The L. A. Times The Taste held reign over Paramount Studios this past weekend, and hundreds of Angelenos were treated to an impressive selection of the city’s best food and drinks from local restaurants, bars, chefs and local companies. There were five different events over the course of three days, each one with its own theme and vibe. I attended Friday evening’s Opening Night, Saturday’s Field to Fork and Sunday Brunch. After each one, I was sufficiently stuffed, as well as happy to know that L.A. maintains high scores as a major hitter in the culinary scene. A plethora pictures were posted on my personal Instagram account, but here goes a quick rundown of the event.
Opening Night of The Taste included a red carpet with appearances from the hosts, including chefs Michael Cimarusti, Thomas Keller, John Sedlar, and Nancy Silverton, L.A. Times Test Kitchen Director Noelle Carter, and mixologist Julian Cox, as well as music from cover band Black Crystal Wolf Kids. Some of the evening’s best bites were Mr. C Hotel’s Lemon Tart, Plan Check’s Southern Fry sandwich with green pimento cheese and duck breast ham, Bulgarini’s macadamia nut gelato and Hinoki and the Bird’s Miso Donut. The Don Julio Airstream was a shining beacon of libations, pouring for different cocktails. The Poco Picante with coconut water, lime juice and cilantro serrano agave nectar was a refreshing sipper during the slightly humid evening.
Saturday morning at The Taste was toasty hot, but farm fresh, local dishes were waiting at the day’s Field to Fork event. Who could say no? Chef Raffi from Freshology Meals sampled his savory Vegetable Parfaits with parmesan yogurt and puffed grains. Akasha served a simple, but fresh salad with peaches, arugula and shaved goat gouda. The Corn Agnlotti with shaved truffles disappeared quickly from Napa Valley Grille’s table. Chef Bruce Kalman of Union Pasadena led an informational demo all about fish, from head to fin. He butchered an entire Wild King Salmon from Wild Local Seafood, then created three quick dishes featuring salmon belly, salmon collar and salmon fillets. Chef Tal Ronnen of Crossroads showed everyone his trick to vegan “crab cakes” made with hearts of Palm. For me, the liquor of the day was tequila, and I made sure to bounce between the Hornitos tent for Palomas and the Chipotle booth for Patron margaritas.
Sunday was all about brunch, and the crowed at The Taste showed its appreciation by quickly flooding the tasting areas. It was another searing hot day, so Papa New Guinea vanilla ice cream and Ghanaian chocolate ice cream from Choctal were first on my agenda to sample. The Red Velvet juice from Chomp Eatery was also a smart choice, surprising me with a mix of beets, dates, almond milk and cacao. Dia de Campo served bites of fried chicken with mini churros and yellow mole, Angelini Osteria plated tender crespelle, Ramen Burger doled out samples of its namesake fusion dish, and Asian Box offered a very comforting Chicken and Rice porridge with housemade sriracha. Of course, all of the goodness previewed by the L.A. Times was on deck, including FarmShop’s Brioche Cinnamon Buns, Loteria Grill‘s Green Chile Chilaquiles, and Muddy Leek’s Chicken Fried Bacon and Waffle.
After so much food and drink and food and more drink, I really wanted to spend a bit more time at demos on Sunday, so I popped into all four. Noelle Carter of the L.A. Times demonstrated a savory bread pudding with sausage gravy and granola, making sure to travel through the crowd, so everyone could catch a whiff of sauteed vegetables or sample a bite. Casey Lane of The Tasting Kitchen kept it fancy with softly scrambled eggs and caviar, plus an extra large Dutch baby pancake with marinated plums and duck confit. Karen Hatfield of Sycamore Kitchen and Hatfield’s Restaurant showed everyone how to make hollandaise sauce and poured it over a poached egg and French toast. Finally, Melisa Nicola of Nic’s and three student members of her non-profit, Culinary Arts Kids Eat, prepared their own respective dishes and spoke about the program’s effort to provide culinary education to students and institute healthier meals in schools. The last demo of the day was a great reminder that food is more than just gluttony; it can be an instructional tool, an empowering force, and even a life-changing professional venture for many people.
The Taste came to an end for me on Sunday afternoon, and after all I had stuffed into my belly, I must say that I was ready for a break. There were a number of standout dishes at The Taste this year, and that is a testament to Los Angeles’ rising star status as a culinary stronghold. Here’s how I would vote for certain selections from the weekend…if I had to!
Weekend’s Best Bite: Napa Valley Grille’s Sweet Corn Agnlotti with Shaved Black Truffles
Weekend’s Best Cocktail: Damian Windsor’s spicy Moscow Mule
Most Surprisingly Delicious Sweet: Hinoki and the Bird’s Miso Glazed Donut
Most Intimidating Dish: Loteria Grill’s Grasshopper Tostadas
Best New-To-Me Restaurant: My Two Cents and its Crack Cake
Most Refreshing Dessert: Artesana Pop’s popsicles
Best Carboholic’s Dish: Everything at La Brea Bakery’s table
Most Energetic Booth: The Church Key folks with their Crispy F’n Halibut Tacos
Big props to the L.A. Times and everyone who participated to make it a success! If you happened to miss any of the social media blasts, search for #TasteLA on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook,and check out all of the photos.
Disclaimer: The Taste provided me with a press pass to cover the event. All opinions are my own.