By Andy J. Gordon and Jenny Peters
Many Los Angeles foodies enjoyed Labor Day weekend by attending Los Angeles Times The Taste, a five event festival at the Paramount Pictures Studios backlot. The Citi sponsored events on September 2-4, 2016 were the ultimate gourmet pop-up block parties featuring well known Angelino chefs, restaurants, wine, beer and spirits vendors.
From the Friday Opening Night intimate event that highlighted a collection of tastings, specialty cocktails and wine offerings to the Flavors of L.A. event that closed things out on Sunday night, guests experienced samples from some of the best culinary minds in Los Angeles.
We missed Saturday afternoon’s Field to Fork hosted by LA Times Food Editor Amy Scattergood and Michael Cimarusti, Chef/Owner of Providence and Chef/Partner of Connie and Ted’s. The theme was local flavors and seasonal ingredients that inspire the area chefs. Later that night, Dinner with a Twist brought out a massive crowd. Jonathan Gold, the Times Restaurant Critic, hosted the event that showcased the best of L.A.’s dining and cocktail culture.
The ‘Twist” involved pairing unlikely partners – chef with chef and chef with bartender, to inspire creative friction. One of the successful pairings brought together the Guisados and Badmaash teams. Their Mexican carnitas picante tacos and Indian pork vindaloo were surprisingly similar yet distinctive. Other highlights that evening included Lotería’s bone marrow tacos, Herringbone Santa Monica’s big eye tuna crudo with pistachio and oyster cream and Ray Garcia’s Broken Spanish braised pork, sweet potato and chile de arbol tacos.
Garcia and bartender Michael Lay from B.S. Taqueria and Broken Spanish led a Mexican-American cooking and mixology demonstration that featured delectable squash tamales. Several other celebrated LA chefs and mixologists led demos throughout the weekend.
The events were adults only, so there were a variety of tasty libations to accompany all of the great food. Avión tequila served a refreshing Paloma made with two different kinds of grapefruit and bitters. Don Julio created six different cocktails – their “A Night in Instanbull” was the star – it was made with reposado tequila, fresh lemon and orange juice, black mission fig and rosemary leaf.
Stella Artois had multiple stations and long lines for their signature Belgian beer. Goose Island served a trio of beers as well – Sofie, a Belgian style ale, was particularly refreshing. Hornitos created a complex cocktail with elderflower and basil. There were also fine choices for guests that preferred vodka, whiskey, rum and wine. Decadent dessert choices were spread throughout the back lot, but the ultimate meal ender was provided by Choctal. Their intensely flavored chocolate and vanilla ice creams from single-origin locations are not to be missed.
Sunday’s festivities began with a Block Party hosted by Times Test Kitchen Director Noelle Carter and Mary Sue Milliken, Co-Chef/Owner of Border Grill. The mid-day backyard cookout theme included demos from some of LA’s finest chefs and culinary samples to satisfy every taste.
Ramiro Arvizu and Jaime Martin del Campo co-owners/chefs at La Casita Mexicana and Mexicano opened the demos with a trio of vibrant salsa recipes from their recently released Salsas cookbook. Bruce Kalman from Union/Knead & Co. Pasta Bar led a discussion on root-to-stem cooking and resourceful ways to maximize ingredients. Duff Goldman, chef at Charm City Cakes West and TV’s “Cake Masters” spun stories and showed off his pastry-meets-sculpture skills.
There were some outstanding food offerings available during the mid-day Block Party. L&E Oyster Bar made fantastic buttermilk soaked fried oysters. Prova Pizza brought in a portable, nine-hundred-degree oven to quickly crank out some of their authentic Italian, thin crust specialties. Border Grill served refreshing prickly pear fresca and succulent pork belly tacos. La Brea Bakery offered a light and flavorful panzanilla salad. Trejo’s Tacos provided luscious carnitas with pineapple.
Avión tequila was back on Sunday with a refreshing, herbaceous basil punch. There was plenty of beer, wine and spirits to sample as well. Frozen desserts seemed like the smart way to finish off the mid-day food orgy under the blazing sun. Bulgarini Gelato had seven flavors available and their dark chocolate was super-rich. Gelateria Uli also had some amazing gelatos – the California pistachio and poblano pepper were both delicious.
Sunday night’s Flavors of L.A., hosted by Jonathan Gold and Kris Yenbamroong, Chef/Owner, NIGHT + MARKET concluded The Taste weekend of events. The spotlight was on L.A.’s global culinary influences. Yenbamroong, Food & Wine magazine’s current Best New Chef, demonstrated some of his classic Thai cooking. Nyesha Arrington, chef at Leona, made smoky corn masa with cotija crema. Baroo’s Kwang Uh presented some creative modern Korean delicacies. Guisados and Herringbone were also back with some of their mouthwatering offerings.
Each year area foodies expect The Los Angeles Times to bring together some of the brightest culinary stars in the area for their Taste events. This year’s edition left no one disappointed. We can’t wait to see who they bring to the party next year.