By Jenny Peters and Andy J. Gordon
Labor Day weekend means the end of summer, but the soaring heat at Paramount Studios in Hollywood during the annual Los Angeles Times The Taste culinary events gave no indication that the intense, seasonal weather was ending. The five food-themed parties held on September 1-3, 2017, were loaded with fabulous restaurants, wineries, craft beer, spirits and celebrity chef demonstrations, which gave Angelenos a unique opportunity to sample some of the best food and beverages available in the region.
“Opening Night” on Friday featured distinctive cocktails and wine offerings. Members of the LA Times food and restaurant staff hosted along with Gilberto Cetina Jr., Antonia Lafaso, Sherry Yard and Sang Yoon. The afternoon sessions on Saturday and Sunday were victimized by the interminably intense heat (temperatures were over 100F) – many ticketed guests chose to stay away and it resulted in small crowds.
The Saturday daytime theme was “Field to Fork,” focusing on restaurants that emphasize locally sourced ingredients. Sang Yoon, from Father’s Office and Lukshon hosted the event and offered a cooking demo. Later that evening there was a slight reprieve from the heat. The nighttime theme, “Dinner With a Twist,” featured a variety of fine restaurants offering delectable samples, plus premium wines, beers and inventive, handcrafted cocktails.
Antonia Lofaso and Marco A. Ramos of Scopa Italian Roots, Black Market Liquor Bar and Antonia Lofaso Catering did a fun and creative demo. Ramos prepared a watermelon margarita while Lofaso made shrimp toast. Guests that attended the demo received the cocktail and delicious bites of the toast.
The Sunday afternoon “Block Party” was another sticky, hot affair that drew small crowds. LA Times test kitchen director Noelle Carter and Tuck Room Tavern’s Sherry Yard hosted the party. Yard was one of the chefs that did a cooking demo as well as the popular Jet Tila from Cutthroat Kitchen, David LeFevre from Manhattan Beach Post/Fishing with Dynamite/The Arthur J and Dakota Weiss from Sweetfin Poké and Estrella.
The weekend of culinary indulgence came to end on Sunday night. The “Flavors of LA” event focused on the incredible diversity of Los Angeles area restaurants and the countless cuisines available in Southern California. As the heat wave started to subside, a large crowd enjoyed the diverse food selections.
LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold hosted the Sunday night session and conducted a humorous interview with actor/restaurant owner Danny Trejo, who has taco and donut restaurants in the city. Chef Gilberto Cetina Jr. co-hosted the evening session, and during his food demo showed how to make the delicious octopus tacos that were also being served at his Holbox restaurant booth.
There was an amazing assortment of tasty delights offered by some excellent Los Angeles restaurants and beverage vendors throughout the weekend of events. We could not possibly taste everything, but from among the ones we did sample there were some favorites.
Scopa Italian Roots served a delicious marinated skirt steak with crispy fries. Beauty & Essex offered succulent tuna poké wonton tacos. The Bellwether prepared crispy squash blossoms stuffed with stracciatella cheese over a bed of crushed heirloom tomatoes. Sweetfin Poké had melt-in-your-mouth kampachi poké with avocado and kelp noodle caviar. Same Same served crispy and spicy chicken wings.
Cocktails, fine wine and craft beer were available everywhere we looked all weekend. Some of our go-to drinks were the Don Julio tequila tanga-rita with fresh lime juice, agave nectar, Thai chile and coconut flakes. We also enjoyed Golden Road brewery’s Tart Mango Cart – a low alcohol, refreshing wheat beer. Ketel One vodka had creative serving stations that offered a glass of the spirit mixed with seltzer over ice and a farmer’s market table laid out with fresh fruits, herbs and spices so guests could customize their drinks.
There were many good wines to choose from, but we found the choices in the VIP Green Room to be the best. The Calling, a 2014 Pinot Noir was delicious. San Pedro’s 1865 single vineyard 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon and the Joseph Carr 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford Valley were both excellent.
It was nearly impossible to make any room for desserts after all the great food, but we forced down a few. There was outstanding gelato from Bulgarini and tasty selections from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. We also managed to make a decadent assortment of cookies and brownies from Susie Cakes disappear.
The annual Los Angeles Times The Taste weekend of culinary events always provides an opportunity to sample an incredible array of great area restaurants. This year was no exception and despite the intense heat throughout the weekend, those that attended enjoyed a marvelous series of gastronomic parties. We can’t wait for The LA Times to announce details about next year’s events.