Monday, March 28, 2016

Where to Drink: Tequila-Based Martinis + Margaritas @ SOL Mexican Cocina Playa Vista

The Drinks: 70+ artisan, premium and ultra premium tequilas — served neat, in margaritas and also in other signature cocktails

The Location: Playa Vista

The Vibes: Casual upscale, indoor-outdoor, earthy and warm

Good for: Alone, Dates, Groups 

When-To-Go: Daily, 11:30 a.m. until close (which is 10 p.m. Sunday – Thursday / 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday)

The $$ Factor: Libations - $7+; Apps - $4.50 - $15.50; Entrees - $15 - $38

The Names behind the scenes: Deborah Schneider, (executive chef). Colin Pflugradt (beverage director), Matt Baumayr and Rich Howland (restaurant partners)

The 4-1-1: Playa Vista is the third SOL location; there are others in Newport Beach and Scottsdale, Arizona

Parking Situation: Ample free street and garage parking

I’ll Be Back…:  Once SOL launches its daily happy hour and Taco Tuesdays, hopefully soon!

Nowadays, when I'm in the mood for a really good margarita, I've been heading to one particular place: SOL Mexican Cocina Playa Vista.

I'd first been introduced to SOL during a media fiesta back in January, when I sampled some of the most popular items they’re known for: guacamole, street tacos and of course, their margaritas.

The margaritas, which come in two sizes — regular or grande — are made with a variety of different tequilas. Customers can select from labels like Don Julio and Patron, and even SOL’s very own tequila, a Single Barrel Reposado Tequila that's custom blended at the Casa Noble Tequila distillery in Mexico.

While SOL’s margaritas might be flavored with fruits like watermelon, pomegranate or strawberry, what's great is that they’re not artificially or overpoweringly sweet. Instead, flavors are subtle and muted, highlighting the true essence of the fruits. One of my favorites is the Pineapple Serrano Margarita, pictured below. Made with Corralejo Blanco tequila, it’s a zesty blend of fragrant pineapple and spicy chili.

I also appreciate that SOL serves tequila-based martinis. If you love martinis and you love tequila, well, here you have it. There are two to choose from: Horchata, pictured below, and Pineapple & Vanilla (both can also be ordered as shooters). Just like the margaritas made with fruit, these martinis aren’t too sugary. Although note of caution: the tequila deceptively blends so well into the drink, that you literally can’t taste it. But, you’ll feel it!

Aside from libations, SOL also puts its own spin on “traditional Baja Mexican cuisine.” Street tacos are one of the selections they're well-known for. Fillings range from chicken, sweet potato and beans, pork, beef and the ‘Canarditas’ duck, pictured below. A deep-fried duck leg confit is accompanied by avocado, chopped onions, a tequila-laced blackberry Serrano salsa and tortillas, to make your own tacos. However, the duck is so tender and delicious on its own, you may be inclined to eat it by itself!

Some other notable options to call out — the Grilled Sweet Corn, pictured below. An upscale version of the widely popular street food elote, corn on the cob is lathered in butter, lime, chile, chives and cotixa cheese, and topped with a chipotle sauce. A server cuts the corn off table side, so there’s no messy mishaps and the appetizer can be easily shared.

The Baja-Style Corn Chowder with Crab is a filling soup made with corn, potatoes and a creamy wine/lobster broth. It's topped with a dash of crab sitting on a grilled slice of buttered bread, directly in the soup. It's a pretty large portion, so it can stand alone as an entree or pairs well with a taco.

The restaurant also creates its own Guacamole SOL, a colorful twist on guacamole with additions like sweet mango, goat cheese and pepitas, or pumpkin seeds.

See you there soon!

For more information: 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Where To Eat: Absolutely Delicious Pizza @ Delicious Pizza

The Eats: Gourmet pizza in a down-to-earth, hip-hop themed neighborhood eatery

The Location: Mid-City

The Vibes: Casual, unassuming, nonchalant

Good for: Alone, dates, groups

When-To-Go: Daily, 11am - midnight

The $ Factor: Pizzas range from $10 - $24 per whole pizza

The Names behind the scenes: Delicious Vinyl founder Mike Ross, his brother Rick Ross, Fred Sutherland and Travis Sutherland opened the restaurant last year

The 4-1-1: Home delivery is available in a limited area around the restaurant

Parking Situation: Plenty of free street parking

I’ll Be Back…: For the Rick Ross pizza – it’s my favorite!

Gourmet pizza and old school hip-hop. 

It wasn’t a combination I ever saw coming, but I’m so glad it came.

Delicious Pizza has smartly managed to craft tasty, creative pizzas in a really cool space that pays homage to hip-hop — in every aspect of its design.

Longtime music exec Mike Ross opened up this eatery — on Adams Blvd., between La Cienega Blvd. and La Brea Blvd. — last year. Back in the ‘80s, he co-founded the record label Delicious Vinyl, which includes a roster of artists like Dom Kennedy, Casey Veggies and The Pharcyde. 

Now, scores of vintage hip-hop artifacts, photos and records from the artists on Ross’ label cover on almost every inch of Delicious Pizza's walls. Albums like Def Jef’s Soul Food, photos of hip-hop legends and "antiques" like boom boxes are everywhere. Even the menu is designed as a tribute to music, with the names of pizzas spaced out in the form of a record. Hip-hop and rap blast through the speakers, nonstop. I love that I can groove to my favorite rap songs by artists like Outkast and the Notorious B.I.G. while eating a satisfying slice of pizza. 

Whole pizzas come in two sizes — small or large — and there’s options to satisfy both meat-lovers and vegetarians alike. In total, there are 16 pies to choose from, and you also can create your own. There are the typical ones you’d find anywhere — cheese, sausage, Hawaiian, etc. — and then there are great inventions, like Big Ballin’, with lamb meatballs and basil. My favorite is the Rick Ross, with ricotta, shallots, mozzarella and olives. I always add roasted peppers and garlic, and there are loads of other extra toppings, like pepperoni, sopressata and shallots. You can also order select pizzas by the slice.

Whichever you end up with, make sure to drizzle on the tangy housemade hot sauce. It’s so good!

The Funky Red Sangria, which comes by the glass or by the pitcher, is a must. There’s a wide selection of beers, too, from bottled selections like Red Stripe to ones on tap. 

Aside from pizza and sangria, Delicious Pizza also has a ton of different events going on. One of my favorites is the reggae jam that happens every second Sunday of the month. Pizza, sangria and reggae? Count me in. 

See you there soon!

For more information: