In the land of 'hotspots', where to 'see and be seen' and gimmicky setups too often sadly takes precedence over good food and setting for great conversation - Wood and Vine goes against the grain with a venue that not only looks amazing, but has character - sans cliches - AND a menu built around substance, authenticity and craftsmanship.
Located in the historic Taft Building, which is steeped in Hollywood history dating back to the 20's - and housed offices of Hollywood icons from Charlie Chaplin to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to The Hollywood Reporter - Wood and Vine has a unique decor and indoor/outdoor/bar/lounge/upstairs/downstairs space that makes you feel as if you've stepped into another time and place. Notice I didn't say movie set - it doesn't give off that forced, false, touristy vibe in a theme park, Planet Hollywood kind of way - but in a way that feels authentic and transportative, and makes you forget that you're just a short but treacherous walk away from the kitsch of "superheroes", "aliens", "stormtroopers" and shops blasting sound and fury, peddling plastic "best mother/father/brother/sister of the year" academy award statuettes.
There wasn't any sense of snootiness that you would come to expect in the nicer dining venues in Hollywood, either, from any of the staff - they were all very accommodating and genuine as far as we could tell - even on a busy Friday night. I was glad, because it was my birthday, and when 'Lindyhopper' asked where I wanted to go, I kind of took a risk with this one - to try a place we hadn't been before.
I didn't need to worry at all as I fell in love with the place instantly. Since I arrived uncharacteristically early, I went to the beautiful, soaring two-story backlit bar to grab a cocktail while waiting for Lindyhopper to arrive. At the bartender's recommendation, I decided to try Aviation ($12) made with gin, maraschino, creme de violette and lemon juice. The citrus and lightness of the drink overall was refreshing, but I thought the alcohol was a bit heavy-handed for my taste. Though in a way that was a good thing as my brother's wife went into labor that night, and so the entire family - spread out over 3 countries - was stressing out waiting for updates from the hospital.
Luckily, there was a comfortable space at the front - with a leather sofa and armchairs nestled in an alcove by the stairs, and some bar tables next to them - where I could sit and get quick updates on the cell without bothering other customers.
When Lindyhopper arrived, we decided to take a table outside on the 'patio'. It's a 3-walled, open-aired, breath-taking, charming and unique space that feels like a hidden gem - like someone took the backyard from an interior designer's home from upstate New York and dropped it in between highrises in Manhattan.
Loved the wood panelling, trees, strung lights and heat lamps that cast a warm glow over the space. And the fire pit table. Yes, you read that right - there's a communal table in the middle of the patio, and in the center of that table - a fire pit. Form and function in one, for meals in the winter - it does get chilly outdoors in LA for a few months of the year.
Wood and Vine has built a lot of buzz for their main attraction - housemade charcuterie - and I couldn't wait to try. But my eyes lit up when they briefly detoured to Creamy Grits ($5) on the menu. It's one of those foods that seem so simple, but can be amazing when well executed. And you don't see polenta / grits everywhere - at $5, I had to have a taste. And I LOVED it - the texture was pretty perfect: true to its name, the dish was creamy yet riddled with distinct, 'gritty' bits, served at just the right temperature and flavor intensity. And a fairly generous portion too, for Hollywood prices.
After devouring that pre-show entertainment whole, it was time for the marquee act: Charcuterie & Cheese Selection - there was a great list of different meats, pates and cheeses to choose from and pricing was the same for any of the items which is fantastic for those of us who love the higher end stuff (3 for $12, 5 for $16, 7 for $21). I of course immediately sprung for the Potted Foie Gras, Duck and Madeira Pate and Chicken Liver Mousse. They arrived on a wooden board with bread, two dips (mustard - with real mustard seeds! and honey) and a side of pickled veggie slices.
I started with the heavy hitter first, as I wanted to leave the foie for last to let it linger on the palate: Chicken Liver Mousse - this was incredibly fresh, smooth, substantial yet light, with rich but perfectly controlled chicken liver flavors so as not to be overly pungent. Loved the sprinkle of fresh cracked pepper on top as well for bit of crunch and slightest bit of heat.
Next up: Duck & Madeira Pate I was so excited when the platter arrived that I missed the waitress' explanation of what Madeira was, unfortunately, but I think it's a Portugese wine that's used to make this pate, which is simply amazing. The consistency reminds me of SPAM (as in the canned lunch meat, not sludge of junk email) except much less greasy, and containing pleasing chunks of what I think are solid fat that breaks up the 'background' meat nicely. This one was also so fresh tasting that I wouldn't be shocked if someone were to tell me they keep a farm in the back.
Saving the best for last: the gorgeous Potted Foie Gras - this was basically foie mashed and whipped up into a light, most incredibly divine consistency imaginable. In density, I would say it's somewhere between real whipped cream and creme fraiche With all the lovely savory livery flavors of foie. In a glass jar. I would probably add this to the list of things I would want for my last meal.
If you've read previous posts, you may know that Lindyhopper is not a fan of 'weird stuff' when it comes to food - she was kind enough to go along for my sake, but skipped the charcuterie and on the small plates menu went for the Chicken & Waffles house-made waffle, maple glaze, sage butter ($16) which pre-dinner research had revealed was a crowd fav at Wood and Vine. And the chicken didn't disappoint (though the waffle could have been served at much hotter temperature).
Because one can never have too much liver in their diet - for my 'main' I got the Grilled Liver market sherry gastrique, potato puree ($14) our server had let me know that this was going to be a pork liver.
I knew from having pork liver in congee (Chinese rice porridge) that when cooked, this liver would become stiff and chewy, and is not at all close to the lush livers that come from their two-legged, web-footed and winged distant cousins. But I love the intense and unique flavor of pork liver, and I'd never had it grilled before, so thought I would give it a try. While grilling added a nice smokey char that really brought out its natural flavors nicely, the organ 'meat' did end up being a bit tough to eat. I couldn't finish this one and took it home.
We were too full to get dessert, which is rare as we both have incurable sweet tooths! Anyways, our total bill came to just over $60 including drinks (cocktail for me, soda for Lindyhopper) - really not bad at all for Hollywood!
Wood and Vine's menu rotates frequently, and I can't wait to go back to see what they serve up next, and to have a lot more of their charcuterie. Also on Mondays, they serve a prix fixe menu that seems like a fantastic deal at $18 per person for 3 courses! Looks like their Facebook page or Twitter are the best places to see the menu of the week. Will definitely need to go back soon for this. And next time I may need to sit by the firepit.
Also of note, Wood and Vine is close to the Pantages theater so great for pre- or post- theater drinks and small bites.
All in all, a wonderful time at Wood and Vine, to mark an otherwise would-have-been painful passage to yet another addition to The Number (that is all age is, right?). For me it decidedly has all the makings of a new favorite in Hollywood, joining the ranks of Library Bar, Public Kitchen + Bar, and Komida.
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 5.5 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100% ___________________________________________________________
Wood and Vine
The Taft Building, 6280 Hollywood Blvd (at Vine Street), Hollywood, CA
Parking: Valet (really best option in area) $10 for up to 4 hours, Mon-Sat
$7 for up to 2.5 hours Sun
OpenTable: Look for reservations (and points!)
Twitter: @woodandvine ______________________________________________________________________