The Formosa Cafe Still Delivers Hollywood Charm

We made our second trip to this longtime Hollywood restaurant and had a grand time once again. The Formosa Cafe is noteworthy for fine Chinese food and cocktails, with an immersive interior and slick graphic design aesthetic. We were seated again in the old rail car – same booth as last time. It’s a fun space but the small table meant we had to do some table Tetris to fit things together.

We loved all the food we ordered, including the Orange Chicken and Chow Mein. The Shrimp and Pork Shu Mai from the happy hour menu were delightful, and we again enjoyed the Soup Dumplings. The portions are fairly large, so if you’re local you have the advantage for taking some home. There’s a bunch of glassware, mugs, and more available for purchase too.

Cocktails were once again a highlight, including a nice Mai Tai with light and dark rums and a hint of pineapple. The Cider House Punch has spiced rum and and a spiced apple syrup but was a bit spicy for me. Mrs. Mai Tai had the gin-based Secret Garden and the Cold Brew Martini and both were great, in fact this was her favorite Espresso Martini variant so far.

We found the service to be quite attentive and it is just so cool hanging out in an old but well-maintained restaurant with so much history. The decorative elements and lighting are very immersive and it’s a hoot to see the photos of Hollywood stars on the walls or to pass by the booth where they filmed L.A. Confidential.

Miracle Holiday Pop-Up at Brewsters Petaluma

Had a fabulous lunch with friends at Brewsters Beer Garden in Petaluma. This vast space was completely covered in holiday decorations and despite the name does have a strong cocktail program as well. So, the inclusion of the cocktail-focused pop-up from Miracle is not unexpected.

Saturday was unusually warm, which might have swelled the crowds and made it seem like everyone in the city was at Brewsters. But the effectiveness of the staff meant that our drinks and food came out quite quickly and prepared expertly. The food here leans on brisket and ribs, plus salads and sandwiches.

Brewsters does Miracle a little differently by including a couple of original cocktails on their menu that aren’t seen at other Miracle pop-up locations. We really loved Cappy’s World Famous Eggnog. Normally “world famous” in the title is a red-flag but indeed this was some really great nog, and plenty boozy thanks to the Smith & Cross overproof rum. There’s also The Krampus featuring Tequila, Sherry, and Mezcal – and served in a unique Krampus mug that’s also for sale. Miracle cocktail favorites are available too, including the wonderfully spicy and completely delicious Carol Barrel.

As with other Miracle locations, mugs, glassware, and other merch is for sale. You can even buy to-go bottles of Cappy’s World Famous Eggnog.

Brewsters has been doing Miracle for several years and have the routine down pat. Be sure to check out now through January 2nd, reservations recommended.

Craft and Classic Cocktails at Livermore’s Nightcaps at Rosetta

Finally made it out to check the cocktail offerings at Nightcaps at Rosetta in downtown Livermore. This is a coffee place named Rosetta Roasting during the day and transitions to a cocktail/desert (and yes, coffee) place during the evening. The back portion is dimly lit to set the mood. We think this would be a great place to hit before or after dinner.

There are plenty of classic cocktails on the menu, such as a Bee’s Knees, Martini, and Whiskey Sours. There’s even a nice 1944 Mai Tai that is prepared well and features traditional flavors. It didn’t bowl me over but for the venue and clientele it is perfectly reasonable.

We didn’t partake but there were a whole series of pies and cheesecakes that looked fabulous, and we could see the coffee being prepared as well as the cocktails. There’s also a small retail component with holiday offerings right now. Check it out next time you’re in downtown Livermore.

Miracle Holiday Pop-Up at the Fat Pigeon Livermore

The Fat Pigeon is the new name for the former Beer Baron in Downtown Livermore, newly reimagined as a cocktail bar. And just in time for the grand opening it’s doing the Miracle Holiday Pop-Up to acquaint guests. As such, the holiday decor was at a basic level and definitely not overflowing like places that have been doing these pop-ups for years. Nonetheless it was totally festive with music and plenty of good cheer from the guests.

That good cheer was put to the test due a staff member arriving late and also to an imprecise order for tables to be serviced (guess which table seemed to be in the black hole?). These issues can arise anytime but obviously when places are new and also super busy.

This year’s Miracle offerings were just as nicely varied as in past years, where classic cocktails get the holiday spice and ingredient twists to go along with festive names and fun glassware.

The Jingle Balls Nog was just okay, but we liked the Espresso Martini riff called Rudolph’s Replacement (served in the classic “Santa Rex” mug). Old favorite Yippee Ki Yay, Mother F****r is a Piña Colada riff with Ube Orgeat and just as great this year as it was last time. The Koala Cooler features Applejack and spice and I think felt the most like a Fall/Winter drink. The Christmapolitan had some really interesting flavors including a spiced cranberry syrup and it had a little bit of an apple taste to me, but still quite good. Elfing Around #2 with cognac and champagne was elegant and the mulled wine reduction served the holiday theme very well.

New this year is Marshmallows & Unicorns, served in a mug that was right up Mrs. Mai Tai’s alley. Definitely a little sweet leaning and including soda to lighten things up, this was a treat for several senses. The mug was priced at $20 at Fat Pigeon.

We really enjoyed our time at Miracle and are pleased to see a good new cocktail place in Livermore.

Rooftop Bars in Healdsburg

We tried a couple of the rooftop bar/restaurants in Healdsburg with mixed results.

First was Roof 106, connected The Matheson that’s on the ground floor, situated off Healdsburg’s central plaza but due to other buildings and the well grown trees there isn’t much in the way of a view. Our dinner was light leaning, a very nice hummus plate and some sushi hand rolls that neither of us loved.

The cocktails at Roof 106 were a lot better, though. I absolutely loved the Modern Margarita using clarified lime, so well rounded with a rich mouthfeel. I went off menu for a “shaken lime daiquiri with Panama Pacific rum” but the bill stated that the just okay daiquiri was made with Paranubes rum. Oops. Mrs. Mai Tai got a good one with a pumpkin spiced whiskey sour served up.

“View” of the Plaza

The Rooftop on top of the modern Harmon Guest House hotel offered a more traditional and open air rooftop bar. We were seated by a fire fit but could see that tables along the perimeter of the restaurant and lounge had a great view of Healdsburg’s central business district. We had some Riccota Doughnuts with berry compote that were delicious.

Drinks were pretty good at The Rooftop, including an Espresso-Tini that Mrs. Mai Tai thought was one of the best she’s had. I had the Cozy Bear, a Whiskey Sour made with Agave Nectar that was also quite good. We felt the service here was outstanding as well.

Great drinks at The Rooftop at Harmon Guest House

Lo & Behold – Craft Cocktails in Healdsburg

We were in Healdsburg for the weekend and visited bar and restaurant Lo & Behold a couple times. There’s a nice interior with a large patio out back with shade cloth and heaters in the evening. The staff here are friendly and we liked the food and cocktails.

Birds & the Beez and Chi-Chi

One item in their menu is the “World’s Best Vodka Soda” which I found interesting in that I’ve always viewed this cocktail as a weird phenomenon. I like the taste of alcohols but appreciate that others don’t, but why mix it with flavorless soda water? Because it’s low calorie, seemed to be the consensus. But I ordered it anyway and then replayed the scene from “Elf”. To me it tasted like a crappy glass of Vodka Soda, but it apparently it’s the best.

We had better luck with our other cocktails. The cocktail of the week was a Chi-Chi, sweet like you’d expect but with bitters to give it a little twist. The Figgy Smalls was on special and also nice.

Fifty Shades and Figgy Smalls

I tried a couple Bourbon cocktails. The Witching Hour didn’t have the heavier mouthfeel I was expecting but did taste nice and the Manhattan riff called Fifty Shades was very good.

Our two favorites were Can’t Stop Won’t Stop with KōHana Rum, gin, basil, and aquafaba. Definitely well-balanced. The Birds & the Beez featured lavender and hibiscus and was totally refreshing.

Definitely worth checking out in downtown Healdsburg.

Witching Hour

Prohibition Bar at Foshay Tower in Minneapolis

We wanted to visit the iconic Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis, but their 32nd floor observation deck is only open Fri-Sun. The 30th floor museum is open every day, though, and is worth a quick visit. We made do by visiting the Prohibition Bar on the 27th floor for some great cocktails and also some nice views through the windows.

My cocktail was the Sidecar (without a sugar rim), which is my usual go-to for places like this where ordering a daiquiri is sometimes refused like it was this time (though I sometimes wonder if the server thinks a blender is needed…). And Prohibition’s Sidecar was really great.

There was sort of a mix-up with the cocktail. The server asked if I wanted brandy or cognac and I asked for cognac. The actual spirit used was middle-tier rather than lower-tier from the list (I didn’t call a specific brand, neither did the server), so it was a little pricier than I expected. But, like I said, the cocktail was fantastic. We worked it out with the server in the end.

The trendy W Hotel has a great lobby bar on the first floor of this iconic building. It’s a really interesting building to check out in Minneapolis.