Mixologist Matthew Biancaniello and Cliff's Edge chef, Vartan Abgaryan,… (Kelsey Gunn )
Since leaving his post at the Roosevelt Hotel's Library Bar late last year, noted mixologist Matthew Biancaniello has been a bit of a nomad -- popping up here and there in a consulting gig, or as a guest bartender. The situation has left fans of Biancaniello's intricate, deeply herbacious, farmers market-driven cocktails thirsty for a regular fix.
Now Biancaniello appears close to settling down -- at least once a week -- and perhaps more, at Silver Lake's Cliff's Edge. Although no permanent arrangement has been made, Biancaniello will spend his first night behind the bar at Cliff's Edge on Wednesday, Feb. 6, when he and the restaurant's new executive chef, Vartan Abgaryan, will host a seven-course, cocktail-pairing dinner called "Little + Often: A Day in 7 Courses."
"We wanted to do something like this at the Roosevelt," says Abgaryan, who previously worked at the hotel's restaurant Public Kitchen & Bar, where he and Biancaniello became fast friends. "So it's been two years in the making."
"What we're hoping is that it will start that Wednesday and then I'll be here every Wednesday," says Biancaniello, who is lately into foraging for herbs in Angeles Crest and is completely obsessed with stinging nettle. "I came here [to Cliff's Edge] last week and fell in love with it immediately. I loved the crowd and it just looked like home to me."
The concept for the pairing dinner revolves around a course for every meal of the day: breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, dessert and late-night snack.
One of the most interesting creations of Biancaniello and Abgaryan's collaboration is the "lunch" course, which will combine the actual dish and the drink in a single glass -- an edible cocktail in the truest sense.
The dish is a "chicken Ceasar salad," made with chicken skin, romaine lettuce, white anchovy, lemon, Parmesan, rye crouton, garlic and black pepper. These ingredients will provide an elaborate garnish for Biancaniello's cocktail, which is made from foraged mugwort-infused homemade beer, cilantro, dill, beet-infused horseradish, celery, scallions, and yellow heirloom tomato juice. The coup de grace for this feast in a glass is "a perfectly prepared chicken foot."
For the "afternoon snack" course, Abgaryan will serve a "fatty duck liver," date puree, and Biancaniello a concoction called "A Walk in the Weeds," made from stinging nettle-infused gin, aquavit, foraged wild sorrel and foraged wild grass juice. Before you sip the drink, you will be instructed to spray a rhubarb-infused St. Germain mist into your mouth from an atomizer.
Biancaniello says that he has always identified more with chefs than with bartenders and is bent on creating ever-more culinary cocktails.
"Wild sorrel has this Granny Smith apple flavor, and white mulberries are coming into season," says Biancaniello. "I can't wait to combine them."
Whatever ingredients he forages he makes available to Abgaryan, who often finds ways to incorporate them into his cooking.
The evening's final course is called "late-night snack," and Abgaryan is doing his own take on adult cookies and milk, by offering warm brown-butter madelines and steamed milk with Biancaniello's "nip of the night," which is served warm and made with California sherry and foraged wild sagebrush-infused cream.
For now Abgaryan and Biancaniello hope to host a new pairing dinner once every three months (for each season), but that could change based on what happens during the first night.
What other ideas do they have up their sleeves?
"I would love to switch roles," says Biancaniello. "Me in the kitchen and Vartan behind the bar."
Abgaryan laughs and shakes his head, "Wow!"
"If we could do that, it would be the ultimate in a fun pairing," says Biancaniello.
And fun, both men say, is the name of the game.
Little + Often pairing dinner at Cliff's Edge, 3626 W Sunset Blvd. L.A., $65, 7 p.m. on Feb. 6. Call Cliff's Edge to reserve a seat with a credit card. (323) 666-6116. www.cliffsedgecafe.com
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