Visit to Ron del Barrilito Factory–Puerto Rico’s Oldest Rum

Ron del Barrilito factory
Sign at Ron del Barrilito
Tasting Rum at Ron del Barrilito
Tasting Rum at Ron del Barrilito
4-star Puerto Rican Rum
Tasting glass full of Ron del Barrilito 4-star rum
Aging Rum
Rum Barrels Aging at Ron del Barrilito
Vintage WIndmill
Old Windmill at Ron del Barrilito in Puerto Rico
Ron del Barrilito
Ron del Barrilito
Rum-Making Equipment
Rum-Making Equipment at Ron del Barrilito
Puerto Rican Rum Bottles
Ron del Barrilito bottling facility

About a month ago I had the distinct pleasure of visiting the Ron del Barrilito factory in Puerto Rico in the late afternoon.  It was about 80 degrees and a couple of hours before sunset.  A small The remnants of an old brick windmill graced the property.  As we entered the bottling area to look for someone to speak with, we met Luis Planas, the master rum maker who generously spoke with us for about an hour.  The beautiful aged casks were cellared just a few feet away, while Luis told us about the rum-making process and informed us that Ron de Barrilito would soon release a 4-star rum.  He gave us a generous tasting which both briny and sweet,  tasting of figs and raisins.

 

A few days after our visit to the factory, which consisted of a retail area, bottling facility and cellar, we went to a private rum tasting bar in Old San Juan.  We splurged on a tasting of the 5-star Ron de Barrilito.  The 5-star rum provided a deeper, richer color and flavor profile–like an amplified version of the 4-star.  All of the Ron de Barrilito rums are high quality and reasonably priced for the quality, starting at about $35 in the U.S.

I give their rum 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Sushi|Bar (next to Scratch Bar) in Encino

Sushi|Bar Mixologist & Chef

Dined at Sushi|Bar (next to Scratch Bar and same owners) in Encino for my birthday a couple of weeks ago. There is a speakeasy style entrance from within Scratch Bar that takes you inside the small sushi bar. It was divine and complete with pieces of slate with our names on them. And the mixologist made amazing cocktails and poured wonderful sake with our food and drink pairing. I drove all the way to Encino to dine at Sushi|Bar, and it was well worth the drive. I give Sushi|Bar 5/5 stars.

Sushi|Bar Mixologist & Chef
Mixologist & Chef at Sushi|Bar
Wash Cloth on Crate
Wash Cloth on Crate
Bone Marrow Sushi at Sushi|Bar
Bone Marrow Sushi at Sushi|Bar
Uni at Sushi|Bar
Uni at Sushi|Bar
Bone Marrow Sushi Prepared on Platter at Uni at Sushi|Bar
Bone Marrow Sushi Prepared on Platter at Uni at Sushi|Bar
Better Food Torch That Turns Off Automatically
Better Food Torch That Turns Off Automatically
Yellowtail at Sushi|Bar
Yellowtail at Sushi|Bar
 Sushi|Bar counter
Sushi|Bar counter
Scallop at Sushi|Bar
Scallop at Sushi|Bar
Chef Hard at Work at Scallop at Sushi|Bar
Chef Hard at Work at Scallop at Sushi|Bar
Uni and Avocado at Chef Hard at Sushi|Bar
Uni and Avocado at Chef Hard at Sushi|Bar

Sushi|Bar Mixologist & Chef
Birthday at Sushi|Bar

 

Tordomatto, A Roman Discovery

On a recent trip to Rome, Italy, I had the immense pleasure of dining at TORDOMATTO in its low key neutral-toned dining room with midcentury design touches.  Weird name and amazing molecular gastronomie.  The star of the show was something called “Blue Deep Inside,” which was essentially delicious raw seafood arranged in a ring-shape with a pale bluish brine poured over the seafood by the waiter right immediately prior to consumption.  The sweet shrimp and langoustine were the standouts of the dish.  While the food looked precious, it also tasted unique and delicious almost 100% across the board.  Moreover, through his clever savory bon bons that comprised the “svojature” selection on the menu, the chef made a witty commentary on the nature of perception and stimulation.  One of the tasting menu choices is actually labeled “ConFusion”, which seems indicate of the chef’s attitude toward food—in a playful manner the chef wants to evoke confusion of the eyes and tongue.  Some of the dishes were intended to look like a sweet chocolate truffle, but actually consisted of savory morsel of chicken liver mousse, or look like a cappuccino, but actually consist of a frothy, whipped up bite of cod.  There is a sophistication in the food of the chef Adriano Baldassarre that is unusual and is what likely earned the restaurant its Michelin star. I enjoyed the wine pairing immensely, in particular the Weingut Niklas Sudtirol Kalterersee Auslese Klassico, which is 100% vernatsch.  Vernatsch is also called Trollinger and is a red German and Italian variety. Tordomatto is definitely worth the expense.  I give it a 5 out of 5 stars.

Dessert Tordomatto
Sweet bites

Menu
Menu Cover
Dining Room
Interior of Tordomatto
Savory Liver Bon Bon
Savory or Sweet?
Savory
Savory Delicious Bon Bon
Croissant and Fish Cappuccino
Looks sweet but is actually whipped fish
Deep Blue Inside
Raw Fish and Seafood in Blue Brine
Quail Drumstick
Quail on Vintage-Looking Plate
Sand and Ball Dessert
Playful Bocce Ball Dessert

Inko Nito

Last night I dined with a friend at Inko Nito in DTLA.  I googled best new restaurants in DTLA and stumbled upon this new-fangled robata bar.  First, as you can likely tell from this blog, Japanese food is my favorite, so I was really looking forward to this meal after visiting the Jasper Johns exhibit at the Broad right beforehand.  The atmosphere is urban chic with hard concrete floors creating a noisy environment.  It was hard for me to actually hear the person right next to me.  That said, we sat at the bar, which is what I wanted to do because l love to see the chefs cooking, and it also helped to warm me up because the space was pretty chilly.

 

The best small plate by far was the beef short ribs, which were exceptionally tender, and while I usually cut out all fatty parts from my meat, I ate the fat in the ribs. It was tender, and the spicy chunks of peanut and chili oil were a great compliment. I almost ordered a second portion of this. I would give this single dish a 9.5 out of ten.

 

The panko crusted chicken with chili yogurt sauce was well-prepared, not greasy and had just the right amount or crunch. The bone marrow with white toast was like a sweet teriyaki and chives version of the classic Italian dish, and I think I prefer the classic Italian version, but this was good. The crab tartar with a wasabi sauce served with fried chicken skin as crackers was really original and had a pleasant burn on the finish. Our waiter touted the cauliflower as the best dish on the menu, but for me, it was just average. Some nice Asian spices and the creamy sauce made it a bit better than average, but for my money, I prefer the cauliflower at Baco Mercat. For once, I ordered dessert, which was coconut soft serve topped with toasted almonds and a salty burnt fortune cookie. I would describe this as a coconut version of salted caramel ice cream. It was pretty great and atypical, even if I did receive the weirdest fortune ever inside the cookie on top which said: “If you want pretty nurse you must be patient.” Not only a bad pun, but an awfully sexist thing for a piece of paper to tell me.

 

My least favorite dish here was the Chirashi—their take on sushi. It was bland and uninteresting, not to mention unattractive—the green sauce on the salmon/yellowtail one I ordered looked like old guacamole covering some fish. I recommend sticking to the meats here and having a cocktail. My Asian take on al old fashioned was excellent.

Menu
Menu at Inko Nito
Crab with Chicken Skins and Wasabi Sauce
Crab and Chicken Skins
Salmon and Yellowtail
Chirashi: Salmon and Yellowtail
Panko Crusted Fried Chicken
Panko Crusted Chicken
Amazing Beef Short Ribs
Amazing Beef Short Ribs 9.5/10
Chicken Wings
Chicken Wings
Cauliflower
Cauliflower
Coconut Soft Serve
Coconut Soft Serve
Beef Bone Marrow
Beef Bone Marrow

4 stars out of 5

 

 

Irori Japanese Restaurant

Irori Japanese Restaurant is a somewhat hidden gem in Marina del Rey (located in a mini-mall). (I looked up “Irori” on Google Translate, and apparently it means “hearth.) You must remove your shoes and sit on the floor, which is fun and comfortable because there’s a place for the feet to slide under and below the table.

The food is presented in an artistic manner and is scrumptious. And, although I tend to shy away from sushi restaurants that have various crazy rolls, the non-traditional cut rolls here are quite delicious. I most highly recommend the bluefin burrata, pictured in my photo. The flower petals are just fabulous! I suggest making a reservation because they get pretty crowded. In fact, when I was last here, I saw a friend of mine enter the restaurant with her boyfriend (they live nearby), and they were turned away because they did not have a reservation.

Irori Special Salmon and Crab
Irori Special Salmon and Crab
Bluefin Burrata
Bluefin Burrata

Kenny & Zukes

I recently spent a long weekend in Portland, Oregon, one of the top food havens in the U.S. It makes a great long weekend trip fro Los Angeles for those who haven’t made it. For the first time, I ate at Kenny & Zukes. It’s serves deli food with an edge. The reuben was smoky and salty in an unusual way. It almost had a hint of rosemary or something. I was going on a wine tour of the Willamette Valley and had only about 35 minutes to eat, so I asked for the sandwich fast, and they served it right on time. It was huge, so I kept the other half to eat on the wine tour later in the day when I knew aI would get hungry and possibly need the reuben to soak of some of the wine in my belly. It was a good call, because on the last stop of three wineries, I ate the remaining sandwich by an outdoor fire pit.

I have passed Kenny & Zukes countless times because my coffee staple is the Stumptown next to the Ace Hotel downtown. It was a good choice to stop here. It’s not typical deli food, but a bit more flavorful and heartier, larger portions than typical. I give Kenny & Zukes 4 stars out of five.

Kenny & Zukes Portland Front Signage
Kenny & Zukes Portland Front Signage
Ace Hotel on Stark in Portland
Ace Hotel on Stark in Portland

Hog Island Oyster Company

Recently ate at Hog Island Oyster Company at the Pier Building in San Francisco for the third time. It gets 4.5 stars on Yelp, and I think that’s a pretty accurate rating. I highly recommend ordering the raw Hammersley oysters which are big and creamy and then, getting an assortment of the cooked oysters (2 of each of the 3: Rockefeller, Chipotle and Worcestershire). Pair the oysters with your favorite type of beer (mine are stouts and porters), and you have a winning combination. (Also, their clam chowder is award winning. I found it a bit watery, but it had lots of clams and quarters of small yellow potatoes.)

Insider tip: When there is a long line, especially on the weekends, go into the bar and ask how many people are waiting to sit at the bar. In my case, there was one couple in front of me, and it only took 5 minutes to be seated. Outside, the line was 30-40 minutes.

I rate Hog Island 4 out of 5 stars.

Hog Island Oyster Company Raw Oysters
Hog Island Oyster Company Raw Oysters
Clam Chowder at Hog Island
Clam Chowder at Hog Island
View at the Bar Hog Island Oyster Company
View at the Bar Hog Island Oyster Company

Shibumi Restaurant in DTLA

Shibumi is a delightful little Japanese restaurant in DTLA. The space is small and intimate with a definite Japanese flair, including a lovely front window almost shaped like a curvy teapot. In addition to their fine food which is quite unusual and innovative, their cocktails are the epitome of craft.

The standouts from my recent visit were:

Bonito sashimi: marinated to have a slimy texture with a sweetness like a ripe apricot with finely minced green onions and seaweed flakes. Presented on chunky tan-colred ceramic dishes that feel raw and edgy.

CBD salad: felt like nibbling from sapling trees with chunks of avocado.

Monkfish Liver Tofu: Very creamy with a delicate tinge of distinctive monkfish liver.

I highly recommend Shibumi and give it 4/5 stars.

Keep in mind that it is pricey.

Smooth Monkfish Liver Tofu
Smooth Monkfish Liver Tofu

Asanebo Restaurant in Studio City, California

Silky Homemade Tofu
Silky Homemade Tofu
Kumamoto Oysters
Kumamoto Oysters
Scallops with Brussel Sprout Leaves
Scallops with Brussel Sprout Leaves
Halibut Sashimi with Black Truffle
Halibut Sashimi with Black Truffle
Baby Yellowtail and Red Snapper Sushi
Baby Yellowtail and Red Snapper Sushi
Kiting Fish Tempura
Kiting Fish Tempura

White Pine Shiitake Broth with Shrimp and Fish
White Pine Shiitake Broth with Shrimp and Fish
Toro, Golden Eye Red Snapper, Spanish Mackerel and Fried Octopus
Toro, Golden Eye Red Snapper, Spanish Mackerel and Fried Octopus

Asanebo’s decor consists of maple wood sushi bar and tables with streamlined feel and black wide plank hardwood floors. The vibe is understated upscale. A large white orchid sits at the corner of the bar.  The restaurant is in a mini-mall like many of LA’s finest restaurants.

I paid $140 for the omikase.  It was WELL worth the price.

These are the dishes I savored in order of being served:

Homemade sesame tofu chewy like a light, savory and mildly sweet dessert topped with uni, fresh wasabi and pea tendrils.

Kumamoto oysters with homemade ponzu and yuzu with decorated with edible nasturtium flowers.  This dish was creamy and tangy with a little zing.

Hokkaido sea scallops and brussel sprouts; truffle oil on still crunchy brussel sprout leaves with black sea salt–just perfect.

Generous portion of Italian black burgundy summer truffle on top of halibut sashimi with pickled tomato and radish sprouts; earthy truffle with glistening subtly sweet brown sauce falls gently in the palate like a sensual dream.

Baby yellowtail and red snapper topped with house made miso and jalapeños; miso was like a mild peanut butter in texture and flavor on my tongue. On my palate this was not as excellent as the rest of the dishes.

Seasonal white fish (kiting fish) tempura with lemon and pink sea salt and fried Shisido leaf; salt ground as fine as powdery sand; served with lemon wedge: a perfect simple dish prepared exquisitely like maybe a grandma would in Japan in her own kitchen; simple, crunchy nourishing comfort food. THE BEST SIMPLE DISH!

Wagyu beef with heirloomTomato: toasted tomato felt like toasted savory marshmallow in my mouth with the tenderest fatty beef, like a campfire fantasy. AMAZING!

Seasonal white mushroom soup with chicken and shrimp served in a mini teapot with tiny mandarin to squeeze into broth as drink; went down like an enchantingly aromatic black tea with notes of charred wood, pine and lime. Sudachi in Japanese and mushrooms themselves are shiitake that taste like pine. A REVELATION. They tell you to open the teapot and eat the shrimp and mushrooms and fish inside, but they are nothing special. The broth is magical! This is one of the most unique and surprising dishes I have ever eaten.

Toro, golden eye red snapper, Spanish mackerel and fried octopus: octopus has citrus zest and homemade soy sauce and is tender; mackerel even with skin was divine (I am not partial to fish skin) and it tasted like it was topped with raspberry gelatin ; snapper seasoned with homemade Yuzu on top; medium fatty toro melted in mouth and was a pale opaque ruby color.

ASANEBO COMPLETELY DESERVES ITS GREAT ZAGAT RATINGS.

5 stars out of 5 stars

Kachka, a Russian restaurant in Portland, Oregon

Kachka salmon roe with blini
Kachka salmon roe with blini
Kachka restaurant vodka menu in Portland, Oregon
Kachka restaurant vodka menu in Portland, Oregon
Delicate and delicious Siberian pelmeni dumplings
Delicate and delicious Siberian pelmeni dumplings
Plombiers filled with vanilla ice cream and hazelnuts
Plombiers filled with vanilla ice cream and hazelnuts
Kachka Russian restaurant in Portland, OR
Kachka Russian restaurant in Portland, OR
Mother Russia Vodka Flight Information
Kachka restaurant Portland, OR interior

I’m neither a vodka drinker nor a fan of Russian food, but this little spot received so much good press that I had to try it. I had an early evening reservation for one and tried the “Mother Russia” flight of three vodkas upon the recommendation of my waiter. The trio showed me just how different vodkas can be, and while the three vodkas featured in the flight do not have the smoothness of potato vodkas, they were very interesting. The flight featured: Green Mark, Hammer and Sickle and Impetus. Green Mark had a little spice and still a smooth finish; Imperial was sweet and drinkable, and hammer and sickle was too spicy and harsh for my liking.

I also ordered the Siberian pelmeni dumpling filled with beef, pork, veal and onion–they were like tasty little ravioli covered in house made sour cream with a little vinegar and tarragon. Delicious and delicate!

The house ouse cured salmon roe with blini was not the most flavorful, but well-presented, and the blini were fresh and obviously homemade.

The pickled Norwegian mackerel was presented beautifully like precious sushi. It was certainly gorgeously presented: served as wedges of shiny dark and light silver with a single strand of julienned raw onion alongside sour cream and potatoes with dill. I don’t generally like fish skin, but this oily fish with it skin was delicious.

For dessert I had plombiers ice cream sandwiches which were divine. The black currant herbal tea caramel sauce and wafers filled with vanilla ice cream and roasted hazelnuts was delightful in the contrast in texture as well as being rich and yet not too sweet.

Overall, the vodka flight, the Siberian pelmeni dumpling and the plombiers ice cream sandwiches are not to be missed!

4 stars out of 5 stars