The annual LA Times Taste Festival is a food paradise. Once a year, the Paramount Pictures production lot—located in the heart of Hollywood—opens its doors to restaurateurs, food aficionados, chefs, and pretty much anyone looking to sample some of the best food and drink the L.A. region has to offer. Broken down into four unique day and nighttime events—Field of Fork, Flavors of L.A., Labor Day Block Party, and Cocktail Confidential. It may have been 85 degrees, but foodies from all over L.A. were out in full force to indulge in samplings from restaurants such as: Boa Steakhouse, Coni’Seafood, and Waffles de Liege.
As the heat started to cool off on Saturday, we took to the tent filled lot and were immediately offered a plate of spicy beef sauce over Injera (Ethiopian bread) from Meals By Genet. From one spicy dish to another, we then tried the grilled shrimp over sauteed cucumbers with a hot sauce from Chichen Itza. Flavors with spice and a zesty kick was definitely the theme of the evening, especially with Superba's fried chicken, red wine glaze, pickled chilies & parmesan. State Social House served a succulent roasted pork belly on a steamed tortilla and one of our favorite dishes was right next door at 9021PHO with their pork or chicken over a soft white rice. On the sweeter end, The Cake Mamas from TV's Cupcake Wars had one of the longest lines for their mini churros, red velvet and caramel chocolate cupcakes. The #1 dessert of the evening had to be Bagatelle's petite peanut butter and jelly cake bite with a custard and mini jelly macaron.
As for drinks: Roberto Mondavi, Palm Bay and Francis Ford Coppola wines were some of the best of the evening. Veev offered miniature glass jars with wooden bead bracelets along with their refreshing green acai vodka cocktail. Just as they did last year, Chopin Vodka displayed a chocolate liquer shot and lemon drop drink. On Paramount's sets of NYC, the streets were packed into the night with people waiting for The Grilled Cheese Truck, BLVD, Jinya, Chipotle and more.
On Sunday, the Labor Day Block Party served BBQ friendly infusions such as Short Rib Ravioli and Grilled Filet Mignon Stuffed With Lobster, but the real highlight of the day’s show came from the many showcases and demonstrations.
Taking a brief respite from the sizzling heat outside, my first demonstration came at The Taste Bar stage, where I learned BBQ cooking tips from three of L.A.’s most celebrated grill masters: Ryan Chester (The Rub Co.), Sylvie Curry (Lady of Q) and Neil Strawder (Bigmista’s Barbecue). Chester, Curry, and Strawder are pit pros, having spent countless years perfecting the competitive BBQ craft on shows like CBS’s “The Ultimate BBQ Showdown” and TLC’s “BBQ Pitmaster”, and it was absolutely amazing to watch them prepare, stuff, marinate, and grill an entire meal all while engaging in an audience Q and A.
Having tasted Taiwanese Brats from The Dog House, and cactus empanadas courtesy of Chichen Itza Restaurant, my stomach told me that it was time, once again, to sit back, relax, and watch another food showcase. This time, I headed to the Cadillac Culinary Stage—taking a pit stop by the Stella Artois Beer Garden for a quick pint—for the Steve Lopez Fireman Cookoff.
Hosted by LA Times critic Steve Lopez, the Fireman Cookoff saw two of LA’s best firefighting chefs, Captain Mark Curry of Station 29 in Koreatown and firefighter Cruz Macias Jr. of Station 87 in Granada Hills, whip up some of the most delicious looking food I saw all day. Who knew the LAFD cooked so well?
Just as last year's food fest proved to be a success, so did 2013's festivities. Our only critique: the tents should be better curated and set up by entree, dessert and drink categories. That aside, this is an epic event for those who truly appreciate food and drink from all walks of life.
By David Morris & Pamela Price