Matt Biancaniello probably singlehandedly got me into craft cocktails because of his culinary, farmers market-driven approach.
I was sad to hear when he left Library Bar , as that meant the end of a familiar schedule, a place I could refer friends to for a mind-blowingly fantastic drink after work. But I was also excited to see what the next chapter would bring for him, as his boundless creativity was sure to keep taking him to amazing places.
After some time behind the bar at Cliff's Edge, Matt had emerged with a first of its kind (as far as I'm aware) cocktail ice cream pop-ups at Scoops Westside a few months back - that were so incredible that I still think about and crave those creations now.
At these pop-ups, Matt was sort of like Willy Wonka - if Willy Wonka made treats for adults with finer palates - worked in a frozen, 'boozy' medium versus pure confection, and foraged some of his own ingredients.
Served at his first pop-up:
Candy Cap Mushroom Bourbon ice cream with walnuts, homemade Nocino spray, and rosemary flowers
Coffee Infused Cynar with black sage & vanilla infused whipped cream
Stinging Nettle Infused St Germain & Pear Sorbet with pomelo infused St Germain air on top
Birch Liquer, Tangelo, Cinnamon with a side of either guava infused Dolin blanco vermouth or wild bay leaf infused cocchi Americano
You could get either a single treat for $8, or a sampler of all four for $25. I of course had to try all, waistline be damned!
I can't even pretend to understand the process that Matt's mind goes through to put these ingredients together - but they all worked to create possibly the most delicious ice cream treats ever. I wanted more as soon as I finished my four scoops...
The second pop-up was even better.
Again at Scoops Westside, singles for $8, sampler of four for $25.
There was the returning crowd favorite, the Candy Cap Mushroom Bourbon, and his twist on the Coffee Infused Cynar this time with purple sage infused cream and dehydrated orange slices.
Then there were new, totally unexpected creations:
Curry Infused Campari with oro blanco pieces, arugula flowers, mug wort infused homemade beer, Himalayan sea salt, apricot pit infused aperol foam
This one has been haunting my dreams for months. Who would have thought to pair curry with ice cream, or Campari, or to use arugula flowers at all for that matter? And homemade beer on top of all that? And oro blanco too? Mind. Blown. Even from the description of ingredients. And then the tasting: and here's the part where Matt's chef-like approach to cocktails comes in: you know how some so called 'tweezer food' is too cerebral, and fussy, where the whole thing is just lost in visual artistry and the actual flavors and textures are no longer enjoyable? That is what a skeptic who has never had the Matty B experience, and reading the menu might suspect this to be. But this one is genius AND tastes amazing - layers of different kinds of tart, bitter, sweet, salt and spice unfurl gradually, so that each spoonful is just a little bit different depending on how long you let it linger on your tongue. And it was such a beautiful shade of apricot. One of the best ice cream dishes I've ever had.
The fourth offering was also unusual, and delicious: Mochi Infused Sake ice cream with rice milk, kaffir lime zest, pistachios, wild bay leaf infused cocchi Americano, borage flowers
Loved the gorgeous presentation - and while more mild in flavor and less complex than the previous cup, no less delicious. I'd say this is also one of my favorite cups of ice cream ever.
At this most recent Matty B sighting, he mentioned looking into his own space, as well as exploring cocktail infusions of other foods.
Here's the 411:
Date: August 8, 2013
Location: Maru 12400 Wilshire Blvd Ste 150, Los Angeles, CA 90025