By Andy J. Gordon
Most food, booze, and wine events in Los Angeles feature highly regarded restaurants offering generous samples from their menus. The Los Angeles Epicurean Festival changes things up by bringing together some of the gourmet vendors that supply many of those top restaurants, as well as retail shops and discerning consumers. They also feature a wide variety of premium wineries and spirits. The event was held on Sunday, August 26, 2012 in the majestic Vibiana Cathedral in downtown LA and attendees browsed through booths featuring gourmet foods, boutique wines and high end liquors over the course of two sessions.
The festival was founded by food industry veterans Kora Kroep and Bruno Laclotte as a trade-only show in Las Vegas six years ago. Two years ago they opened the event to the public and the industry insider vibe has been adapted to appeal to consumers with a special interest in gourmet products. While guests were sampling some of the fine food and drink, the Epicurean Cup was being contested. Three teams of chefs, sommeliers, mixologists and pastry chefs had to create a main course, dessert and wine pairing as well as a summer themed cocktail. The winners were chef Robert Liberato (BLT Steak), pastry chef Paul Rivera (Wyndham Orange Country Silver Trumpet Restaurant), sommelier Cameron Russell (The London) and mixologist Sarah Saunders (BLT Steak). Additional demos and presentations took place during the event. LA mixologists Aiden Demarest (Liquid Assets) and Brian Stewart (Petit Ermitage) traded one-liners while extolling the virtues of fresh ingredients mixed with fine spirits. Some audio problems put a damper on the demos throughout the sessions, but once resolved, the guest presenters were entertaining and informative.
With many fine wines and spirits being poured inside the cathedral, it was a no lose situation. Some standouts included the Italian selections from Wine Passionate. Their 2007 Cava d’Onice Brunello Di Montalcino was full bodied and delicious. The 2007 La Sala Campo All’Albero, a Super Tuscan blend of mostly Sangiovese with some Cabernet was really smooth with intense fruit and spice notes. The 2008 Ginepreta Cirulli from Umbria was a fine blend of mostly merlot with a bit of cabernet. Among the spirits available at the event, a few premium tequilas were quite outstanding. Dos Artes and Amor Mio were especially smooth and tasty. Also, the fine expressions from Fortaleza Tequila were available in the lovely outdoor courtyard paired with fruit flavored Funkin cocktail mixers.
Some top food offerings included the amazing duck breasts from Maple Leaf Farms and delicious salamis from Angel Salumi & Truffles, LLC. Scotty B’s had a selection of hot sauces ranging from mildly tangy to blow your head off fiery. Linda’s Gourmet Latkes had some delicious potato pancakes. The pretty ladies at Think Thin were giving out generous samples of their tasty nutrition bars. For desserts and sweets Velvet Rope Bake Shop had decadent miniature cakes in a variety of flavors. Yvan Valentin’s Sweet Temptations Artisan Bakery was serving incredibly rich chocolate truffles.
Overall, this year’s Epicurean Festival was a success in exposing guests to many fine vendors of premium culinary products. The one negative buzz among the crowds was that the liberally poured abundance of fine wines and spirits overshadowed the limited offerings of the food purveyors. The organizers should make an effort to ensure that the food samples are more plentiful next year. Otherwise, it was an interesting event that is different from the typical ones usually offered in the LA area. With a few minor tweaks, the Los Angeles Epicurean Festival can be a major success in 2013.
Photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon