L.A. Diet

Bartender Matt Biancaniello Eats Gluten-Free Pretzel Sticks and Takes His Burgers Rare at Golden State

Matthew Biancaniello at Golden State
Matthew Biancaniello at Golden State Photo: Lesley Balla

Even in the midst of today’s mixology mania, Library Bar bartender Matthew Biancaniello, who left a sales job with Time Out New York to teach himself how to make cocktails, stands apart from the pack with produce-driven libations like heirloom-tomato mojitos, violet grappa, mushroom-infused bourbon, and stinging nettle gin. Last year, the Boston native won Table 20’s “L.A.’s Best Bartender” competition, but the man behind the drinks that Jonathan Gold described as “often entire meals abstracted in a rocks glass” tells us he’s much more interested in cooking than serving spirits. “I consider what I do to be a little more on the culinary side,” Biancaniello says. “I’m actually much more influenced by the food world than the bar world. I’m more fascinated by flavors in food and more influenced by great chefs than just mixing booze together.” Between working nights at The Hollywood Roosevelt and spending days practicing yoga, hiking, and keeping a very healthy diet, Biancaniello shared every thing he ate (and drank) over the week for this edition of L.A. Diet.

Wednesday, April 13th
I started the morning out with a can of sardines, some coffee, and a piece of blood orange at home. I always take my coffee black. Sometimes I’ll have it iced, but it’s always black. I happened to be at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market that morning shopping for work and I had a little marzipan cookie that someone gave me, then two tablespoons of almond butter, and some seaweed rice crackers. I’m kind of a little bit of grazer, as you’ll see a lot.

For lunch, I went to have sushi at Hirozen, where I had a seaweed salad, a spicy tuna hand roll, and a white salmon hand roll that was out of this world. I also had a tai sushi, which is red snapper with salt, which was great, and just some water. I worked that night and had my dinner at The Hollywood Roosevelt. CNN came in that day to do an interview with me and I was a little nervous, so I definitely ate a little bit less. I had a turkey burger, kinda just plain, no bread or anything like that.

I grazed through the night, with a little more almond butter, a couple of steak fries, a slice of challah bread, a banana, and one of those Fage yogurts with some stevia and cinnamon. I tend to eat most of my food before I go in to work ‘cuz I’m not really going to get a chance to have a break. So, you see, that turkey burger I had around seven o’clock, but the bread and the banana and yogurt, I had at like three in the morning when I could actually eat something. Sometimes I eat stuff that I really don’t want to eat when I’m working because I just don’t have time.

And, of course, during my shift, I’m tasting cocktails all night too. I would say I get just about all the spirits in in one night, you know, lots of seventeen-step Bloody Marys, gin with strawberries and 25-year-aged balsamic vinegar, The Roquette, which is an arugula gimlet, and lots of Breeder’s Cups, which is a beet-horseradish gin drink, things like that. But the only time that I drank this week was at work tasting my stuff. I really had a lot going on.

Thursday, April 14th
In the morning I had some egg whites with oatmeal, stevia, cinnamon, and roasted almonds. I eat differently on the days when I work than on the days I don’t work and I’m off of work on Thursdays, so I had my black coffee, but decaf this time. It’s decaf on my days off, caffeine on the days when I work. So then I had a mid-morning snack of a Balance Bar and I usually have one of two kinds, either the cookie dough or honey peanut.

I eat a lot at home and I prepare a lot of stuff in the kitchen too. Definitely most of my meals are at home. So for lunch, I ate some steamed chicken tenders, an apple, a tangerine, some cottage cheese, and celery. I then walked six miles that day and on the way back grabbed a nice lemon and ginger juice from Erewhon, which I had with some tuna fish, a banana, another scoop of almond butter, and a small bag of those salt and pepper Popchips.

I was originally supposed to go to Scarpetta that night, but I just couldn’t because I didn’t have any free time this whole week. So for dinner, I went to Golden State. I like it a lot, I probably have it about once a month since I live across the street. I love their turkey burger and Greek salad, but this night I had their regular burger, which I order rare with just a little bit of cheese and a little arugula, and a side of their cabbage salad, which I love and eat more now than the Greek. I’m not really a red meat person, I’m really a fish person, but when they make it, I like it rare like that. I ate it with half of a Sculpin IPA. Sometimes I get the burger with their sweet potato fat fries, but not this night.

Friday, April 15th
I had two soft-boiled eggs for breakfast and one of these chocolate peanut butter Mookie Cookies, it’s like some kind of health cookie that I got at this place by me called VP Discount. I didn’t really have lunch that day, just a few bananas. I’d also bought a bag of these Mary’s Gone Crackers gluten-free curry pretzel twists and had a couple of servings of those.

I’d gone to buy a new Prius that day, so I was there for like three or four hours and kept going to my car and getting a banana and getting a few more of the curry pretzels. Then I finally got a chance to eat at Whole Foods around five o’clock. I picked up some tikka chicken, some beets, one of those Zevia cherry colas, a bunch of grapes, some brown rice, and a little romaine lettuce., which I ate when I got home. Then I ended up going back to Whole Foods at about eight that night and had a Balance Bar, a veggie juice, and a handful of cashews there. When I got home, I had some blood oranges.

Saturday, April 16th
I had to teach a demo at Artisanal L.A. before I went to work on Saturday. So I got up early and had an iced coffee from Bristol Farms with some shrimp dumplings and a Balance Bar. I hit Artisanal L.A. and just before I spoke I had about half of a Veev mojito that was served in a jam glass, plus another cup of those curry pretzel sticks.

I spoke for about an hour on market fresh stuff and did a whole presentation. I had a really interesting stinging nettle gin that I presented, a rhubarb Saint Germain, a saffron Saint Germain. I did a tepin pepper-infused saint Germain with yellow heirloom tomato juice. Originally, I didn’t have a back bar when I first started working. So I was forced to add more ingredients to these drinks to make them interesting. I didn’t have Aperol, I didn’t have Chartreuse. I didn’t have these things. I have them now, but I had never had them back then.

So people seemed to be really into it and all of the vendors that were there are all vendors that I see around at farmers markets. They had really good people in there. After the presentation, I had half of a really good turkey meatball sandwich with burata on brioche from Daily Dose, a place that is going to be opening in Downtown, and then I went home before work. I went the whole night at work without eating. Then at the very end of the night, I had a banana and also a bananas foster from Public Kitchen and Bar, which just opened next to me at The Hollywood Roosevelt. It was really good.

Sunday, April 17th
I woke up and had two eggs and I crushed in some of those curry pretzel sticks. I went to both the Hollywood Farmers Market and Larchmont Farmers Market that day and then to yoga for about an hour. Afterward, I ate a good amount of walnuts and yellow raisins, then I went home again and had some more curry pretzels and a Balance Bar. I just happened to try these pretzels for the first time, so it was a really big bag and I was stretching it out throughout the week.

At night, I was working and it was the first time I got to try Public’s food. The manager was bringing it over, so I feel like I got to eat a decent amount. I had a piece of the sour dough bread, which was really good, then a piece of the challah bread again. Then there was a scallop risotto, which I had one or two bites of, and then she brought some lamb, which I had a good half portion of. It was a really big piece. I also had half of a dessert: a lemon pie with buttermilk ice cream that was really, really good. So then I’m sipping drinks all night, tasting stuff, and when I was done at three in the morning, I grabbed a bowl of Kashi puffed rice cereal from the kitchen at work and had that with soy milk and a banana.

Monday, April 18th
In the morning, I had two hard-boiled eggs and my coffee, decaf but strong, black. I had a banana and two Balance Bars, both of them cookie dough. For lunch, I had some more shrimp dumplings from Bristol Farms and I had another Balance Bar in the afternoon with a banana. Then I went to yoga and on the way home stopped off at Erewhon and had some roasted chicken and two pieces of string cheese.

At night, I had to meet with some people, as I’m doing their wedding. We met up at Canter’s. I live right across the street, but that was probably only the third time in six years that I’ve gone. I had a small matzoh ball soup with a chardonnay. I liked the soup. I had hiked and done yoga earlier that day, so it felt soothing.

Bartender Matt Biancaniello Eats Gluten-Free Pretzel Sticks and Takes His