Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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The Lush Chef
Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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Jun 16, 2011

Cocktail and a Movie at LA Film Fest

For the next 10 days, the Lush Chef will not be doing any cooking or baking!  Instead, I'll be running the PR for the 2011 LA Film Fest, June 16-26 in downtown Los Angeles.  One of my favorite places to cocktail is downtown, so in the spirit of the Festival, I bring you some suggestions for a libation and a movie.

What to see: Unfinished Spaces (Documentary Competition) - Directed by Alysa Nahmias and Benjamin Murray, this documentary explores the heady first days of the Cuban Revolution in 1961 when Castro asked 3 architects to build the Cuban National Arts Schools.  Before the construction was finished, the Revolution became Sovietized and the project was denounced as bourgeoisie and counter-revolutionary. These beautiful buildings were left in ruin and the film captures interviews with the architects who are now in their 80s and who have a second chance at revitalizing the project.

Where to drink: Caña Rum Bar is walking distance from the Regal Theaters at L.A. LIVE and offers an extensive line of rums from Latin America and all the isles.  Relax with a Guavacita cocktail (or a punch bowl if you're with a group), while smartly discussing Cuban architecture during the Revolution.

What to see: The Dynamiter (Narrative Competition) - This touching directorial debut from director Matthew Gordon follows Robbie, a troubled 14-year-old boy in the south who is forced to become the "man of the house" and care for his younger half-brother and elderly grandmother. Robbie struggles to balance work, caring for his family and avoiding the fate of his trouble-making older brother.

Where to drink: Villains Tavern - You'll have to drive to this place (I wouldn't recommend hitchhiking like Robbie in the film), but this hidden bar is like the characters in the film - diamonds in the rough.  Try one of their beer and shot pairings, or sip on a Bella Donna cocktail from a mason jar.  They offer live music (blue grass, folk, honky-tonk - bust out your banjo and harmonica) on most nights to keep you in that southern mood.

What to see: Entrance - This indie thriller from Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath follows the real-life Silverlake barista Suziey Block.  In a deft blending of genres, this character study meets horror flick starts off when Suziey mysteriously loses her beloved dog.  A creeping anxiety sets in and she decides to leave LA, but on the night of her going-away party, she find outs that leaving may not be so easy...

Where to drink: The Varnish - This tiny bar tucked away behind an unmarked door in Cole's French Dip will get you in the mood for this dark film.  The mixologists here are some of the best in the country, so don't even bother looking at the menu — just tell them your favorite libation and they'll whip you up something extra special.

What to see: Mamitas (Narrative Competition) - This sweet film from first-time writer/director Nicholas Ozeki follows Jordin, a cocky but charming Latino firebrand and Felipa, a bookish, no-nonsense New York girl who sees past his swaggering façade.  Their unlikely friendship and eventual romanace enables Jordin to find out who he really is.  The film is shot in Echo Park and downtown, and boasts strong performances from young actors EJ Bonilla and Veronica Diaz-Carranza.

Where to drink: Las Perlas, located right across from The Varnish (how convenient...), this bar specializes in tequila and mezcal with amazing cocktails dreamed up by Julian Cox (Rivera, Playa, Sotto).  Kick back with a michelada or a Poblano Escobar on the patio after the film.  Or do some shots of tequila or mezcal!

What to see: Sawdust City (Narrative Competition) - Writer/director David Nordstrom takes us on a bar crawl through his hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin in this feature debut. Pete and Bob, two brothers who haven't seen each for years, search the town's bars for their estranged father on Thanksgiving.  Over the course of the day, the two walk and talk their way through a succession of watering holes, and the complicated history that is revealed cuts far deeper than simple sibling rivalry.

Where to drink: Seven Grand - Camp here for the night or start your pub crawl at this upstairs whiskey bar.  There's plaid wallpaper and dark wood everywhere, mounted deer heads and a hunting tableaux when you walk up the stairs (reminds the Lush Chef of the midwest).  Don't sit at the bar sipping a shot of Angostura bitters like the characters in the film (the bartenders will probably kick you out for a transgression like that).  Have them make you an old-fashioned, one of the best in the city, and hit the pool tables instead.