Nancy of Living LArge and I had a plan of attack. We’d meet up at Boule Atelier at 6:30 before they closed at 7, get some treats, then head over to Sona for cocktails and then to Comme Ca for cocktails and maybe food. It was to be a Myers’ Empire tour, if you will, as David and Michelle Myers own all three food havens that are within walking distance of each other.
But then the 405 shut down and all hell broke loose. When it took me half an hour to get from 26th and Olympic in Santa Monica to Barrington and Santa Monica in West L.A. I knew there was no way I’d make it to Boule clear across town in time. Nancy said she’d get some treats for me, too, but I had really wanted to check out the place firsthand.
Anyway, after an hour and a half in traffic, I made it in time to catch Nancy leaving the patisserie. She showed off her cute little $11 Boule box of delicate pastel-colored macarons while we sat at the bar in Sona. I got to try the pistachio and pumpkin ones. So melt-in-your-mouth delicious. And I can see them making a cute little hostess gift.
There were only five bar stools at Sona’s bar, and some loud girls occupied three of them. They kept flirting with John the bartender. I had met him the previous night at the bartending academy and he was regaling me and Nancy with his knowledge of vintage cocktails and the cocktail history. “You’re sooo smart,” one of the girls next to us cooed.
When one of them asked him if he had a girlfriend, I had to try really hard to not roll my eyes. But John seemed to like the attention. I guess he should since it’s good for business. “I’m single,” he said about three times. “That’s grrreat,” said another girl with a big smile. But I wasn’t sure if she was referring to the dish that just arrived or to John’s being single.
“You want a cocktail, I’m assuming,” John said to me. “You guessed right!” I replied. But when I asked to see a specialty cocktail menu, to my extreme disappointment, he said they didn’t have one. “It’s verbal.” He continued by saying that there isn’t a fixed menu but he could fix me anything I’d like. All I would have to do was tell him my spirit of choice and he’d create something special for me. I had to get over my disappointment. As much as I always enjoy the thrill of perusing a cocktail list a tailor-made cocktail can be fun…not as much fun, but still.
I told him I like whiskey, Nancy said bourbon, and then I actually saw a light go off in his head. “But I want something sweet, not bitter,” I specified before he got started. He nodded. He asked Nancy if she liked lime, mint and fizz. Well who doesn’t?
While Nancy and I chatted, I kept an eye on John, watching him mix our drinks. What with the little beaker-looking glasses and jiggers he used to measure amounts, he actually looked like a scientist creating the cure for…sobriety. All the while he explained to the girls who were now leaning on the bar as they listened intently that the cocktail actually started in the late 1800s and people used to drink them as they would medicine….basically this was stuff that was talked about at the bartending academy. But John said he learned it from when he went to bartending school.
Apparently he is big into vintage cocktails and even showed us The Savoy Cocktail Book he carries around with him. In it was a collection of swank cocktail recipes from the Jazz Era. He then went on to recommend The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan, the “Keith Richards of bartending,” and Alcoholic Esoterica. I promised to check ’em out.
Finally, John presented us with our drinks. Mine was a Ward 8 — bourbon, house-made pomegranate grenadine and fresh lemon juice. Nancy’s was a bourbon rickey, something light and fizzy. It really didn’t taste like it had any alcohol in it but after a couple of sips Nancy said she couldn’t drink anymore and asked me to help her finish it. A signal I learned to mean that she’s getting tipsy. I looked at her blankly, “Are you serious?” But after several sips of my Ward 8, I couldn’t help her either.
My drink was nice and strong. A bit bitter because of the pomegranate grenadine but not too much where I wouldn’t like it. I’m definitely digging these vintage cocktails. They’re so simple and straightforward. None of that creams and liqueur BS.
After I finished my cocktail, John offered to make me something else but we told him that we wanted to scoot on over to Comme Ca for cocktails there, too. We thanked him for his history lesson though. He said it was nice to be able to chat and that we might not be as lucky at the new brasserie since it would be too busy. We decided to take our chances anyway.
Unfortunately, John was right. Since there is still much abuzz about Comme Ca after being open for about two weeks now, there was nowhere to sit, in the dining area or the bar area. We asked to look at the cocktail list thinking we could order a couple of cocktails and maybe dessert. But when people pounced on the rare open bar stool like mad, hungry lions, Nancy and I decided to save Comme Ca for another time. Maybe in a month or two.
As of now, I didn’t feel like trying to eat or drink while standing up and dodging waiters. All we were really able to take away from the place in the 10 minutes we were there was that it had a neat chalkboard wall with drawings of cows on it and there didn’t seem to be a clear distinction between the bar area and the eating area. Outside some slick-looking 20-something was writing down a girl’s digits. Yeah, definitely come back when things die down…whenever that may be.
PS: I stupidly forgot my camera but Nancy was nice enough to let me borrow hers. Here are some pics from that night.
Boule Atelier, 408 N. La Cienega Boulevard, West Hollywood, (map) (310) 289-9977
Sona, 401 N. La Cienega Boulevard, West Hollywood, (map) (310) 659-7708
Comme Ca, 8479 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, (map) (323) 782-1178