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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Mar 29, 2012

Libation Location: Picca

My office is in a bit of a food desert and the only restaurant that was walking distance was a meh cafe downstairs in our building.  I was saved about half a year ago by the opening of the Italian restaurant Sotto and Ricardo Zarate's Peruvian gem Picca, down the street.  They're located in the same building and connected by a back staircase.  If I feel like amari, I head downstairs and if I'm craving pisco, I head upstairs.  The food is fantastic at both places, but we're here to talk cocktails. You know when the season is changing because all the bars in town start rolling out their new cocktail menus, highlighting the ingredients of that particular period.

I hit up Picca last week for their spring cocktail preview with my power lunch, burger-sharing, cocktail-enthusiast friend Bourbon.  The first time we went there, I fell in love with this drink that had mezcal and cucumber foam.  I'm pretty sure it's on the year-round menu, so just look for something with cucumber foam.  Prolific bar man Julian Cox (Rivera, Playa, Short Order & Sotto) makes pisco the centerpiece of all "cocteles" here.  Pisco is a grape brandy that's produced in the wine-making regions of Peru, and it usually has a fresh, grassy and fruity flavor.  Bourbon and I shared three spring cocktails, plus some samples, and his favorite coctele, the Tranquilizer (it's off-menu and packs a punch, just how we like it).

The Meyer Lansky had Pisco Quebranta, meyer lemon marmalade, verjus, tangerine, cane sugar and, according to the menu, "shaken like a bootlegger from New York (during prohibition)."  It was a great cocktail to start a meal off with—light and citrusy.
Over chicharron de pollo (basically like a Peruvian chicken nugget and my fave bar food there), we imbibed the Lavender Holyfield next.  This also used Pisco Quebranta, but it was infused with lavender, and included cognac, fresh lemon juice, Royal Combier, Amaro Nonino, Angostura bitters and ras el hanout sugar rimming the glass.

I'm usually not a Piña Colada type of gal, but when I saw Julian concocting this for another barfly, I just had to try it.  It's called If You Like Piña Coladas...and my answer is usually no, but this time I said yes.  There's Pusser's Navy Rum, Mosto Verde Pisco, pineapple juice, housemade coconut cream (yum!), spring grenadine, 151 Demerara Rum, some freshly grated nutmeg over crushed ice and a mint leaf for garnish.  It tasted more like summer to me, but I've never been to Peru, so perhaps this is what spring tastes like there.

The last spring drink we tried were samples of their Untitled Cocktail.  We were given slips of paper to write down our suggestions with the chance to win a dinner for two and gratis servings of that cocktail throughout the season.  I'm pretty sure my submission of Abuela's Teatime lost, but I think I get an A for effort.  Sloe gin reminds me of grandmas!  There's also Pisco Torontel, hibiscus tea (grandma again), lemon juice, evaporated cane juice, egg white, and it's "shaken violently" with a cherry on top.


Lien said...

love, Elise, love! the Untitled is now officially called "Sloe Motion Fo' Me." and it goes well with Peruvian chicken nuggets, too. can't wait for you to try our forthcoming mezcal coctele.