Blood and Clovers
It’s ironic that whiskey, though crafted according to centuries-old traditions and aged in mysterious casks, is usually made into cocktails by mixing spirits, dashing some bitters and serving seconds later. Whiskey is slow magic. The bartenders at Oak & Ivy understand. They take a classic cocktail, Blood and Sand, and replace Scotch with Jameson Black Barrel. They add the heavy-bodied wave of Luxardo Sangue Morlacco cherry brandy and Vittone Rosso sweet vermouth to the wooden barrel labeled John Jameson & Son. What they’re making is Blood and Clovers ($14), a slow, barrel-aged concoction—a dangerous drink. While the barrel sits on the back bar, the liquor loses its harsh edge, and the butter-like smoothness of Jameson Black Barrel becomes more refined. The bartender pours the aged potion and mixes it with fresh-squeezed orange juice, flips his shaker with old-school charm and deals me a glowing peach-colored cocktail with a torched orange peel floating in ice. The sun is setting through the open sliding glass door behind me as I sip. No sharp edge of liquor, but I am definitely drinking. I notice the drip infusers and boxes of fruit behind the bar—a teeming laboratory of flavor. Yes, this must be science fiction! This ought to be impossible: a boozy cocktail without the kick of booze. It’s not the imagination. It’s Oak & Ivy’s appreciation of the slow science of whiskey.
At lunch I want a sandwich. I have busy days, so I need a no-fuss, stick-this-sucker-in-my-mouth-and-devour-it kind of meal. But where’s the fun in something consumed and forgotten? Food should be so good I might bite off my fingers. I want a sandwich that begins with a baguette, cooked to such crispness it crackles, giving way to chewy bread, which works like a buffer between the pop of the crust and what’s next: crunchy chains of bean sprouts and red onion ornamented with basil. The fresh scent of herbs as I hold the sandwich in front of my face, juices dripping from the warm beef brisket, which is tangled with leaves of cilantro. I’m dreaming of a type of banh mi. This is what happens when French café foods meet the twisting flavors of Vietnam. But Le Pho brings the kind of sandwich I’m thinking of west again, merging it with the Los Angeles French dip. In place of brisket juices I dunk into a beef pho broth, which the tender meat quickly soaks up. Before I realize it the $12 sandwich is gone, but I need more of that savory beef. Fortunately there’s still half a bowl of broth left, which I sip slowly while munching on the thin taro chips. The meal is gone. The butterflies rise from my gut to my fingertips as they clasp the steering wheel, dreaming of East meets West flavors and driving back to work.