any tasting event, there is a balancing act that must be done to maximize your personal experience. You must prioritize the different activities available. You have to decide when and if you want to see the animals, listen to the live music, or try the tastings.

We stress prioritization at these events for multiple reasons. First, you want to make sure you can see everything you want, but more importantly you want to be able to taste everything that interests you. At these events, some of the tasting booths may run out of product. This year at least 9 breweries were tapped out before 9:00 pm when the event went to 11 pm. To us this either means the breweries are very small and don’t have a lot of product, intentionally chose not to bring enough product, or were just not prepared for the event. We are personally hoping its the former of those two options, but it is important to note that there may be other reasons why the breweries did not come with enough product for the entire night. Whatever the reason, when multiple breweries run out of product the lines get increasingly long and you lose a lot of time waiting for a single tasting. However, it is important to note that location also factors in to whether a tasting booth runs out of product because people tend to go to the first booths that they see. We see this phenomenon all of the time with how people form lines at grocery stores.

One of the breweries that stood out to us was Braveheart Brewing. Braveheart Brewing is a veteran owned and operated from Oregon that donates money from every sale to support the POW-MIA Families, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, SEAL Family Foundation, and 03XX Foundation. We tasted the Frogman Imperial Red Ale (ABV: 7.5% | IBU: 49) at the event. This beer was made to honor the SEAL Family Foundation. By purchasing beer from Braveheart Brewing you can help provide support for the men and women who have risked so much in service of this country.

Tasting Stations

The following tasting stations were open to all festival attendees.

Zoo Experiences

These zoo experiences were open to everyone that attended the festival.

  • Birds of Prey Animal Walkabout
  • Giant River Otter Pop Up Talk
  • Jaguar Special Feeding
  • Harbor Seal Pop Up Talk
  • Kangaroo Special Feeding
  • Komodo Dragon Special Feeding
  • Orangutan Special Feeding
  • Sugar Glider Animal Walkabout
  • Orangutan Special Feeding
  • Jaguar Special Feeding

The VIP Experience

There is an option to purchase a VIP ticket for the festival. Here are the perks of the VIP ticket:

  • Early Access – Enter at 6 instead of 7
  • 2 VIP lounges with food, extra beer, and specialty cocktails
  • 2 extra animal experiences

We opted to purchase the VIP ticket mostly for the access to the VIP lounges. However, due to work constraints we were not able to arrive at the zoo until 6:50 pm so we essentially missed the extra hour that is included with the VIP ticket. That being said, even though we missed the extra hour we felt that we made the right decision because we were able to bypass the general admission line.

VIP Lounges

There were two VIP lounges included for the VIP ticket holders. When you arrived at each lounge you received your free Brew at the L.A. Zoo swag. This year VIP ticket holders received a koozie and a lunch bag. In addition to the swag, VIP lounges included exclusive food and beverages. The food ranged from finger food (e.g., wings) to a full meal (e.g. burgers, bratwursts, mac and cheese, coleslaw. etc.). The VIP exclusive beverages included:

VIP Zoo Experiences

These experiences were only open to VIP ticket holders. The alligator feeding took place during the early admittance hour and the Asian elephant talk was only accessible through a VIP lounge next to the enclosure.

  • Asian Elephant Pop Up Talk
  • Alligator Special Feeding

Event Rating

Overall, we would rate this event a A- only because we purchased the VIP ticket and the VIP lounges make up for a lot of issues such as lines for food and the exclusive access to certain beverages compared to the general admission. If we only purchased the general admission ticket we would rate this event a B. The number of breweries that ran out of product with an hour and a half left in the event just left a poor taste in our mouth. But overall it is a fun night to explore the zoo while tasting some beer and hearing some good music.

Save the Date

If you missed the event year and are interested in checking it out next year and coming to your own conclusion, the event will be held on Friday August 7, 2020.

Thanks for reading! Cheers friends!

Tastes of the District

Back in 2017, Matthew had the opportunity to complete a summer internship for his master’s degree in Washington, D.C.. While he was there he had the opportunity to explore what he likes to call “Distillery Row”. This area is the home to several distilleries that are all within walking distance.

  • Cotton & Reed
    Address: 1330 5th St. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002
    Hours: Sunday 12 pm to 12 am; Monday CLOSED; Tuesday – Thursday 4 pm – 12 am; Friday 4 pm – 2 am; Saturday 12 pm – 12 am
    Phone: (202) 544 – 2805

    Cotton & Reed focuses primarily on rum. There space is open for tastings, tours, and private events. They pride themselves on the complexity of their rums and how all of the flavors of the ingredients come together to create the cocktail experience. The core spirits that are always available are a white, gold, and dry-spiced rum and an allspice dram. They also tend to release one limited rum per year.
  • Jos. A. Magnus & Co.
    Address: 2052 West Virginia Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002
    Hours: Call for hours
    Phone: (202) 459 – 3518

    Jos. A Magnus & Co. became a reality as a result of an unopened bottle of whiskey that was dated back to 1892. The Magnus family used this bottle as the vision for the whiskey they wanted to once again produce. Currently, there are 3 whiskeys and one navy strength gin being produced by Jos. A Magnus & Co.
  • New Columbia Distillers/Green Hat Gin
    Address: 1832 Fenwick St NE, Washington, DC 20002
    Hours: Sunday CLOSED; Monday – Friday 8 am – 5 pm; Saturday 1 pm – 4 pm
    Phone: (202) 733 – 1710

    If you’re interested in history you will love the backstory of Green Hat Gin, but if you enjoy gin, New Columbia Distillers/Green Hat Gin needs to be on your list of places to visit during your next trip to the district. As made clear by the name, New Columbia Distillers/Green Hat Gin primarily focuses on gin. They produce a seasonal gin, navy strength gin, and year-round gin. Not only do they have gin, but they also have Capitoline Vermouth at the tasting room. If you’re not a big gin or vermouth fan, you still should check out the tasting room for their other spirits.
  • One Eight Distilling
    Address: 1135 Okie St NE, Washington, DC 20002
    Hours: Saturday 1 – 10 pm; Sunday 1 – 7 pm
    Phone: (202) 636 – 6638

    One Eight Distilling produces rye, bourbon, gin, and vodka from locally-sourced ingredients. Their pride for using local ingredients is why all of their spirits begin with “District Made”.
  • Republic Restoratives Distillery and Craft Cocktail Bar
    Address: 1369 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002
    Hours: Sunday 12 pm – 5 pm; Thursday 5 pm – 11 pm, Friday 6:30 pm – 11 pm; Saturday 12 – 4 pm
    Phone: (202) 733 – 3996

    Republic Restoratives is a female-founded distillery that “stands for community, authenticity and most of all friendship” and their spirits lean towards a focus on whiskey. Republic Restoratives produces a rye, bourbon, vodka, and apple brandy.

All of the distilleries offer tours and tastings on the weekends. In addition, all of the distilleries also have cocktails available for purchase.

When Matthew first visited, all of the distilleries were selling sourced whiskey while their own whiskeys aged so the only spirits that were true to the distillery were the gins and vodkas. It’s great to see the updated websites for all of these distilleries and to see how much they have all grown.

Thanks for reading! Cheers friends!

Two Keys for Approaching Wine Tasting

First and foremost, the two of the most important things to keep in mind when you are going wine tasting is to approach each wine tasting with (1) an open mind and (2) a willingness to learn. This does not change whether you are a novice and you are reading this in preparation for your very first trip to wine country or if you are a seasoned wine tasting pro. Having an open mind and a willingness to learn will provide you with the foundation to discover and experience everything the winery has to offer.

One of Our Many Learning Experiences

We know first hand about how bias can influence a winery or a particular wine, however, we also have been able to overcome biases of particular wineries or varietals when we remained open and continued to give a winery or particular varietal a chance to impress. Early on, Matthew did not enjoy Sauvignon Blanc because he explained that Sauvginon Blanc’s contained too much of a sour grapefruit component for his palate. As a result, when he would go tasting he would attempt to see if he could replace Sauvignon Blanc with a different wine or he would not choose it when given the option. After hearing about why Matthew did not enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, the pourer at Pear Valley challenged Matthew to try their Sauvignon Blanc and he was promised a different taste of a new wine if he did not enjoy their version. Matthew accepted and was pleasantly surprised about how Pear Valley’s Sauvignon Blanc tasted compared to the others he had not enjoyed. With this experience, Matthew learned the importance of how wine making styles differ across wine regions and countries.

Winemakers are Artists

Winemakers are artists in their trade. Each winemaker has their own philosophy for the type wine they want to create. The winemakers use the type of terroir and climate where the vines are located to help determine their goals. The soil may be sand or it may be clay; the climate may be warm at day and cool at night or it may have coastal influences. All of this influences how the grapes grow, and therefore, how the wine tastes.

You may not enjoy how a particular wine tastes or an entire winery may not leave you impressed and that is perfectly natural. What you enjoy may not be what your friend enjoys or what you and your friend taste may be drastically different. The best part about wine is that it is perfectly ok to taste or smell something different from the person next to you. Each person experiences different tastes and smells because of the memories that the wine draws you towards.

At the end of the day even if you do not enjoy a particular wine or a winery, please conduct yourself with appropriate behavior out of respect for the artist, winery, and wine making process. Just because you do not enjoy a particular wine, does not mean that it was not made well. So if you find a wine that does not suit your palate, politely make use of the spittoon buckets that each winery makes available for people who decline to finish an entire taste.

However, if you allow yourself to enter a tasting room biased either against the winery or a particular varietal, you can end up missing out on a new experience, an experience that may have the ability to change your mind. Without having an open mind and a willingness to learn, Matthew would probably still refuse to drink Sauvignon Blanc.

Thanks for reading! Cheers friends!

Meet Andrew and Matthew

Hello! My brother and I want to start off our blog with a bit of an introduction for who we are and what we hope to accomplish with this blog.

To start off, here are some things about us. We are not classically trained in the food or beverage industry in the sense that we have never received any formal training bartending, winemaking, sommelier, or cooking. However, at one point or another one or both of us have discussed an interest in becoming a bartender or sommelier. We are high enthusiasts that love to explore and find new wineries, breweries, bars, distilleries, and restaurants. We love planning trips to wine country and breweries and meeting new friends along the journey.

We know that wine and wine culture can be confusing and intimidating for a lot of people. I know when we both started we were a little reserved and intimidated when it came to talking about wine with other people. As we learned more about it, we became more comfortable having discussions about wine with other people. Talking about wine and our experiences with other people has opened doors, created friendships, and benefited our relationship. Our goal is to help provide people with the information to make them feel more confident with their own wine experiences. But also we want to empower people to try new places and explore all of the different options that we have to eat and drink.

Our Approach to Wine

Our approach to wine is pretty simple. We will taste EVERYTHING. We know that may seem like a strange concept because some of you out there. We know that there are people that only drink reds, only whites, or only certain varietals…which is completely fine if that’s what works for you. Part of you may be thinking to yourself that we are crazy for trying everything which is also fine. And if you don’t think we are crazy just for trying everything, you will probably think we are definitely crazy after reading the next sentence. In addition to trying everything, we are also the weird ones that will not stick to the classic order of going from whites to reds and then from reds to dessert wines. We believe that if you break out of the mold a little, you open yourself up to a whole new world of experiences that may present themselves.

How Food and Wine has Benefited our Relationship

Our food journey started a few days before Christmas one year when my brother and I were sitting at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney. Up to that point, we had very rarely ever done a sit-down dinner with just the two of us. Both of us had been in college, and as many of you know, college budgets usually keep food experiences limited to most fast food chains. But also, as anyone with siblings will attest, our relationship had more rocky moments than moments filled with brotherly love.

We decided that we were going to, for just one night, forget about the cost and just enjoy ourselves. That dinner became an opportunity to reconnect and rebuild our relationship as brothers. This dinner also instilled for us the value of family meals. And by family we mean meals with those people in your life that you value and cherish time with whether that is family or close friends (what we like to call our extended family).

But at this dinner, we decided to make a new tradition. Around Christmas each year we find a time to go to a sit-down restaurant. We made this decision because then at least once a year we would be able to sit-down just the two of us and talk about what was going on in our lives.

How Wine Expanded our Interests

Our interest in wine sparked an interest in cooking in Matthew and rejuvenated the interest for Andrew. The more we learned about wine, the more we became interested in pairing wine with food. The interest in food and wine pairings combined with our love of film led us to attempting to pair a dining and film experience. We wanted to pair a Chef’s Tasting Menu with the film Burnt, starring Bradley Cooper. This led us to Michael’s on Naples in Long Beach, CA. This interest was furthered our interests in other areas of the food and beverage industry such as beer and cocktails.

Our Approach to Drinking Alcohol

We believe that alcohol has the chance to enrich our lives. Mostly this enrichment comes when we find the perfect pairing for a particular wine, beer, or cocktail. However, it can enrich our lives by providing as an icebreaker which can lead to making new connections and friendships. However, alcohol can have devastating effects on life if it is abused as a way to mask emotions or if we do not respect the way it influences our bodies and therefore please drink responsibly.

Thanks for reading! Cheers friends!