The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2014

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56  /  the tasting panel  /  august 2014 ON-PREMISE PATTER I n recent years, Downtown Los Angeles has become a bastion for tattooed hipsters with a love of inventive dining, but there's a new player in the DTLA food scene looking to breathe life into the region's wine-ing. Meet The Must, an eatery that balances the boutique wine/innovative food divide so well that you can order a Croatian Pošip served with a side of "Cholo Fried Rice." "We thought it was really hard to find wine bars that have a really good collection but aren't snobby or snooty," explains Rachel Thomas, who oper- ates the restaurant with Coly Den Haan. And The Must is anything but snooty: From its cheeky pinup-girl-riding-a-hot-dog restroom wallpaper, to using downright hilarious descriptors on their wine list (2012 El Coto Rioja: "Your Tinder dream date: cute, nice and easy"), wine at The Must is intended to be fun —served up with a side of education, of course. "We really try to bring accessibility and education to the consumer by giving them something they've never heard of, but will love. Humans have a tendency to stay within their comfort zone, so if we have someone come in and see Kendall Jackson on our wine list, they'll say, 'Oh! I know what that is,' and that's what they'll order. So we don't have anything the average consumer knows on our wine list," continues Thomas with a laugh. "We like to force people out of their comfort zones a bit. Why can't someone have a wine that is wonderful from anywhere in the world and not be scared of it?" Thus, while an ever-evolving boutique wine list challenges consumers to try something new, Executive Chef Drew Coleman brings a very "L.A." dose of comfort food —with a playful twist. "I love to take ideas from comfort food classics and bring a really unique L.A. flavor to it," explains Coleman, a native Angeleno. "I think we have a lot of really different influences here, from Mexican, to Asian, to soul food, and I love really trying to bring all of that together on a plate, but also keep it fun and interesting. I think that's all very L.A.," he says with a smile. And again, The Must succeeds by bringing great flavors to life in the most fun way possible: From choosing between the "Cow says moo/Sheep goes baaa/Goat says I ate your shooooe" cheese selections to a classic "Big Ass Pork Pie," the team at The Must really just knocks it out of the park—and we'll toast that with a glass of 2012 The Must Verdicchio, described aptly as "fer shizzle my wine nizzle." Cholo Fried Rice. Meet The Must DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES' THE MUST PROVES THAT WINE CAN—AND SHOULD—BE FUN by Rachel Burkons / photos by Cal Bingham In the basement wine cellar at The Must, Executive Chef Drew Coleman and proprietor Rachel Thomas share a rosé described on the menu as "strawberry lip gloss" and a Verdicchio described as "fer shizzle my wine nizzle."

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