The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2016

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44  /  the tasting panel  / may 2016 T he long (sometimes seemingly endless) stretch of Ventura Boulevard that runs through Los Angeles's San Fernando Valley is full of unique restau- rants and boutiques, but perhaps none with as impressive a background as The Bellwether, strategically located in the celeb-meets-slacker enclave of Studio City. Opened by Chef Ted Hopson and Beverage Director Ann-Marie Verdi, formerly of popular West Side hangouts Lukshon and Father's Office, the bright, open space exudes an open and friendly neighborhood vibe. With a beer-centric place like Father's Office on her resumé, it might be pre- sumed that Verdi would make brews the focus of the beverage program at The Bellwether as well, but you'd presume wrong. Although it is all about the taps here, with ten beers, two cocktails and eight wines available on draft, it's the cocktails that really shine. "I'm tired of ten-minute cocktails," Verdi admitted. "It's time-consuming, and we don't want the customer waiting that long, so I decided to simplify the process." Like the food served at The Bellwether, she wanted the cocktails to use fresh ingredients, so Verdi began infusing spirits with seasonal ingredients found at the local farmer's market. The infusions, which are featured in about 50 percent of the drinks on the cocktail list, can take anywhere from four days to four weeks to infuse. It's not just infusions that make up the bar program; there's the ever-popular barrel-aged cocktail as well. The classic aged White Negronis and Bellwether Manhattans on the menu are the perfect contrast to Verdi's inven- tive infusion-based cocktails; the Not Your Mama's Mule, for example, is a play on a Moscow Mule made with infused Makrut lime and ginger vodka. "We have something for everyone," Verdi explains, and she's not just referring to the drink selection. The food menu is eclectic and Chef Hopson's dishes are meant to be shared, like the bibimbap rice bowl with a sunny egg and shiitakes or the vibrant roasted beets with soubise and charred leek pistou. However, it's the tempura cauliflower with Thai chili and mint and the humble French fries with house hot sauce that are the stars of the show. "Our fries are a three-day process," Verdi laughs. "The potatoes are soaked in vinegar, steamed and frozen before they're fried, which makes them fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside." MIXOLOGY Infused with Taste THE COCKTAIL PROGRAM AT THE BELLWETHER IN LOS ANGELES IS ALL ABOUT INFUSIONS by Jesse Hom-Dawson / photos by Dustin Downing Ann-Marie Verdi, Beverage Director of The Bellwether in Studio City, CA.

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