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The Los Angeles Magazine Whisky Festival offers both aficionados and novices tastes of at least 30 (I didn’t count and I could not find a list of participants online, so I am guessing) spirits ranging from single malt scotch to blends, bourbons, ryes, and some specialty ones made from rice! Tickets were $95 and included 3 hours of tasting (using a Waterford glass we could take home).

I am fairly well versed in French wines, and although I do have a smattering of whisky knowledge, I have neither the tolerance nor purse to imbibe several fine spirits on a regular basis. I was invited as part of a friends’ birthday who not only knew many of the participants, but shares my palate preferences, so his girlfriend and I just said, “You tell us what we should try!”

Our first taste was an 18 year old single malt scotch by Duncan Taylor which turned out to be my favorite 🙂 As noted by Compass Whisky (not a participant), the age noted on bottles refers only to the youngest component, so keep that in mind when making buying decisions of blends!

 There were many award winners

and specialty distillers.

I thought I didn’t like Bourbon until I tasted Angel’s Envy, poured by the blender herself of a special blend only available at the Intercontinental Hotel in Los Angeles; it’s the highest award winner for a delicious reason! Macallen was on hand with a double cask that I enjoyed very much.

The guys at Duncan Taylor wore kilts!

This was my first time inside the La Brea Tar Pits Museum, and it was mind boggling!

 

This is a sloth!

Fun interactive display with handles that required two hands to slightly budge one lever!

The space was incredibly educational and entertaining for an event venue, this was one long wall,

 and the workspace was on display as well as the finished assembled pieces.

The lines for food were longer than the lines for scotch, but the passed bites were more interesting than the mashed potato bar and the usual charcuterie, cheese, and crudite buffets. Since this was a spirited event, the emphasis was on the drinks not the food, but the bites were varied and well presented. Some bites not shown were mini crabcakes, stuffed mushrooms, and fried macaroni bits; on the sweet side at least three kinds of mini cupcakes floated through the rooms as well. The space was so large that a DJ, a jazz combo with singer, and a vinyl playing stereo all filled various sections with music without overlap.

 There were also some fun booths like a photo stand, shoe shine,

 and cigar rolling by El Canito Cigars.

 I got a Robusto to go 🙂

My go to method of getting to DTLA is via Metro, especially during peak traffic hours and any day it rains in Los Angeles. Another perk of traveling by train is that I don’t have to think about whether I can drink since I don’t have to drive, so as I was waiting for a friend at Water Grill, I had a nice and spicy Bloody Mary. At $15 it was both strong and tasty enough to merit the price.

The lunch crowd was a bit sparse since it was chilly and rainy, but it did fill up a bit more as it got later.

The light fixtures at the bar carried the nautical theme with a fishing rod base.

When my friend arrived, we decided to split an appetizer as well as have the DineLA $25 menu, which included an appetizer and entrée. The Wild Tahitian Big Eye Tuna crudo with red beet jam, horseradish cream, mizuna, red beet chips and olive oil $15 which we shared had perfect tuna, but neither of us liked the horseradish cream which had neither bite nor flavor, but we did enjoy the beet chips for the contrasting texture.

We both chose the New England Clam Chowder with manila clams and Applewood smoked bacon as our appetizer. It was not the thick creamy chowder we were expecting and had a tart component which neither of us appreciated, but we enjoyed the soup enough to eat most of our very copious servings.

We loved all three kinds of freshly baked bread with butter and without. My favorite was the maldon salt, but the cheese and olive breads were great too.

We ordered the wild spanish grilled octopus $19 with tomato, feta and nicoise olives and when we tried to cut it it was so tough we each took one bite and sent it back. It’s difficult to ship any food overseas and maintain its integrity, and octopus is also fragile in that it is perishable. They saw how charred it was and when we said it was too tough to cut with our knives, they immediately offered to redo or replace our order. We decided to go with the crudo to completely avoid any risk of overcooking.

My friend chose the Wild Costa Rican Mahi Mahi caponata with Sherry gastrique and maldon salt and enjoyed it although the thinner parts of the filet were slightly overcooked; it’s a fine line between under and over cooking any piece of fish which is cut unevenly. Since we both cook, we know the challenge well and found it was still a nicely done piece of fish.

I ordered the salad nicoise with wild Australian Albacore with white anchovy and haricot verts and found this deconstructed presentation as unusual as the choice to serve the Albacore over beans. The ingredients were all good, but I had to add seasoning to my plate to perk it up a bit.

The atmosphere and service were impeccable; this is a perfect setting for a business meeting or if you want a good drink at a stylish bar. Portions are large, and the fish is very fresh, so if you stick to the oysters or raw/rare choices you can’t go wrong.

Talented people may begin working for other people, but most yearn to strike out on their own and create unfettered art, whether their art is hung in galleries, or presented on plates. Some are not good at business and do not work with people who are adept at the skills required, so they end up back where they started, but others soar to new heights as they flex their creative muscles.

Fishing With Dynamite is a small restaurant in Manhattan Beach, the seafood outpost next door to MB Post, both owned by renowned chef David LeFevre. Reservations for the 35 seat space are hard to get, so book your seat at least a week in advance, especially if you want to eat during prime dining hours. It’s worth the trouble; trust me:) I went twice in two weeks during DineLA week because their $25 lunch menu was too good not to repeat (prices noted below are the regular menu prices).

The rockfish and shrimp ceviche, with persimmon, radish, serrano, cilantro, avocado, and lime for $12 was as wonderful to eat as it was to behold. The textures and flavors belied the quality and freshness of the ingredients, and two orders would have made a very nice light meal.

Another appetizer was the hamachi, served with ponzu, avocado (hidden underneath the hamachi), radish, serrano and shiso for $18. If you are craving sashimi, this is a dressed up version.

When I saw the Shrimp Po Boy for $14 delivered to the table next to me, I had to order it on one of my visits. It comes LOADED with crunchy shrimp, weiser potato chips, and topped with a cajun remoulade on a buttered and toasted brioche bun. There was no way to hold this, even with two hands, until I ate two or three of the shrimp first!

My favorite meal was the Ono special during DineLA week; grilled rare, and served with eggplant (underneath the fish), pinenut gremolata, celery, and orange.

I don’t usually eat desserts after two courses, but I am very glad I got the Key Lime Pie, made with a graham cracker crust and kaffir lime meringue for $8. It was the BEST version of Key Lime Pie I’ve ever tasted!

The fresh meringue and the creamy filling were just slightly sweet and slightly tart over the buttery crust. I took half it it to go, unable to leave what I could not finish!

After a great meal, great scenery 🙂

In the heart of downtown Los Angeles there is a hidden peaceful oasis; the Kyoto Garden in the DoubleTree Hotel in Little Tokyo is a tranquil, green, and gorgeous place to take a stroll and a deep breath. Enjoy the pictures, and if you are anywhere nearby, go enjoy the experience in person 🙂

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