When my friend Luke Detraz invited me to a cocktail and menu sampling at a place that has been on my must-visit list, Nook Kitchen in Arcadia, I didn't hesitate to say yes. I met Luke when we were co-judges at a USBG cocktail competition and since he's a gifted mixologist himself, I knew I was in for a treat. His collaboration with Nook's talented cocktail master and sommelier Matt Wohleb did not disappoint. Arriving at Nook, I loved the comfortable, casual feel. The linear space was lined by cozy booths on one side and a bar anchored by a wood-fired pizza oven on the other. In addition to the excellent craft cocktail menu, Frank Vairo's (former owner of Amaro Pizzeria) neighborhood restaurant also features an extensive wine list and familiar, yet elevated, Italian fare with Chef Nick LaRosa in the kitchen. I couldn't wait to dive in. My eye was drawn right away to the inventive "Peking Duck" cocktail and it was a winner - duck fat-infused Booker's with Canton Ginger, five-spice simple syrup, lemon and lime. I'm a fan of the subtle richness fat-washing imparts to spirits, and here it was perfectly executed. Unfamiliar with this technique? Learn more here. With that first cocktail, we were ushered into a delightful afternoon of imbibing including the "Seasonal Sidecar" (cognac, Yellow Chartreuse, carrot simple syrup, and lemon), "Thai Fighter" (Charbay Tahitian Vanilla Rum, coconut simple syrup, Fever-Tree ginger beer, and lime) and "Messicano" (tequila, mezcal, Fernet Branca, espresso, orange).
To accompany the wonderful cocktails, we took the advice of our knowledgeable waiter Ralph and ordered crispy arancini filled with house-pulled mozzarella and served with pomodoro and balsamic reduction, Porco e Funghi pizza (mozzarella, parmesan, sausage, and mushrooms) with Ralph's suggestion of spicy soppressata, and juicy Chicken Marsala embellished with sherry mushrooms and Grand Marnier. My friends Kirti and Kristy were also invitees, and at Kirti's instigation I *had* to add the poutine with fries, mozzarella curd, and gravy with the indulgent options of braised short rib and a fried egg. We thought we were full until Ralph insisted on bringing one of his favorites for dessert - Tracy Dempsey's affogato with chocolate budino, lemon ice cream, chocolate crumble, and espresso. As we sat at the table chatting with affable owner Frank, he finished off a perfect experience by introducing us to two elusive and new-to-me amari from Matt's hand-picked selections: Guillaumette Genepi and Nardini Bassano Tagliatella. After such a nice first impression, what would I recommend? All of it. Get down to Nook and see for yourself.
This was a complimentary media invite.