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Los Angeles Scariest, Thrilling, Tastiest, Most Fun Halloween Event List 2023 (Updated)

Los Angeles’ Scariest, Thrilling, Tastiest, Most Fun Halloween Event 2023 (Updated)

Our guide to Halloween 2023 in Los Angeles has you covered with the best treats, the most inspiring costumes and the best neighborhoods for fun, frights and memorable nights.

Los Angeles' Freakiest, Scariest, Tastiest, Halloween Event List 2023 (Updated)

Haunted houses a big part of the season here — with theme parks and Hollywood professional effects artists. 

Let the countdown begin!

 

Universal Studios’  Halloween Horror Nights

Universal Studios’  Halloween Horror Nights

Legend has it you should never go alone to Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights, Southern California’s scariest Halloween event. Summon your scream squad and you might survive.

You’ll be able to navigate multiple scare zones and mazes, including ones based on The Last of Us, Stranger Things, Evil Dead Rise, The Exorcist: Believer, Chucky, the classic Universal Monsters.

8 Terrifying Haunted Houses and the Terror Tram

Enter haunted houses inspired by the biggest names in horror, plus the Terror Tram is back and scarier than ever. You’re never quite sure if your spine is tingling with dread or sheer excitement.

Info and tickets here: https://www.halloweenhorrornights.com

Delusion

Delusion

Delusion

Since 2011, guests have played their part in the most visceral, captivating and unique live experience in the world. A living, breathing world of fantastical horror where stories come to vivid life

Devoted fans will be swallowed into various stories and connect with characters both dire and beloved as they track down the mysterious author behind the Delusion series and learn of a disturbing agenda.

Info and tix: https://enterdelusion.com

West Hollywood Halloween Carnival

West Hollywood Halloween Carnival

West Hollywood loves Halloween, and the City of West Hollywood is thrilled that Halloween is back with Halloween Carnaval 2023!

The City’s incomparable Halloween Carnaval is one of the most unique Halloween gatherings in the world.

Halloween Carnaval is free to attend and will take place on Tuesday, October 31, 2023 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on a one-mile stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard between N. Doheny Drive and N. La Cienega Boulevard.

Staged on Santa Monica Boulevard/Historic Route 66, Halloween Carnaval will feature a stage at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and N. San Vicente Boulevard with a live DJ set, food trucks and thousands of wildly dressed Halloween revelers for a one-of-a-kind experience.

There will also be Halloween celebrations at businesses, bars, restaurants and entertainment venues throughout the City!

The City invites Halloween Carnaval-goers to get into the spirit and show off costumes by uploading photos to social media sites with the hashtag #wehohalloween.

More info West Hollywood Halloween Carnival

 

All Hallow's Weed in the Heart of West Hollywood at The Artist Tree 

Cake Moss Hosts Spook-tacular All Hallow’s Weed in the Heart of West Hollywood at The Artist Tree

It’s time to get spooky at West Hollywood’s favorite cannabis lounge! Cake Moss hosts this year’s Hallo-weedparty at The Artist Tree, which includes tricks and treats of all sorts  in the form of spooky themed cannabis cocktails, entertainment, and some ghostly surprises.

Costumes are highly encouraged, as The Artist Tree is hosting a contest that starts at 8pm. Enter if you dare to be fabulous and leave with some goodies and perhaps even a chance to be entered into the West Hollywood Community Costume Contest on Halloween night that will feature celebrity judges.

For info and tix to: All Hallow’s Weed at The Artist Tree 

West Hollywood Halloween Harvest Haunt

West Hollywood Halloween Harvest Haunt

Rosemary’s Baby at the Orpheum.

Rosemary’s Baby at the Orpheum.

Cinespia

 

This Halloween see spooky films screened in a cemetery. This October, Cinespia will be showing Halloween and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, The Ring at L.A. State Historic Park and Rosemary’s Baby at the Orpheum.

Info and tix for Cinespia

"Hocus Pocus" at Rooftop Cinema Club

“Hocus Pocus” at Rooftop Cinema Club

Rooftop Cinema Club

“Come, we fly!” Over the years, watching Hocus Pocus during the Halloween season has become a tradition for everyone, including us here at RCC. And now we have an even better reason to play this classic because it turns 30 this year! Come out to celebrate its anniversary at one of our many screenings throughout October!

Info and tix for Rooftop Cinema Club

Walt Disney Concert Hall's The Phantom of the Opera.

Walt Disney Concert Hall’s The Phantom of the Opera.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Each year the Walt Disney Concert Hall adds a little bit of Frank Gehry architecture to Halloween with a silent film screening accompanied by organist Clark Wilson for an extra eerie feel. This year, take a seat for the silent 1925 masterpiece The Phantom of the Opera.

Info and tix for Walt Disney Concert Hall’s The Phantom of the Opera.

The Bride of Frankenstein with Live Orchestra

Break out the hairspray and spend Halloween with Elsa Lanchester and Boris Karloff!

This year, our hugely popular annual celebration of horror and live music at the breathtaking Theatre at Ace Hotel presents film director James Whale’s chilling The Bride of Frankenstein, with one of the most iconic “wedding” scenes in cinematic history.

As this 1935 horror classic plays out larger than life on the silver screen, the magnificent musicians of the LA Opera Orchestra, conducted by Jenny Wong, perform Franz Waxman’s groundbreaking original soundtrack score live. It’s the ultimate cinematic experience!

Info and tix: The Bride of Frankenstein with Live Orchestra

Tim Burton’s the Nightmare Before Christmas Live with Danny Elfman

Tim Burton’s the Nightmare Before Christmas Live with Danny Elfman

Tim Burton’s the Nightmare Before Christmas Live with Danny Elfman

Danny Elfman steps back into the role of Jack Skellington for a live performance and screening of The Nightmare Before Christmas at the Hollywood Bowl.

Featuring Elfman, Catherine O’Hara (Sunday), Halsey (Fri/Sat), Fred Armisen, Riki Lindhome (Fri/Sat) and Ken Page with a live orchestra!

Come early for Halloween Fun featuring a costume contest hosted by Greg Proops (“Who’s Line is it Anyway?”) and explore the Hollywood Bowl transformed into Halloween Town for in an incredible trick-or-treat adventure, fun for kids of all ages!

Info and tix: Tim Burton’s the Nightmare Before Christmas Live with Danny Elfman

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Masters of Taste 2024 on April 7 — Introduces Event Hosts Executive Chef Bret Thompson & Lucy Thompson-Ramirez from Pez Cantina

Masters of Taste 2024 Introduces Event Hosts Executive Chef Bret Thompson & Lucy Thompson-Ramirez from Pez Cantina

Come celebrate and be part of the seventh annual Masters of Taste, L.A.’s premier outdoor, luxury food and beverage festival returns and will be taking place on Sunday, April 7th, 2024, from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm on the field of the Iconic Pasadena Rose Bowl.

 Iconic Pasadena Rose Bowl for Masters of Taste 2024

 Iconic Pasadena Rose Bowl for Masters of Taste 2024 // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

100% of the proceeds will directly benefit Union Station Homeless Services, a non-profit organization providing over 50 years of homeless services and housing for thousands of neighbors.

Masters of Taste is introducing Chef Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez as the Hosts of Masters of Taste 2024 which also marks the 7th Anniversary of this celebrated event.

Masters of Taste 2024 Culinary Master and Host Executive Chef Bret Thompson and Pez Boss Lady Lucy Thompson-Ramirez are a dynamic husband and wife team that have made a significant impact in the hospitality industry.

With their passion for culinary excellence and warm hospitality, they have created a signature name for themselves in the Los Angeles dining scene and beyond.

Executive Chef Bret Thompson

Executive Chef Bret Thompson // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Chef Bret Thompson’s culinary journey began at the renowned California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. He honed his skills at esteemed establishments such as Aqua in San Francisco, Roy’s in Hawaii, and Pinot Blanc in St. Helena, California.

Seeking international inspiration, Chef Bret traveled to Spain to study under Chef Martin Berasategui at Restaurante Martin Berasategui, a Michelin 2-star establishment in Lasarte, Spain.

He further expanded his culinary repertoire in Lebanon at Atlas Café, then studied under Chef Bernard Loiseau at La Cote d’Or his Michelin 3-star restaurant in Saulieu, France, and then L’Arpege, Chef Alain Passard’s Michelin 2-star restaurant in Paris.

Throughout his career, Bret also had an extensive tenure with The Patina Group, working at multiple restaurants, running catering operations and ultimately becoming the Corporate Executive Chef overseeing all restaurant operations for the entire group. While there Bret garnered accolades, including being named “Chef of the Year 2002” by the Orange County Business Journal during his time as Executive Chef at Catal Restaurant in Anaheim.

Eventually, Bret moved on and co-founded and became a partner at the iconic MILK Ice Cream Parlor & Bakeshop in Los Angeles and he also opened his own Market Restaurant and Catering, which he successfully sold in 2014.
In 2015, Chef Bret Thompson joined forces with his wife, Lucy Thompson-Ramirez, to embark on a new culinary adventure as the proud owners of Pez Cantina.

This seasonal, modern, coastal-inspired Mexican restaurant and bar, located in downtown Los Angeles, quickly became a beloved dining destination and in October 2021, they expanded with a new location LA Burrito in Montebello, California.

Pez Boss Lady Lucy Thompson-Ramirez

Pez Boss Lady Lucy Thompson-Ramirez // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Lucy Thompson-Ramirez brings her unique perspective and expertise to the front of the house at Pez Cantina. Born in Guanajuato, Mexico, Lucy migrated to the United States with her family at a young age. She pursued her education at the University of Santa Barbara, majoring in Sociology and minoring in Spanish.

Lucy’s first career path led her into the fashion industry, where she excelled in sales and later established her own showroom with her brother called Siblings Showroom. After a successful 18-year tenure in fashion, Lucy made a seamless transition into the hospitality industry alongside her husband.

Hitching Post  // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Hitching Post // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

At Pez Cantina, Lucy’s warm and welcoming demeanor shines as she personally greets regulars by name and fosters new connections. Her dedication to providing a home-like atmosphere has made Pez Cantina feel like an extension of their own family.

In recognition of her leadership and contribution to the industry, Lucy was appointed as President of the Latino Restaurant Association in 2023 and serves on the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board.

Outside of their professional endeavors, Bret and Lucy are dedicated parents to their two boys and they prioritize family time, often found supporting their children’s activities or enjoying a cozy evening at home.

Incredible food on the field of Rose Bowl Stadium  // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Incredible food on the field of Rose Bowl Stadium // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

In February 2024, Executive Chef Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez opened Pez Coastal Kitchen, their new upscale seafood focused eatery in Pasadena. Offering a diverse menu featuring sea-to-table and farm-to-table cuisine, while showcasing the best of seasonal California flavors, Pez Coastal Kitchen highlights expertise in curing, smoking and dry-aging meats and seafood, as well as their partnerships with local farmers and specialty producers.

Makers Mark at the Rose Bowl  // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Makers Mark at the Rose Bowl // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

With a focus on creating a modern coastal dining experience, Chef Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez continue to innovate and reinvent themselves and they aim to contribute to Pasadena’s thriving culinary scene and bring a fresh and exciting new concept to Pasadena.

Sake High // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Sake High // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Pez Coastal Kitchen promises a unique blend of California coastal cuisine, thoughtfully crafted cocktails, specially curated wines, special selection of craft beer and Chef Bret and Lucy’s dedication to excellence ensures an unforgettable dining experience that celebrates vibrant flavors and genuine hospitality.

Knox Dobson  // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Knox Dobson // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Masters of Taste 2023 was a sold-out event that attracted over 3,000 guests and garnered media attention all throughout Southern California and beyond.

The seventh annual Masters of Taste 2024 is also expected to bring over 3,000 food and beverage enthusiasts together for one afternoon to celebrate this exhilarating festival, which will include the finest fare from over 100 Culinary Masters and restaurants, delectable sweets prepared by L.A.’s top Sweet Masters, top Beverage Masters who will be featuring signature handcrafted cocktail tastings from over 25 spirit brands and top cocktail bars, select wineries, local craft breweries, cold brew coffee, live entertainment and much, much more.

Kimlai Yingling // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Kimlai Yingling // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

 

Some of this year’s Masters of Taste 2024 participating Culinary Masters and Restaurants include:

Pez Cantina Village and Pez Coastal Kitchen Seafood Village by Santa Monica Seafood 2024 Event Hosts Chef Bret Thompson & Lucy Thompson-Ramirez – Downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena

1212 Santa Monica Chef Oliver Malmsten – Santa Monica

Arth Bar + Kitchen Chef Mihir Lad – Culver City

Agnes Restaurant and Cheesery Chef Vanessa Tilaka Kalb & Chef Thomas Tilaka Kalb  – Pasadena

Alexander’s Steakhouse Chef Frederico Villanueva – Pasadena

Ayara Thai Chef Vanda Asapahu & Chef Cathy Asapahu – Westchester

BAAR BAAR Los Angeles Chef Sujan Sarkar – Downtown Los Angeles

Beachy’s Food Truck Chef Pablo Camacho – South Gate

BOX Chicken Chef Noah Clark – Los Angeles

Casa Cordoba Chef Eric Zada – Montrose

Celestino Ristorante Chef Calogero Drago – Pasadena

Cerda Vega Tacos Chef Daniel Vega – Santa Clarita

Champion’s CURRY Chef Yoya Takahashi – Downtown Los Angeles

Chaaste Family Market Chef Gabriel Esteban – Pasadena

City Club Los Angeles Chef Armando Quiroz – Downtown Los Angeles

Emporium Thai Chef John Sungkamee – Los Angeles

Fat Boys Chef Michael Gray – Pasadena, Los Angeles

Gabi James Sarah Gabriele & Adam Aro – Redondo Beach

Georgia’s Restaurant Nika Shoemaker-Machado – Anaheim, Long Beach

Granville Pasadena Chef Marc Dix – Pasadena

Gus’s World-Famous Fried Chicken Chef Mynor Espinoza – Burbank, Long Beach, Los Angeles

Harold & Belle’s Chef Ryan Legaux – Los Angeles

Italia Pasta e Pizza Chef Ivan Capasso – Covina

La Bohéme Chef David Gualberto – West Hollywood

LAVO Ristorante Chef Luca Maita – West Hollywood

Lunasia Chef Lee Han Fu – Pasadena, Alhambra, Cerritos

MAMA M SUSHI Chef Jack Supachai – Pasadena

Marina Chef Harout Borsikian – Pasadena

Mercado Chef Jose Acevedo – Hollywood, Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Pasadena, Santa Monica

Panda Inn Chef Yang – Pasadena

Poppy + Rose Chef Michael Reed – Downtown Los Angeles

Rice Balls of Fire Chef Jorman Herrera – Arieta

Room Service Neighborhood Chef Gloria Chicas – Los Angeles

Santa Monica Seafood Chef Sherrod Nichols – Santa Monica

Soulmate Chef David Joyce – West Hollywood

StopBye Café – Lynwood

Taishi Hainan Chicken Chef Theo Shio – Redondo Beach, Long Beach

The Peppered Goat Chef JohnPaul Arabome – Van Nuys, Las Vegas

UCHI West Hollywood Chef Joel Hammond – West Hollywood

YAKIYA Chef Ling – Pasadena

Yardbird Chef Alvaro Rayon de Jaime – Los Angeles

Yuca’s Restaurant Socorro “Mama Yuca’s” Herrera – Pasadena

 

Sweet Masters: A select group of Los Angeles Top Sweet Masters will showcase an assortment of delectable desserts such as Bachan’s Shave Ice, warm chocolate chip cookies from BAKE SOME NOISE, Beard Papa’s, Bertha Mae’s Brownies, By Faith Café, Gooey Center Bakery, Happy Ice LA, Läderach,deliciously scrumptious scratch baked custom cakes from Cakes By Chanté and cupcakes from Lark Cake Shop, Magpies Softserve, Marsatta Chocolate,Nothing Bundt Cakes, Pops Artisanal Creamery, Pazzo Gelato, Porto’s Bakery & Café, and more.

Some of this year’s participating Beverage Masters include:

Bars & Spirits: Some of L.A.’s top bartenders and cocktail bars will be creating first-rate craft cocktails and top brands showcasing their finest spirits at Masters of Taste will include Dead of Night Distillery, Dulce Vida Tequila, Empress 1908 Gin, Knox & Dobson, La Bay Gin, Laurel Canyon Spirits, Lunetta, Mario’s Hard Espresso, Mezcal 33, Neft VodkaNosotros Tequila & Mezcal, Old Hillside Bourbon Company, Smoke Lab Vodka, The Raymond 1886, Ventura Spirits and Angeleno Spritz, Vintage Distilling, and Xoloitzcuintle Tequila.

Brewmasters: Beverage Masters who specialize in barley and hops will be presenting top-notch ales, lagers, pilsners and more for guests to sample, sip and savor all throughout the event, including Southern California favorites L.A.’s All Season Brewing, Arrow Lodge Brewing, Arts District Brewing Company, Big Noise Beer, Boomtown Brewery, Pasadena’s Cerveceria Del Pueblo, Kanazawa Hyakumangoku Beer, Arcadia’s first Microbrewery Mt. Lowe Brewing Co., Nova Brewing Co., Over Town Brewing Co., San Fernando Brewing Co., and Tarantula Hill Brewing Co.

Wineries and Sake: A specially curated collection of Wine and Sake Masters will be showcasing their finest varietals including premium boutique winery Ascension Cellars, Bodegas de Santo Tomas, BONDLE Wines, CRŪ Winery, Golden Star Vineyards, Hitching Post Wines, LMA Wines,Moraga Canyon Vineyards, Anderson Valley’s Navarro Vineyards, NON (Non-alcoholic Wine Alternatives), Sake Akagisan, Sake High!, San Simeon Wines, Stephen Hemmert Wines, Warson Wine Company, Wiens Cellars, and more.

Non-Alcoholic Beverages: A variety of premium non-alcoholic Beverage Masters will also be on hand for those who wish to hydrate, caffeinate or regenerate featuring 2024 premier water master Perfect Hydration Alkaline Water, Yerba Mate from Erva Brew Co., Koe Kombucha, boba milk tea from Sunright Tea Studio and Bearology, and Unincorporated Coffee Roasters.

 

Every dollar raised at the Masters of Taste 2024 will benefit the work of Union Station Homeless Services (Union Station), a local organization successfully fighting to end homelessness. Over the last six years, Masters of Taste has impressively raised close to $3 Million, helping countless families and individuals find a secure and welcoming place to call home. What is more impressive is that Union Station has seen a 97% Success Rate in permanently housing people since adopting the Housing First model. Their mission transcends just providing temporary shelters; they are committed to creating lasting solutions for homelessness through housing, supportive services, and connection to the community. Over the past 50 years, Union Station has grown to be one of the best homeless services agencies in Los Angeles and is the lead County agency for Service Planning Area 3 (SPA 3), coordinating homeless services in 38 communities spanning from Eagle Rock to Pomona.

Masters of Taste 2024 is a 100% outdoor event. Additionally, all guests will be receiving their very own utensils and hand sanitizer to use throughout the event.

Mark your calendars and save-the-date for the return of the seventh annual Masters of Taste 2024!

 

Ticket Information: Masters of Taste 2024 will take place on Sunday, April 7th, 2024, and this is a 21+ event. A VIP Power Hour will be held from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm and General Admission will be from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Tickets are on sale now. For more information on Masters of Taste 2024, please visit www.MastersofTasteLA.com.

Passover Wines for 2024! Taste these Beverly Hills Wine Suggestion from Kosher Expert

Wine Expert Jay Buchsbaum from Kosher.com Reveals Perfect Passover Wines Pairings for Passover 2024

Passover starts Monday April 22 at sundown and ends April 30th. But today’s conversation is about the flavors of Seder dinner.  

Jay Buchsbaum

Royal Wine and Kosher.com’s Jay Buchsbaum visits to talk about flavor, tradition, tastes for every family member and what’s exciting in the wine world for 2024.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full, unedited conversation, visit our FlavRReport YouTube channel.

 

Joe Winger: Jay, welcome back.  I appreciate that you’re returning.  Last time was great and we learned alot.

Jay Buchsbaum: Thank you for having me. Wow. This is great. So getting invited back for a second date, that’s really cool.

Joe Winger: Passover is just around the corner and we want to talk about different over wines to enjoy during the celebration and some great wine pairings.

I wanted to start off with what might be one of the popular new bottles – Carmel Black Cabernet Sauvignon.

Jay Buchsbaum:  It’s very hot and the reason it’s very hot is because people want something that’s rich and flavorful, especially the American palate, what we call the New World style.  

Opulence, fruit forward, but they don’t want to spend a fortune like you’d have to from some fancy vineyard in Napa or from Judean Hills. When it comes to Israel or the Golan Heights, and this is one of those wines where they’ve put together this at the beginning of opulence, lots of fruit forwardness, 14 months in oak and about $25.

So it’s really one of those really wonderful wines. What I noticed, and they say they forgot to do it, but I noticed that it does not have an appellation specific, except for Israel.  The reason I believe the winemaker did that –  I don’t know for sure – he talks about it on the back [of the bottle] that they brought the grapes from some of the finest vineyards.  He chose small amounts [of grapes] from the best vineyards from different places and put them all together, carefully crafting it so that it’s big and rich and flavorful and still under $30 bucks.

Joe Winger: That sounds amazing. What are some good food pairings that you’d recommend with it?

Jay Buchsbaum: A roast would be great. On the first and second night of Passover, we don’t officially roast anything because we don’t want people to think that it was a sacrificial lamb that was done in Egypt because we don’t have it today yet.

Until the reestablishment of the temple on the Temple Mount at some future time. 

So people cook a roast in the oven, it’s not barbecued. That’s what they’re talking about from a historical, spiritual sense –  but a delicious roast, maybe chicken marsala, where you have mushrooms and caramelized onions, you have a really rich flavor to go with that.

A lot of the Sephardic foods are like that too. We talked about traditional foods. Traditional foods from where? Sometimes it’s Eastern Europe, sometimes it’s Middle Eastern, and sometimes it’s Sephardic.

Lots of seders have a mix of all [cuisines] because you have melded families.

 

Joe Winger: Royal Wine currently has a wide roster of wine suggestions for Passover  Something for every adult at the table, from Grandpa to 25 year old Grand-daughter and her boyfriend.

 

Jay Buchsbaum: That’s a great point.  I’m going to give you the last one first only because I thought this was so much fun when I thought about it and I actually might do it. 

Let’s say the boyfriend is coming over. He wants to bring you something and he doesn’t know what to get you because, he’s not that observant..

So I thought, why don’t you end the meal with something Sparkling. The Momentous Rosé. That might be fun. You go out with a pop, so to speak. There’s Vera Wang’s  Prosecco Rose that’s also wonderful.   Both around $20.

But if you want to go really high end, why not go with the Rothschild Brut Rosé from Champagne, which is magnificent.  It’s 100% Pinot Noir, and about $100 a bottle.

So you have great diversity and  accessible and quite delicious sparkling wines.

Grandpa, or if you have a real fine wine guy. You have beautiful wines from the Rothschild vineyards, the Haute Medoc. which is in the upper $30s, and then you even have Grand Cru’s LesCombes, Grand Cru Margaux as an example, and some amazing wines from the Herzog Winery in California like the Alexander Valley Herzog Reserve, or the Napa Valley Herzog Reserve.  

We have a beautiful Lake County Reserve Cabernet from California. Big, opulent, delicious, mouth filling. 

I start my Seder usually with a rosé.  The reason for that is because you’re starting your Seder, having eaten nothing pretty much since the morning. So you’re on an empty stomach and the tradition is to finish at least the first glass. So I try to start with a rosé.  It’s a little lighter, a little lower in alcohol, a little lighter in texture and, and I like to start with an Israeli wine first.

Joe Winger: Iis there a hidden gem as far as just high quality with amazing value?

Jay Buchsbaum: There’s a really wonderful wine from New Zealand.

It’s a white wine, not a red wine. It’s made by the Rothschild family, but it’s made in New Zealand, called Rimapere Sauvignon Blanc. Less than $30 for sure.  Fresh, sweet lemons, but with enough acidity and structure, almost like a palette cleanser.

Joe Winger:  Anything that you’re looking forward to in the next few  months that wine lovers should be getting excited for?

Jay Buchsbaum: We were missing rosés from Israel for a whole year because of the sabbatical year. We skipped that vintage of roses, and so they’re back for the first time in 24 months for this Passover.

I love some of the new Italian wines. One of them to take a look at is Cantina Giuliano.  it’s a boutique winery. They make 3,000 – 4,000 cases maximum. It’s run by a young couple and I just had them over at my house for Sabbath Shabbat.  His wines blew people away.

I think the most exciting thing is our new winemaker and what our new winemakers is doing with our grapes. His selection and his final product over at the Herzog Wine Cellars. And that could be

Our new winemaker, his name is David Galzignato. He’s with us about three years and he has a background that is with some of the finest and smallest, medium sized boutiques. 

He was going to be moving to France, going to go for his MW [masters of wine] and they asked him if he’d come and consider working with us and he did. He has been making literally blow your brains out wonderful wines so our Napa Cabernet, our Alexander Valley Cabernet are just up and down the line, the wines, especially the reds are just rich and opulent.

He got Joseph Herzog to buy a visual sorter, they range in cost between a $100,000 – 1 million dollar machine.

What they do is when the grapes come in [during harvest] and there’s something called sorting tables.

Done by hand [vineyard workers literally sorting through the harvested grape bunches, looking for]  damaged or a little beat up or whatever, and they only allow the perfect grapes to go through. 

This visual sorter does this electronically by computer, so nothing is missed, zero. As a result, the grape quality is much higher

Famously said in The New Yorker Years ago, “There’s only three things that matter in good winemaking. Good grapes. Good grapes. Good grapes.”

So, the fruit that we get and the fruit that we end up making wine out of is literally the most important thing.

By using these kinds of methods, which are not inexpensive. But the quality is through the roof. We’re looking to make a 100 point wine one of these days and I think it might we might get close this year. 

LA Love Tequila! Now Madre Mezcal offers a Gateway to a Better Taste

LA Love Tequila! Now Madre Mezcal offers a Gateway to a Better Taste

Today’s conversation is with Ryan Fleming from Madre Mezcal.  The LA nightlife veteran reveals his time working behind the bar in some of Southern California’s hottest spots, as well as the inspiration that got him to travel to Mexico, discovering Mezcal.  The aroma, flavors, science and food pairings for Mezcal.

Love Tequila?  Discover the Gateway to better taste with Madre Mezcal's Ryan Fleming

Love Tequila?  Discover the Gateway to better taste with Madre Mezcal’s Ryan Fleming

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full, unedited conversation, visit our YouTube Channel.

 

“…I’ve been a big Mezcal lover before I ever sold it…”

Joe Winger:  Can you share the behind the scenes or how the brand itself was created? 

Ryan Fleming: I’ve been a big Mezcal lover before I ever even sold it or made a dollar doing that. So I got to actually meet Ron Cooper, who is the legend that started the Del Maguey label back in 2011.

I got to drink rabbit Pachuca with him and all these other amazing things. The reason I bring him up is he’s a kind of one of the people that we look up to, how to sustainably bring a brand and how to create culture that crosses boundaries in a sense. 

He has a beautiful book that I recommend anyone to read if you haven’t read Ron Cooper’s book.

But we share a similar story. One of our founding partners, Tony Farfalla and one of my good friends, Stefan Tony’s an artist and he was literally traveling through Oaxaca doing documentaries and embracing the art and culture. He happened to meet Jose Morales, which is the first family we ever worked with.

If you have original bottles of Madre [Mezcal] before the labels have changed, it used to say Jose’s name on the bottle. 

So Tony was bringing bottles back to Brooklyn in plastic water bottles and it snowballed. His friends in Brooklyn were like, this stuff’s great. Started out in plastic water bottles in 2014. I think it was 2016 when our first glass bottles actually came by and we became like of a more legit brand and company.  But it started with Tony and Stefan; and they brought on our CEO and COO, Chris and Davide.

Chris actually is one of the founding driving forces in the electronic scene in the 90s in Europe. Chris comes from a very artistic, music based background. Then he went on to work for some bigger alcohol brands in the vodka world. 

Davide, who is our COO, my direct boss, who I love, is Italian and his whole family built furniture and he got his big break by importing and bringing furniture over [to the United States]. He also works with a beautiful high end apparel line. 

“…everyone has a very unique artistic background, which really reflects the brand and the label…”

So everyone has a very unique artistic background, which really reflects the brand and the label. Just not wanting to make a quick buck and actually make something we can stand behind and believe in.

As the families now blossom into four, we use three: the Vasquez family, the Blas family and the Morales family are our three main producers for our red and black label, which most people are familiar with. 

We just brought in Moises and he’s actually from Santa Catarina Minas.  That’s a little town where all they really make is their production. It’s a town known for nothing but clay pot distillation. So if you actually use a copper pot in, in Manera and Santa Caterina Minas, you’re looked at as what are you doing? That’s not what we do here. 

He’s our last and newest producer and he may be the most cowboy of them all, and he’s my favorite.

When you get to Tlaxcala, you have to walk over like a little rope bridge over like a river and stuff into the hills of Minas to see his production, and he’s got his grandfather’s old still, and he’s got his mom’s little kitchen that he wants to reopen, and it’s like a restaurant. But if you and I were to look at it, it just looks like a backyard set of tables and chairs with a cooking center.

No, this is a restaurant for the village. It’s really beautiful down in Minas. I recommend everyone, if you get a chance to go down there, it felt like the jungles in Costa Rica, cause it’s up near the hills and it’s just so green and lush up there.

 

“…I’ve been working in the alcohol industry for almost 15 years …”

Joe Winger:  What got you down there? Was it for a vacation or for Mezcal?

Ryan Fleming: 

So I’ve been working in the alcohol industry for almost 15 years and I worked for the Houston Hospitality Group for over a decade, helping run programs and menus. I worked for a couple other restaurants, but I used to work for Stillhouse Whiskey, which many people remember the terrible flavored moonshine in a gas can.

Yeah I actually sold that. I did pretty well, there was always one flavor that someone loved. I had the mint chocolate chip and I would keep it in the freezer to take care of my sweet tooth when I didn’t have ice cream. So that’s how it started.

My buddy, Stefan, who’s one of the founding partners goes, “Hey, we got this Mezcal company.”  I was just basically consulting for free lunches. 

One day he goes, do you want to go to Oaxaca? And I went, absolutely. 

I familiar with going down to Mexico city, but I’d never been as far South as Oaxaca. So I jumped at the chance.

[Meanwhile] we all got an email from Stillhouse saying “Hey, I know things are being shaken up right now, but trust me, everything’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” 

That weekend, apparently the whole team got laid off, but I didn’t get the email untll I came home Monday. They’re saying, “Ryan, are you going to be okay? Do you need help finding work?”

So I went down to Oaxaca, met the families, broke bread with Jose Morales, got to meet his mother who blessed the roast and cooked us dinner.  They offered me a job.

That was started my journey about six years ago with Madre [Mezcal ]and I’ve been with him since.

Fleming motions to tattoos on his arms and hands.

Discovering Madre Mezcal

I have it tattooed on my hand right here. I have it tattooed on my palm right here. And I think I have another one on the inside of my leg too. We do tasting events and we’ll have pop up tattoo artists all the time.

 

Tequila vs Madre Mezcal

Joe Winger: 

You mentioned the tastings and the education.  Are there quick lessons that you teach the most often?

Ryan Fleming: 

Basic production, culture, financial, environmental and economic sustainability. 

I don’t think people understand that Oaxaca is the second poorest state in Mexico.  Everyone thinks the Mezcal boom must be bringing so many jobs, but it really only affects about 20 – 40,000 people that live in Oaxaca for the production, 

Mezcal is great because it does bring some financial sustainability to the families. Jose started off driving a taxi to pay his bills and now he’s making Mezcal in his family’s tradition.  His whole family, his cousin, his uncles, they all make Mezcal for a living now.

There’s so much culture behind it. Even the old argument of did the Spanish bring over copper stills and that started distillation or does it go back to the Aztecs and Mayans? Because they found distillate and pottery from 3000 years ago. It’s those little nuances.

People really like to talk about the environmental, but giving back to the people down there by not just buying product, but giving them some ownership, which Madre does do, so that everyone has a little bit of skin in the game.

So I think Sustainability, whether it’s environmental, economical, cultural, and production. Those are the things I really like to talk about.

Joe Winger:  What is the basic difference between mezcal and tequila? Or is it more complicated?

Ryan Fleming: 

You could say production techniques, additives, mass production are probably the three biggest differences. 

Tequila can only be made with one agave. It’s a blue weber.  Mezcal can be made with the other 47-ish varietals, and that number is always fluctuating, based on classification and family genius.

Production is the big one. Tequila is made in massive factories and made with either chemicals or steam for the most part. 

Whereas mezcal is actually made by hand, roasted in an earthen oven. The biggest thing that separates Tequila and Mezcal is the 1% additive rule.

Tequila can have up to 1% by volume additives, and they don’t have to tell you. That’s why certain large brands will say 100% Agave, but it’s full of additives, because it doesn’t take much  with modern chemistry. Just a couple drops of glycerin or vanilla extract to change the flavor and hide  all the nuances.

Mezcal can’t have any additives by law. 

Joe Winger: Can we walk through the roles and responsibilities between the families that produce Madre Mezcal?

Ryan Fleming: 

Yeah, the four families. Let’s start with Jose Morales. Him and his brother both make mezcal. Now they produce for us in the US exclusively. We encourage all of our families to continue making mezcal to trade. They use it for a local economy.

Every time I go down there, [their operation is growing].  When they started, they had three stills. Now there’s 12 up and running and they have solar power.  It’s just so crazy to see how much the transformation has happened. 

The original recipe, the blend of cuishe and espadine at 90 proof, that’s his family’s recipe. So we expanded that and we brought on Carlos Blas and the Vasquez family. Unfortunately, Natalio the father passed away a couple of years ago.

His daughters are now producing in the family’s tradition and we take whatever we can from them. 

But what we do, that’s a little bit different is, we started out when it was just Jose, he was making the blend himself. Now we have them make the espadine and the cuishe separately.

All three families are part of the process. Sometimes we just get cuiche from Jose. Sometimes Carlos makes all the espadine, but Carlos is like a master blender. 

We blend a cold style like Scotch does. Even though it’s not the most traditional way, all the distillation and process is as true as it can be.

But by blending post distillation allows us to keep consistency, which was a huge problem because every batch with your wild fermentation, your wild yeast and all these beautiful nuances, it’ll be inconsistent as you grow as a brand.  It was hard for us to keep consistency.

But by blending multiple terroirs and three different families’ production, we can keep a consistent product that tastes the same as well as expanding and bringing on more families to help instead of just going to a large factory house and not making what I would call “traditional Mezcal.”

Joe Winger: So focusing on your background, you mentioned that you’ve been a bartender in the LA nightlife.  Any memorable adventures or lessons you can share?

Ryan Fleming:

There are some stories I could tell that I probably don’t want to share publicly. But there are some amazing stories I can tell.

One of the oddest experiences I’ve ever had, I worked at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s, which is one of the most famous bars in the Hollywood nightlife in the past decade. 

Paul McCartney showed up at our door. 

But because our staff is younger and our door guys are a little bit younger, they thought it was an old weird British man that just showed up and they turned Paul McCartney away from the door.

‘Holy crap, is that Paul McCartney’?

He was like, do you know who I am? The guys [were like] ”We don’t care.” Like straight up, blowing Paul McCartney off. One of our managers came out and was like, ‘Holy crap, is that Paul McCartney’? And they’re like, wait, the guy from the Beatles?! 

My manager ran out, “Please come back,” and Paul had a great time at the bar. We got him a special little area to sit down. It was a packed Saturday.  It’s not a nightclub where we have gated off [areas]. Even if you reserve a table, people are inches away from you where you’re sitting at your table. 

Justin Bieber showed up one time and everyone went nuts.  He comes in, walks around, does a loop, comes out and goes, “I thought this was a hip hop club.” and just left.

It was a 1970s themed bar and we played nothing but 70s music. 

The dichotomy between the two different generations and to see them all melt into one location was one of the coolest things about working at that bar. 

 

Joe Winger:It’s so crowded because it’s so popular.  The Houston Brothers always do such a good job.

Ryan Fleming: 

Yeah.  The cocktails are still really good too. For as much volume as we used to do there, the biggest thing is how can I make a really beautiful cocktail that’s still cost effective and doesn’t take 12 steps. We got really good at batching stuff and figuring out how to infuse things.  Luckily our back of house was just the most amazing.  Mariano is the best barback I’ve ever had in my whole life. He’s still there. 

He is just a workhorse that got all the infusions. He would cook, he would infuse all of our products and he was just great. Even if we just did a jalapeno infusion on our tequila, if it got too spicy, he could break down the ratio and water it down with more products so that we could keep the spice level approachable.

Joe Winger:

What is the secret to high quantity yet high value cocktails? 

Ryan Fleming:

Batching is definitely the way to do it. Any of your alcohols that are shelf stable, you want to put all of those in the proper ratios in a bottle.

Instead of grabbing a modifier and your base spirit and another modifier, you’re grabbing one bottle with a special tape at the bottom, so you know which cocktail it goes to and then all your fresh stuff. 

You can’t batch the fresh stuff. It has to be separated because you put citrus in something and it goes bad in three days.  Now the whole batch is bad. So keeping your fresh stuff separated.

Joe Winger: Back to Madre Mezcal.  Obviously the bottles themselves are where all the power is.  So let’s talk about labels and taste profiles.

Ryan Fleming:

People love our labels. Our branding is top notch. It’s one of the first compliments we always get. “Oh my God, I love your branding.” 

Madre Mezcal Artesanal

Madre Mezcal Artesanal

Looked at Oaxacan culture and some other like medieval culture and combined the art from the two.

As far as the red label it’s the woman on the bull. It’s a really beautiful message of Mother Earth coming down and starting to share humanity and move across the world to plants and spread love.  That’s why she’s on the bull.  It’s the combination of animal, Mother Earth, and humans. 

Madre Mezcal Espandin

Madre Mezcal Espandin

The black label is a beautiful logo of a woman on the ground.  She’s planting and spreading the seed of life that gives us agave and flowers and fruit and vegetables and everything else.

Madre Mezcal Ancestral

Madre Mezcal Ancestral

The ancestral is this beautiful clay bottle with old clay vessels from Greece that carried wine with the fluid coming out and it’s supposed to celebrate the ancestral way of making mezcal and clay pots and clay distillation.

I always love telling the story of people who say mezcal is not supposed to be aged, which is a true-ish statement in my opinion. But back in the day, everything got transferred in barrels. So Mezcal would accidentally get aged in barrels because it would travel from town to town on horseback after the product was made.

So the idea that Mezcal was never aged is it wasn’t aged on purpose. 

Mezcal was accidentally aged in wood. The traditional way that people would age Mezcal is in glass and they would hide it underground. 

I always tell people, if you have a beautiful bottle of Mezcal, you should open it and take it out and put a wine cork in it, or at least crack the bottle and get some air because it really lets alcohol open up and aerate.

Mezcal benefits from a resting period. Pouring it in a nice open glass, like a snifter or a wine glass, letting it sit for about 5-10 minutes will really open it up.

Madre Mezcal tasting notes 

Madre is designed to be less smoky. I really hate the term smoky. I like the word roasted because what you’re tasting is like barbeque.

You’re tasting the roasting of the agave and the charcoaling and the burning of the outside agave which will affect the sugars, the caramelization.

Madre really was designed to be a more approachable mezcal. We call ourselves ”The gateway to the category.” 

We want to bring people from tequila over to Mezcal so you can explore what agave spirits also have to offer. 

It’s bright, clean, and smooth. I always compare it to a really nice, made tequila.

Our Espadine is actually a close cousin of [tequila’s] Blue Weber. It tastes really bright, clean and smooth.  But you’re going to get some of that minerality and smoke in the end. 

Like easy drinking with some earthy aromas. 

Joe Winger:  That night when I met you, what you handed me was my first taste of the night. I love that it was so pure and smooth.  It didn’t clog up my mouth for the rest of the night.

Ryan Fleming: 

I’m like you. I want to have 2-3 cocktails a night. Not just one and my palette’s done. 

Our Espadine to me is a 2-3 second palette.  It clears up and you get like a breath and it’s fading.  Our Ensemble goes on for 10- 12 seconds.  From sweet vanilla to chocolate to mineral and then to smoke.  Then the smoke fades and you get just a really beautiful, crisp.  It’s viscous. You can feel the oil in your mouth when you swirl it around and it makes the best Negroni.

Joe Winger:  Let’s talk about food pairings.

Ryan Fleming: 

I want to know if this caught you off guard, but it’s Italian food.

Very rich foods. These beautiful Mezcals are light and almost floral and fragrant, It cuts through the richness and creaminess of food.

That’s why mezcal and chocolate are consistently paired together, but that was just way too easy. There’s always mezcal chocolate pairings, but like a really nice Italian dish, something creamy and rich, like an Alfredo or a really well done piece of pizza, like a margarita or a white sauce pizza.

“…I want to know if this caught you off guard, but…”

We are working on doing some [pizza] pairings with some places in LA.   Do a different slice of pizza with three different cocktails of Madre and then have a tasting at the end.

Chocolate has a big part of Oaxaca too. You can’t not have some chocolate and mezcal at the end of the night. 

Espresso martinis are so hot again right now. Try making one with mezcal instead of vodka and just [see] how coffee helps open up the agave and the notes, and you’re going to get so much more going on in your cocktail.

If you pair a nice espresso martini with  beautiful, dark chocolate from Oaxaca.  That is your final cocktail at the end of the night, it won’t let you down.

Joe Winger:  You mentioned replacing Mezcal with vodka in a martini, are there any traditional or more common cocktails we should also try replacing Mezcal in?

Ryan Fleming: 

When I tell you this, it may blow your mind. Most gin cocktails are a little bit better with Mezcal.

There are certain times you need botanicals, but a lot of really good classic gin cocktails, if you sub them for Mezcal, are absolutely fantastic. 

Joe Winger:  I’m shocked because most gins have such unique aromatics.

Ryan Fleming: 

Which Mezcal has so many of those same unique terpenes going on that it changes the cocktail, but it works.

So instead of having botanicals, you have all these beautiful vegetal and mineral notes that just come from agaves. 

Joe Winger:  What are the biggest misconceptions in the world of Mezcal?

Ryan Fleming: 

A lot of people have a misconception, especially on the trade side, that we have grown exponentially. It’s been a lot of hard work. People think we have this massive team behind us.  There’s less than 20 of us on the whole team. That includes our team down in Oaxaca, who  watches over manufacturing and production for us down there. 

We don’t have an office.  We have a little tiny apartment in Venice for meetings.

A lot of people don’t understand the hard work that goes into creating a small brand. It’s just a lot of people working hard to create beautiful Mezcal, especially the families. 

People [unfairly comparing it to] tequila.  What do you mean, we can’t get more? Why is it so expensive? We have people going out hand collecting wild agaves and harvesting espadine.  All of that is hand cut, hand chopped.   I’ve hand cut agaves with the families.

None of this is industrialized or mechanized like tequila. 

Appreciate every drop of mezcal you have, because someone put a lot of love and labor into it.

Joe Winger:  Ryan, as we wrap up, let’s talk about where can learn more about Madre Mezcal? 

Ryan Fleming: 

We have a beautiful Instagram.  Madremezcal.com is our website. 

We also have this Instagram called mezcal. Learning and it’s a little short videos and little blurbs to talk about production, families, history, and culture. It is focused on Madre, but it’s not just Madre, it’s Mezcal as a whole.

If you want to know more about our families who produce, where it’s made, you can find all that information on madremezgal. com. 

Our bottles are in most of your nicer bottle shops, liquor stores. In California, we’re lucky enough to be in Trader Joe’s for the Espadine and Whole Foods has our Ensemble.

If you can’t find it,  go to madremezcal.com and we ship bottles to almost every state in the U S.

We’re in nine countries, too. Australia. All over Europe, Costa Rica.  We’re working on Japan and South Korea as well. So I’m just excited to see the culture of mezcal just expand beyond just America and see how excited because I, when I talk to people that are in London or, people in Australia, and they’re so excited about the idea of being able to get mezcal.

Joe Winger: What is the future for Madre?

Ryan Fleming: I can’t tell you about the big one.

But, [exciting things for] our Ancestral, which is pretty new and every batch of that’s going to be hand numbered and labeled.

We’re going to start doing small batch productions that will be very limited. Then the desert waters, which we have ready for summer. 

To learn more about MadreMezcal, visit MadreMezcal.com. Find them on Instagram at MadreMezcal

 

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