Restaurant Review: Turf Supper Club

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We joined our friends Ray and Jeannine at a San Diego Padres game a few weeks ago and following their win they said they had a fun place for dinner. Knowing I like horse racing and a great bar, they knew we’d love the Turf Supper Club, a “Grill Your Own Steakhouse” is in the historic Golden Hill neighborhood of San Diego.

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Nothing pretentious or Turf Club stuffy, the Turf Supper Club is right out of the 50’s: campy fun.  You can see by the neon sign you are in for a treat. There is long bar with plenty of stools, photos of horses, old style lamp shades with horse shoes, red lights, and carpet, and classic wallpaper. It has been described as comfy and friendly – and that is true.

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What makes this restaurant truly different? You cook your own steak on the grill in the middle of the dining room. But don’t let me get ahead of myself. The bar has a very classic drink menu. For bourbon drinkers they have an Old Fashioned, Manhattan, or American Thoroughbred. They also offer a Gimlet, Esquire Martini, or Cosmopolitan, just to mention a few. With good bartenders and a good selection of liquor you can’t go wrong. Lynn started with a Manhattan and I had an Old Fashioned. Our drinks were very good and quite reasonable with prices from $7 to $11. If you just read my Bourbon blog for fun, they also have beer and wine.

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Steaks start at $11.75 for a Top Sirloin with a top price of $22.75 for Filet Mignon. I was impressed with Marinated Flank Steak I ordered. If you don’t want beef there are kebobs, pork, chicken, or salmon. All steaks and kebobs come with a large slice of garlic bread. The “Extras” as they call them are a side salad, baked potato, or potato salad.  You can end your meal with a selection of cheesecakes.

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I recommend The Turf Supper Club for those who like bourbon, steak, and a fun evening with friends, new or old. Next time you are in San Diego step back in time with a classic cocktail and steak at the Turf Supper Club. On Sunday nights they have live music in the Piano Bar. I felt like George Woolf or Johnny Longden was going to walk into the place before we left.

Restaurant Review: Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern (Southern California)

Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern has become a favorite of Lynn’s and mine when we are in the Brea area. Many refer to it as “JFAT” which they use on their website, napkins, and use the logo generously on all branding. The food is good, the drinks creative, and it’s a fun atmosphere. They have five locations in Southern California – I’ve tried their Brea and Dana Point locations

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The idea for Jimmy Famous Tavern, or JFAT, grew out of the idea of the English taverns that made their way to New England. These were primarily drinking establishments that had limited food options. Jimmy wanted to create this atmosphere where people would gather for great brews, cocktails, and wine. But to enhance the experience Jimmy wanted to add excellent food to his taverns. His concept was to use fresh ingredients, blending tradition with creativity. They use the best ingredients prepared fresh daily from scratch.

We had heard about JFAT from a friend who raved about their Dana Point location. We have been there 5 or 6 times now and we have always been pleased with our experience. The food and drink are always impressive.

The Brea restaurant, like the others, has a very warm feel to it. There is a lot of wood, warm colors, low lighting at night. One of the architectural features of the Brea location is it opens up onto a park like setting in the Village at La Floresta. The window and doors from the restaurant and patio open up to create an open air restaurant. On a warm southern California day or evening it is awesome. If you are there on a chilly evening they close those windows and doors and with low lighting you feel the warmth of a Pub setting.

We both started with a “Boulevardier” which I would describe as their version of an Old Fashioned. But this is not your father’s Old fashioned. It has Bulleit Rye, Aperol, and Carpano Antica in it. And they finish it off with the orange peel and a life changing dark sweet cherry.

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We skipped the starters because we had a big lunch. I would suggest you start with “Warm House Made Salt & Pepper Potato Chips.” They are drizzled with Maytag bleu cheese & scallions. Or try the Brussel Sprouts, or Whiskey Shrimp. I can’t list them all but try as many as you can.

Lynn ordered the Signature Grilled Santa Fe Salad for dinner. It is made with grilled romaine, corn, salsa fresca, avocado, topped with green chile caesar dressing and grilled flat iron steak.

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I couldn’t decide what to order and our waiter Joshua suggested the French Dip and he was spot on. It’s prepared from mouthwatering prime rib, then topped with Swiss cheese, crispy onions, with creamed horseradish on a Ciabatta roll.

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My mouth is watering writing this review. I think we need to go back for lunch or dinner in the next few days! Go for a drink, go for appetizers, or go for dinner. JFAT offers great drinks, food, and service.

Bar Review: Vaca (Costa Mesa, CA)

Lynn and I have been wanting to eat at Vaca in Costa Mesa, CA, ever since we saw Amar Santana on Top Chef. We have been to his restaurant Broadway in Laguna Beach several times. The food is amazing and the bartenders are friendly and very knowledgeable. We love to sit at the bar to eat and enjoy talking with the bartenders and other restaurant goers we have met from all over the world while sitting at the bar (I have embarrassed our kids for years because I will chat up anybody that will listen).

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We had tickets to see “Finding Neverland” at the Segerstrom Center and decided to have some of the Tapas at Vaca before the musical. Vaca is very conveniently located literally around the corner from Segerstrom, so it was easy to park for the musical and then walk over to the restaurant for dinner. Well we had a great time. Vaca has a nice long bar with a back bar with shelves and bottles 20 feet tall.

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Writing these blogs is always an education for me and hopefully you, my readers, as well. To go along with Amar’s Spanish cuisine, he has also replicated Spain’s love of the ultimate Gin and Tonic. Their signature drink is the “The Vaca Tonic” made with Brooklyn Gin, Frozen Gimlet, Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic, and Basil Blossom. What they don’t include in the description is their amazing ice. The drink was served with a handmade, perfectly clear round ice cube. I watched them make it, what a work of art. It was a very refreshing drink and went well the Ensalada de Remolacha, a roasted beet salad with cana de cabra, and walnuts. We followed it with the Pulpo a La Gallega, a warm Spanish octopus, with fingerling potatoes, pimenton, and Spanish olive oil.

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After those 2 dishes and finishing my gin, it was time for a bourbon drink and some pork. First I ordered the “That’s the Spirit” which is made with Baker’s Bourbon, Bittermans Hiver Amer, Clear Creek Cranberry Liquor, and Lemon. My drink was very refreshing.

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Lynn had an excellent Spanish Tempranillo from the wine list. Both were a nice compliment to the pork and beef we ordered.   We tried the pork belly which was amazing. For our last dish we tried the La Bola, crispy potato balls with ground beef, aioli, and spicy tomato sauce. All were amazing and all so different.

We enjoyed the environment, company, food, and drinks. I would heartily recommend Vaca. We want to go back soon and enjoy some steak. Steak is not something you normally describe when talking about Spanish restaurants but Amar focuses on steak, tapas, ham, paella, and Spanish wine. If you plan to be in the area, make reservations. If you are not in the area, make a trip. Go to theatre, or shopping and end the day at Vaca.

Restaurant Review: Hatch (Tustin, CA)

Our adventure started because Lynn and I wanted to see the Batman Lego movie. Lynn had just read the March/April Westways Magazine’s (AAA of California’s magazine) 14th Annual Cheap Eats Dining Review. There was a review of Hatch in Tustin’s Union Market at The District and the movie was showing there as well. Our date was set.

As the article said: “You can’t exactly stumble upon Hatch.” That is an understatement. You have to hunt real hard to find it. But the good news is once you find it you will be charmed by the retro, mid-century Tiki décor, Disneyland-inspired “Enchanted Tiki Room” wallpaper, and cool retro lights. It is small and quaint with only a handful of tables inside plus a bar that seats about 10. There is also outside dining perfect for most nights.

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The menu is quite simple. Their specialty is sliders, but these are not your local sliders. These are gourmet, craft, creative sliders. You can order a combo on the menu of 2 sliders and a side for $14. The menu is creative as the sliders are broken into Moo, Oink, Flap, Swim, and Sprout. There are 3 different sliders in each category.

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The Hatch slider is their signature item. It’s an all-beef patty, fried onions, Hatch sauce, a Portuguese bun, and a slice of crispy grilled cheese hat. It was a fantastic burger, and I am still amazed by that thin sheet of grilled cheese. How did they do that?

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I had a Hatch and a Buffalo Chicken slider. The buffalo chicken is buttermilk fried chicken, parmesan, Sriracha buffalo sauce, with carrots and celery. Both were so different and so flavorful.They also have sliders with Japanese style fried pork, duck, salmon, soft shell crab, oyster, and more. Lynn had the soft shell crab and said it was fantastic.

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They consider themselves a Rum Bar and have the theme oriented glasses. They also have a full bar, wine and beer. I always order a bourbon drink (my name is not Rum or Tequila Bill, its Bourbon Bill). I ordered an Old Fashioned and it was perfect. An Old Fashioned is good with any food. But riven that rum is their specialty, I would suggest you try the house rum drinks. They also have a list of 26 creative and different craft beers.

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I would highly recommend Hatch. We are looking for an excuse to go back very soon. There are also a number of interesting restaurants around Hatch.   Tustin’s Union Market has become a great little destination for dining!

Maker’s Mark Holiday Red Line Event

If you are not a Maker’s Mark Ambassador, and are a Maker’s Mark fan, I have one question. WHY NOT? Being an Ambassador is easy – you literally just have to register on their website (info below).

Ambassadors receive Maker’s Mark distillery, product, and new release information. There are also invitations to special events including local events like the Holiday Red Line event I attended last week in Los Angeles.

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For years there were street cars in Los Angeles and it was called the Maker’s Mark Holiday Red Line. This event was put together by Katie Bronow of Beam Suntory. She named it the Makers Mark Red Line in honor of the Red Line that used to run through Los Angeles, which was also a very creative tie in to the red wax every Maker’s Mark bottle is dipped into for its distinctive look (working in packaging, I’m extra appreciative of these things!). The Pacific Electric Railway Company (Red Cars) was started by Henry Huntington in 1902 and the last car ran until 1955. For some California railway history (bare with me here) — in a tie in with another piece of LA history, our bar hop ended at “Bunker Hill” Restaurant and Bar on Bunker Hill. In 1901 Col. J.W. Eddy built “Angles Col. J.W. Eddy,” a funicular inclined railway up the steep incline of Bunker Hill to give residents better access to their homes.

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But back to the event. About 40 Ambassadors and their guests gathered at Salvage Bar & Lounge first for a Gold Rush.

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(Not me – just another festively dressed Ambassador!)

The Gold Rush was created by Alex D’ Alessio. It was made with Maker’s Mark Bourbon ($31 through the ReserveBar website), Honey, Fresh Lemon Juice, and Ginger Beer.

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It was very refreshing and a great way to start the evening. It was fun getting to know the other Ambassadors and learn what brought them to the event and what drew them to bourbon.

After about an hour we walked to Spear Steak & Seafood House which featured the “Key to the City,” created by Mat Lim.

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It is made with Maker’s 46 Bourbon (on sale for $31.99 through Hi-Time Wine), Lemon Juice, Strawberry & Blueberry Puree, Cardamom & Allspice Syrup. (Check out the cute little sweater on the Maker’s bottle in the picture below!)

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It felt like the holidays and paired very well with the food appetizers provided. We had crispy calamari, different sushi rolls, one being seared salmon truffle roll, flat breads, way too much to remember.

Our last stop was Bunker Hill Bar & Grill for a Cask Strength Old Fashioned, created by Jose Balderas. (Cask Strength is $53.99 at BevMo!) WOW, what a way to finish the evening with an Old Fashioned in a miniature Julep Cup with a Maker’s Mark logo. (How many times have I said on this blog I am a huge Kentucky Derby fan?) The food there included Crispy Garlic Brussel Sprouts, Lobster Mac N’ Cheese, Korean BBQ Wings, Sweet Potato Fries, and more.

What a fun evening of fellowship, new friends to go along with fantastic cocktails, and good food. And on top of that my own miniature Julep cup at Bunker Hill to go along with the Maker’s Mark bottle Sweater from Spear, and the T-shirt we got at Savage. Merry Christmas y’all from Maker’s Mark!

Do yourself a favor and become a Maker’s Mark Ambassador. Or even better buy a friend a bottle for Christmas and suggest you both join. They put on great events. A Merry Christmas to all from Bourbon Bill!

Note: This is not a sponsored post. I am just a Maker’s Mark fan!

Bar Review: Dry 85 (Annapolis, Maryland)

My family traveled to Annapolis and Baltimore for last weekend’s Army Navy Game. What a weekend! It was great having our family back together. We always love spending time in “Naptown.” After wandering through shops downtown and along Main Street, we decided to stop by Dry 85 for a drink before dinner. (If you’re seeing a trend, Lynn and I always try to experience a Bourbon/Whiskey establishment when we visit a town.)

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Dry 85 is, “A modern industrial take on a Prohibition-era speakeasy. The back alley garage where someone today would sneak a bourbon, beer or gourmet comfort food meal.” Dry 85 opened in January 2014. It has a cozy atmosphere with a good selection of bourbon and whiskey.

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They have a nice selection of craft cocktails. Combine that with the friendly wait staff and fun atmosphere of Main Street in Annapolis and you have an instant winner. We really enjoyed our visit.

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We had 6 different combinations of drinks. I tried something I normally wouldn’t – a Buffalo Trace Sugar Plum. I guess the Christmas season and thoughts of the Nutcracker that Friday got the best of me. BUT for a guy who drinks his bourbon neat it was a very refreshing drink. The Sugar Plum is made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, House-made Plum Puree, and Freshly Squeezed Lemon it. My kids did laugh though because it was served up and was bright pink. My daughter and son-in-law had their soon to be famous Old Fashioned made with smoked maple syrup and said it was done to perfection. It looked great. My son and his wife both had drinks with fig (blanking on the name of them) which were very different and not the biggest crowd pleasers, but props to them for going out on a limb and trying something different. Lynn had a Manhattan, which was perfectly made.

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All in all, we would definitely recommend Dry 85. We didn’t eat there but the food looked good. Between their extensive whiskey selection and unique craft cocktails, it’s a great place to meet up with friends, stop in for a quick drink, or visit after dinner for a relaxing drink.

If you haven’t been to Annapolis go, especially in December when the whole town is decorated with garland over all the shops and restaurants, wreaths on all the doors, and the big tree by the bay. I’ll be back later with a visitors guide to Annapolis! We have been too many times to count and always find new things to do each visit.

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(Lynn in front of Blackwall Hitch – another good restaurant in Annapolis)

Bourbon AND Bourbon Bar Review: Bourbon House and Pinhook Bourbon

When you are Bourbon Bill, and in New Orleans, you end up in a bourbon bar on Bourbon Street (Note: I did not go at night time!).

If you have been reading my blog you know that some historians give New Orleans credit for coining the term “bourbon.” When they would ship their whiskey down the Ohio River from Kentucky, specifically much of it from Bourbon County, the barrels were marked bourbon. New Orleans residents starting asking for that “bourbon” whiskey. They liked it better than other whiskey they were importing.

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Wee walked from our hotel in the French Quarter to 144 Bourbon Street and Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House. The food looks outstanding and it has gotten great reviews. But we didn’t go there to eat.

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We went there for the incredible bourbon selection. As you can see by the picture of the list on the wall, it is quite extensive.

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Lynn immediately ordered a Manhattan. Her Manhattan made with Blanton’s was excellent. I tried a sip but I had to spend some time looking at the list. I looked and looked for something I had not tired. Then I spotted 2 bottles on one of the back bar shelves. They had racehorses with jockeys on them on the labels. I had to find out what bourbon was in those bottles. It turned out to be Pinhook Bourbon.

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First think to note about Pinhook Bourbon is the name. A “Pinhooker” is an individual who buys a young racehorse with the express purpose of reselling the horse for profit. They do this through some training, fixing some flaw to enhance its value. The term is also used for speculators in tobacco, produce, or today even yard sales. Derived from the Spanish verb “pintar,” to paint or ripen.

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Now back to the bourbon. Pinhook is crafted from a mash of 75% corn, 20% rye and 5% malted barley. It has been aged at least 6 years in American oak and bottled at 90 proof. The 20% rye helps make it very smooth. It has hints of vanilla, salted caramel, and finishes with the warm taste of toasted nuts. If you can find it, buy a bottle. They only produce about 5,000 bottles each year. The bottles labels showcase a horse owned with by Bourbon Lane Stable LLC.

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Having enjoyed sitting at the bar at Bourbon House and talking with other bourbon lovers was a kick. What a great atmosphere, wonderful selection, and, as I said before the food looks amazing. Plan to spend more time than we did and enjoy a Pinhook bourbon with some of their authentic southern seafood.

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