LA Times' THE TASTE: A Food & Drink Journey

Los Angeles in the summertime is a melting pot for festivals, fairs and outdoor parties. I’ve had my fair share of covering many of them, but I must say, THE TASTE is one of my favorite festival experiences by far. It is an event all foodies should attend. Imagine drinking a fruity cocktail and eating a delicious duck taco while sitting on the stoop of an NYC brownstone movie set on the Paramount Studios’ lot...

For three days, the LA Times hosts their annual food festival at Paramount Pictures Studios. This year it spanned over the long Labor Day weekend. It’s comprised of five events which highlight Southern California's culinary scene, each featuring unlimited food and drink tastings from standout local restaurants and chefs, along with cooking and mixology demonstrations, wine seminars and panel discussions.

My ‘foodie’ friends joined me for Saturday’s afternoon event, FIELD TO FORK and Sunday evening’s DINNER & DRINKS. As you walk onto the spacious studio lot, you follow the red carpet into a small courtyard bordered by white tents, each hosted by a restaurant, bakery or wine, beer and spirit company. Luckily, it wasn’t too crowded and the lines were short. We headed straight for The Blvd at Beverly Wilshire tent where we met Executive Chef, Gilles Arzur. He personally handed us a plate of Quail Breast with a light chayote and jicama slaw tossed in a quajillo vinaigrette. It awakened our palettes right away.

Right next door was the Stella Artois display, where we were offered a complimentary Stella glass with our beer. Onto the next corner was FigOly. I could have stayed there all day savoring the Gazpacho with lump crab and Hatch Green Chili (a chili only available 5 weeks out of the year). It was accompanied with a Cavatelli and Escargot with Duck Tongue. We circled around tasting dishes from Ray’s & Stark Bar, to 90210PHO, Lexington Social House, etc. Around the corner, you enter ‘New York City’: a movie set display of buildings. It’s quite magical. In the street are more tents with flavorful scents coming from everywhere. We stopped to try a chocolate vodka shot from Chopin Vodka. Owner, Tadeusz Dorda, mingles with everyone, offering glasses of their light and refreshing vodka drink. It was perfect for a hot afternoon in the sun. There were many drink choices to choose from, including Tanqueray, Svedka and Quint Sangria, among many others.

The Taste of Mexico turned one of the corner shops into a cooking classroom, where they demonstrated how to make Esquites Frida, a zesty corn and cheese dish. After we were sure we couldn’t have another plate, it was too difficult to pass up the dessert tents. We tried VALERIE Confections’ classic oatmeal cookie and Panna Cotta. Scrumptious! For a full list of exhibitors visit: http://events.latimes.com/taste/field-to-fork

The DINNER & DRINKS event the following evening was just as enjoyable; eating and drinking under the stars to a variety of DJ’d music. The word must have gotten around because the crowd was much larger than the day before. The setup was the same, but many of the exhibitors had changed. We stopped by Cliff’s Edge to try Chef Benjamin Bailly’s smoked fish on a thin crisp cracker with a touch of caviar. Across the way was Pig’s Feet Under, which offered a Mac n’ Cheese ball and a bacon grilled cheese sandwich. Good for the greasy lovers. As we made our way back into the city movie set, we stumbled upon Juan’s Restaurante’s tent, where Chef Juan Mondragon himself was presenting his cactus cake and moles cactus tortillas (Read LATFUSA’s review here). Ever since we met Juan, I’m really starting to love all things cacti.

After tasting and sipping so many delicious treats, we walked around the ‘fake city’ and enjoyed the music. Sitting on a stoop of the building set, we were transported to a summer night in Brooklyn. I look forward to next year’s The Taste; my taste buds and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

By Pamela Price

Tickets are $65 per event in advance, $75 at the door. A portion of ticket sales benefit Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona and the Los Angeles Times Family Fund’s Summer Camp Campaign.

For more info: http://events.latimes.com/taste/

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