25 Degees & Library Bar (Los Angeles, CA)

25 Degrees & Library Bar
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Dining date: 3/23/11

I don’t tend to seek out LA’s top burger joints, but when I do stumble across a notable burger, I’m almost always game. The purpose of this trip actually wasn’t burger-inspired at all; rather, it was to come try Library Bar, also in the Roosevelt Hotel. Here is where Matt Biancaniello crafts innovative market-driven cocktails. Yes, market-driven. Kind of like a chef’s mentality, but with drinks.

25 Degrees sounded like an ideal spot to grab something casual to eat before hitting up the bar. 25 Degrees (named after the temperature difference between medium-rare and well-done) is a newer, small chain serving up some gourmet burgers – 3 signature options are available, as well as a build-your-own option.

The lone “starter” was a spiked milkshake.

Guinness Milkshake creamy vanilla bean, smooth chocolate, Guinness

Thick and creamy; malty, with just a little bit of alcohol on the end to remind you it’s there. It might be a challenge to tackle a burger and fries after this heavy treat.

French Fries

Our sides came out much before the burgers. This was a very generous portion, and I kind of liked the presentation of the fries spilling out of a Chinese take-out box. I thought the fries were cooked well, crispy, but rather bland. There was an herbal seasoning (oregano was the most prominent flavor to me), but they still tasted somewhat unmemorable.

Onion Rings

The onion rings were better, though not particularly memorable either.

Number Two – roasted tomato, crispy prosciutto, burrata, pesto

I ordered this Italian-inspired creation. The burger arrives on a large brioche bun, topped with burrata and crispy prosciutto. All burgers are made with ground sirloin; in the markets, this is always one of the leanest variations of ground beef. However, this burger was cooked a nice medium-rare/medium and was definitely juicy. The pesto had a strong flavor, but I thought it held up well with the meat and creamy burrata, with the prosciutto being a fun substitute for bacon. The roasted tomato was not sliced; rather, it seemed to be cut into large chunks and easily fell out of the burger.

Number One – caramelized onion, prelibato gorgonzola, crescenza, bacon, arugula, thousand island

I tried a bite from this burger as well, another signature. It might’ve just been my bite, but I was a little overloaded on the thousand island; however, the meat was again juicy and cooked well.

Custom Burger – ground sirloin, fried egg, burrata, jalapenos

“Dessert” was a walk over to Library Bar – a small, dark bar…almost hidden. Upon walking in, I was immediately confronted with fragrant smells of a garden – the bar is lined with a ton of fresh produce from various fruits to all sorts of fresh herbs. One of the more colorful bar setups I’ve seen, for sure.

Between the three of us, we were able to sample an assortment of 8 cocktails. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the names or components of each.

Rum, lime, mint; Mezcal, jalapeno; Gin, sage (left to right)

Mezcal, campari, chili

Gin, aged balsamic vinegar, strawberries, St. Germaine foam

My favorite was probably the beer cocktail. Hops-infused gin, grapefruit juice, lemon juice and an IPA combined to make something that tasted sort of like an alcohol-ed-up IPA – the citrus was a key ingredient in brightening it up.

Beer cocktail hops-infused gin, grapefuit juice, lemon juice, IPA, rosemary

25 Degrees makes a solid burger. The sides were a little disappointing, but I think the burger made up for it. More memorable than 25 Degrees was Library Bar, which was packed on this rainy Wednesday night. I thought the cocktails were really interesting and vibrant; not all of them were hits (a spicy mezcal/campari/chili concoction didn’t work with us), but overall I thought they were fun and tasty. I loved the idea of combining some fresh market produce with the drinks, and I’ll be sure to return for more.

Bar Agricole – 1/8/11

Bar Agricole
355 11th St
San Francisco, CA 94103

I’ve been curious about Bar Agricole for a little while. Opened in August, much of the hype was around the fresh, artisanal cocktails. I wondered – how about the food? It’s called a ‘bar,’ so it sounds like the emphasis is on drinks first, food second. However, a lot has been said about the food as well. Food critic Michael Bauer just named it one of the 11 best new restaurants of 2010. Given my newfound appreciation for cocktail pairings (fostered at Los Angeles’ Test Kitchen), this was a must-try place on my list.

It took me a while to notice it, but the napkins are actually denim. Soft denim. Weird.

Tequila Cocktail with sweet vermouth, stonefruit bitters and orange

We started with this small cocktail compliments of the bar. It had a strong citrus and peach nose, and actually went down rather smooth with a pretty strong orange flavor.

Moonraker Cocktail with brandy, peach whiskey, cocchi americano and absinthe

This cocktail had a strong caramel flavor; slightly sweet, yet slightly savory too.

Ti Punch with white agricole and lime zest

The punch had a noticeable lime flavor and an interesting sweet/bitter interplay.

Grilled squid with meyer lemon, potatoes and cilantro

The squid was cooked well, yielding tender and rather meaty pieces of squid. The meyer lemon was instrumental in adding a little bit of citrus and acidity to accompany the squid, as well as the savory potatoes. Yum.

Dungeness crab with farro, dandelion greens and chili

The farro had a really nice chew to them – perfectly cooked. The crab chunks varied in size, and the smaller pieces were rather overwhelmed in the farro. However, when the ratios were correct, this was a delicious bite. A little heat from the chili and some extra body from the greens rounded out the dish.

Spaghetti alla puttanesca with a meatball

Next was this rather ordinary looking spaghetti. However, this was a very good pasta. The pasta was al dente with a sweet and tangy tomato sauce. The meatball was moist and had some good fresh herb flavor; this was a surprisingly strong pasta, especially after having some good ones for lunch at Cotogna.

Long Rhum Buck with ginger and lime

This next cocktail was probably my favorite of the night. Ginger and lime flavors were both evident, and worked very well together.

Wood oven roasted pork chop with savoy cabbage and scarlet turnips

The pork chop was cooked to a medium temperature. There wasn’t as much of a sear as I would’ve liked, but we still have a lot of food flavor. The pork chop was pretty juicy too, and I liked the savoy cabbage to go along with it.

Chicken al mattone with chickpeas and purple carrots

We were thoroughly enjoying the food, so we ordered one more entree. The chicken was cooked okay – it wasn’t dry but not that moist. However, the skin was nice and crispy, and the chickpeas and carrots combined for a little bit of sweetness and earthiness.

For dessert, we opted to head out to my favorite ice cream shop anywhere. It was about 10:30pm and 40 degrees outside – still, the line was out the door. The honey lavender at Bi-Rite Creamery is so good.

I was impressed with the food at Bar Agricole. This is in some part due to the level of expectations (I was cautiously optimistic going in), but the food here really is quite good. And the cocktails? I had high expectations and they did not disappoint. I expect Bar Agricole to remain a popular spot for the foreseeable future, drawing in both cocktail-seekers and foodies.