I grew up here in L.A. Or as I prefer to answer the question -- "I was raised in L.A." Like most Angelenos, I know my neighborhood well, as well as a few other ones that I'm fond of visiting -- mostly ones with good restaurants, bars or other attractions. But when it comes to distant communities in the hinterlands of the county, well, it's terra incognita for the most part. So when I decided to head off to Claremont Village for a whisky tasting, I wasn't sure what I would find. And I'll confess my expectations were doing the limbo.
What I discovered, however, after a 40-mile drive east on the 10 Freeway was a historic downtown village with charm and character, and filled with parks and wilderness areas. The city and the surrounding communities are home to the Claremont Colleges, and nestled here among the old brick buildings, artisan shops and shady trees, you'll find all the culture you'd expect from a college town.
On the west end of town is a quaint district that includes antique shops, a wine store, family-owned restaurants and the Hotel Casa 425, a stylish boutique hotel combining old world charm with modern luxury. The three-story white building with red-tiled roof surrounds a tree-lined courtyard, where the tasting would take place.
My guide through the wide world of whisky would be Will Van Leuven, cocktail consultant and the hotel's resident mixologist. But first, the hotel's chef brought out a cheese and fruit plate for each of the 25 or so guests who were gathered for the event. Spanish guitar set a nice atmosphere as the afternoon cooled into evening.
The whisky line-up. (Photo by Scott Bridges)
The 16-glass tour turned into a palate-wowing journey, beginning in the Emerald Isle, then set sail to discover Canada, then to exotic destinations like Tasmania and Japan, and eventually back to the British Isles, with the smoky and peaty flavors of Scotland.
After dining in the village, I returned to the hotel for a night cap in the lounge. There I discovered Van Leuven's signature infused-cocktail selection. Always one for a little spice, I couldn't resist the jalapeno-infused tequila, neat. The slow burn of the pepper gave the tequila additional bite, and lingered like the embers of a campfire.
I slept well that night. Breakfast the next morning was at a local joint that had been recommended: Some Crust Bakery. And I'm recommending it to you. The made-to-order egg sliders are an incredibly delicious breakfast sandwich, designed to your own preferences (and a hell of a deal, to boot). The pastries and other goodies, of course, are also very good, as are the coffees.
A display of delights at Some Crust Bakery. (Photo by Scott Bridges)
There is more to see of Claremont Village than what I discovered on my overnighter. I think my next trip will be a weekender.