We Tried It: New Mixlogy Classes At Hard Rock Hollywood

Our group of budding mixologists!

Our group of budding mixologists!

Ever thought it would be fun to learn the art of mixology with your friends? A few days ago, the Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood at Universal CityWalk invited us to try just that, as they’re launching a new interactive bartending class called “Shake It Up” led by the Hard Rock’s very own skilled– and charismatic– mixologists.

We got to play bartender for the night, learning how to make martinis (gin and vodka), margaritas, and even the secret to the Hard Rock’s #1 seller, their world famous Hurricane. It’s been years since I took bartending classes (yup, took ’em back in college), so it was fun to see what I remembered (four-counts, layering, certain drinks) yet how new it felt all over again to be behind that bar and to try and pour perfectly (harder than it looks, I swear).

Our mixology leaders Justin and Will (who have worked at the Hard Rock for over three decades, combined) taught us fun facts about cocktails, liqueurs and the quirky history behind some of the featured drinks. Then came the extra-fun part, where we got to build our own drinks just like the pros. Well, besides the amateurish spills we (I?) had along the way! Check out the one-minute video below for some real, unedited footage of some serious cocktail making… with plenty of laughs along the way:

Take in all the mixology action right here, spills and all!

Take in all the mixology action right here, spills and all! (Here I am, making a gin martini)

We participated with a sizeable bunch of other fellow LA-based food writers, but the classes accommodate any group size between 7 to 40 people so you can either bring your close friends or your extended family if you wanted. 😉

You can make reservations for classes at Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood at Hollywood & Highland, and Universal City Walk (where I took my class). The classes run from $42 per person for just the bartending class (drinks included!), or as part of a three-course meal from Hard Rock Cafe’s newly revamped menu for $65 per person. Considering Hard Rock International has venues across 58 countries, it’s great to know that the “Shake It Up” classes are offered right here so we can take advantage!

Off the top of my head, I’ve been to the Hard Rock in Hong Kong, Las Vegas and Bali… all are in prime locations within each city and I have great memories at each of them. One that truly stands out is when a couple years ago, my American friends were working abroad in Hong Kong for a summer.

We chose to start that Fourth of July off at the Hard Rock Hong Kong, and that classic clip of Whitney Houston singing the national anthem started playing on TV. Everyone quieted down and it felt like a great moment of American solidarity, right in the middle of Lan Kwai Fong (Hong Kong’s nightlife hub). I usually don’t go to American establishments when abroad (I’d rather be soaking up local culture!), but that Fourth of July was definitely a special patriotic moment abroad that I’ll cherish.

I’ve had some great memories at Hard Rock Cafes around the world, but the latest has been the most interactive and informative one, thanks to our very own local Hard Rock Hollywood’s mixology class.

Whether celebrating a birthday with friends, or taking your team members or colleagues out for a night of team building, the new “Shake It Up” classes are a unique and memorable activity to try. Not only do they offer a great experience during the couple of hours of hands-on fun, but they also give you lots of great tidbits of interesting knowledge to pepper into your conversations at future social gatherings. For example, did you know that gin is essentially vodka infused with juniper berries??

Bottom line, the class was a lot of fun and fits perfectly with my life philosophy to get out there and try new things, learn as much as you can, and have a good time while you’re at it. So dive in and get mixing, I think you’ll like it!

You can make a reservation by calling the Hard Rock on Universal City Walk at 818.622.7660 or the Hard Rock on Hollywood Blvd. at 323.606.7150. Cheers!

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New Restaurant: Murph’s Service Station Exclusive First Look + VIDEO

 

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Get the scoop on Murph’s Service Station before its grand opening on Monday, Sept. 15!

Last night, I had the opportunity to be one of the first to experience Murph’s Service Station, a new restaurant concept from the talented, creative and intriguing Richard DiSisto, founder & principal of the Vantage Restaurant Group. It’s so new, it hasn’t even opened to the public yet! The grand opening is set for Monday, Sept. 15, so check out the exclusive scoop right here before the doors open to this highly anticipated food & drink establishment.

Although he owns a series of other notable restaurants like Tipple & Brine and Tunnel Bar also on Ventura Boulevard, when DiSisto sat down with me at the bar to chat about his newest concept, he insisted, “I don’t like to be called a restaurateur. I identify more as an artist.”

That makes sense, especially once he revealed that he builds the entire concept himself, and lets his creative vision lead him through the process. “I don’t know what it’s going to be like until I enter the space… and I don’t fully ‘get it’ myself until the last screw is in.” He continued, “Actually, I didn’t even ‘get it’ with Murph’s until last night when I came in at 1 a.m. Now I get it. Let the people make it what they want now.”

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

A sneak peek at the bar design.

When I asked him what he’d order first from the bar, he replied without skipping a beat: “Vodka soda,” and smiled. From past successes, DiSisto has found that by focusing on creating an environment that people want to come back to just to hang out, that’s what truly creates a lasting model in this industry. “Ambiance is everything,” he stated.

He went on to explain to me the unique backstory to his concept, as Murph’s is supposed to be a deserted art deco service station from the 1930’s, and that he bought it and restored it to open up in the postwar heyday of the year 1946. What a cool vision, right? Once you go, you’ll get it. It has a great vibe, with super service from bartenders and waitstaff alike.

Our bartender, Victoria, was a true rockstar serving equally strong drinks and entertainment throughout the night. We had planned on moving around more throughout the night, but Victoria and her super cool mohawk kept our booties planted firmly in those seats for a good part of the night!

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Check out the names of those cocktails! Pictured: The River Tam.

Speaking of the bar, I loved the names of the drinks, like “The Cake is a Lie” and “Bus to Beelzebub.” The ingredients, all housemade, like their pickles, charcuterie and ice cream, were also unique and well-balanced. The “River Tam” with tequila and habanero syrup was a good one, as was “The Cake is a Lie” (besides just the name!). Try the latter with the pickles. It pairs great.

It’s not a surprise that their cocktails are solid (figuratively, not literally!) since their bar consultant is a chemistry expert. One of their drinks has this unique habanero-cherry hybrid garnish called a “Habcherinio,” and I was OBSESSED with it (see video above). Victoria said they got it in downtown, so I definitely need to go get me some of those when I can’t drive up to Sherman Oaks.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

They use a nose-to-tail no-waste approach, which leads to a mean charcuterie spread.

Tray-served food items included Cheesy Burger sliders with housemade pickles, grilled onions and pimento cheese, as well as bacon lettuce cups, cheese biscuits, deviled eggs, and an amazing buttermilk fried chicken with spicy melon. One of my top bites, however, were the potato puffs and the sea salt-dusted donut holes with Chantilly cream, vanilla, caramel and chocolate sauces!

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Cheesy Burger sliders with pimento cheese, grilled onions, housemade pickles on a brioche bun.

Back to those potato puffs, though. They were like light, pillowy, melt-in-your-mouth clouds of mashed potato fried to a gold crisp, sprinkled with parmesan cheese and chives. This is where making friends with the bartender really pays off, folks. Victoria revealed to us that the secret to making them so light and scrumptious is that there’s pâte à choux (the same dough that cream puffs are made of!) mixed right in with the potatoes. What a cool idea! Definitely a must-try when you stop in.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Potato puffs made with a surprisingly cool ingredient!

Another fun fact from Rich DiSisto himself: it took him just seven weeks from conception to opening Murph’s, and six weeks to open Tipple and Brine. Talk about drive! Keep an eye on DiSisto, as he aims to open a new restaurant concept every six months. We can’t wait, Rich!

Murph’s is located where Mad Bull’s Tavern used to be: 14649 Ventura Blvd. Sherman Oaks, CA 91403. Check out the video up above, and you’ll know why venturing to the Valley (we drove 100 miles roundtrip!) is so worth it for this new gem. Stay tuned to Tanaya’s Table for more restaurant news and videos. Cheers!

VIDEO: The Taste of Mexico Media Preview Night

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

As summer winds down, one might think that food festivals are also on the decline. Well, that’s not the case here in Los Angeles, and a prime example of that is The Taste of Mexico, taking place on September 27 at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown. Last night, I had the opportunity to attend their media preview night to get the early scoop to share with you!

The festival, celebrating Mexican food, heritage and culture, was founded in 2010 and has grown exponentially over the past four years. For the first time, the food fair is expanding to include a daytime family brunch event in addition to its annual evening of food, drinks and dancing.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Thanks for the torta education, Torta Company!

The Torta Co., part of the Lotería Grill family, served up a variety of tasty tortas, including ones with poblano peppers, Oaxacan cheese, breaded chicken cutlets, sirloin tips, a tuna melt and even a take on the PB & J!

Mezcal and tequila made for a festive evening, but my favorite were the Micheladas were served from Guelaguetza’s famous Miche Mobil. They were made with Montejo beer, a Mexican pale lager that debuted in the U.S. for the first time just a few weeks ago at Dodger Stadium. It was exciting to get a first taste, as it is slowly rolling out here in specific markets.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

An array of colorful dessert samplings from Compañía de Café.

Another favorite of mine was from Yuca’s, which not only had a warm demeanor in serving us, but also had amazing food like the Nuevo Relleno, a Pasilla chile oozing with cheese and chunks of portobello mushroom. I soon after learned that Yuca’s is also a James Beard award-winning restaurant! Well-deserved, for sure.

Candela Taco Bar had a refreshing spinach & pineapple agua fresca, and Artesana Pops’ spinach & pineapple popsicles were another great take on the same fruit-and-veggie power couple.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Mexikosher’s plate was diverse in texture and flavor.

Finally, “Chopped” champion and Season 12 “Top Chef: Boston” contender Katsuji Tanabe of Mexikosher served a big hunk of miso-marinated pastrami with figs, peaches and a habanero sauce. Check him out presenting his dish in the recap video below!

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Get a preview of the variety of Mexican fare you’ll find at Taste of Mexico!

There were many more tasty bites throughout the night, so check out the rest with the family or some friends on 9/27!

 

The 4th Annual Taste of Mexico essentials:

September 27, 2014 at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes

Farmers Market Family Picnic: 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Dinner, Drinks and Dancing: 7 p.m. – 11 p.m.

 ¡Salud!