New Winter Desserts and Cocktails at Drago Centro: A Sweet Affair

The only thing certain in life is change. Feelings change, seasons change and at Drago Centro….desserts and cocktails change.

drago urban signage

The air is getting colder and the days are getting shorter. The cocktails are getting fruitier and the desserts are getting richer. And that certainly was the case this last Thursday as Drago Centro launched their new cocktail menu. We walked in at about 6 PM and there was no place to sit. The bar was overflowing with the older white-collar regulars as well as the younger patrons who just wanted to get in on the new libation action. After all, all cocktails that evening were on special for only $9 a wintery pop.

making sure (shot)
The Violet Femme: Real De Mexico Tequila (Reposado), Maraschino Liqueur, Yuzu Juice, Crème de Violette, Limoncello

Our first drink of the evening was–of course–the Violet Femme made with Real De Mexico Reposado Tequila. A huge congrats to them for making it out on the new menu, very well deserved. Its natural subtle vanilla and brown sugar notes went well with the sweet, flowery flavors of of the Crème de Violette and maraschino liquor. Although, the flavors of the tequila got kind of lost in the acidity mix of Yuzu and Limoncello, that elegant back-of-the-throat burn was there to keep you on check and remind you that this was in fact A TEQUILA DRINK. It was just dangerously well balanced, I downed mine in less than 5 minutes. I was surely “high as a kite” after drinking this. But I’m pretty sure the candied violet petals had a lot to do with that too.

morning courage off center shot
Morning Courage: Genever, Beet Juice, Lemon Juice, Serrano Tincture, Celery Bitters, Pickled Radish

Our second cocktail celebration of the night was the Morning Courage. Created by Jaymee Mandeville (head bartender), this drink was probably my favorite of the evening due to the outstanding execution of such outlandish ingredients. It was complex on both sides of the flavor spectrum, sour thanks to the pickled radish and lemon juice, earthy thanks to the beet juice and spicy thanks to the celery and serrano flavors.

calzon de ricotta+mozz and truffle
il calzone, ai funghi e tartufo: Calzon Filled With Ricotta, Mozzarella, Mushrooms and Truffles

By this time of the night we were getting the booze munchies so we got a couple of bar bites including some plump blue point oysters and this calzone I saw another party get. It looked good with its burnished skin and thin layer but too bad it was a bit heavy and flat in flavor. Basically a glorified Italian quesadilla es todo.

the watcher in the woods
The Watcher In The Woods: Gin, Douglas Fir, Lemon Juice, Nocello, Lavender Syrup, Mint Bitters, Nocello Candy

The third drink up was definitely the most unusual of the night. It took me a while to figure it out actually. It was buttery, piney, aromatic, minty all the same time. But once I got over the florescent green Fabuloso-like color of the concoction, I think I liked it. Think of a pile of fresh kettle corn tossed with fresh mint leaves. Buttery and nutty due to the Hazelnut-caramel derived flavor of the Nocello than herbaceous thanks to the Douglas Fir syrup, mint bitters, lavender and lemon juice. Again, balanced.

smoke on the horrizon
Smoke on the Water: Dark Rum, Drambuie, Carpano Antica, Mole Bitters

Notice how my angles get more artsy as the night of drinking went on, haha. Well, I was pretty buzzed but it still didn’t stop me from appreciating the classic cocktail like features of this next cocktail. Another favorite of the evening, the drink was spicy and sweet. This was more of a classic cocktail, paying homage to the bitter, more direct flavors of drinks like Sazeracs and Manhattan’s. I was fond of the profound use of Mole bitters in particular.

And now it was time for the real reason I had made the grueling rush hour traffic drive from Pasadena on my Vespa.

Jashmine Corpuz, (Pastry Chef) had also just launched her new winter dessert menu a few days ago as well. I’ve chronicled her deft, seasonal dessert brilliance in the past and it was time to add yet another fruitful chapter.

Just as she had sent me a formal invitation to try, I was already walking in to the restaurant, dessert cognitive communication I guess?

lychee sorbet
Lychee Sorbet: blood orange juice, raspberry, edible flower

To cleanse our palates and pique it for what was to come, she sent out a light and refreshing quenelle scoop of Lychee Sorbet. It was perched nicely on a foundation of a halved raspberry and a crimson shellac of pure blood orange juice.

panna cotta close
Panna Cotta: vanilla bean, macadamia nut crumble, coconut mint sorbet, citrus (blood orange, tangerine, candied kumquats)

She described her inspiration for this as being a “creamsicle” when I asked about it. Well, its what a creamsicle might aspire to one day be. The speckled panna cotta was ethereally velvety with the soothing light flavor of vanilla bean, all the better to contrast with the shortbread-crumb like crunchy texture of the crumble. But indeed was the ‘creamsicle effect completed when eaten with the tangy citrus segments and candied kumquats. The coconut mint sorbet was just as intriguing, reinforcing the creamy and acidic overall flavor play of the dish.

jashmine Corpuz Glazed Donuts From Drago Centro
bomboloni: vanilla glaze, huckleberry-thyme compote, toasted almonds, lemon cream, chamomile-honey gelato

Next dessert up was her rendition of the classic Italian donut, bomboloni. Glazed donuts and flower flavored gelato? Need I say more? This time of year, she went for the classic jelly and cream filled approach. Although these fried doughy spheres glowed with a glossy vanilla glaze and were served along side a tart huckleberry compote fortified with the lemony amenities of thyme if you wanted the jelly-filled flavor. If not, a tarter, Bavarian cream-like lemon cream was also on the same plate for the ‘cream filled’ sensation. Toasted almonds were nice too, especially when eaten alongside ice cream. And there was no need for tea or coffee, that fragrant gelato actually had chamomile-honey in it.

Jashmine Corpuz Yoga Flame
Pistachio Spumoni (Deconstructed): braised cherries, cherry reduction, crystallized pistachios, confit orange, chocolate crumbs, meringue chips

A successful redevelopment of an Italian-American dessert classic. This gave prominence to the individual components of a traditional spumoni ice cream mold beautifully. The cherries were braised until tender and tart, the pistachios were crunchy and sweet. The confit orange was like the dried orange peel in the original creature. And the crunchy chocolate crumbs brought it home safely with the delightful oreo-like bitterness of chocolate crumbs. She described the tear shaped crunchy meringue chips as “Yoga Flame!”, the famed special flame burst attack of the character Dhalsim in Street Fighter.

close up shot of chocolate cake
chocolate tart with hazelnut butter: milk chocolate crisp, tuaca chocolate sauce, bananas, banana gelato, toasted hazelnuts

“Like a Reese’s peanut butter cup!” she replies when I ask about her inspiration for this dish. The fudgey cake was crisp around the edges and soft in the middle where the toasted homemade hazelnut butter lay dormant. It was connected to the banana gelato via a milk chocolate wafer crisp. This dish was my definite favorite of the evening, you just can’t beat the flavor combo of toasted hazelnuts and chocolate. Only enhance it like she did with this dessert, the thick chocolate sauce spiked with Tuaca (a woody Italian brandy) had me all googly-eyed by the end of the night.

I am noticing that the more I write about Corpuz’s desserts, the more I appreciate a simple, superbly executed dessert. “Light” seems to be the prevailing key word I use when describing most of her desserts. And “light” is a characteristic in dessert that is not always easy to accomplish in the world the industrial dessert kingdom. But more and more, I am also realizing that is all I really want in my dessert after eating a rich dinner…that is all I really need. And that is something that probably won’t ever change.

Drago Centro
525 South Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 228-8998

Birthday Dinner At Bouchon: No Time To Be 21

Well, I’m 22. Just like that. I guess The Adverts (late English ’77 band) said it best…”no time to be 21.”

“Life’s short, don’t make a mess of it.
To the ends of the earth, you’ll look for a sense in it.
No chances, no plans.”
-The Adverts (Song: No Time to be 21)

I didn’t know what to expect from being 21 actually. I didn’t get as drunk as I thought I would this last year, I didn’t really go to clubs at all neither. So much went for that stereotype. No, this year…I learned to accept myself, my food-obsessed ways, my hedonistic lifestyle that was different than all my friend’s, everything that would stir so much angst and self-conflict in the past…was okay all of a sudden. No longer did I compare myself with others, no longer did I question myself. I also finally met someone that understood me for who I was, someone that broadened my perspective on food, the restaurant industry, life.

my first love (and moule frites)
You Never Forget Your First (& Moule Frites)

Through her, my appreciation for fine food and drinks grew to new heights. To personally realize and bear with the amount of labor, dedication that those same people that make our restaurant experiences even remotely possible …was simply mind boggling. And it was through her that I had my first official full experience with classical French food finally. I eat how I blog. And I will admit that it has been hard to leave my vegan-born ways with food, after all that is how the whole food phenomena started with me during my “early years.”

But birthdays come only once a year and it was time for a change. It was time to celebrate with the fundamental cuisine of Western food culture as a whole. The birth cuisine of epicurean poetic rambling. The cuisine responsible for facilitating organized food to the masses. The cuisine responsible that made running a restaurant even possible.

The L.A outpost of Bouchon was received with mixed reviews when it opened in ’09 but it was my 22nd Birthday dinner and a formal, mature change of restaurant environments never seemed more fitting. After all, it was Thomas Keller nonetheless. An indispensable chef figure I only read about through the writing of my early food writing heroes of Michael Ruhlman or Ruth Reichl.

It was to be a night of straight out splurging and there was to be no quibbling from me in the least.

The entrance was already a memorable experience. A colonial staircase led you into a long hallway draped with framed portraits and elegant tile floors. I squinted hard into the darkness outside through the overhead windows hoping to miraculously see a lit up Eiffel Tower or something. The dining room was of grand proportions. We waited less than 5 minutes for a table and were seated along the strip of two-top tables. Next to us sat an older man courting a young Asian girl over a bottle of wine and a cheeseboard. To the left of us were two middle aged woman sharing a salad.

To pair with the celebration, the night was to be accompanied with a lovely bottle of some Cotes du Rhone. Although, I decided to not worry about getting its name for this post. All I can say is that it was a nice and intense, like a petit syrah or something. Ideal for a night of rich ass french food.

my first french onion soup
French Onion Soup: First, The Fundamentals

First up was a crusty, caramelized French Onion soup. My first ever. It was actually a a freebie since they were lagging it with the charcuterie plate. The cheese layer must had been at least 1/4 inch thick and that bread could had might as well been one of those magical growing sponge toys, but one that grew with luscious beef broth enlivened with a pleasant addition of thyme instead of water. The onions were sweet and soft. We were glad we hadn’t cut our nails as we gleefully picked off the thin, toasted, crispy cheese scabs off the side.

salmon rillete
Rillettes aux Deux Saumons: Smoked Wild Salmon Rillete ($16.75)

Yes, Foie Gras would had been awesome but the price didn’t look as inviting as the Wild Salmon version. And ’tis was a good compromise. Velvety, smooth with firm-fatty pieces of translucent smoked wild salmon. The rest of the fluffy stuff consisted of a whipped creme fraiche with shallots and white wine aka. amazingness.

my first charcuterie set
Assiette de Charcuterie w/ pickled vegetables, Dijon mustard & petite baguette ($15.50)

This was more of a lesson in the wonders of cured pork than just a good appetizer. Again, I just enjoyed it man. It had been so long since I gave in to the pleasures of cured swine. In particular, the ham hock pate (long rectangle) and that fresh baked, soft baguette. The crisp-brined veggies were nice, but wish a little more was given.

broccolini salad
Special of the Day: Broccoli Rabe Salad Anchovies, Lemon and Croutons, Poached Egg

Only when dining at a bistro with me would you get a salad as mid course. What can I say? I was starting to go through veggie withdrawals! I’m glad we did. The broccoli was cooked tender. Loved the lemony fish dressing when emulsified with the runny egg yolk. And buttery croutons for the win!

my first osso bucco
Osso Bucco: braised veal shank, sweet carrots, pearl onions, Tokyo turnips, crispy polenta & natural veal jus

For our mains or “Plats principaux” we decided to get back on track on the fundamentals train.

My partner went with the classic Moules au Safran (mussels n’ fries; pictured at beginning of post) while I went for the Osso Bucco. The first time I ever had both dishes. I fell in love with the Mussel dish. They were served in a medieval-looking cast-iron thick cauldron. Inside, a shiny mound of slightly opened black bivalves laid in a pool of buttery yellow broth muddled with the famed red stimens of the flower and the leftover acidity of cooked down white wine. The cauldron proved to be excellent to permeate the flavor of the luscious broth. The mussels were tender with it. The fries weren’t as awesome but it was something on the table that could be used to soak up that luscious broth, therefore awesome.

The Osso Bucco was not as successful. Not as tender as I hoped it to be and under seasoned. I’ll just say that my favorite part of the dish was the little half moon of fried Polenta.

my first floating island
Ile Flottante: Meringue, vanilla creme anglaise, almond & caramel ($9.00)

In the last ten months I have also learned to appreciate a fine plated dessert and treat it with the same dignity, stature and respect as the rest of the meal. I was super excited when I saw they had a “floating Island” for dessert. I remember reading Ruth Reichl’s account with the classic french dessert in her book Garlic and Saphire’s.

And there it was. A firm meringue cloud floating in an ocean of vanilla topped a crispy sugar touille reef and rained with a storm warm caramel. I admired it like it was a glamorous celebrity that I had finally gotten a chance to meet. And the texture was indeed cloud like as well. Although a bit too sweet for my personal likes. Especially when eaten along side our other choice of dessert.

chocolate mousse aka ganache
Marquise au Chocolat: dark chocolate mousse, burnt orange cream ($9.50)

For the decadence K.O of the night. We decided on their chocolate mousse. Although along side the flottante, I didn’t get was so mousse about it. “This is straight up ganache” said my seasoned dessert decadence mate. Well, it might had been but I wasn’t going to sue for false advertising. Creamy as all hell but still light and very palatable, the chocolate was bitter. The burnt orange cream did no t taste much of char and smoke that wasn’t the point.

By the end of the night, we were both jolly with lipids running through our blood. It was a milestone in my life on so many birthday meal ever.

235 North Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Bouchon Beverly Hills in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Bouchon Bistro on Urbanspoon

Welcome To

I turned 22 today and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by finally launching the official Glutster website! But first, I must give gracias to Emerson Quevedo, Tino Garcia and Carmen Melgoza of <a href=>Slackfeed-A Web And Social Agency</a>-and <a href=>Vivela Podcast</a> who generously donated their time and efforts to make this dream site come true!

There  are still a couple of technical difficulties to work out,  posts that haven’t been traded over yet etc. and its still going to be a while until I actually start posting but just wanted to launch it today no matter what!

And you all know what a new website means, right? Yup…MORE posts! I am now ready. MORE organized restaurant reviews, MORE successful recipes, MORE music reviews, MORE everything. Doooon’t trip though, its still going to be me writing this stuff of course.

Now if you all can excuse me, there is some PURO PINCHE partying that must commence immediately…