Bartender Alex Day Eats Prawns at Jitlada and Travels With Coffee

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Alex Day Photo: Lesley Balla

Alex Day is like the Johnny Appleseed of cocktails, spreading the good word of a properly-made martini across the world. With Proprietors L.L.C., the booze and hospitality consulting company he runs with David Kaplan, owner of famed New York watering hole Death & Co., Day makes his way from Brooklyn to Bombay to Bend, OR. in any given week. "I live in airports right now," says Day. "But I always like coming back to L.A. It's home now." If you've been to Bar/Kitchen in Downtown L.A. or Rosa Mexicano, you've sipped Day's uniquely balanced concoctions, and soon his creations will be available at Stella Rosa in Santa Monica. As for bringing Death & Co. to the West Coast: "We never said we were opening that here, but we do plan on opening something with the same ethos, the unpretentious environment and quality ingredients." Being in the bar business means he tastes a lot of booze, but he soaks it up with a lot of food, too, all of you'll read about in today's L.A. Diet.

Wednesday, October 19
I just got back from Bombay on Sunday, so I was still jet lagged, and waking up every day at 5:00 A.M. The Handsome Coffee Roasters are good friends, and they're kind of enough to give me coffee. So that morning I was drinking their Guatemalan and had breakfast at my loft; homemade challah bread that my roommate's girlfriend made. It was delicious.

Right across the street from my apartment is the L.A. Athletic Club, a big beautiful building made when athletic clubs were actually social hubs. I had lunch at Duke's, a sports bar there, with my business partner, Dave Kaplan. It's hilarious to me that it's only open from 11:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. We were there under the auspices that it was a business lunch, but it was just us making fun of each other. I had a chicken sandwich with mozzarella cheese and tomato with French fries, which are obviously just Sysco fries, but the chopped parsley really makes them. But no ketchup. Ketchup just freaks me out. And iced tea, which was bad. Really, really bad.

I went over to the Handsome Coffee Roastery to get their advice on a machine for a new project. And I had a shot of espresso with them, which was really good. And then they gave me a bunch of Kenyan coffee for the next week.

Worked all afternoon and then went to LAMILL in Silver Lake. I mostly just drank coffee with my friend Anthony Starbel, a musician. For dinner we went to Jitlada in Thai Town for the first time. I was completely overwhelmed by the menu, and we had to ask the staff for help. They obviously steered us to the most popular items, the ones they go to when people ask them for help. But they were awesome, and the food was insane. Steamed mussels with broth that was insanely good, but it had a pepper in it that kicked my ass. We shared the morning glory salad, the prawns, and I had a Tsingtao beer. About half way through, this woman comes over and says how we should eat the prawns: She takes the rice, shoves it into the shell and shoots the meat out, making kind of a goulash with it. It was so amazing.

Home after that. Had a glass of blaufrankisch, this red wine from Austria. And went to bed, still jet-lagged.

Thursday, October 20
Like yesterday, woke up early and had coffee. Since I'm working on an overseas project, the emails start rolling in around 11:30 at night, so I have to deal with those in the morning. Then I worked on some wine cordials and syrups at home for a project we're doing in New York.

For lunch I went to Chimu for some Peruvian soul food with a friend. We had the lomo saltado, the beef stir fry, and crispy pork belly with barley. Chef Mario is brilliant; it's so good, so informal.

Then I went over to Bar + Kitchen, and worked all afternoon with tastings. Tasted this great pinot gris from Australia, Printice Ramayo Whitlands Pinto Gris. And then Coturri Carignon from Mendocino. Tasting these with a rep and our GM, who's taken over the wine program, but I dip in my hand when I can. Then we had another tasting with some grappa and amaros. Delicious.

I went to Beechwood in Venice for an early evening meeting, and had a nice Brunello with these people we're hoping to work with. We had a little time before our dinner, so Dave and I checked out the new Oldfield's Liquor Room, which just opened on Venice Blvd. A friend of ours is a bartender there, and he made a couple of drinks. The No. 999, made with Talisker 10, was great. And I tasted the Dauntless, which had genever, pear brandy, salernum and ginger beer. Really good.

We met our friend Lauren for dinner at Picca, and had a huge dinner there. Started out with the Slumdog Millionaire cocktail, which was delicious. We then had the tuna tartare and chicharron de pollo, the fried little bits of chicken, and moved on to the causa sushi with snow crab with cucumber and avocado, the shrimp, and the spicy yellowtail. That was my favorite. I love yellowtail.

Then we had pan-fried oysters with cherry tomato salsa, and the beef filet with sea urchin butter, then skewers. That grilled tomato with burrata and black mint pesto is so damn clean, so delicious. We had the black cod with miso and crispy sweet potato, and the duck confit with black beer and cilantro sauce. The bartender sent us these shots after, and I had mezcal infused with rocoto pepper. It was so spicy. And that was the end of my night.

Friday, October 21
I checked out my schedule for the next five months and realized I'd have no time to visit my family, except this one weekend, so I was heading up to Bend, OR. for some relaxation. It was "Portland Cocktail Week," and I didn't let anyone know I was in the state. Drinking with industry people would've been too much to handle right now.

I had to be at the airport at like 9:00 A.M., and didn't eat before I got there. So I went to LAX Roadhouse Route 66, which you know is going to be awesome. I had their classic scramble, with egg, sausage, sourdough toast, and potatoes. And drank soda water with no less than 10 dashes of Angostura bitters. I don’t know why airport food has to be so bad. United and I are homeboys, so I get upgraded to first class, which is dope, if only because I get to drink soda water in a real glass.

I get to Redmond, Oregon. Mom picks me up and I go to this place in the old district of Bend called Greg's Grill. I have my favorite hometown beer called Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale, and it's so good, but nothing compares to having it on draft in my hometown where it's made.

Head to my folks place in Bend, and my dad has a nice tradition of making this pasta when we're back in town with smoked salmon with artichokes, pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, lots of olive oil. My dad is a huge fan of California and Walla Walla wines, and a bunch of new wines just came in, his allotments, so we dug into that. A little Sauvignon Blanc before dinner, then we got into his wine. We pretty much spent the whole weekend just playing around with that.

We started out at dinner with Pine Ridge Fortis 2007 cabernet sauvignon from Napa. Then we went on to 2007 Walla Walla cabernet sauvignon from Double Back, which had just come out that week. We had a lengthy discussion about these two 2007 wines from Napa and Walla Walla. This would be my father. That was that for the night.

Saturday, October 22
Woke up and had some of mom's homemade granola, we are in Oregon after all. Had that with some yogurt and blueberries. I travel with a coffee kit that has a hand grinder, a Hario V60 individual pour over, filters, and whatever beans I'm drinking at the time. Hey, life is too short for shitty coffee. The thing goes with me everywhere. The people in India think I'm crazy, it's awesome. But I was trying to convince my mom to have better coffee, trying to get her on a different train. She still buys bulk coffee from Costco.

By happenstance, the person we're hiring for our place in Jackson Hole lives in Bend right now, so I met up with her for happy hour drinks at 900 Wall in downtown Bend. Every time I got back to Bend I'm more surprised about how people are caring about quality drinks. I think it shows that there's something to this cocktail culture. I asked for a Negroni and the guy made it with Beefeater and Doulin Rouge. And I couldn't have been happier. Then a Manhattan with rye, and they actually stirred it, which was shocking and amazing and great.

Met up with my folks for dinner at The Loft. My dad broke out some cool new wines, two different Pinot Noirs from Archery Summit in Oregon. The 2009 Red Hills Estate, which was just released the day before, the 2008 Arcus Estate. My dad is very big into comparative tastings obviously. We had a couple of things to eat, a barbecue shrimp dish with grit cake, which was decadent and incredible. Gave me a heart attack. Then some seared ahi with sesame seeds and wasabi sauce.

When we got home, I had a glass Scarlett Ibis, a rum that was originally commissioned by Death & Co., from a bottle I stashed at home a long time ago.

Sunday, October 23
Woke up and my dad cooked a standard breakfast, eggs over easy, bacon, and again with my coffee. Then I went for a four-hour bike ride up in the hills, a trail I haven't been on for like six years. It was so great to get up there. The water in Bend is the most delicious water anywhere. It's its own culinary thing all together. And I didn't realize until I was on this bike ride with my water pack filled, it's incredible. Had a huge spill, flat on my ass, but it was great.

For dinner my mom made a tortilla soup with chicken, and I had a couple Mirror Pond pale ales with that. Then it was back to the Redmond airport to get back to L.A. I had a beer at the airport, Three Creeps IPA from Sisters. This beer tasted like weed, it was so, so hoppy and ridiculous. I was pretty tuckered out by the time I got back to L.A., didn't eat anything.

Monday, October 24
Didn't have my breakfast and morning coffee, but I went to look at office in the Arts District. We're building a test bar and training facility, as well as our design offices. I ran across the street to this little café for a chicken sandwich with pesto. I just know it as "that place across the street," but it's called the Novel Café.

I worked all day, and went to Coffee Bar downtown that afternoon. Had the Handsome Guatemalan again. Then went back to my apartment and worked on some cocktail ideas with our bartender Devon, trying to pin down champagne cocktails for Stella Rosa.

For dinner went to Bar + Kitchen and had the bone marrow dish, which is so good. And I had the kabocha pumpkin risotto. To drink, The Poor Esme, which has Irish whiskey, amaro, pear brandy, cinnamon bark syrup, lemon and bitters. Then home. And to sleep.