Thursday, October 8, 2015

Thirsty Thursday: Cocktails and Happy Hour at California Pizza Kitchen

When you think of California Pizza Kitchen fancy/craft cocktails aren't on the mind, only delicious and innovative pizzas.  I recently had a chance to sit down with the SVP of culinary development/head chef Brian Sullivan to try some of the fall items (review coming soon) as well as the cocktails and I couldn't have been more impressed. Every drink that I tried was exciting and never left that sugary gross feeling that you often get from cocktails. I was especially pleased to learn that their cocktails that involve fruit all have FRESH fruit puree - nothing bottled/jarred, which is really apparent when you drink them. 

California Pizza Kitchen Happy Hour
"Let's Get Happy"
Monday-Thursday at the bar 3pm-6pm & 8:30-close
$4 Draft Beer - Sam Adams & Blue Moon
$4 Bottles Beer - Stella, Corona Extra, New Castle
$5 Wines by the glass (3 whites & 3 reds)
$5 Premium Well Drinks
$6 Fresh Agave Lime Margarita
$6 Hand Shaken Agave Mojito

I'm going to start with my favorite (and Brian's fav too!), the California Roots svedka vodka, fresh avocado and mint, fresh agave sour, fennel salt rim. This drink is an original CPK creation and one of a kind until someone knocks it off. At first I was hesitant of a drink made with avocado but I was pleasantly surprised. Normally I am not a huge fan of licorice flavor (fennel seed) but it paired nicely. It was creamy, light and fresh. 
CPK offers a seasonal sangria, and luckily as it was only a week or so away from fall when I did the tasting, I got to try the summer and fall sangria's. Fall's Sangria is a Blood Orange Sangria, using fresh blood orange puree. This was fresh and not overly sweet which I find that some white sangria's can be - another one of my favorites. The summer sangria, Seasonal Harvest was also quite tasty - I liked the addition of grapes! 
Blueberry Ginger Smash Jack Daniels Whiskey, agave nectar, domaine de canton ginger, fresh blueberries and lime, cranberry juice. You can't go wrong with whiskey, and I like the fruity change from what I normally mix it with - coke or ginger-ale.  
The Executive Decision tequila blanco, muddled mint, agave sour, agave nectar, lime - created by the CEO of CPK, and what I think to refer to as a minty margarita. This drink is refreshing and light. 
This baby will knock you off your feet if you are not careful, The California Crush boasts Absolut Mandrin, Absolut Citron, muddled mint with fresh orange and lemon. Mostly vodka, this drink is delightfully fresh and citrus - the citrus masks the taste of vodka. I could see myself going though more then a few of these and getting into trouble. 
The Coconut Blossom Mandarin Blossom Vodka Casamigos Tequila Blanco, agave sour, pureed coconut, fresh pineapple is a pleasant spin on a pina colada ...switching it up a little with the addition of tequila and vodka. A drink that transports you to a tropical island that won't kill you with the sugar. 
Basically, next time you are in the mood for drinks...and I mean more then your typical jack and coke (which they have if that is what your heart desires), you only need to head to California Pizza Kitchen - no more traveling to some fancy pants place in DC. Plus - you can get some great noms to have with your cocktails aka delicious pizza! 

1201 South Hayes Street
Suite F
Arlington, VA
California Pizza Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Friday, September 18, 2015

Alexandria: Bon Vivant Cafe

Back at the end of March (whoops!) I was invited to a media dinner at Bon Vivant Cafe in Del Ray, Alexandria. Daylight savings hadn't hit yet and the lights were dimmed for the dinner ambiance so my photos sucked, hence the lack of a post. I enjoyed the experience and made a mental note to come back and try them out, finally managing to do so recently. 

Bon Vivant was started by a husband and wife team - Jawad and Tania. They originally began serving food at local farmers markets but grew in popularity and decided to open a restaurant! Their goal is to "celebrate the ingredients," letting them speak for themselves. Jawad ran the media tasting and let us know his favorites depend on the day but he prefers the Tarragon Chicken Salad and the meatballs. 
When we came in March, they mentioned they were in process of building a patio (which was apparently kickstarter funded). They did a great job, it really is lovely and is the type of patio that makes you sad the season is about to be over. 
Mac and I both ordered smoothies. I went for the Green Refresh cucumber, spinach, mint, avocado, lime + green tea $5.90 because I knew I would probably be indulging in dinner (although I ate a sandwich for lunch soo I don't really know what was going through my mind). I enjoyed this as much as I could enjoy a green drink and did not think it was too overwhelming as it lacked a sweet (apple, pineapple, etc) addition. Mac ordered the Mango Basil mangos, strawberries, basil, oj $5.90 and she really liked it. 
Carrie and I both took the carb filled route and ordered sandwiches, which are served with a side of greens. I went with the Italian Sandwich prosioutto, smoked gouda, tomato and basil $10.25. Carrie ordered the Roasted Beef with Blue Cheese Dressing $10.50. Both sandwiches were good, but needed a little more substance inside to balance out the amount of bread. The baguette stole the show and was fluffy and crunchy and soft and tasty. 
Mac took the healthy, smart route and ordered the Southwest Salad grilled local-pastured chicken, bell peppers, avocado, corn + habanero tomato dressing $11.95This salad was packed full of flavor. The habenero tomato dressing had a slight kick to it, and for those that shy away from spicy, I was told it was manageable. Bonus points, this salad had a half of an avocado on it! 
Feeling slightly under the weather Carrie also ordered the 72-hour 100% Grass-fed Beef Broth $5. The flavor is a little bland, but when she dipped her steak sandwich in it, she said it made the perfect aus jus. Beef broth seems to be a new health trend. A glass of broth a day is said to help with digestion, skin (something about the collagen) and other things - check out here for more. But hey, if Chuck Norris drinks beef broth, then perhaps I can get on board with this new trend.  
When I came for the media tasting we also got to try a variety of soups, including a Chickpea and Kale soup that I was head over heals for. The soup was gluten free, dairy free and vegan - yet packed full of flavor and texture. We also tried a Key Lime Parfait that the table all really enjoyed. If you have any sort of dietary restriction or are looking for a sugarless dessert this is a good option - however I prefer my desserts to be full of fat and sugar and butter and would most likely not order it unless I had to because of my diet. 

All in all round 2 was a great experience - I wish it was a little closer to my office as they have some really impressive salads which Old Town severely lacks. 

Would I come back? Yes. In addition to their cafe, they have a little shop that serves locally sourced goods, including some amazing bread. I also want to try a few more of their salads.

2016 Mount Vernon Ave
Alexandria, VA
Bon Vivant Cafe + Farm Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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