Last weekend Bon Appetit teamed up with Belvedere Vodka and Chase Sapphire to kick off its inaugural Bon Appetit Los Angeles Grub Crawl, one of only three cities hosting the food tours. The other two cities being Brooklyn and New Orleans. For L.A. they broke the city down into three food tour areas: Downtown, Hollywood/West Hollywood and Culver City.
Naturally, I picked the Hollywood tour which had the most stops that included my favorite bars and a concert. Hey, more bang for my hosted buck. And it turned out that was the most popular tour and the one that sold out. Since it’s a rarity to have free transportation from bar to bar in L.A. I relished each of the six cocktails presented on our tour.
We started off at Susan Feniger’s Street on Highland Avenue where our group gathered on the back patio for small bites of global street food like Angry Eggs, Burmese Melon Salad and Shiso Shrimp. And our first drink of the night was the Bourbon Basil Smash, a smokey but refreshing and light concoction. It was all well and good but I couldn’t wait to hit up our next stop, the Hollywood Roosevelt’s Spare Room, my favorite cocktail lounge/bowling alley where Director of Drinks Naomi Schimek had a lineup of fun cocktails planned for us.
At Spare Room, our group was divided into three to best experience all the offerings of the venue: in the gaming area we played Jenga and drank Watermelon Sacrifice cocktails, at the bar we were treated to a little lesson in what goes into making a barrel-aged I’ll Have Another cocktail and on the bowling alley we donned the designer bowling shoes and tossed a few balls while sucking down the Pinsetter punch. I have to say, this was a highlight of the tour for me even though I’ve been to Spare Room many times before. Just love its stylishness, hospitality and whimsy.
After the last bowling ball was tossed, we piled back onto our party bus — yes a real party bus complete with blackout shades and disco lights — and made our way to Night + Market at Talesai in West Hollywood. We walked onto the back patio where we were greeted with Chang Thai beer towers and Mekong Old Fashioneds to wash down Nuoc Mam Chicken Wings fried with rooster sauce and Hor Ab, catfish baked in a banana leaf with chili and herbs. The Mekong Old Fashioneds, made with popular Thai spirit Mekong “rum,” was sweet but not as potent as you’d expect from something donning the Old Fashioned moniker. Not too bad, though, especially when enjoying it along with the spicy Night + Market fare.
Now, our next stop was Mozza’s Scuola di Pizza but since the drinks of choice were red, white and sparkling wines to go with our freshly baked pizzas and this is a cocktail roundup, I’ll just skip right ahead to our final stop, Pour Vous. Yes! Pour Vous let our flip-flop-wearing, T-shirt-donning group of grubby grub crawlers in. It was awesome and at the same time a little disconcerting to not be dressed up for such gorgeous digs.
We feasted on the fresh selection of oysters and knocked back tasty cocktails like Zou Bisou and Cinq a Sept (cognac, lemon and orange juice, orgeat, bitters, orange flower water), which Pour Vous General Manager Steve Livigni said would get us in an amorous mood as all are known aphrodisiacs. Hayyyy! But at the end of the night, I decided to forgo the Vacationer concert at the Roxy for another plate of oysters on ice and a cocktail at Pour Vous. It was a lonnng, decadent day after all.
If you want to make your own Spare Room Watermelon Sacrifice at home, here’s the recipe. I also threw in a few cocktail recipes from grub crawl host Belvedere Vodka showcasing its Lemon Tea vodka, a new maceration blend of black and green teas, lemongrass, chamomile, ginger, honey and lemon.
Spare Room’s Watermelon Sacrifice
by Naomi Schimek
- 1 1/2 parts Plymouth Gin infused with peppermint and rose hips
- 1/2 part Dolin Dry Vermouth
- 1/2 part fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 part Herbsaint
- 1/2 part simple syrup
- 3 parts watermelon ice*
- Stir first five ingredients together briefly.
- Strain into rocks glass over watermelon ice
- Garnish with fresh ground peppercorn, mint sprig and a wedge of watermelon
_* Watermelon ice: 12 parts watermelon juice, 4 parts water, 4 parts simple syrup, frozen and crushed_
- 1.5 oz Belvedere LT
- ½ oz lemon juice
- Dash simple
Top with FEVER TREE ginger ale, garnish with a mint sprig and lemon wheel.
Belvedere Lemon Tea Mojito
- 1.5 oz Belvedere Lemon Tea
- Handful fresh mint
- Dash simple syrup
- Dash lemon juice
Build over crushed ice into a highball glass. Garnish with fresh mint sprig and a lemon wheel