Friday, January 7, 2011

Tavern's Happy Hour: A safe haven for the lonely

LA was a strange place last week. It seemed that the whole population of the smoggy city was on vacation – or at least on vacation from work (I was not). Streets and freeways that are usually clogged and overburdened with angry, honking vehicles were empty. My Outlook inbox was similarly devoid of the traffic of impatient e-mails. It was nice in a way – to breathe, to focus my energies on organizing and reorganizing the same set of files over and over again, and to be able to duck away for a lunch break to visit with Scoops Westside’s owner Matthew Kang.

But by Thursday afternoon, I was starting to feel a little wonky.

With only three employees in our building that day, my sole interaction had been a brief encounter with our mailroom manager who was quick to inform me that he was leaving early and that I would soon be the last office soldier left standing.

The walls seemed to throb with silence the rest of the day. My limbs were shaking with anxious tension – like I was a sprinter perpetually perched on a set of runner’s blocks, waiting for the gun to go off. When the clock finally inched its way to 5:00 pm, I bolted for the exit and continued to bolt my way over to Tavern Restaurant in Brentwood to meet two girlfriends for Happy Hour.

After arriving in the richly festooned lounge – one of the most beautiful spaces in the city – I started to realize that the four days of solitary office confinement had taken their toll. I found myself saying unusually brazen things to the bartender, Eric – a mainstay behind the lustrous lacquered bar.

“I feel like I should drink red wine because it’s so cold out,” I mused as though he had nothing better to do than listen to me unload everything I was thinking.

“But, I kind of want white…” I continued, fastening my eyes back on the Happy Hour menu and its single white and single red wine options by the glass (each $5).

He told me there was an easy solution to my dilemma – a cocktail.

To which I responded with a noticeable gasp of horror, “I don’t drink cocktails.”

He ignored my horror and said I should start – that it should be my New Year’s resolution.

I said he was trying to corrupt me.

And then I pronounced Loire Valley wrong as I went ahead and laughed in the face of the 45 degree weather – and Eric’s New Year’s resolution for me – to order the 2009 Francois Chidaine Touraine (a crisp, dry white wine similar to a Sauvignon Blanc).

With a sly wink, he quickly corrected me.

Mispronunciations aside, the wine was a nice choice, and by the time my two Happy Hour companions arrived, I was happily carrying on about the meaning behind my name (Diana = Athena = goddess of the hunt) and the children’s book The Princess and the Pea.

While I had only had three sips of my wine from the “Lwahr” Valley (I was far too busy exercising my voice to actually drink), it was clearly time for us to order food. (If only to get me to shut my mouth.)

We opted to pass over the Happy Hour food selections, which include the burger, pork burger and turkey burger at discounted prices (each $15 instead of $18/18/17), a simple salad ($9 instead of $11), and a chickpea puree with ricotta salata, olives and grilled toast ($9 instead of $11). At Eric’s suggestion (I decided to listen this time), we opted instead for the bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with parmesan ($6), and the lamb meatballs with feta, currants and pinenuts ($13).

The dates are an import from Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne’s sister restaurant A.O.C. and are, as expected, the same well-executed specimens they are across town. The three of us each devoured two before turning our attentions to the four prodigiously sized meatballs.

The meaty beasts of loosely packed lamb aren’t pop-able bites like the dates. They require a fork, a knife and a lust for flesh that, for example, a goddess of the hunt might possess. Though my companions do not share names with a huntress like me, we all agreed that the lamb meatballs are an inspired bar bite. A bit messy with all the accruements and sauce, but well-balanced and flavorful without too much pungency from the lamb.

While Tavern’s Happy Hour is not quite the deal one would hope for that post-work period of unwinding and unraveling, it offered me exactly what I needed last week – a transportative environment, a nice glass of wine, a few good fleshy bites, and a bartender who was just a touch crazy enough to humor me.

11648 San Vicente Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Phone: (310) 806-6464


The Duo Dishes said...

Add cocktails to your 2011 must do list. You just must. So glad you highlighted this happy hour because the lamb meatballs are up our alley. We both love lamb!

Esi said...

Those were some good balls. I wish I worked in a world where I could do happy hour more often. Sigh.

Anna A. said...

I'd like some of those balls!

Diana said...

Chrystal & Amir - I think I'd rather add "eat more lamb balls" to my 2011 must list. ;)

Esi - Some day, my friend. Some day!

Anna - They are right up a TALF's alley!

weezermonkey said...

No cocktails?! You baffle me regularly, D.

I have a fourth date with Lazy Ox next week. The massive post will be up after that takes place. :)

Gastronomer said...

You definitely need to get the pork burger next time! I've made the recipe at home and it is SO good! And I'm with the Duo Dishes, cocktails RULE!

Monet said...

I'm with you...I don't do cocktails. Instead, give me a solid glass of wine, and I'm a happy girl. I've also found myself a bit anxious these past few weeks. I think that the holidays throw everything off a takes some time to get back into a groove. Thank you for sharing, my dear. I hope you have a good Monday. Let the week begin!

Ashley said...

Almost crossing my fingers that they don't add more vegetarian options to their HH menu. It will stay less tempting that way.

SinoSoul said...

Such a charming room but that HH menu is strictly for the Brentwood set. We invaded the space 3 times during opening months, but haven't returned save for brunch.

All I know is if you can drink beer, you can drink cocktails. You did beer, and beer said it had a good time. Wine won't get jealous if you share the bed with 2 others.

stuffycheaks said...

def one of the priciest HH menus in town, but love the pork burger. Once I got samosas too, which were delicious.