The Modern Craft Project is an effort by Wallpaper Magazine and Ketel One to celebrate and emphasize traditional craftsmanship. The brands are all about skill and passion and their products reflect these qualities because the brands enable such qualities. We see Los Angeles as a city full of craft and such a variety of makers. One of our favorite crafts is food and drink, a very creative field that is often not seen as such because the handmade object is ultimately consumed. It’s a wonderfully strange creative outlet that we all love and that is really booming in Los Angeles right now. Catching wind of this, The Modern Craft Project recently visited Los Angeles and held a very special, very intimate dinner to celebrate the art of cocktail making, cocktail pairing, and good food. With some Ketel One master mixologists and food by the genius guys at Animal, it was a pretty rad feast that celebrated LA creativity by and for LA creatives.
Held at the very curious, very unknown to us, very beautiful Marvimon House venue in Chinatown, the evening began with some drinks. While you could probably order anything you wanted from the bar, we had to go with whatever the bartender/mixologist/drink person recommended because, when in Ketel, you drink Ketel. The resulting cocktail was a take on the Negroni that substituted the gin for vodka and the Campari for Aperol. Garnished with an X-shaped orange peel and served up, the cocktail was a sweet and a little bitter but definitely smooth to drink. It was almost too good looking to consume and it certainly inspired a lot of conversations of ghost cocktails of drinking times past.
Since it was a bit too cold out and everyone’s hunger was stronger than their desire to drink, we headed from the outside bar to the long kitchen side table to eat and continue drinking. The menu looked fabulous as it consisted of lots of seasonal foods–kale, squash, potatoes, etc.–and each was paired with a different specialty drink. It was a three course, three drink menu served family style that literally plopped down in front of us a moment after sitting down to sip cocktails in the warmth. It was some, “If you build it, they will come.” type of business.
The first course was described as a “Baby Kale, Kohlrabi, Walnut, Apple, Goat Cheese, Crispy Squash” salad along with a Thai influenced hamachi crudo. The salad looked very normal and was expected to be just a salad. I mean, it’s the guys from Animal: salad seems like the antithesis of their passion. This was a damned good salad that I have been trying to imitate at home all week: there was a base of crisp, fresh kale with a soft vinaigrette to dress it tossed in with slightly tart apples, bright nuts, and constantly surprising goat cheese. The best part? The “crispy squash” which is essentially the bright orange chip from the Original version of Terra Chips. The hamachi was extremely clean and the Thai spices were a super perfect compliment to a fish so pure.
A Moscow Mule was paired with this and served with silver stirrer straws and giant lemon slices crushed into the ice. I don’t drink Moscow Mules often but, if they all tasted as sweet and tart and smooth as this one, I will start only ordering this cocktail. The strong lemon in the cocktail paired very well with the salad and fish as it added a note perfectly suited for both dishes or perhaps embedded somewhere inside of them: fresh lemon juice. Genius!
Before the entree course, a Vesper was delivered to us. What’s a Vesper? Well, it’s James Bond’s signature martini that is three parts gin to one part vodka. Because we were in the land of Ketel One, the ingredients were swapped: it was three parts vodka to one part gin, garnished with a jalepeño stuffed cocktail onion instead of a lemon peel. The resulting drink starts with a sip that tastes just like gin and then a sip that tastes just like vodka and then it smooths to almost a pure, water-like flavor. The hot onion was a complex chomp to take at the top of the drink. It gave it a kick of spice.
The dinner entree proper was a sliced Flat Iron Steak which, really, is not anything we would ever order as we’re practically fish’n’birditarians. This made me want red meat in every meal if it tastes like this: the meat was a soft mid-rare and covered in a pool of “truffle parmesan fondue” and Bordeaux dressing. We basically licked this plate clean and rubbed our bodies in the dressing. The truffle was big, the cheese full of a dairy tang, and the Bordeaux tied it all up in a sugar/salt bath. It was a weird and unexpected combination but excellent. The artichoke hash with baby leeks was the side dish to this and, man, I have two artichokes in my refrigerator and I have been trying to figure out for a week how to make them like the Animal guys did. They were like artichoke glass noodles tossed with potato and leek! It was also surprisingly meaty.
For dessert, a “Tres Leche Dulce De Leche” cake was brought out. Normally, the sound of all of that is not too exciting but the taste of this is basically the idea of Dulce De Leche boiled down to an off-caramel flavor: it took the Dulce De Leche flavor and let it run wild over a milky vanilla cake. The drink component to this was something out of John Sedlar’s Hallucination menu: a Ketel One Dutch Apple. What’s that? You take a shot of vodka and then eat a cinnamon and sugar dipped green apple. We all put our pinkies up and happily shot this drink like the adults we are.
After some time a few glasses of water and another lap around the Marvimon House to sober up, we were ready to head out but could not and still can’t get it out our brains how such simple foods were made into these hyper-sophisticated, hyper-pretty food items. If anyone can do it, it’s the guys from Animal. And they did it: they are most definitely modern craftsmen. And the drinks? Major props to Ketel One for making us non-vodka people question our identities as drinkers.
We recommend you check out The Modern Craft Project here and, if you feel like you are crafty enough, share your talent with them. We know many of you readers are beyond qualified for this! And we need as many LA ambassadors as we can. Who knows: maybe your story will be shared and, duh, you’ll probably get some Ketel One, too. Entries are due by March 20.