Cool off with creative wine and spirits pairings with cheese, chocolate and art

By Christina Campodonico

Last weekend was a scorcher. Fortunately this week offers plenty of luscious libations to help you cool off under the influence of some creative spirits.

Cool off with creative wine and spirits pairings with cheese, chocolate and art


Spike your TGIF with an extra “T” (for tequila that is) with raw chocolate bar ChocoVivo’s (12469 W. Washington Blvd., Mar Vista) specialty tequila and chocolate tasting from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on July 14. ChocoVivo chocolatier Patricia Tsai teams up with spirits expert Brendan Reynolds to lead a Mexican gastronomy session featuring fine tequilas, mezcals, chocolate and the Central American medicinal herb hoja santa.

A sweet and spicy herb that
kind of tastes like root beer, hoja santa (the “sacred leaf”) has been a key ingredient in Mexican moles, steamed dishes and a medicinal cacao tea used to treat arthritis. Tsai and Reynolds will use the herb and cacao tea as a base to create a surprise drink, as well as guide tasters through chocolate pairings with five spirits, including The Maestro Dobel Diamonte Tequila, Gran Centenario, Jose Cuervo Tradicional and Creyente Mezcal. Tickets are $45; rsvp at


Head to Santa Monica Pier from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday (July 15) for Sip & Savor, where you can explore a liquid world of wines, champagnes, gourmet juices, teas and cold brews, then nosh on specially paired cheeses, poke, ceviche, oysters, desserts and other companion bites as you take in ocean views. The price tag is a bit hefty for drinks and appetizers ($70 for general admission; $85 to get in early at 4 p.m. for a special VIP happy hour), but it’s for a good cause. Proceeds benefit MOSTe, a nonprofit helping girls from underserved areas of Los Angeles County grow into college-educated women and leaders in their communities.

The Garagiste Wine Festival also happens from 3 to 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Santa Monica Bay Women’s Club (1210 4th Street, Santa Monica). Geared toward wine connoisseurs who favor rare and hard-to-find wines, this festival celebrates micro-wineries from all over California and vintages you won’t find in the supermarket. “If you like off-the-radar wines but cringe at packed festivals, the Garagiste Festival is absolutely worth the trip,” raves LA Weekly. This year’s festival theme — “Urban Exposure” — offers urbanites the opportunity to talk with winemakers from over 50 wineries and sample over 200 ultra-premium wines alongside breads, cheeses and charcuterie. Tickets are $69, or $99 for VIP access an hour early.



The summer martini takes center stage at Wednesday’s “SummerTini Tasting” event in Downtown Culver City (between Culver and Washington boulevards and Duquesne Avenue). Participating bars and restaurants including the upscale, vegetarian-friendly Akasha and ever-classy Culver Hotel will be throwing open their doors from 5 to 9 p.m. to offer their takes on the classic cocktail. (Virgin “SummerTea-ni” versions are also available for the designated driver or under-21 set).

At the start of your martini crawl, look out for balloons marking participating businesses, and be sure to pick up an event passport and get it stamped at every stop. Once you’ve filled it up, drop it off at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (9820 Washington Blvd.) to enter a prize raffle. Americana musician Rosenda and rockabilly sensation Bert the Band will be jamming at the theater throughout the night.


Wine and art pair off from 7 to 9 p.m. next Thursday (July 20) at the Mar Vista Art Department (12513 Venice Boulevard, Mar Vista) during a “Wine + Watercolor” workshop. Get your creative juices flowing with watercolors and the fruit of the vine by making your own painting with friends, folks from the neighborhood and fellow creatives by your side. Wine and art supplies are included with your ticket ($35), but you’re welcome to bring your own materials, if you’re so inspired.


Rumor has it that the long-awaited MTN restaurant on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the latest offering from the celebrated Gjelina/Gjusta team, may begin serving Japanese cuisine before the month’s end.

Two new restaurants celebrated grand openings in Playa Vista last Thursday: a new Blue Bottle Coffee location in The Brickyard (12105 W. Waterfront Drive) and Mexican café Tocaya Organica in the Hercules Campus (12150 Millennium Drive).

— Joe Piasecki



When most of us want to express our opinion of a great meal we have nothing but words, or perhaps taking a second helping. The contributors to The Food Show, a new exhibition at BG Gallery in Bergamot Station (Unit #G8A), have a broader arsenal. Fifty artists will celebrate food in painting, sculpture, tapestries, jewelry and other media for a show that opens at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 15. Get info at

— Richard Foss