Bar Review: Orange Hill Restaurant, Orange, CA

Opening in 1958, Orange Hill Restaurant is a bit off the beaten track in the residential city of Orange, in the county of Orange, California.  There is nothing exceptionally noteworthy about the restaurant, certainly not a Michelin starred restaurant; it is not world renown, or even nationally renown, for it’s food.

But, OMG, the view!!!!

Located up a hill in the middle of Orange County with an outside patio that stretches 180 degrees around the facility, the view stretches from the north west to the south east and on a clear day you can see the Los Angeles skyline, south through Long Beach, and down to Newport Beach and Irvine.

But back to the restaurant: my Michelin comments above notwithstanding, the food is really good.  Their tag line is “Prime Steaks and Primo Views” which is absolutely apt.  But their selection is more than just steak; their specialties on this day include Miso-marinated Chilean Sea Bass, Truffle Lobster Baked Mac & Cheese, Seared Ora King Salmon Cioppino, and others.  Their Entrees today include Chateaubriand for Two, House-Cut Kurobuta Pork Chop , USDA Prime Rib-eye Steak, and several other steak selections.  And of course the appropriate selection of accompanying sauces, sides, and enhancements.  While I haven’t yet sampled all of their selections, what I have sampled was excellent.

The staff was great, very helpful and attentive without being overbearing.  The decor was comfortable and clean, very basic modern American, and definitely not over crowded with close tables and tight walk spaced.  The restaurant and lounge both have an abundance of windows to enjoy the view but the outside patio I mentioned is a much better place to sit, relax, and eat.  There are plenty of heat lamps around for those chilly southern California evenings.

It is marvelous in it’s view and casual relaxed atmosphere with excellent food.  I will definitely go back.

As far as the Martini’s go, they do a fine job, nothing spectacular or otherwise noteworthy, but just fine.  My Martini was nicely shaken, adequately abundant, and served in a pre-chilled refrigerated stem.  And their selection of Gins is also fine, actually just a bit less than fine (see list below) considering their upscale efforts elsewhere.  They appear more interested in their wine selection; they are a 2011 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner.   And their selection of whiskeys is more than adequate with a very good Japanese selection.

Overall a very good restaurant that sadly seems to get lost in the abundance of very good restaurants in the Los Angeles / Orange County area.  Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.

 

A couple words of advice.
First, get there early as there’s only one narrow winding road up the mountain and it gets backed up waiting for the valet.  There is no self parking.
Second, as with many restaurants with spectacular view, the food and drinks are a bit pricey; $16.oo for my Martini.

 

Overall Orange Hill gets one stem. 
As I mentioned above, their Martinis are fine.   Certainly not exceptional in anyway to earn my two stem award.  However, the food and view are truly worth a visit.

 

For Gin selection Orange Hill gets a C.
Their list of Gins includes Bombay, Bombay Sapphire, Hendricks, Nolets, Botanist, Broker’s, and St. George Terrior.
These may change in time, of course.

 

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For those inclined to visit The Orange Hill website for additional information:
http://www.theorangehillrestaurant.com/

 

If you’re curious about what one vs. two stems means,
I refer you to the following:
*****   Rating Definitions   ****

Martini Adornment, or Twist vs. Olive(s).

Charles Dickens walks into a bar and orders a martini.
The barman says, “Olive or Twist?”

Way back at the start of this blog I made a brief comment about Twist vs. Olive in a post entitled, appropriately enough, “Olives or Twist“.  It was one of my first posts and very short.  The time has come to elaborate a bit on this important question.

First of all let me point out that olives or twists are each more more than simply an ‘adornment’, despite the provocative title I’ve chosen above.  Either adds a bit of flavor nuance, aesthetic balance, and beauty to the Martini.  And in the case of the olive some additional texture.

I’ve previously pointed out that Vermouth turns chilled Gin into a Martini (Does Vermouth Matter? ). The twist or olive takes the Martini to the next level of elegance.

Reading through the (limited) literature there appears to be a friendly verbal war on this subject.  There are supports on both sides of the argument that adamantly defend their positions.  Olives are traditional cry the one side.  Twists are more elegant counter the other side.  Olives provide a hint of salt that brings out the flavors.  Twists add a bright festive color to the Martini.  Olives are a delicious and provide a small snack.  I have to agree with that last point.

If you haven’t already decided which is for you, try a Martini both ways.  Though not at the same time.   Ultimately the question of a twist or olive is one of personal taste, it’s up to you.

Personally I go with a twist; I prefer an herbal emphasis in my gin and the citrus seems to complement that better than olives.  If you prefer a more floral gin (Nolets) I think a twist would also better compliment that profile.

If your preference is a twist, there are several choices yet to be made.  Lemon or Lime?  Think or wide?  Curlicue, spiral, or bit of peel.

Lemon vs lime is also a matter of personal taste.  Lemon is traditional but I find the Lime to be just a bit less tart and a bit sweeter.  Also Lemons are ubiquitous, there is always a lemon or two at the bar.  Limes are more rare, which may be another reason why I like that option when available.

The ‘thin vs wide’ decision is typically not yours, unless you are making your own Martini at home or office. But when you’re ordering at a bar or lounge the barkeep will provide you with his or her standard offering.  You can ask for the twist to be created per your specifications and desires of course.  And, of course, your results with that request may vary.

The professional mixologist has a number of tools from which to create a twist.  First and most common is the knife.  But she could also use a vegetable peeler or channel knife, which may also be referred to as a Citrus Stripper.

Personally I like the channel knife.  It takes a bit of practice but will (eventually) produce beautiful long clean spirals of thin citrus peel.   With practice a sharp paring knife will also make nice clean spirals, though not as thin as with the channel knife.  If you are making your own twist do try and minimize any pith left after cutting it from the Lemon.

Let’s also take a look at what a twist is not.  It is not a wedge.  Yes, I have had my Martini served with a wedge of lemon thrown in as a ‘twist’.  That is clearly the work of a beer slinger and not a professional barkeep.  I did not order a second Martini and left that establishment asap.

Closely related is the “stripped wedge”.  This is when the bartender takes a pre-cut wedge from his collection and then rips the lemon meat out of the rind and then puts the remaining triangular piece of rind in the Martini.  This is not a proper twist.  While it  may sort of look like a twist I have two problems with it.  First, and most importantly, this stripped wedge will certainly have way too much pith which could add bitterness to the Martini.  Second, it’s just lazy.

(You can find additional Martini making annoyances at “Martini Making Pet Peeves“.)

If you chooses olives, then the first decision is how many?  One, Three, Two?  I read somewhere that, at least according to one ‘expert’, three olives is the proper number.  Furthermore you never serve a martini with two, or four, as this considered bad luck.

Personally I think that’s nonsense.  However, there is something aesthetically pleasing about a martini stem with an odd number of olives; one or three neatly skewered on a mini-scimitar laying alluringly in the Martini stem.  If you want more than 3 olives in your Martini, then go for it.  It’s almost lunch that way.  But serve them on the a side plate so as not to detract from the visual appeal of the Martini.

Another decision regarding olives it what type.  The traditional Martini olive is the large green Spanish olive stuffed with pimento.  Acceptable olive variations include olive size; large vs. colossal, Spanish vs Greek vs California , stuffed vs un-stuffed, or even un-pitted.

Another acceptable olive would be a pickled onion, which is really just a white olive that masquerades as an onion.  Technically that makes your cocktail a Gibson, not a Martini.  But I digress.

Unacceptable olive variations include black olives, grey olives, micro-olives (you’ve seen them) and olives stuffed with blue cheese, garlic, jalapeno, Gorgonzola, anchovies, wasabi, chicken gizzards, or anything other than pimento.  These are NOT to be used in a Martini.  Especially blue cheese!  Any cretin who puts blue cheese stuffed olives in a martini should be shot, hung, quartered, and shot again.  But hey, that’s just me.

Now if I could find Spanish olives stuffed with caviar, I might go for that.

 

The above Dickens joke, and so many more, can be found on the Martin Jokes page.

National Martini Day!

June 19, 2017 is National Martini Day!!

Yes, another National Martini Day has come around.  Always a wonderful time to celebrate with a favorite Martini!

If you’re looking for the Perfect Martini recipe, you can find it here:  “The Perfect Martini Process”

For a laugh or two while enjoying your martini, check out our Martini Jokes page:  “Martini Jokes”

Bar Review: 71Above, Los Angeles, CA

At the top of the Los Angeles’ US Bank Tower (generally known as the “Library Tower” to locals) is 71Above.  A relatively new restaurant in a building with an interesting history.  Prior to 71Above’s opening in June, 2016, along with the “OUE Skyspace” observation deck on the 69th and 70th floor, this building had the somewhat dubious reputation (alleged) of being the tallest building in the US without an observation deck.

Thankfully when OUE purchased the building in 2014 they set about rectifying this omission.  Along with the observation deck came 71Above.  It’s interesting that the restaurant is actually above the observation deck.  At 950 feet above ground level, 71Above is now the highest restaurant west of the Mississippi.

So, let’s get the first questions out of the way.  Yes, the panoramic view is absolutely stunning; from Malibu to Santa Monica to LAX to Redondo Beach.  And the whole LA basing including Hollywood and Beverly Hills.  Without a doubt the most impressive view from a bar stool I’ve ever enjoyed.

           

In case you’re wondering if the brand new tallest building in LA will interfere with the view, it won’t!   You can see the Wilshire Grand Tower in the photo below, in the lower left corner.  It is below 71Above.   While the Wilshire Grand Tower is taller than the Library Tower the latter is situated further up Bunker Hill.  Thus the view is better from 71Above.

Second, the food is excellent, though a bit pricey.   But that is what I would expect.  The cuisine is ‘modern American’.   71Above offers a set menu with several first, second, and third choices.  Or you can choose from the “Bar Bites” in the Lounge.   Of course you can get the set menu in the Lounge if you choose.  There are Chef’s tables which offer views of the open kitchen and one large and two small dining rooms looking down upon Dodger Stadium, which require reservations!!  I haven’t seen these, but its a very tempting option.

The motif of the restaurant has been described at geometric-chic.  I think of it more as subdued art-deco.  In any case it is geometric, simple, and subtle without detracting from the view in any way.  71Above clearly understands that the view is the ultimate decoration and everything inside is simply secondary.

Finally, the Martini was excellent.   Very professionally prepared, quite cold, happily abundant, and delicious.  The bartenders are very professional and will ensure you’re satisfied with your drink.  My only beef with the drink, and I acknowledge that its a minor ‘nit’, was the stem.  My regular readers will know that I’m a bit of a stem snob and this Martini was not quite what what I consider a proper Martini Stem.  Despite that little oversight, the Martini was refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable.  As with the food, the drinks are a bit pricey, but not excessive.  Considering the view I think the prices are absolutely economical.

Overall 71Above gets one stem.  Martini Glass Upright
The Martinis really are quite excellent, they’re just not perfect enough to warrant my two stem award.  However, the overall atmosphere and experience are truly worth a visit.  A note of caution …. reservations are highly recommended!!!

For selection 71Above gets a A+.
Their listed Gins include Aviation, Bols Genever, Bols, Genevery Aged, Botanist, Bummer & Lazarus, Fords’s, Hendrick’s, Monkey 47, Old Raj Blue, Oxely, Plymouth, Spirit Works Barrel Aged, St. George Botanivore, St. George Dry Rye, St. George Dry Rye Reposado, Tanqueray 10, and Wilder.  Note I said ‘listed’ Gins.  They have others on the  self and the bartender noted that their selection varies from week to week.

For more information:   www.71above.com

If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe.  If not, please post a comment telling us how and why you disagree.

If you’re curious about what one vs. two stems means,
I refer you to the following:
*****   Rating Definitions   ****

The Perfect Gin Explained

I often get asked “What is the best gin?”

Apparently some people seem to think I should know.  I’m still researching that myself and until I try all the Gins I don’t think I can really give a valid assessment.   But it’s a valid question and deserves a little thought.   So I started with a bit of research on the internet (aka Google search) to see what other people were thinking.  Here are the “10 Best Gins” as determined by three different websites:

www.shortlist.com
1 Williams Chase
2 Martin Millers
3 Monkey 47
4 Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Blackfriars Gin
5 Bloom
6 Beefeater 24
7 Hendrick’s
8 Hayman’s 1850 Reserve Gin
9 Tanqueray No. 10
10 Caorunn Gin

www.independent.co.uk
1 Tanqueray 10
2 Langley’s No. 8 Gin
3 Filliers Pine Tree Blossom Gin
4 Daffy’s Premium Gin
5 Brooklyn Gin
6 Gin No. 209
7 Blackwoods Gin
8 Jinzu Gin
9 Eden Mill Love
10 Gin Mare

www.gayot.com
Anchor Old Tom Gin
Aviation Gin
Barr Hill
Caorunn Gin
Genevieve
Monkey 47 Gin
Sipsmith VJOP
Botanist Islay Dry Gin
Uncle Val’s Restorative Gin
Watershed Four Peel Gin
…..(Gayot did not rank these, just listed them as top 10.)

Notice the consistency there?  Neither did I.  In these 3 different “Top 10 Gins” there are 27 different Gins.   But I didn’t stop there!  At the end of this post are two more “Top 10 Gins” lists for further amusement.   A total of 44 different gins in 5 top 10 lists.  There is NO single gin listed on more than two lists.

There are many familiar Gins on these lists and I have tried many, and clearly not all (yet), of them.   I really like Monkey 47 and that would be on my Top 10 list and it’s on two of the lists above.   Tanqueray No. 10 is also on two of these lists but that is not one I would put on my list.  Then there is Barr Hill which I personally think is terrible (the only flavor other than juniper is honey…. just too sweet for me).

It’s worth mentioning that these lists do not specify whether these are the best gins for Martinis, Gin & Tonics, Gimlets, Negronis, or neat!  That is important.  Personally I would not ever order Hendrick’s in a Martini but I would in a G&T.   Clearly different Gin flavor profiles will work differently in a G&T vs a Singapore Sling.

What can we conclude by this?  What is the “Perfect Gin”?  My best answer is, like the Perfect Martini, the Perfect Gin is that one which most appeals to you.  You’re really going to have to try them.   Perhaps many of them.

Let’s go back to the original question that I get: “What is the best gin?”  My first reply is:  “For a Martini?  Gin and Tonic?”   Then I follow up asking whether thy like their Gin on the citrus, floral, or herbal side?   If their eyes do not glaze over at this point then we can move on and really start a discussion of flavors, profiles, and cocktail options.

A couple of final comments.   I think it is noteworthy that these 5 top 10 lists are so different.  There has been an explosion of gins in the last few years!  New distilleries entering the market and old distilleries now adding Gins to their lines.  There are now barrel aged gins, small batch gins, and reserve gins.  It’s not surprising that different people(s) would rate the gins so differently.

Finally, the few gins that did appear twice in the lists are:  Caorunn, Gin Mare, Hendrick’s, Martin Millers, Monkey 47, and Tanqueray No. 10.  If you’re looking to start exploring Gins, I would suggest you start with these.

 

www.askmen.com
1 Hendrick’s
2 Anchor Distilling Company “Genevieve” Genever Style
3 G’Vine Nouaison Gin
4 Bombay Sapphire Gin
5 Leopold Bros. Small Batch American Gin
6 Blue Ribbon London Dry Gin
7 Plymouth Gin
8 Martin Miller’s London Dry Gin
9 Tanqueray Gin
10 Gordon’s London Dry Gin

www.standard.co.uk
1 No. 209 Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Reserve Gin
2 Elephant Gin
3 Dictador Premium Columbian Aged Treasure Gin
4 Citadelle Gin
5 Cruxland Gin
6 Glendalough Gin
7 Rutte Celery Gin
8 Gin Mare
9 Blue Bottle Dry Gin
10 Hernӧ Blackcurrant Gin

What Your Martini Says About You

Enjoying a Martini at Sunset overlooking the ocean.

A friend sent me the following link to “Wine Enthusiast” Magazine with the comment that they were not sure they agreed with the story’s conclusions.  And I would agree that I’m not sure I agreed either.

But it’s an interesting read and a short read.  I offer it up here to my readers so you may make your own judgement.

What Your Martini Says About You | Wine Enthusiast Magazine

 

I always welcome suggestions for stories or links to interesting “Martini” articles, so please don’t hesitate to contribute.

Random Martini Quote of the Day

Sinatra: “Let me fix you a Martini that’s pure magic.”
Martin:  “It may not make life’s problems disappear, but it’ll certainly reduce their size.”

 

Dean Martin     sinatra

Looking for more outstanding “Martini Quotes”?  I believe we have the best collection of Martini quotes anywhere!   If you haven’t checked it out recently you should!   Click the link: Martini Quotes.

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