The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2017

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98  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2017 Melina Meza loves food and has been a foodie for as long as she can remember; she was always intrigued by it, and as an L.A. native, sushi was her gateway cuisine. That being said, cheesy eggs remains the only dish in Meza's repertoire, so instead of working in the kitchen, she found her spot behind the bar, crafting cocktails at Paley, located in Hollywood in the former headquarters of CBS Radio. This Art Deco–inspired establishment, owned by Tokyo-based hospitality company Plan Do See and named in celebration of the innovative era shaped by former CBS CEO William Paley and his wife, Babe, will make you feel as though you just walked into an episode of Mad Men, so it only seems fitting that the Mid-Century bar welcomes you as you enter. There, Meza will build you a farm- to-glass cocktail featuring seasonal ingredients. "We have classics to order," she explains. "But we try to put a twist on it for customers. It's a never-ending evolution." Meza pulls from her time spent traveling around the world and working across the country when building a cocktail, but one of her favorite topics to talk about with her guests is how well different food and drinks work together. Walking them through these sometimes unexpected pairings—including oysters served with a Champagne/saké/yuzu cocktail—builds a relation- ship with the customer and may end up expanding their horizons and palate. And for a foodie like Meza, there's nothing more fulfilling than that. TAKING INVENTORY WITH . . . Teaching and learning new techniques. Pairing food and drinks, classic or not. Introducing new foods and spirits to the guest. Changing preconceived conceptions that a guest has and making cocktails more approachable. Creating regulars and having guests leave excited. When a guest changes his or her mind after the drink is already made. Ordering over the phone. Working with people who aren't as pas- sionate about bartending or don't care about the customer as much. When a guest orders "bartender's choice" without any guidance. Ordering a drink that doesn't work at the establish- ment—like an old-school club shot at a fine-dining restaurant. THE "5" LIST MELINA MEZA'S TOP FIVE FAVES MELINA MEZA'S TOP FIVE PET PEEVES MELINA MEZA BARTENDER, PALEY, HOLLYWOOD, CA by Emily Coleman PHOTO: BRENT CAMPANELLI

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