By Jenny Peters and Andy Gordon
Foodies, star chefs and wineries to die for converged all across Los Angeles from August 25 to 28, 2016, to party on during the Sixth Annual Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival (LAFW). That four-day extravaganza sponsored by Lexus just seems to get bigger and better every year – it certainly got so many people in the City of Angels excited that every spectacular event was completely sold out.
From Thursday’s opening night party, “Amazon Presents Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse,” held under the stars at Grand Avenue and First Street in DTLA to Sunday’s closing afternoon “Lexus Grand Tasting” extravaganza at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, the LAFW brought out the best of the best, top chefs from around the U.S.A. and from many of the neighborhoods right here in the City of Angels.
We missed the fun on Friday, when LAFW hosted remarkable luncheons all over town, pairing L.A.’s best in their home restaurant with out-of-town guest chefs. Hot tickets included the meal Vartan Abgaryan of 71 Above (DTLA’s hottest new place) cooked up with New York’s George Mendes (Lupulo) at that high-in-the-sky eatery as well as the lavish lunch The Arthur J’s chef David LeFevre and Denver star Alex Seidel (Fruition) made in Manhattan Beach on that food-filled afternoon. Friday night’s big event was another Grand Avenue block party, this time hosted by chefs Jet Tila (Stir Market) and Brian Malarkey (Herringbone).
It was tough to decide what to taste at Saturday night’s “LIVE on Grand Hosted by Tyler Florence,” but the huge line to get a bite of Florence’s California shrimp and grits was daunting. So we went for some other wonderful bites, like Chef Jasmine Wolf’s slow-roasted pulled pork on a brioche bun, served from her The Lobos Truck, and the Water Grill’s smoked Hamachi offered by Chef Damon Gordon. The Estrella sweetfin yellowtail poke with chilies and avocados made by Dakota Weiss had us going back for more, as did Andreas Roller’s braised veal cheeks with spinach spaetzle from Nick + Stef’s Steakhouse.
Everything went well with the Belle Glos Dairyman Single-Vineyard Pinot Noir we tasted, but the lure of two world-class, big and juicy, fruit-forward Cabernets from the Alexander Valley –Silver Oak and Jordan – made all the other wines pale by comparison. There were 50 wineries pouring and 30 chefs feeding the massive crowd, so even when the Silver Oak ran out, it didn’t stop the festivities.
Sunday’s finale at the Barker Hangar featured 25 more celebrity chefs and over 200 wine choices, so some judicial drinking choices had to be made. We made a beeline for the Miraval Rose, that beautifully balanced wine from the Provence winery owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. It was so easy to drink, crisp and balanced, that pairing it with the Peninsula Hotel’s luscious seafood bouillabaisse and Fig’s yummy Manila clams, prepared by Chef Yousef Ghalaini, was an obvious choice.
There were so many delicious tidbits, from Atlanta’s star chef Hugh Acheson’s arctic char crudo and Nicole Votano’s bright summer salad with pluots, radishes, bleu cheese and heirloom tomatoes from her Miami restaurant DIRT to TORC Napa Valley Chef Sean O’Toole’s Jamon Iberico with corn and tomatoes. Capping it all off with Salt & Straw’s decadent “Ritz Pie a la Mode” made by Chef Tyler Malek with walnut butter ice cream and candied apples was a perfect end to the decadence that was the Sixth Annual Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival.
And decadence be damned, we’re already looking forward to next year’s LAFW!
To enjoy more food and wine adventures, follow Jenny Peters on Twitter @jennpeters and Andy Gordon @AndyJGordon