Some cocktails are classics and have stood the test of time. The negroni, for example, was first mixed in 1919 and is the number 2 cocktail in global popularity. The whisky sour (# 4 on the list) supposedly goes back to the 1870s. Others have gained popularity over the last few decades but show no sign of fizzing out like many fads have. Take the paper plane for example. This official IBA cocktail, made with equal parts of bourbon, aperol, amaro nonino and lemon was not introduced to the masses until 2007.
The great thing about cocktails is a simple change or two results in a completely different experience. For example, by simply adding chocolate bitters to a boulevardier, you turn it into the Left Hand. Taking such creative liberties allows you to do things like…well…name cocktails after Tragically Hip songs. I thought the Paper Plane would be an ideal candidate for substitution because there are a lot of variations of amaro available. Nonino is a bit of a gateway amaro which seems fitting for something called a Paper Plane. I figured if I were to elevate it to a Silver Jet, a more potent amaro was necessary and that Fernet-Branca fit the bill. This spirit has a strong menthol character which I thought would still blend nicely with the remaining ingredients ( bourbon and aperol hold their own although after the fact I thought campari would work as well)…although some may argue it might taste a bit like jet fuel (full disclosure…this is coming from a guy who likes the taste of cough syrup).
0.75 oz bourbon
0.75 oz aperol
0.75 oz lemon juice
0.75 oz Fernet-Branca
Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake for 10-15 seconds and strain into a coupe glass.
With so many amaro options available (eg. Montenegro, Averno and Cynar) simple substitutions will often work for many popular cocktails without a lot of thought required. Every combination may not be perfect but it allows one to get better acquainted with various flavour profiles in an effort to find that ideal combination you can boast about. Who knows…you might end up becoming the Brian Flanagan of Canada and subsequently recognized as a Canadian hero all the way from Clayquot Sound to Cape Speer.
Silver jet way overhead Silver jet evergladed grey sheers Silver jet so far off already Silver jet Clayquot Sound to Cape Spear
With about a 140 Hip songs to choose from, some are easier to assign to cocktail names than others. Some are certainly a stretch. When thinking of At the Hundredth Meridian, I was hoping that Crown Royal would fit. Gimli, Manitoba was put on the map in 2016 as the producer of Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest which was named the whisky of the year in Jim Murray’s 2016 Whisky Bible. Using my “Who’s Smarter than a 5th Grader?” skills, I deducted that a small town in Manitoba should be somewhere around the 100th meridian. Google confirmed that it is in fact at 96.9887 degrees west so using the same fifth grade skills I rounded to the nearest hundredth and we had a winner.
At the Hundredth Meridian is a song from the 1992 Fully Completely album which many consider to be the Hip’s quintessential album. It became an instant staple in my university CD rotation. As a Hip fan, I think it was a rite of passage if you could flawlessly recite Gord’s famous mid-song soliloquy if I die of Vanity, promise me, promise me that if they bury me some place I don’t want to be that you’ll dig me up and transport me unceremoniously away from the swollen city breeze garbage bag trees, whispers of disease and acts of enormity and lower me slowly, sadly, and properly get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy while under the influence. To this day I can recite it in my sleep.
For the cocktail, I did a simple variation on an old fashioned. I really like triple sec and find it very versatile, even beyond a margarita. I was still trying to bust through a big jar of maraschino cherries from Costco so I thought the juice (almost a simple syrup in itself) would nicely replace the sugar cube. As usual, Angostura bitters are always a good call but I find Dillon’s DSB bitters do just as well.
At the Hundredth Meridian
1.5 oz Crown Royal
0.5 oz Triple Sec
0.25 oz of Maraschino cherry juice
2-3 drops Angostura or Dillon’s DSB bitters
Mix all ingredients together and garnish with an orange peel and a maraschino cherry.
Although “At the Hundredth Meridian” is one of the most recognizable Hip songs, Ry Cooder is surprisingly unknown. In 2003, he was named the number 8th guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone magazine (and 31 by the same magazine in 2015). He has played with numerous comparable and recognized guitarists over his long and illustrious career. In addition to Kingston’s own Tragically Hip recognizing him in the aforementioned song, Queen’s university also awarded him an Honorary doctorate in 2000 leading me to believe that he would be really popular at funerals in the Limestone City.
At the hundredth meridian At the hundredth meridian At the hundredth meridian Where the great plains begin
At the Hundredth Meridian- Fully Completely, The Tragically Hip
I’m a firm believer that one of the easiest way to jazz up a cocktail is to use fresh herbs. The taste of even classic drinks like an old fashioned or a whiskey sour can be significantly modified with sprig of thyme or some rosemary simple syrup. When I was thinking about this, my mind wandered to the Hip song “Long Time Running” and the obvious play on words involving one of my favorite herbs. It started as a quiet and misunderstood song from the Road Apples album and eventually became the title of Hip’s critically acclaimed film which documented their final tour following the announcement of Gord Downie’s cancer diagnosis. In this production, the performance of this song was particularly moving, a somber yet satisfyingly reflection of the band’s illustrious career. I equate it to other songs, such as “The One I Love” by R.E.M, in the sense that on the surface it seems to suggest peace or love but a deeper dig uncovers pain and suffering, a fitting theme to a film which some call the band’s visual eulogy.
I initially made this during the summer and is one of the few vodka cocktails I made. That said, I think it would go just as nicely with gin as well. I used green chartreuse for a little spice and some sweet and floral St. Germain to balance it out. I topped it with a splash of Fentiman’s elderflower soda to boost the St. Germain and lighten it up a bit and then finished it with a fresh sprig of thyme.
Long Time Running
1.5 oz Vodka or Gin
0.5 oz St. Germain
0.25-0.5 oz Green Chartreuse
0.5 lemon juice
Fentiman’s Elderflower soda (optional)*
Shake ingredients together in cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a rocks glass and top with elderflower soda.
* If you don’t have elderflower soda, you can replace with 0.5 oz of thyme simple syrup and club soda. Add the simple syrup to the shaker, strain and add club soda (if desired) to taste.
Drive-in’s rained out Weatherman wet-fingers the sky He pokes it out, he pulls it in He don’t know why It’s the same mistake
Long Time Running- Road Apples, The Tragically Hip
My recommendation is to drink this while listening to its namesake sitting in a Muskoka chair with a background of loon hollers or cricket chirps. Otherwise, throw on the documentary and toast a glass to one of the most iconic Canadian bands to ever grace this earth. RIP Gord.
One of the many debaucheries of 2020 included the presidential election. The first debate could be equated to a playground spat. I haven’t seen two seniors engage in such nonsense since the infamous spat between CFL legends Joe Kapp and Angelo Mosca in 2011. If you recall, that epic fight featured flowers and cane swinging and a sombre reminder us that Canadians are in fact not as polite and we’d like to think.
As a result, I would be remiss if I didn’t celebrate election night with a couple of hip cocktails which reflected my thoughts on the battle to be the leader of the free world (sic). My thoughts went to trying to capture the essence of the many factors that made this such a shit show. I figure I’d use a couple of swing states as my basis.
Let’s start with Ohio. Although I’m writing this after the fact, the Joe King in me suspected that Ohio would go red and I thought that Chagrin Falls would be an ideal hip song to capture the feelings that many have about the Trump administration. Chagrin Falls is a suburb of Cleveland which is where Donald Trump captured the Republican nomination in 2016. I also thought about their volatile NFL team and wanted a drink which reflected the brown and orange. As a result, my mind naturally went to ‘merican whisky for the brown (not to mention that a good bourbon brings up memoires of Mabel’s…Michael Symon’s Cleveland BBQ and bourbon bar) which I mixed with orange flavoured triple sec (which also paid homage to Trump’s Hallowe’en hue) and finished with DSB bitters to reflect the feelings of many over the past 4 years.
1.5-2 oz of bourbon (I used the aptly named Larceny)
0.75-1 oz triple sec
0.5 oz simple syrup
A few dashes of orange of cherry bitters (I used Dillon’s DSB).
Stir all ingredients together and serve with ice and/or orange and cherry bitters. Serve in a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with orange and/or cherry.
Chagrin falls (in Chagrin Falls, Ohio) Chagrin Falls (where the unknown don’t even go) Chagrin falls (in Chagrin Falls, Ohio) So falls Chagrin Falls (where the unknown don’t even go) So falls Chagrin Falls So falls Chagrin Falls
Chagrin Falls- Phantom Power, The Tragically Hip
As for my democratic nominee, I headed a bit east to eventually blue Pennsylvania which was fitting given it’s Biden’s birth state and more specifically his hometown of Scranton. Naturally, that brought me to what the city is best known for (other than the Houdini museum of course)….The Office. Among many of Michael Scott’s antics was the Moroccan Chirstmas party and specifically his drink…the one of everything which he described as “equal parts scotch, absinthe, rum, gin, vermouth, triple sec, and two packs of Splenda“. I did my best to make it a little less fictional to avoid inducing my gag reflex. Since it sounded somewhat like a Long Island Iced tea so I went that route (not to mention the irony that Trump was born in NYC and doesn’t drink). In keeping with the Hip theme, I called this “Fully Completely” given the fact it contains a whole shelf on any bar rail. So, I mixed whisky, vermouth, absinthe, rum, gin and triple sec and topped with coke and added the signature two packages of Splenda. I’ll be honest..it was awful mainly because the absinthe (which you normally use in small quantities like a rinse) took over everything. It was like drinking a coke through a piece of black licorice and the addition of the Splenda added a “diet” flavour that made it worse. Nonetheless, it nicely reflected the mess that was and would continue to be the 2020 US election.
0.5 ounces of each whisky, vermouth, absinthe, rum, gin and triple sec.
2 packages of Splenda
Mix the spirits together in a highball glass and top with a generous amount of coke. Sprinkle with 2 package of Splenda. Try to enjoy.
Exonerate me Then forget about me Wait and you’ll see Just wait and you’ll see
Fully Completely- Fully Completely, The Tragically Hip
Despite early jitters, my clairvoyant cocktails came through..Ohio went red and Pennsylvania eventually went blue. I was also reminded in drink form of how asinine Michael Scott and his antics on “The Office” were. Regardless, a six booze drink was a nice way to take the edge of an otherwise stress filled evening. If and when I travel to the US again, I think I’ll try and invent a Joe King narrated GPS that only directs me through blue counties..it may add a few hours to the trip but it least it means there’s a lesser chance I will have to sip coffee with somebody who’s still sporting a MAGA hat they picked up in a big box discount bin.
One might call a traditional Dark ‘N Stormy a seasonless drink. The ginger beer gives enough lightness for the summer and the dark rum can make it’s consumption in the colder months justified. I thought I’d modify the classic to make it even darker and stormier and at the same time pay homage to one of the most iconic tragically hip songs (or at least videos) in their long lineage of musical Canadiana (see below).
“The Darkest One” is a track from the underrated “In Violet Light” album and as mentioned is probably more well known for the video. It’s cast includes the band, a clowder of cats, the trailer park boys, and Don Cherry as a chicken delivery guy years before Uber eats. The boys trade the other boys 2 buckets of chicken (which I will assume was Mary Brown’s) for a car engine only to have the plethora of felines dine feverishly on the delivery. It’s a Canadian tragedy so to speak.
I started with the foundations of the dark n’ stormy…dark rum and ginger beer. In order to up the ante, I added lime and balanced it with a coffee simple syrup I made from Detour coffee roasters out of Hamilton. Finally, I added a little Amaro Sibona, an underated digestif (which has tastes of vanilla and root beer) which collectively made the cocktail both darker and stormier. I was happy with the result..it offered a little more dimension than the traditional drink yet kept its diversity as a year round option.
Although Gord is no longer with us, Don has been shunned and some of the cats may have succumbed by eating too many “little bones”, the Darkest One will forever be an example of all things Canadiana.
The Darkest One
1.5 oz of dark rum
0.5 ounces of Amaro Sibona
0.5 ounces of lime juice
0.5 oz of coffee simple syrup (1/2 brewed coffee, 1/2 sugar)
Mix above ingredients in a Collins or highball glass and top with ginger beer (I used fever tree)
Where the wild are strong And the strong are the darkest ones And you’re the darkest one Oh you’re the darkest one And if that’s what you want Oh then you’re the darkest one
-The Darkest One, In Violet Light, The Tragically Hip
I love honey and I think it goes great in a cocktail. I also wanted to take advantage of some fresh rosemary I had in the fridge so I boiled up an infused simple syrup. Using pear as the foundation (it also helped that I had some Dillon’s pear bitters kicking around), gin as my spirit and Fever Tree ginger beer as the mix, I dreamed up the “Honey, please”. This cocktail is a homage to the song from the 2009 “We are the Same” album. Gord Downie once described the song as being about somebody who makes you realize that everything you mean and feel is on the other side of this feeling. In other words, someone who can change your perspective and get you out of a rut when you need it. I guess you can say that booze does the same thing. It’s a particularly catchy Hip song partly because of Bobby Baker’s use of the mandolin which is reminiscent of an old Zeppelin tune mixed with Losing my Religion by R.E.M.
1.5-2 ounces gin (depending on strength preference)
0.5 ounce rosemary simple syrup
0.5 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce pear nectar
Few dashes on Dillon’s Pear Bitters (optional)
0.25 ounces honey
Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice and pour into a high-ball or collins glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig.
Honey, maybe everything you need Is on the other side of this feeling Honey, please
Almost every city, big or small, boasts a market and Napa is no different. Shortly after arriving in town, I headed down to the Oxbow Public Market to check it out and grab some lunch at the bib gourmand rated C Casa. Oxbow is a mid-sized indoor market with a combination of shops and restaurants. You can get anything from charcuterie to ice cream.
My biggest target at Oxbow was C Casa, a bib gourmand rated joint featuring unique tacos and other fusion Mexican fare. I was giddy in line in preparation for my $9 fresh crab taco. Sadly, the crustacean was not in stock and I had to resort to other options so I settled with the pork carnita tostada with white beans, corn relish, poblanos, micro greens, romaine, lime crema and cotija cheese ($5.75) and the rotisserie duck taco with spinach, red onion, goat cheese, oranges, cumin vinaigrette, avacado crema and cilantro ($8.00). These were expensive tacos so I was happy to see them arrive with a heaping pile of fillings. The pork tostada was a mess as there was no graceful way to eat it. The beans were such a smart addition and the crema was equally intelligent. The thought of duck and citrus was a little frightful but it worked reasonably well. It was less like a taco and more like a spinach salad on a tortilla. There is a good variety of local pints as well. Beer and tacos are a beautiful couple.
After barely finishing the Mexican monstrosities, I strolled around the rest of the market in complete awe. It was like an angel met me in my sleep and asked me “If you could build a market, what would be in it?”. My answer would be an oyster house, a spice shop, a kitchen gadget place, a butcher, charcuterie, ice cream and a fancy place where I could get bitters and shrubs to tinker with my own cocktails at home. Voila! That’s Oxbow Market. In particular, let me focus on the last place. I have gotten a little more experimental with my homemade potent potables and my struggle has been the inability to find bitters outside of the standard angostura. Many of the Toronto bars brag about walnut, green tea, cherry bourbon and other fancy additions to their old fashioneds and it pisses me off. The Napa Valley distillery has the largest variety of bitters I have ever seen. I was a kid in a candy store as I wandered around aimlessly thinking of the adultery I could commit but combining a number of these flavours with a bottle of Bulleit bourbon. Ironically, it was the first time I realized a significant number of the bitters were produced by Dillon’s, the Niagara distillery a mere 160 km away from my house.
Oh ya…they have a bunch of organic crap at Oxbow too.
If you go to Napa you most definitely should drink wine but you have to come here!!!!!! I have to admit knew nothing of the Oxbow market prior to my Napa visit. Once there, however, I entered this nirvana which contained all my vices under one roof. Although I didn’t indulge in every one, I got to sip pints, eat tacos, taste bitters, smell spices, stare at striploins and sleep well afterwards. C Casa was probably deserving of bib gourmand status but did not serve the best taco I ever had (and they didn’t have crab). They were busy and overfilled but had good flavour. For any foodie, I highly recommend a dreamy wander through Oxbow Public Market. Although C Casa made me a little crabby, I’ll save my bitterness for Dillon’s on Tufford road in good old Beamsville, Ontario.
I took a long cab ride into the Richmond district of San Francisco to have dinner at the Michelin star rated Aziza. It has an unassuming storefront and after you open the curtain inside the front door and enter the restaurant, you are transformed into a Moroccan casbah with a variety of tables and booths scattered throughout. I was there with a large group and they were kind enough to wave the need for a set menu since it was later and night and the kitchen could accommodate. Another thing I was impressed with was the huge cocktail list. Almost two dozen libations were on the menu, each highlighting a fruit, vegetable or herb. It was more difficult choosing my drink that it was my meal. Throughout the night I had three; grapefruit (absinthe, peychaud’s, bourbon), thyme (thyme, cayenne, dry vermouth, blanco tequila) and celery (sage, agave nectar, gin). I can’t say I had a favorite but they were all among some of the better drinks I’ve had this year. They were frightfully addictive and beautifully represented their respective eponym. My colleague ordered the concord grape (concord grape, elderflower, peat smoke, laphroaig scotch). I had a sip and it was memorable, complex and aggressive version of the equally assertive grape.
Unlike other places (including most Michelin star restaurants), the menu is not written in hieroglyphics, Gaelic or some other language that gives food critics erections. I will admit, my ego makes me a little reluctant to ask for clarification around a dish or try and pronounce something which would make my transient menu dyslexia apparent. Instead, Aziza uses terms like olive, short rib, beet and sturgeon to describe their dishes. Having said this, there is no compromise on the creativity of their fare. Take the amuse bouche for example. A trio of dip including hummus, yogurt-dill and piquillo almond were served with flatbread. The dish managed to hit the mouth with some authentic Moroccan flavours while teasing the tongue with hints of Greece and Spain.
For an appetizer, I ordered a dish which was simply called cucumber. It had all the components of deconstructed deviled egg. A soft yolked fried duck egg was served with was cucumber two ways; charred and carpaccio style. Spring onions and vadouvan (similar to masala) mustard completed the dish. I must say this is the first time I’ve had charred cucumber and I was surprisingly impressed. As a whole,the dish was a punchy interpretation of the picnic favorite and at $14, I thought it might have been the coveted golden egg.
I was pleased to see that the market fish of the evening was John Dory (not to be mistaken with John Tory who may be the man who will finally oust the large and in charge, arrogant, homophobic and obnoxious Rob Ford from the Mayor’s office in October). It’s not the prettiest fish, but it sure is tasty and there are many suggestions of the origin of its name. My favorite is a possible reference to the novel “An Antarctic Mystery” by Jules Verne. “The legendary etymology of this piscatorial designation is Janitore, the ‘door-keeper,’ in allusion to St. Peter, who brought a fish said to be of that species, to Jesus at his command.” (St. Peter is said to be keeper of the gates of Heaven, in Spanish it is known as “gallo” hence “door-keeper”.) So while I was able to feast on a fish rooted in religion, it came with all the sacred symbols of food-a-ism…artichokes, ramps, favas, fiddleheads and raspberries. The tithe was a pricey $29. The fish was delicate and moist and keep the overwhelming earthiness of the condiments at bay. The raspberries added some sweet and sour bite and some ruby red colour to the plate.
One of the reasons I chose Aziza was the reputation of multiple James Beard pastry chef nominee Melissa Chou. I chose the Vanilla Semifreddo with apricot sorbet, matcha and almond ($10). The crust was like buttery toffee crack. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the dish was delicious but that crust will stay in my lingual memory for some time to come.
I ended the meal with a delicious spot of mint tea. Let me point out this was not a stagnant tea bag floating around a warm pot of water. It was a hot, steaming pot of real mint tea which went nicely with dark chocolates served at the end of the meal.
Moroccan food is a little mysterious. The flavours are a bit African, a bit middle eastern and a bit European. Most of my experience with this type of food has come from a recipe book and my red Le Creuset tagine, so I was excited to experience it in Michelin star style. Although I can’t verify the authenticity of the use of fiddlehead ferns or ramps in Northwest Africa, the dishes were diverse and delicious. The cocktails were creative and nectarous. There was an irony in eating a fish which is also named after one of Jesus’ disciples in a restaurant whose country of inspiration is 99% Muslim. As for dessert, it definitely rocked the casbah. Much like the 1982 song by the Clash with the same name which calmed Middle-Eastern tension (at least according to the video), I think the crust on the semifreddo alone could extend the ceasefire in the Gaza war. Ok, maybe that’s a stretch, but I’m just a believer that a good meal can fix anything.
There has been much anticipation over the opening of The Beverley, a boutique hotel on Queen just west of university, Ever since leaving Hawthorne earlier in the year, Chef Eric Wood’s twitter account has counted down to the opening of the inn which features a restaurant and rooftop patio. I decided to give it a whirl despite the fact it still seems to be in the soft opening phase.
I was greeted outside by a smiling young lady who asked if I wanted some lunch. It was a little later in the day so seating was ample. I was seated at a shaky table adjacent to the bar. Almost immediately a friendly waitress dressed in black came by and asked me if I wanted a drink. There are choices from a snug list of new and traditional cocktails featuring no alcohol in particular. There’s cognac, bourbon, rye, gin, vodka, tequila, rum and pimm’s. There’s even sangria. I went “Old School” with a Pimm’s cup 335 selling, like most of the other cocktails on the menu, for $12. It was well done. As I was sipping away, it was apparent I was crashing a meeting with many of the hotel’s stakeholders (no worries, I had no inclination to listen in and heard nothing other than the occasional bellow of laughter). Shortly after, one of the gents got up and walked toward me in the bar area. For a second I pictured a scene from the Sopranos and figured he may throw me out ass over tea kettle. Well….not really. Instead, he gave me one of those “uncle Fred at Christmas” shots in the arm and said “get the burger”. Shortly after well…I ordered the burger.
Before the burger, however, I ordered the caesar salad which is something I rarely do. What intrigued me, however, was the fact it was made with dinosaur kale instead of romaine lettuce (although I suspect it was in fact baby kale). It was a good size and served with asiago cheese, smoked tomato chips and rye croutons. It like a traditional Caesar salad except was a little less crispy because of the kale. That said, the flavour was better and the risk of sogginess was missing. The tomato chips were amazing and adequately dobbleganged the traditional bacon. One suggestion (in my best Obi Wan-Kenobi voice): USE THE LEMON. One squirt of the wedge gave it the acid needed to cut through the sulphur of the kale.
At first I misread the description of the burger to say “pickled watermelon” instead of “pickle and watermelon”. One I noticed my error..well it didn’t matter because I ordered it anyway. I’ve told a few people since and they look at me like I’m a nuts. Well, it worked. Unlike a lot of other burgers, the patty was seasoned very well. It was a tad tough to eat given the large watermelon and pickle slices and the latter was the prominent taste, What made the watermelon work was it’s contrast against the tangy cheese (Guernsey is great on a burger) in both taste and texture. In the end, I pictured it as a juicy monstrosity in which the act of biting would squeeze Bordelaise sauce out of the patty like a sponge, forcing it to drip down my hands with mudpuddle messiness . Instead, it was a bit overdone, so I missed out on the adventure although it tasted damn good, The fries made me wonder if Eric’s recent trip to the West Coast had an influence on the menu. Kennebec fries are a staple out there and in my opinion, truly make the best fries. They also had a shot of crispy garlic chips but surprisingly were not served with any sort of dipping sauce. A house ketchup is available with the starter order, so I’m not sure if the omission with the burger was an oversight or planned that way. I actually think the house ketchup would have helped the burger too. Hey, it makes me wonder if the Bordelaise sauce would of worked on the side as an au jus for the fries as well.
Dessert seems to be a work in progress. There is no menu as of yet, but the kind waitress provided me with three options: a choice of two homemade ice creams (orange szechuan and malted barley), a couple of in house popsicles (I think pineapple jalapeno was one) and a smores dessert. With no concept of portion size or price, I asked if I could sample both types of ice cream. She said she would check with the kitchen. A few minutes later she returned with a defeated look on her face and informed me it was not possible because the ice cream was proportioned when prepared. A little perplexed, I opted for the orange Szechuan and realized I would have to satisfy my craving for malted barley over a pint later in the day. The ice cream was fantastic. It had the texture of silk, a rich taste but not an overwhelming heaviness. The brownie was decent but wasn’t needed because it wasn’t as good as the ice cream itself.
Eric Wood is a chef who, in my opinion, is very friendly and open with his customers. He comments on blogs, answers tweets and is not afraid to make recommendations for other restaurants among other things. His new endevour is a little boutique mixed with a hint of hipster, sprinkled with a bit of West coast and dusted with a scent of his old gig at Hawthorne. It’s boutique in that it delves into cuisine which is veggie-centric and focuses on choices that include raw and gluten free dishes. The kennebec fries are very west coast. With his Hawthorne exodus, he brought the “4 Play for lunch” concept (app, salad, main, dessert) for $16. Both the drink and food menus have no defined focus which I find highly acceptable in an environment which has been populated with ramen, snack food and bourbon or tequila bars. That said, it’s far from a traditional menu as indicated by a watermelon topped burger and steak and potatoes made with beef cheeks. It will be interesting to see how this pans out. Will the menu be sophisticated enough to attract a boutique hotel crowd and yet be hip enough to draw in the curmudgeon foodies, especially given the fact they tend to stray away from pretty decor and gravitate toward tiny rooms that look like their parent’s basement apartment or a janitor’s broom closet? Maybe the rooftop will become the foodie haven as it appears to be focused on grilled meats a la izakaya (although it’s still Paleo I suppose). This paradox even resonates with the waitstaff. I saw a couple of staff drop in with back-size tattoos, presumably only to jump into sheer black dresses and assume an old school service model free of angst and pretension. Bravo!
In the end, I think the menu hiccups are growing pains associated with any new franchise. A tweak of the burger, a little ketchup with the fries and an extra scoop of ice cream would make me a happy boy. I know I can say this knowing that next time I drop by, the shot in the arm won’t turn into a punch in the face from anybody from the board of directors, especially uncle Fred.