Saturday, December 26, 2009

Angel's Piano Bar: an undiscovered gem in Santa Monica East

Last night I was invited to my first ever tweetup (meeting of people completely organized via twitter) by my buddy Andy. Being the grinch I am, I was eager to leave my mom's house in the suburbs and rejoin civilization. The #xmasmeetup was organzied by Mike of Kogi PR and set to take place at Angel's Piano Bar in Santa Monica on the corner of Wilshire and 25th. I had read a few press bits about this place, but it seemed to be operating mostly under the radar so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But once inside, I was so pleasantly surprised!

It was pretty empty when we arrived, as would be expected on Christmas night around 10pm. But the atmosphere felt warm and inviting without that awkward feeling you sometimes get when stepping into a not-too-crowded bar. There is the main lounge area off to the right that has several small tables illuminated by candles and a leather bench along the wall. The baby grand piano and a retro style mic is within eyeshot of about 80% of the bar. Further back, there is a larger area that can probably fit around 20 people in comfortable elegance. Much of the decor was trimmed in white leather or floral gold leaf creating a vibe that reminded me of part Moulin Rouge, part rich uncle, and part boudoir. Or maybe even a smaller westside version of Edison Lounge in Downtown LA.

After a nice conversation with their super cool and friendly bartender guy (forgot to get his name), I decided to try their absinthe. It's presented using a fancy looking carafe and a special slotted spoon to hold the sugar. I learned several things about absinthe by chatting with the bartender:
  1. Angel's only carries Lucid absinthe which is 125 proof (good times, indeed)
  2. Lucid has a full serving/dose(?) of wormwood which people often consider the measure of "real" absinthe
  3. Absinthe's original hallucinogenic property is attributed to their aging in lead barrels (no illegal) which essentially poisoned you into seeing dancing mushrooms.
It's a bit pricey yes ($15), but WHEW it packed a punch! After one drink, Andy and I were both feeling pretty toasty. We were also able to convince a few others to try this magical potion :)

Their other cocktails range from $11-15 and the Angel's Lemon Verbena I tried was a nice balance of crisp, sweet, and tart with the rosemary garnish. Apparently they have food too until 11pm.

I'd definitely recommend this place as an intimate date spot or as a fun pub crawl away from the noisy overgrown frat boys at V Lounge and the Gas Lite down the street. This place is within walking distance of The Wilshire and South which would make a nice pub crawl trifecta with Angel's.

Other notes:
  • Plenty of parking in front thanks to meters which end at 6pm
  • No beers on tap (boo) but they do have bottles
  • Happy hour is 6-8p and all night long on Tuesdays!!

Angel's Piano Bar and Supper Club
2460 Wilshire Boulevard
(cross street: 25th)
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 828-2115

Monday, December 21, 2009

Product Review: Newcastle DraughtKeg - The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems

I'm not afraid to admit that I *heart* Newcastle Brown Ale. Ever since I was a wee college student doing my summer abroad in London, I fell in love with its maltiness and earthy aroma. Stateside, it's been my go-to and favorite commercial (non-micro) brew and if I find it on tap, odds are very good that I will order it. So imagine my pleasant (ok, not pleasant, more like ecstatic) surprise when I was offered to try out their latest product, the Newcastle DraughtKeg.

Here are some specs according to the folks at Newcastle:
  • Holds 10 pints of beer
  • Recyclable steel packaging (yay, earth!)
  • Patented CO2 system keeps beer fresh up to 30 days after opening
I wanted to make sure to give this cute little minikeg a proper debut, so I saved it for our snowboard waxing party at my friend Dave's apt where we inaugurated the LA snow season. When you bust out a minikeg, you are sure to get some attention, especially from the boys, and this one was no exception. People kept touching it and commenting on how cool looking it was. As Dave melted wax over our snowboards, we eagerly opened the keg which reminded a lot of people of the Heineken minikeg that's been on the market for a while. However, as we attempted to tap the keg, we had some hardware difficulties attaching the spigot to tap the keg and some of the beer was seeping out of its top as it was being released from its intended spout.

And so we resorted to tapping off what beer we could, and whatever collected at the top we poured off into another glass. Unfortunately, the simple instructions didn't provide much guidance into how to manage this type of situation. Maybe it was because we were all minikeg tapping virgins, but despite following the instructions, it took a bit of creative finagling to finally get the minikeg to pour properly.

The taste was still the Newcastle I knew and loved. We were expecting restaurant quality draft beer, but felt the flavor was more similar to the cans and bottles you buy at your local store. Nonetheless, this product definitely scores points in coolness, portability (weighs around 15lbs I think - easy enough for my skinny arms to carry) and really, can there ever be too much beer in your life??

Newcastle DraughtKeg
Available for $22.99 at BevMo, Albertsons, and select retailers

Bonus points to peeps who can guess from where I derived this blogpost title :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Luminosity: Sculpture Exhibit in Downtown LA

When I was in downtown LA last weekend, I saw an amazing art exhibit that I felt I MUST write about. Thanks to the friendliness of e*starLA, I had the opportunity to have a brief chat with the artist, Sean Sobczak. He reminded me of a young David Carridine with his ponytailed hair and long Chinese-style robe. Here's a summary of our heavily paraphrased conversation:

fLAh: From where do you draw your inspiration?
SS: I'm sure you noticed the ocean theme and sea creatures. I'm fascinated by their ethereal nature and fluidity. I try to capture that in my work.

fLAh: What are your pieces made from?
SS: They're a combination of metal wire, stretchy fabric, and LED lights. Stretchy fabric is important because if it wasn't stretchy, then they would bunch up around the bends and not be translucent.

fLAh: How long does it take to make a piece?
SS: The larger pieces take about 4 months, the smaller ones take about 1 month. This is all I do in my spare time, I don't go out or drink or anything. I come back from work and put on my mask and start welding.

fLAh: What's your day job?
SS: I work in the entertainment industry. Gotta pay those bills somehow!

My photos don't do these pieces justice. You should definitely check out this exhibit. You'll feel like you're transported to a different dimension.

A solo sculputre exhibit by Sean Sobczak
Continental Gallery
408 South Spring St
Los Angeles CA 90013
Downtown LA

Until Dec 29th
Closing reception 12/29/09

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My Whiskey Soaked Weekend - DewarsDiscovery, Edison Repeal Day Celebration

My Whiskey Weekend - that would make a good name for a band.

Friday - Dewars Discovery Whiskey Tasting Event

My friends and I arrived TOTALLY late to the Dewars Discovery event at Jim Henson Studios scheduled to start at 7pm. We ended up getting there close to 7:40, but the dudes at front were cool enough to let us attend the second seating at 9.

Upon entry, we were each given a token good for one drink at the bar - guess they didn't want patrons to be sloshed before the presentation. But we made sure to tip the bartender good so he hooked us up with a very generous pour of our one drink - thanks dude!

It was also my first visit to Jim Henson Studios - you know, that building on La Brea with Kermit the Frog perched on top. KERMIT!! The event space was a simple set decked out in Dewars propaganda. The passed hors d'oeuvres were awesome tho - mini cheeseburger sliders, lamb sliders, onion tartlets, prosciutto wrapped parmesan, and fresh strawberries. Kudos to Dewars on that.

After 30 minutes or so of this cocktail reception, we were corralled into the presentation room where tables were set up with several vials of various scents of whiskey - honey, fruity, floral, vanilla, and smoke. We could play chemist and mix up our own versions of the magic brew. The Dewars Ambassador gave a brief presentation on the history of the company and what makes Dewars unique - apparently its served by the Queen of Scotland to guests or something like that. He also showed us what peat looks like and lit it so that we could smell the smokiness that comprises that unique flavor of whiskey.

At the end of the event, we were given a Dewars embossed flask as a takeaway gift. I wasn't expecting much from this event that I didn't feel was very well publicized, but I was pleasantly surprised by the friendly staff, educational value and great spread of food and booze.

Saturday - Edison Repeal Day Celebration

Blame my troubled childhood for my disdain of the holidays, but I was totally feeling festive and happy at this event.

1. Ice skating at Pershing Square. 6:00-7:30pm
Surrounded by palm trees and Christmas lights, I was joined by Caroline on Crack and e*starLA as we skated around a tiny bumpy ice rink while Mexican children were standing around the rink spectating. There was a table serving yummy winter treats: roasted chestnuts, mini cupcakes (the choco one was awesome), ribbon candy, fresh mulled hot apple cider, and REAL hot chocolate. Santa and Mrs Claus also paid a visit so revelers had a chance to relive their childhood and take pictures with Santa! I'm sure this gig for Santa was way better than having screaming little brats pissing all over him. We were also each given a lovely black Edison scarf.

As we were leaving, there was a HUGE swarm of people waiting to enter the rink. I was so glad that Edison had reserved the rink for our exclusive use. If you're considering skating here, I'd probably suggest going during off hours like weekdays or weekend daytime.

2. Short walk back to Edison Lounge for some Christmas bourbon 8:00-9:00pm
I didn't even know Edison had this extra area in the rear (to the far right as you walk in) despite the numerous times I visited. Inside, they had prepared their Singapore Chicken Wings which were super yum and hearty chili with a cornbread stick. There was also a lovely singer and her accompanying guitarist for our exclusive listening pleasure. For drinks, there was eggnog with spiced rum, and the open bar was serving up hot toddys (not enough honey IMHO), Edison Lager which is a rather light beer, and their Christmas blend of Woodford Reserve bourbon neat or in cocktails. The Christmas bourbon was surprisingly potent. Very sweet and honey scented on the nose, but is very smoky and peaty on the palette. Had to let out a couple of coughs after that one!

They then brought out some chocolate mint cookies and chewy ginger cookies for dessert. After this indoor portion of the event was over, we had major food and booze coma. But it was a perfectly heartwarming LA winter's night :)

Although I was able to attend this event without paying thanks to my well-connected blogginghead friend Caroline on Crack, at $25 I thought this event was still a total bargain and would highly recommend anyone considering Edison hosted events in the future.