Thirsty Thursday: FOUR at Checkers & Chef Todd FTW!

We have written about Checkers and their Thursday happy hour called FOUR for a long time, but it is truly our favorite weekly deal. The man on the left, Tyler, takes care of the drinks and the man on the right, Chef Todd, handles the food. They have fine-dining expertise and skill that is made affordable so you can easily indulge to your belly’s content. They offer four plates and four drinks for four hours (from 4p-8p) on Thursday for $4 each. It is the deal of the century. Last week after John Kelly Chocolates and before the Sexy Singles Soiree 2.0 we sampled all four of the dishes.

Last week the theme for FOUR was “Best of FOUR” paying homage to people’s favorite bites and drinks. The food served was calamari salad, braised beef shortribs with risotto, halibut fish tacos, and a roasted red pepper and tomato soup. The drinks ranged from, my favorite, the Secret Garden to an Old Cuban. I know what you are thinking, why am I telling you about all of the delicious things you missed? There are a couple of reasons: 1. I am mean. 2. It featured edamame beans in the new ways that Chef Todd was interviewed about. 3. To make you go today and discover more FOUR deliciousness.

Here is what is on today’s FOUR Menu (all items are $4 from 4p-8pm):

2007 SANTA BARBARA SAUVIGNON BLANC – A gold medal recipient at the West Coast Wine Fair, this is a lively and bright example of the varietal, with lush flavors and a clean finish!
2008 SANTA BARBARA CHARDONNAY – Creamy on the palate with pear and citrus notes, this chardonnay is well-balanced and expressive.
2007 SANTA BARBARA PINOT NOIR – a great little pinot with hints of earth and cigar, foiled by ripe blackberry and lively acidity.  91+ PTS, WINE & SPIRITS MAGAZINE
2007 SANTA BARBARA COUNTY CABERNET SAUVIGNON – Deep and rich, with a velvety texture.  An ideal pairing with the Sonoma duck!

CALEDONIA PRAWN SCAMPI – beautiful large prawns with stewed tomatoes, tarragon, and house-made herb fettuccini!
CANNELLINI BEAN STEW – with charred Spanish chorizo and fresh lemon and basil…
MAITAKE MUSHROOM TOAST – served on grilled sourdough with a mushroom butter.
PAN-SEARED SONOMA DUCK BREAST – paired with caramelized cauliflower, spring onion and Medjool dates; spectacular!>

As someone that is from the Central Coast, I love that they are partnering with Summerland Winery this Thursday for FOUR. I don’t know if it is from my childhood dream of owning my own boutique hotel or my love of good quality cocktails and well prepared food but I just love Checkers. If you are unable to enjoy it tonight…shoot for next Thursday. Also, I just heard that Checkers will be giving away Mother’s Day gifts for all of the moms out there. Here are all the details:

MOM EATS FREE BRUNCH

The a-la-carte brunch will be served on Sunday, May 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Checkers Downtown’s newly renovated dining room replete with style and artwork evoking the hotel’s 1920’s origins. Checkers’ Executive Chef Todd Allison has culled a menu certain to sate the desires of the most finicky of mothers. For the traditionalists there are Checkers’ Buttermilk Pancakes filled with strawberries, blueberries or bananas and walnuts, or for the more adventurous there is the Open-Faced Fried Egg Sandwich on grilled sourdough with prosciutto, stewed tomatoes and arugula. But, if she is the elegant-at-all-times type, she’ll certainly enjoy the Maine Lobster Risotto, the Seared Maine Diver Scallops with Moro blood orange, fork mashed fingerling potato and pomegranate glaze or the Grilled Colorado Lamb Loin with Rancho Gordo heirloom bean ragout and natural jus. Whatever her tastes are, mom will dine in style – and the host will save enough to buy her some flowers too.

The “Mom Eats Free” offer is valid up to $30 in value and does not include alcohol, tax or gratuity. Certain conditions and restrictions apply. Prices range from $9 to $30 and the full Mother’s Day brunch menu can be viewed at http://www.hiltoncheckers.com/files/mothers_day_menu.pdf. Reservations can be made by calling 213-624-0000 or online at http://www.opentable.com/checkers-downtown?rid=276.

Times are tough and Checkers is making things easier for you. Whether it is by offering you four plates and four drinks for $4 on Thursdays or  by giving your mom a Mother’s Day meal, they have won our UG hearts! I don’t want to get in trouble with the other UG….but one of the UGs is working on winning Chef Todd’s heart! Hint: It isn’t me.

P.S. If you wanna know how Checkers makes the UGs feel, then order the plate of gooey chcolate chip cookies…yup, it’s kind of like that!

Mi Piace: A Monday Night Happy Hour Worth Trying

One of the first places I ever went alone to in Los Angeles was Mi Piace in Pasadena. I was 17 and only a few months away from starting college at Woodbury University. I had to do some placement tests during the summer, so they knew what math and English classes to put me in. I knew no one in LA and my friend Sunshine (I am from Santa Cruz) was unable to come with me. She was several years older and we would always sleep at her brother’s house on our SoCal trips during my high school years. I had been conversing via AIM with a nice gay man that was an Interior Architecture Woodbury alum asking questions about the school. I told him I would be visiting and he said I could stay with him. I don’t know what my mom thought I was doing but I ended up staying the night with this stranger after testing all day and being to tired to drive back to SC. He lived in Pasadena with his boyfriend, actually only blocks away from where I now live, had a meditation room, and I offered to take him to dinner. He suggested Mi Piace and told me that the place was “So Sex & The City.” That was all this high school student had to hear. I was sold. I will say now with some age, experience, and knowledge that it really isn’t that great of a show. I still care for the characters but it is, with the exception of a few people and storylines, a lot of dysfunctional women and relationships that are unhealthy for females to idolize. Anyway, the show was at this time something I put on a pedestal and I was in awe of. I felt so sophisticated in this lounge and I did feel like a girl in the big city. After dinner, we went shopping at J. Crew and there I saw Kristen Davis. My first big LA celebrity sighting and it was perfection. It was the quintessential Charlotte town, store, and intersection.

Since then, 6 years have past. I have finished college, grad school, and grown up (sort of). Being in lounges and eating and drinking is now my world. I have lived in Pasadena for almost three years and rarely go out there anymore. I have become more of a downtown gal. Last month, when I was on the Gays and Dolls WeHo Bar Crawl, I met a fantastic gay man who lived in Pasadena. He told me that Mi Piace on Mondays was something that I had to do. Every Monday after 6pm almost all drinks are $5 and all appetizers  are 1/2 priced until closing. Last Monday, I met him there and we had a fun night. I had come from a large dinner so I  wasn’t that hungry, but I was thirsty. I reverted back to my 17 year old brain and ordered drinks, I never drink. I started with a French Cosmo and then went on to a Key Lime Martini. It was good and girly and took me back in time. I just tried a bit of the food and was impressed; it was more than worth the 1/2 off prices. There was mac n cheese, a salmon pizza, and chicken lettuce wraps at our table. The best surprise of all was that my new gbf (gay boyfriend) and I were joined by our matchmaker, The Minty, who also wrote about this very reasonable Happy Hour. She referred to it as, cheaper than the parking in the area.

To keep the words of my first time at Mi Piace alive and well, “It is so Sex & The City.” There is a part of me that thinks I have outgrown it and it is no longer my scene but it still has its positive sides. This Monday night Happy Hour is not to be missed! Just as I doubt I will miss the second Sex & The City movie. Josie and I actually saw the first movie while in Paris..how romantic! Of course, we had to read the subtitles but it was still worth it. Who wants to see it with us? Maybe we can follow it with HH at Mi Piace on Monday. After all, there are $5 French Cosmo all night long!

Figaro Cafe: HH with Crab Cakes, Mussels, and Escargot

Figaro Cafe was the home of the only hot bartender on the Hot Bartenders Crawl in Los Feliz a couple of months ago.  Therefore when the Happy Hour experts, The Minty and The Vixen, asked me to join them for the Happiest of Hours, I quickly agreed. I had just returned from my trip up in NorCal and Josie had class that night so I made the trek to my old hood. I lived in Los Feliz in the giant orange building behind the post office for two years of my life and I exhausted every shop and restaurant on the two main blocks. I used to go into Figaro Cafe for a croissant and to get a spotting of Danny Bonaduce after his radio show. Side Note: My mom used to tell me she sent fan letters to Danny Bonaduce in her teenage years. After I watched the Partridge Family in re-runs I asked her, “How could you have a crush on Danny?” She explained to me that she didn’t, she loved David Cassidy like all the other teeny boppers, but she was worried that Danny would get no mail and be sad that David Cassidy got bags full. That is my mother, she is the most considerate person. I told her I would tell that story at her funeral but I might as well tell it here, while she still very much alive.

Anyway, I arrived this evening at 5:45 and walked in with the Minty. The Vixen was already there and had just downed the smallest martini in the smallest martini glass I have ever seen. She laughed when she saw us staring and said, “Well, in all fairness, it does say mini martini on the Happy Hour menu.” It was priced at $5 but it was probably half the price and size of the normal sized martini. I am not sure if that is a deal so I got champagne for $5. Minty did the food ordering and got us escargot, mussels, crab cakes, and I piped in for the carpaccio that I have had there numerous times. All of this food ordered off the Happy Hour Menu and ranged in price from $4.50-$6. There HH is everyday from 5pm-7pm. The escargot was OMG garlicky, but apparently I was the only one complaining. It costs under 5 bucks for 1/2 dozen of these snails and it is well worth it. These slippery little suckers (oh yeah, Pretty Woman reference) stick around way after they have been consumed, not just the garlic aftertaste but you can dip your bread into their butter and you get a brand new delicious dish. The carpaccio was just as good as I remembered and the mussels were also doused in garlic. The food was good quality and well worth the discounted prices.

I don’t want to generalize but what is it with bad service at French restaurants and bad service in the actor infested Los Feliz? There were several awkward turtle moments with various waiters and waitresses. We had to say “We would like bread, too” when we noticed all of of the surrounding tables were topped with baskets of bread. I had the extra table torn away even while my arm was resting on it. We also had to play musical drinks each time the drinks arrived because they were served to the wrong people. Minty ordered the exact same drink for the night, a $4 well drink with bourbon and soda, and it seems that each time was various degrees of alcohol content and different levels of glass fullness. We laughed it off and said, “We get it, you are an ac-tor” in our heads. Whatever it was a fun night with the two girls that are bringing LA the Sexy Single Soiree 2.0 next week. It was also deliciously inexpensive snails, I was happy. Although, I would have been happier if the hot bartender, Ventura, was working.

Thursday is the New Friday: Round-Up

I once wore a makeshift tee to My Last Bite’s party that read, “Broke is the New Black” but now I am coining, “Thursday is the New Friday.” What has come of the world? Commoners, like us, are now partying like rock stars during the week?! Sadly, with the unemployment rate at over 9% nationally and over 12% in California, there are quite a few unemployed folks out and about spending their money on booze. Did you know that during a recession, alcohol is one of only a few goods that experiences a rise in sales?! And with “Happy hour being the new dinner,”  (Carina’s  line) you just can’t resist shaking your chonies and forgetting about the present economic climate. When in Rome…

Here’s a few things that the UG Girls will be up to this Thursday:

1. Checker’s happy hour: Because it’s the “best happy hour you didn’t know about” and because the food always exceeds our expectations, we continue to frequent it almost weekly. It’s in our favorite neighborhood, downtown, and at $4 a plate and $4 for drinks, it’s really a deal you can’t resist. The only drawback is that service is a bit slow. But think about it: The food and drinks are far beyond your expectations, which logically, will take longer and you’re in a classy spot. Go in and entertain yourself with friends, order a drink, and have fun. If you’re bothered by the amount of time it takes to get your food and drink, then maybe you should consider your company. Chances are, if you’re bored, that’s probably why. Below are this week’s menu themes. We’ll be there early so join our digital entourage and join us out for a drink. Let’s celebrate my (Josie) newly unemployed status – well, in two weeks. Unemployed that is, by choice!

Below is the menu:

Cocktails will feature VOX VODKA (www.voxvodka.com/).  Meticulously crafted in The Netherlands from the finest wheat grain selected for its subtle undertones, VOX is distilled five times to ensure ultimate smoothness, and there is an undeniable cleanness to the finish.

This week’s featured cocktails will be:

  • LIMONCELLO BRAMBLE – A martini of Vox Vodka, Limoncello, blackberry puree, and fresh lemon juice.  From the mind of our own bartender, Violet!
  • RED CHECKER – Vox Vodka, St Germain elderflower liqueur, muddled raspberries, and lemon juice, with a hint of orange bitters
  • MOSCOW MULE – Vox Vodka, fresh lime juice, fresh ginger juice, and ginger beer.  “Moscow” for the vodka; “Mule” for the kick of ginger!
  • VESPER MARTINI – James Bond’s change-of-pace: Tanqueray Gin, Vox Vodka, Golden Lillet, and a twist of lemon.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vesper_cocktail)

Of course, no FOUR event would be complete without the palate-pleasing creations of Chef Todd Allison – and this week is no exception!  This week’s featured dishes are:

  • VICHYSSOISE with house-made taro chips
  • OLIVE OIL POACHED AHI, with cannelloni bean and basil pesto ragout, and red onion pickles
  • SHORTRIB GRILLED CHEESE with sautéed onion, baby arugula, and a stone-ground mustard sauce
  • CONFIT OF ARTICHOKE HEARTS, with lemon zest and shaved mizithra cheese

2. Drago Centro happy hour: At some point in the night, I am having cocktails with a friend at Drago. We can stop in anytime because the Drago happy hour menu lasts ALL day! The staff goes out of their way to be accommodating and if there at the right hour, you can catch many downtown singles in the bar area.

3. Surly Goat: Carina has it in her mind that along with being Yelp Elite she also wants to be a Citysearch Dictator. Therefore she will be hitting up the first CitysearchLA event at L.A.’s newest premier beer bar.

4. Roller Derby at the Echoplex: I may or may not attend the roller derby shindig but you’ll surely see Carina there because she loves it; she pleads me to go every month. I’m not a good skater so I’m a little intimidated by the rough gals who can not only kick the crap out of me, but will be drinking as well. Below are specifics. And if you’re lucky, you may just catch a couple UG girls there.

DOWN AND DERBY ROLLER SKATING ROLLER DISCO AT THE ECHOPLEX THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25TH

Featuring, SKATING DRINKING, DANCING

DONT FORGET TO RSVP FOR REDUCED ADMISSION!!

Disco Tunes provided by: THEE MIKE B & MORSE CODE

21+ (big kids only)
9pm-2am
$5 with RSVP, $10 at the door
To RSVP, please visit www.downandderby.org.

$5 skate rental, or bring your own.

The Echoplex is located at 1154 Glendale Blvd in Los Angeles, California (main entrance is through the alley).

DRESS CODE: BE CREATIVE
GUYS: knee high tube socks, neon tanktops, headbands, wristbands, fros and flat tops
GIRLS: thighs of steel on two inch wheels with short shorts to seal the deal

Join Us at Checkers Downtown for 4 Hours of $4 Happy Hour

If you read the blog last week then you know that I was blown away with the Happy Hour at Checkers Downtown. I was so impressed that I want you all to join us tonight, Thursday, December 17th, from 4pm-8pm. Below is the sip and nosh menu for the day all priced at $4.

  • Checkers’ Holiday Mulled Wine – red wine spiced with cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, peppercorns, and fennel, for the perfect winter’s evening drink!
  • Hot Buttered Rum – The warm welcome of Sailor Jerry rum, the familiarity of December spices, melded with the creamy richness of spiced butter.
  • Hot Apple Pie – Traditional Apple Cider, with a hint of Tuaca liqueur, and whipped cream!  Spiritual!!
  • Chocolate Candy Cane Martini – OK, a little departure from the previous three!  White chocolate liqueur, vanilla vodka, peppermint schnapps, and half-and-half.
  • Bay Scallops served with roasted butternut squash;
  • A Confit of Chicken served with creamy orzo;
  • Crab salad with cranberry, pomegranate, and pear; and
  • A secret 4th plate – hint: it’s Chef Todd’s ingenious take on pork-loin!

Hope to see you all tonight and maybe if we have energy afterward we can head to the opening of Lazy Ox Canteen or go to the Down & Derby Roller Disco at the Echoplex, my favorite monthly event in LA. I have been not once but twice and love getting my skate on!

Checkers on Thursdays: Happiest of Happy Hours

Our good friend John, founder of Social Domain LA, invited us to join him for Happy Hour at Checkers Downtown yesterday. I had only been there once before and was very interested in returning. There was a period in college, undergrad not even grad school, where I would get so stressed out and  say, “I need a break, I am going to check myself in.” I didn’t check in to the local insane asylum or anything, I would just randomly stay at a hotel for a night alone. My stay at Checkers was one of my favorites. I ordered a steak dinner and a bottle of champagne to the room, watched trashy TV, took a jacuzzi on the roof, and slept on expensive sheets.  That is my high anxiety cure for all; too bad it’s so hard to do that in this economy.  Speaking of recessionary deals, I read the happy hour menu and drink specials, which change weekly, and thought it was an incredible value. $4 per item with the choice 4 drink and 4 small plate options. The best part is that this Happy Hour lasts 4 hours from 4-8 on Thursday. This sounded like such a great deal I just assumed that this was something that was only for a special group of people that John happened to be a part of. Josie was tired and unable to attend so I went solo. John is the type of guy with a cigar and a drink always at hand so I knew he’d be on the patio. He was there with his lovely sister and he had a margarita waiting for me.  I looked at the menu and naively said, “Wow, John you have the hook up.” He smiled and said, “This is for everyone.”

Well it seems everyone is privy to this awesome menu on Thursdays. First off all the theme of this particular night was “design-your-own margarita” and the plates offered were:

  • Fried Hama Hama oysters with a pickled jalapeño aioli
  • Scallop and Baja prawn ceviche – served w/ taro root chips
  • Karobuto pork belly tostada with salsa verde and black beans
  • House-made Churros and Mexican dark chocolate

I had the ceviche, which was excellent, and the churros. It was a meal for me and I didn’t need to eat again until after midnight when I came home for a bowl of cereal and to catch up on The Office and 30 Rock.

Since I have been on a budget lately, I have been eating at home and looking for free/cheap drinks when out. It was the drinks of the night that really pulled me in. Checkers adheres to a great code when it comes to drinks:

Margaritas at Checkers are made from Partida Tequila, fresh hand-squeezed lime juice, and the natural sweetness of pure agave nectar.  There’s no nasty sour mix or cheap triple sec in our margaritas – because that’s not what a real margarita is.

Plus, on this night we were allowed to live out our inner mixologist fantasies. We had the option of adding: raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, mango, peaches, mint, sweet basil, ginger, jalapeno and bell peppers in to our margarita. John started me off with a standard margarita, for the second one I had blackberries added, and for the third round I chose strawberries and sweet basil. John, the foodie, made the smart ass comment that I need some balsamic reduction to go with it. That flavor combination is something all foodies should know and chuckle at.

So for 3 premium drinks, fresh quality ceviche, and a dessert that I didn’t have to share-due to John’s wheat allergy-the total was a measly $20. It’s been a long time since I have had such an affordable night downtown. I heard as I was leaving that next week’s theme will be holiday drinks that include: mulled wine, cider, hot buttered rum, and a chocolate candy cane martini. However, I was three margaritas in so don’t hold me to that drink menu. However, we will let you know for sure next week. Also, in case you need someone more credible to tell you what a great happy hour this is, SinoSoul wrote a post yesterday entitled, Checkers Downtown, Best Happy Hour you haven’t had. We’ll be there next Thursday before the Lazy Ox opening and hope to see you there!

A Couple of Medicinal Meals for the UG Girls in Pasadena

Unfortunately, UncouthGourmands.com didn’t have any gross revenues last month so I, Josie, had to return to my normal 9-5 gig. After my first day back, I left the office hungry. What, everyone doesn’t eat compulsively at their desk in corporate America?! I miss the UG headquarters but mostly, I miss Carina. The one silver lining was that I knew someone else was probably hungry as well… Ms. Ost. So I called my pal, Carina-Lu, and I was right.  She was starving. I guess my absence gave her the heartbreak diet because she hadn’t eaten all day. We decided to try out The Counter, as it  just opened recently in Pasadena and we’ve been hearing great things about it. Little did we know that the UG Girls would embark upon a Pasadena food renaissance.

uncouth gourmands, the counter pasadena, burger

The space was hip and thoughtful. There’s no stale artwork on the wall, but instead skateboards and colorful urban paintings. The staff is young and the “dineresque” warmth of the place is comforting and easy. A perfect first date place for those that want to just have a playful and unassuming time. Despite it being a Wednesday night, the place was packed with locals. We were seated at a small corner table and were handed a sheet of paper and a pencil. The fate of our burger was now in our hands. I opted for the very rare 1/3lb patty with caramelized onions, maytag blue cheese, garlic aoili, a fried egg, tomatoes, and wild arugula. The waitress looked at my ticket and said I had chosen the best mix on the menu. I felt proud! Carina also took the 1/3lb patty but medium rare with swiss cheese, grilled onions, sauteed mushrooms, mixed greens, and a dijon balsamic. Here are the brilliant burger options, what would you choose?

We split an order of  ½  fries and ½ onion rings. The french fries were no McDonald’s, however, it was the thin onion ringlets that captivated most of my attention throughout the meal.  A little too greasy, but in that good kind of way. You know, the “it’s so bad, it’s good” kind of pleasure – which for the UG girls has been consisting of more food less sex kind of experiences. *Sigh*

Carina, the bread snob, didn’t love the buns but I didn’t find them in any way offensive. In fact, I was in love! The 1/3lb burger was plenty large and ended up with fries and beverage being about $15 each. Like clockwork the UG girls got shorted once again when in this case, we showed up a day early. It was Wednesday and well despite being packed, the night to come to The Counter is Thursday. It is on Thursday’s that they have a DJ spinning and you can get their four mini burger sliders and four taster size beers for $12. Oh well, we left full and happy. I know that Comme Ca was the NY Times best pick for burger, but the UG girls disagree because The Counter produced exactly what these girls were in need of – a Pasadena food revival that would continue into the week at Louise’s Trattoria.

Thursday was a night of estranged friends. Our newest intern, Wendy, joined us in trying the newest menu at Louise’s Trattoria. The “new” Louise’s Trattoria features a new menu, new logo, and best of all, new lower prices. Our estranged Jewish friend, Nathan, who’s doing PR for the restaurant also joined us. I, of course, ran in late with my two complimentary Ice Blended drinks which Coffee Bean heavily promoted on Twitter. I heart Twitter! It turned out that our intern, Wendy, knew our friend Nathan. Who did we know at the restaurant?  No one. Leave it to the UG girls to recruit a more popular intern than themselves! Regardless, the meal started off well because we were handed a copious amount of focaccia bread and were set to order. The menu at Louise’s has dramatically changed for the better and we were eager to see what new inspirations we were about to try. I always judge a place by its caesar salad so I opted for that as my first course; I was not left disappointed. Carina on the other hand went for the house salad, which despite always being uninspiring at most restaurants, was a joy to eat at Louise’s. The house salad had goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and a lemon vin. “Yum” just doesn’t begin to describe it. Our entrees came next, I ordered the Chicken Pomodoro on basil spaghetti and Carina ordered the Chicken Balsamico, which was served with braised spinach and veggies. Both entrees were great deals at just $12. There was plenty of food and we laughed the whole time; we felt right at home. Carina kept it classy and left a bit of food on her plate, but not me. I finished the whole entree and, in fact, when the waiter came to pick up our plates, he was astonished when he saw I ate all my food. He remarked that he’s never seen a woman finish a plate of Chicken Pomodoro. I’m a remarkable woman – too bad the boy I used to love doesn’t see that. We finished off the Pasadena meal with a slice of hummingbird cake, which was a sweet end to our night.

Even though we had finished our meal, the staff was in no rush to hurry us along. We sat at the table for about an hour or so gabbing it up to Nathan about our newest UG developments. Before leaving Louise’s we noticed one thing, apparently the day to come in was Friday and Saturday. It is on Friday and Saturday that Louise’s has a 1/2 off a bottle of wine menu. It was Thursday! Leave it to the UGs to show up a day early every time. It’s no wonder we can’t make a buck.