Dave & Buster’s Comes to West Los Angeles [Media Preview Event]

Blogging Community, Food Adventures, Los Angeles

[Sponsored] Billards. Draft beer. Giant LED TVs playing the popular sports game of the evening. Fried food. Burgers. Oh, and arcade games. While food and booze are awesome, Dave & Buster’s offers a unique experience previously unavailable on the Westside — namely, skee ball for adults 21+ only. And they found a great spot for their first Los Angeles location — the expansive ground floor suite at The Promenade At Howard Hughes Center in Westchester. The hype has been building since last year, but just yesterday, we were invited to attend a media preview event, joined by hundreds of their Facebook fans to fill the place and make it truly bumpin’ even before the big grand opening on Wednesday, February 19th.

Dave & Buster's Westchester / Culver City

Dave & Buster’s Westchester / Culver City

Conveniently situated between both entrances to the parking structure, Dave & Buster’s is hard to miss with its huge “Eat. Drink. Play.” slogans livening up an otherwise ordinary shopping plaza. We were surprised to see a very long line of eager fans waiting to get a sneak peek of the shiny new location. Luckily, we found the media check-in and were ushered inside expeditiously. We wove through the venue, jamming to More Than a Feeling, and managed to score prime seats at the impressively large bar counter. Michael, our friendly bartender, greeted us and pointed out his favorites on the menu as he poured our drinks — a 22 ounce Blue Moon draft for Martin and a 16 ounce Sam Adams Seasonal (Cold Snap) for me.

Our selections (of the nine available beers on draft)

Our selections (of the nine available beers on draft)

We went with Michael’s suggestion and ordered the Mountain O’Nachos. A mountain, indeed! This was the menu description: Fresh tortilla chips piled high and smothered with spicy ground beef and melted queso, topped with black beans, jalapeños, tomatoes, lettuce, fresh guacamole and sour cream. Serves three to four.

Mountain O'Nachos!

Mountain O’Nachos!

While every point was deliciously accurate, perhaps the most precise statement was the last line. It was WAY too much food for just two people, even ravenous eaters like us. Still, I couldn’t help but continue picking at the crispy chips slathered in cheesy, meaty sauce and scooping up bites of the refreshing guac.

Mountain O'Nachos!

Mountain O’Nachos!

The bar was quickly filling as the patient fans started trickling in. While I admired the twenty plus TVs that surrounded us, Martin counted the number of bartenders (12) all rushing to fill orders and greet guests. The service was surprisingly attentive despite the chaos. Before I knew it, our entrees had arrived. Martin selected the fried shrimp platter – a dozen crispy butterflied shrimp served with a chipotle honey sauce and fries. He was very pleased; I believe the sentiment was, “Fried shrimp and beer? Can’t beat that!”

Fried Shrimp Platter

Fried Shrimp Platter

I decided to go simple with the Buster’s Cheeseburger, rare. The half pound monster arrived topped generously with American cheese on a glistening bun. Sadly, it was definitely overcooked (medium-well to well done) but it was surprisingly juicy in the middle. Their burger meat has a great fat ratio, making for a super satisfying sandwich.

Buster's Cheeseburger

Buster’s Cheeseburger

Martin ordered another Blue Moon while I opted for a colorful cocktail I had spotted on the drinks menu — the watermelon snow cone. A stemless martini glass filled with shaved ice and layered with two different colored mixes (naturally, red and green in the watermelon’s case). The red layer was a mix of watermelon-flavored Smirnoff and sour watermelon mixer (DeKuyper, I believe), while the top was a blend of Midori and Sprite. Super pretty. Super girly. Super tasty.

Watermelon Snow Cone

Watermelon Snow Cone

Our bellies happy, we decided to wander the venue. After all, the best part about Dave & Buster’s (arguably) is playing arcade games without kids running around.

Onward!

Onward!

Skee ball, air hockey, even a giant digitized version of Connect Four. Of course, we looked for one of my favorites, Deal or No Deal, modeled after the game show. And we played a lot of those coin pushing games that had planted themselves firmly in Martin’s fond memories of childhood.

Giant Connect 4 Board Game!

Giant Connect 4 Board Game!

And then fate happened. We noticed free credits on the Pump It Up machine. For those not savvy to the dance (dance) revolution of the early 2000s, Pump It Up is essentially Korea’s answer to DDR. The most notable difference is that the arrows are in the NW, NE, SW, SE, and center positions in Pump It Up, making it exponentially more difficult. We had a great time making fools of ourselves to K-Pop tunes at 130 BPM. But that’s okay. I want nobody nobody but you!

The shiny, shiny coins!

The shiny, shiny coins!

By the end of the night, we gathered up our accumulated tickets and headed to the redemption area. I was suddenly brought back to my childhood visits to Chuck E Cheese and other similar play-and-redeem arcades. Through teamwork, we had earned enough for a big prize. Martin, being the gentleman that he is, let me choose. Of course, this meant that he had to share the passenger seat with a big fat Minion plush.

Our Cuddly Souvenir

Our Cuddly Souvenir

The conclusion? Dave & Buster’s Westchester / Culver City location infuses new life into the Howard Hughes Center. Now we Westsiders don’t have to drive all the way to Arcadia or Orange County or elsewhere to Power Up our D&B fix. Welcome to the neighborhood!

Disclosure: We were not compensated for this post; however, we did receive free food, beverages, and game credits at the event for the purposes of our review. All opinions are our own and were not influenced in any way.

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Check out Dave & Buster’s: daveandbusters.com

6081 Center Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90045

See their Yelp reviews here!

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Friday Fun: Grasshopper

Drinks and Cocktails, Recipes

I know we’re still celebrating autumn, but mid-November also means that Winter is Coming. (Game of Thrones, anyone?) After all, Starbucks has already switched to their festive red coffee cups and serving up Peppermint Mochas and Eggnog Lattes, so why can’t we start mixing up some colorful and holiday-themed cocktails too? Cue the bright green, minty Grasshopper.

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

Ingredients:

1 ounce green Crème de Menthe

1 ounce white Crème de Cacao

1 ounce light cream (or half & half or whole milk)

Ice

Shake well with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain and pour into a martini glass. Easy peasy!

Whip up a batch of these for your next holiday party and toast to the drink of choice of Raj on The Big Bang Theory. Enjoy what he likes to call a “sweet, green miracle” (to help enable him to talk to women). Cheers!

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Friday Fun: Gin Smash

Drinks and Cocktails, Recipes

Back in college, I had the pleasure of experiencing my very first speakeasy on a visit to see my BFF in New York City. After asking a friend’s friend for the secret telephone number and managing to score reservations that very evening (it was a Tuesday night). we arrived on the stoop of a tailor shop. Undeterred, we knocked on the door and entered a relic of the 1920s Prohibition era.

Sadly this location of Milk & Honey has recently moved from its inconspicuous home in the heart of Chinatown on the Lower East Side to a more trendy location in the Flatiron District. But still, the covert exterior, the dimly lit booths, the expert mixologists who craft complex and stunning drinks… nothing less than the best in this Sasha Petraske owned haunt. It was here that I discovered one of my favorite cocktails — the gin smash. Sometimes I still dream of that beautifully composed blend of cucumber, mint, and ice cold gin. When we host gatherings at our place, I make sure to have a bottle of Hendricks gin and plenty of muddling ingredients on hand. It’s always a good time for a gin smash.

Gin Smash

Gin Smash

2 oz Hendricks cucumber gin

Few slices of cucumber

Few sprigs of mint

1/2 oz simple syrup

Wedge of lime

Soda water

Ice

Muddle together the cucumber, mint, and simple syrup. Squeeze in the juice of one wedge of lime, add the gin, and shake with ice in a shaker. Strain and pour into an Old Fashioned glass over ice. Top off with soda water and garnish with a sprig of mint.

This particular recipe may not change your world quite like the Milk & Honey version changed mine, but it is a wonderfully refreshing and clean-tasting cocktail. I love the fragrance of Hendricks, described on their website as small-batch gin hand crafted in Scotland, with an infusion of cucumber and rose petals. It’s the perfect cooling drink to enjoy on a hot summer evening or to reminisce about brighter summer days during the dead of winter. Cheers!

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DineLA – Catch American Seafood (Summer 2013)

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

It’s that time of year again — summer dineLA restaurant week! A time for great deals, checking out new restaurants, and going out in the middle of the week for more than just happy hour. Last week, Martin met up with his best friend at Le Ka in Downtown LA while I had a girls’ night out with Cass at Catch in Santa Monica. And what a catch it truly was – located in the lobby of Hotel Casa del Mar, the beach-front view was gorgeous and the ocean breeze reminded us of why we love LA.

The view  from the dining room at Catch

The view from the dining room at Catch

We each ordered the same crafted cocktail: The Perfect Pair – hendricks gin, fresh muddled pear, lemon juice, pear juice, thyme. I love Hendricks and as Cass pointed out, this mixed drink was refreshing and naturally sweetened with plentiful fresh pears. Highly recommended!

The Perfect Pair

The Perfect Pair – hendricks gin, fresh muddled pear, lemon juice, pear juice, thyme

In retrospect, the table bread was definitely an indicator of the quality of the meal to come. A basket full of hot, panini-pressed slices of fresh bread perfect for dipping into the California olive oil adorning each table. It was so good we asked for a second one! I love when a restaurant serves their table bread warm and Catch took it to the next level.

Even the table bread was awesome!

Even the table bread was awesome!

For my first course, I selected the Grilled Spanish Octopus – smoked potatoes, paprika, merula olive oil. I don’t think I have ever had octopus that tender before. The texture was absolutely incredible, and the flavors melded so well together, especially with the garnish of lemon zest and fleur de sel.

Grilled Spanish Octopus

Grilled Spanish Octopus – smoked potatoes, paprika, merula olive oil

Cass’s appetizer was the Marinated Beef Carpacccio – pine nuts, arugula, garlic chips. The beef was paper-thin and the toppings (especially the garlic chips!) added a great mouthfeel with the variety of textures.

Marinated Beef Carpaccio

Marinated Beef Carpacccio – pine nuts, arugula, garlic chips

My primary reason for selecting Catch was the entree: Cioppino – mussels, clams, scallop, shrimp, seared fin fish, saffron-rouille crostini. The fascinating part was that the broth was poured in tableside. Traditionally a fisherman’s stew of assorted seafood in a tomato and white wine broth or sauce, cioppino is one of my all-time favorite dishes, and this was the first one I have eaten where the components were prepared separately. This method had its perks — the fish was crispy, the scallop had a beautiful caramelized sear, the head-on prawn was smoky, and the bivalves were all perfectly cooked. The portion was generous and incredibly satisfying — with my discard bowl piled high with shells and every last drop of broth scraped clean, I was a happy camper. Delizioso!

Cioppino

Cioppino – mussels, clams, scallop, shrimp, seared fin fish, saffron-rouille crostini

At our server Jeremy’s recommendation, Cass had the Mustard Marinated Black Cod – roasted shiitake, sunchokes, green asparagus. I don’t know where Catch sources their asparagus from, but these were massive! The fish looked tender and flaky, and the silence that fell over our table as we both focused intently on our entrees told me that she really enjoyed it.

Mustard Marinated Black Cod

Mustard Marinated Black Cod – roasted shiitake, sunchokes, green asparagus

Of course, there is always room for dessert! It was a tough decision, but I ended up choosing the Chocolate & Espresso Tart – warm salted caramel sauce. It was like a blast from the past – at first glance, it bore near-identical resemblance to the dessert that Martin and I had while aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train.

Chocolate & Espresso Tart

Chocolate & Espresso Tart – warm salted caramel sauce

After just one bite, however, the difference was clear — the tart crust was crumbly, the ganache filling was velvety, the fluffy homemade whipped cream could not have been further from the canned stuff, and the DIY (drizzle it yourself) salted caramel sauce was simply stellar!

Chocolate & Espresso Tart

Chocolate & Espresso Tart (post-drizzle)

Cass weighed her options and finally settled on the Market Strawberries – short cake, pistachio streusel, creme fraiche ice cream. The strawberries looked so fresh and the short cake biscuits were adorable. The pistachio streusel added a lovely splash of color that made the dish shine. A refreshing way to end the meal!

Market Strawberries

Market Strawberries – short cake, pistachio streusel, creme fraiche ice cream

The dineLA 3-course dinner was a $$ – $35.00 per person. The food was well worth it, but what really made our evening was our server Jeremy. He was considerate without being overly attentive and he humored our requests for pictures, even counting off in 日本語. I’ve found that some dineLA experiences can feel rushed because of the sheer volume of diners, but Catch embodied the laid-back beach lifestyle while serving elegant, delicious dishes.

Santa Monica Sunset

Santa Monica Sunset

Hurry, only 5 days left to participate in dineLA restaurant week!

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Check out Catch American Seafood: catchsantamonica.com

Hotel Casa Del Mar
1910 Ocean Way
Santa Monica, CA 90405

See their Yelp reviews here!

Friday Fun: Vodka Gummy Bears

Desserts and Sweets, Drinks and Cocktails, Recipes

TGIF, everyone! This week for Friday Fun, I have a simple but fun recipe for your next party to spark the conversation with jaw-dropping excitement and exclamations of “Are those really what I think they are…?” But be warned, they take about 3-5 days of advance planning, so mark your calendars accordingly so you can serve up a batch of alcoholic nostalgia with these vodka gummy bears.

Vodka & Limoncello Gummy Bears

Vodka & Limoncello Gummy Bears

That’s right — vodka gummy bears. These seemingly harmless candies pack a surprising kick, and they can really sneak up on you so I go easy on the liquor, especially if they’re being served at a party alongside a full bar. But wait – a quick Google search will yield tons of vodka gummy bear recipes and tutorials. What makes mine different? A touch of citrus in limoncello. You can omit it if you don’t have it (and make up the liquid with more vodka) but I think the lemony flavor really adds something to the otherwise ordinary Haribo gummies.

Yummmm....

Yummmm….

Ingredients:

1 cup gummy bears

1 ounce vodka

1 ounce limoncello

In a plastic container with a lid, toss in the gummy bears and pour in the liquor. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least a few days. Three is pretty good, five is ideal. After the first day or so, you can taste a bear and see if the alcohol level is to your liking. Remember, you can always add more but once it’s in there, the bears are going to soak it all up!

To serve, just transfer them to a dish, grab a few toothpicks (or dig in with your hands if you and your friends are that close), and get the party started!

Soaking in the fun

Soaking in the fun

For alternate versions that will set you apart from the average vodka gummy bear maker, try using a complementary flavored vodka. Vanilla is an excellent choice and can add a “creme soda” like flavor if you use enough of it!

By the way, if you get the brilliant idea to bring a batch of these with you on a group trip to Vegas, be sure that what vodka bears you bring to Vegas, stay in Vegas! Driving them back through the hot desert WILL melt them. Just trust us on this one.

So what are you waiting for?

So what are you waiting for?

So what are you waiting for? Whip together this mini army of fun and be instantly remembered as that awesome person who served alcoholic gummy bears at their party.

Drink responsibly and keep out of reach of children. :)

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