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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

  • Courtesy of Goose Island Beer Company
  • 2014 Bourbon County Stout

To most folks across the country, Black Friday means stampedes of ravenous shoppers violently climbing over each other to get the best deals on flat-screen TVs, gaming consoles and hottest new holiday items. In the craft beer community, however, the day after Thanksgiving is reserved for something far more significant: the annual release of Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout, the first mass-marketed bourbon-barrel-aged beer, and still one of the most coveted rare bottles around.

To better understand the cultish fervor surrounding this 14% ABV behemoth, we headed to Chicago to chat with the dude who makes it: Goose Island's Brewmaster, Brett Porter.

As popular as barrel-aged beers have become recently, it's hard to imagine that the trend can trace its origins to this single brewery just over 20 years ago. But it was as recently as 1992 when Goose Island changed the barrel-aged beer game by aging their flagship stout in casks of used Jim Beam barrels.

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Prime rib and Yorkshire pud - JAMES BARTLETT
  • James Bartlett
  • Prime rib and Yorkshire pud
Scotland may have voted against becoming an independent country this year, but they have plenty of tasty things to console themselves with – most of which will be consumed on Saint Andrew’s Day, November 30.

Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland (all the countries that make up the United Kingdom have their own), and here in L.A. you can celebrate at several wee spots, the granddaddy of which is the 82-year-old Tam O’Shanter restaurant and bar in Atwater Village. 

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  • Chris Leschinskys
For some, the sub-holiday known as Black Friday is the best shopping event of the year. For others it’s just something to do that gets you out of the house and — let’s face it — allows you to take that pent up anger from dealing with your family out on complete strangers at Best Buy.

But for us, the very idea of going shopping at 2 a.m. with thousands of people after having just spent the evening with your family has got to be one of the worst tortures imaginable. It’s right up there with chewing tinfoil while running a half-marathon and hydrating with nothing but laxatives at every quarter mile.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, there are other things to do on Black Friday that have nothing to do with shopping and everything to do with wine and getting the hell out of Dodge. All it takes is one tank of gas, and you’re free and clear of L.A. and all of the Black Friday insanity.

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Oysters at Oyster Gourmet
  • Oysters at Oyster Gourmet
As I sit and sip my glass of Muscadet and prepare to slurp my first oyster, the smell of carnitas faintly wafts through the air towards my perch at the counter of the new Oyster Gourmet in Grand Central Market. Once I'm done here, I resolve to go get myself a $3 pile of pig.

The fancification of Grand Central is old news, of course. You can now get sustainable meat, upscale cheeses, cold-pressed juice, and high-end coffee drinks at Grand Central. But even with all of these options, The Oyster Gourmet is the first food-service counter to offer luxury in lunch form. In my 20 minutes at the kiosk I spent over $40 on six oysters, a glass of wine and a small plate of tuna poke. It would be near impossible to do that anywhere else in the market.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Beaujolais Nouveau by Kermit Lynch & Domaine Andre Colonge Fleurie - MATT MILLER
  • Matt Miller
  • Beaujolais Nouveau by Kermit Lynch & Domaine Andre Colonge Fleurie
It’s Thanksgiving again, which mean's it's time to rush out to grab a bottle of wine to take to dinner. When it comes to pairing a bottle of wine to a Thanksgiving meal, however, there is no easier pairing than Beaujolais nouveau, a wine traditionally released for sale on the third Thursday of November.

But Beaujolais nouveau has gotten a bad rap. It's made from gamay grapes produced in the Beaujolais region of France and it's a vin de primeur, meaning it's released the same year the grapes are harvested. Most self-proclaimed wine snobs will tell you it’s all crap. They’ll tell you Beaujolais nouveau is cheap, it lacks flavor, or it has off-putting aromatics. But these people are telling you that either because they were told that by a low-level sommelier (who, in turn, had probably been told that same information in passing) or because they had a bottle of cheap, low-grade, mass-produced Beaujolais nouveau one year and they didn’t like it, so now, they’re spreading the word.

Frankly, the naysayers are only missing out, because Beaujolais nouveau is as much a wine of the moment as it is a sign of wine to come. 

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Plymouth Rockwürst - DOG HAUS
  • Dog Haus
  • Plymouth Rockwürst

Holiday dining fads come and go, yet the Turducken remains one of the most notorious members of the Thanksgiving culinary scene. And for good reason — the all-American amalgam of turkey, duck and chicken is a crowning achievement in the progression of poultry.

This month, Dog Haus has taken the meaty combination one step further, uniting all of those flavorful fowls on one sweet, Hawaiian-breaded bun. Behold: the Plymouth Rockwürst.

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Muffuletta at Little Jewel - PHOTO BY ANNE FISHBEIN
  • Photo by Anne Fishbein
  • Muffuletta at Little Jewel

Creole and Cajun food never appealed much to me until I ate it in Louisiana, just as Texas-style barbecue never seemed like a necessary part of life until I had brisket at a shack outside Dallas, and just as I never liked green algae in my smoothie until I had it fresh in a San Francisco juice bar. (Mmmmm, slimy.)

Some things don't translate that well across state lines, or they're translated so badly, so much of the time, that you lose the urge to keep trying.

One of the most mistreated of Louisiana's foods is the po' boy, which in the rest of the country could be any old fried shrimp or oyster sandwich on some kind of roll with shredded lettuce and mayo. The bread rarely has the soft/crackle magic of the bread baked in Louisiana specifically for po' boy purposes. The sandwich is rarely "dressed," as it would be in New Orleans, with the correct combination of lettuce, tomato, pickles and Blue Plate mayo, and there are hardly ever options other than fried seafood to choose from.

Fried oysters, bread and mayonnaise is an inherently delicious combination, so the results are seldom as horrifying as, say, the blunt, salty sludge that passes as gumbo in most non-Louisiana establishments. But still: Once you've had the real thing — once you've stood sweating in a line that snakes around a worn room, and chosen from seafood but also sausage and roast beef and turkey breast — it's hard to go back to those sad approximations.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Soon after Death & Co. opened in late December 2007 in New York's East Village, it became — and has remained — one of Manhattan's "it" bars. Not because the place was trendy but because it was home to exquisitely made cocktails and an atmosphere of such welcome that you wanted to stay all night. Today, Death & Co. continues to play a vital role in the New York cocktail scene with one major difference: David Kaplan and Alex Day, also owners of Honeycut in DTLA, now call Los Angeles home. 

October saw the release of the duo's eponymous cocktail book, which not only chronicles the hundreds of cocktails created at the bar but also celebrates the employees who created them and the patrons who drink them. Death & Co. manages to be far more than a cocktail book, though.

It is a testament to a new era in the cocktail kingdom where the creation of drinks and the enjoyment of them has formed a new synthesis of pleasure and conviviality. That said, here are 10 things you, too, might learn from the Death & Co. cocktail book.

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click image A very gluten-y pumpkin spice cake with rum raisin icing - MALCOLM BEDELL/FROMAWAY.COM
  • Malcolm Bedell/FromAway.com
  • A very gluten-y pumpkin spice cake with rum raisin icing
Sales of gluten-free foods have surged 68 percent in the last two years, according to a new study – even though other studies have shown that only 1 percent of the U.S. population actually has celiac disease. Still, more and more Americans are convinced that they are sensitive to gluten, which accounts for much of the upsurge in sales.

“I don't think it's mass hysteria at all,” says Los Angeles-based gastroenterologist Lourdes Bahamonde, pointing to several factors that might account for increased gluten sensitivity. For one, increased ingestion of highly processed foods, including those containing high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils, may damage the sensitive balance of bacteria in the gut (the microbiome), she says.

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Launui Burger at Pono Burger - PONO BURGER
  • Pono Burger
  • Launui Burger at Pono Burger

Returning home for Thanksgiving is not feasible or even desirable for everyone. Luckily, for abstainers, there are a myriad of restaurants to eat in or take-out a traditional holiday feast. For those hoping to get their turkey fix down the gullet without the massive meal intake, however, consider the far more casual (but no less delicious) turkey burger.

Turkey burgers are usually what you order when you’re trying to avoid something: fat, red meat, flavor. But what if the turkey burger was actually good in and of itself?

The five burgers below serve up enough juiciness, flavor and originality to qualify as reputable, delicious ways to feed that pre- or post-Thanksgiving cravings. Some even come with Thanksgiving-centric add-ons like cranberry, sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes. So dig in and have a very happy Thanksgiving — without all the fuss and expense of a ten-course meal.

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