Celebrity chefs, high end wines, and four fun-filled days are the recipe for any foodie to get their fix at the 6th Annual Los Angeles Food & Wine (LAFW). Numerous events held at various popular Los Angeles venues made it closer for everyone to attend at least one close to home. From intimate lunches at Otium to the Grand Tastings overlooking the Disney Concert Music Hall, there was something for every foodie.
Yours truly here, was excited to attend the Friday’s Night Market by Eater and hosted by Jet Tila & Brian Malarky as well as the Saturday Lexus Grand Tasting at the Barker Hanger. Believe it or not, this was my 1st year attending LAFW as I unfortunately could not attend last year due to a conflict. Of course, the food and wine choices did not disappoint. Originally for this article, I was going to mention the wonderful highly rated wines at the festival. (Don’t worry, I will still have some choices). However, after visiting various booths and tasting the delectable creations the LA Chef’s knows best, I decided the show my readers some of the most memorable experiences from these two days. (Because if I did 4 days, I’d be in the gym instead of writing.)
Friday’s Night Market dishes had some Asian influence while some did not. While night market dishes are more reminiscent of Asian style outdoor food, dishes like Sumo Dog, Sushi Hand Rolls, Nam Prik Ong (spicy pork and chili dip) represented. But others went with a non-traditional approach and took it up another level with dishes like Ostrich Egg Camel Milk on Bone Marrow, Slow Roasted Short Ribs, and Frozen Foie Gras with Strawberry.
Here’s my take on my favorites from Friday and Saturday:
Best Aroma: Chef Jake Eaton of the Patina Group created a Grilled Octopus and Squid Ink Skordella with Charred Brocolli, Fermented Chili, and Pickled Shallots. For a night market event reminiscent of outdoor street food, the grilled aroma filled the air and easily drew crowds. Hot charred squid on a semi-cool LA night, what’s better than that? Maybe a drink to go with it? Chef Eaton was also the most hospital, pouring me a tasting of the Fernet Branca for all you uber strong, bitter fans. Like me, he’s a bit of a drinker as seen on his Instagram page. Keep up the good work, chef. (The dishes, not the drinking).
Longest Line: Well, maybe not the best line but definitely the LONGEST line at the Friday night market event went out to Pawan Mahendro from BadMaash for his lamb burger. (Free range lamb, spiced mayo on brioche) All you fans of Indian cuisine in LA need to pay this place a visit. The lamb was kept warm in a big skillet and each slider was served to order, hence the 30 minute wait. Thank goodness for the endless wine that keeps me company. The FAT BOY in me kind of wished they had their curry mussels too!
Most Freshest : Little sister and their Green Papaya Salad (Goi Du Du) consisted of viet beef jerky, peanuts, chili lime vin., grilled prawns, cabbage mix, mango, cucumber, onion, cashews, lemongrass-cilantro dressing. (Ingredients taken from their website). Super fresh salad stored in a cute Chinese to-go box, mixed with a light and spicy vinaigrette.
Most Comforting Dish:Toshi Ueki’s Spicy Tuna Rolls. What’s better than your normal hand rolls? Warm, spicy, crispy tuna rolls made five seconds ago prior to eating. That’s what was handed out individually at the Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar booth. One bite, it immediately put a smile on my face. Originally from Kyoto, Ueki’s dishes demonstrate authentic Japanese cusine, and now can be found locally at the Grove in LA. If I ever have a bad day, I’ll pay a visit to Blue Ribbon afterwards.
Best Cocktail: Andrea Borgen of Barcito, one of the Eater list of Young Guns and people to watch, opened her establishment last year. Barcito is one the few restaurants in LA to watch that has successfully implemented a “No-Tipping” rule in their restaurant. Barcito follows the form of many NY restaurants which adopted the “Hospitality” included in its menu price. In addition, workers are paid fairly and also receives health benefits simply because lower food costs. Oh, and don’t let the size of the drink fool you. The “Smoking Young Gun” made of Famous Grouse Scotch, Fernet Branca, Ginger Syrup, and Angostura Bitters, was probably the stiffest drink I had all night.
Best Flavor-Portabello Mushroom and Truffle Ravioli from Mark Mollica of La Vecchia Cucina. Deep earthy flavors, super rich sauce, pairs amazingly with a Cab.It was by far, one of my favorite plates at the Saturday Lexus Grand Tasting in Santa Monica. If you’re looking for Umami, look no further than this dish. Sadly, it’s not a regular item on La Vecchia’s menu. (I should’ve taken another!)
Most Creative-You’ve probably already seen it all over Instagram, the Sea Urchin Ice Cream Monaka from Chaya. It consisted of Sea Urchin Ice Cream, Almond Cashew Praline, Wafer Cake, Sweet Ruby Port Soy, and Sea Salt. It definitely was also one of the most PRETTIEST bites at the LAFW. Yes and no, it’s exactly and not exactly what you think. It has textures from the cake and almond cashew, sweet and salty contrast from the soy and ice cream, but none of the fishiness you would expect from using Sea Urchin.
Best Wines (Part one) If you’re a fan of Napa Valley (And who isn’t?), ZD wines was on hand and pouring their signature wines from their Chardonnay to the 2007 Reserve Cab. Every single pour I had here was just incredible, with clean and intense flavors. The Cabs have Medium to Full body wine, berry fruit, and a hint of oak. Needless to say I was in LOVE with DeLeuze family of world class wines.
Best Wines -(Part Two) Silver Oak brought their Alexander Valley Cab along with their Twomey Merlot. Their world-class wines are aged in American Oak and according to Wine Spectator, is the first winery to earn the LEED Platinum Certification for being a “Green” Winery.
There were plenty of other great wines on hand. Taste of wines is such a subjective matter, I tend to not write too much on it. However, as I usually mention at food and wine festivals, this is a great way to try out wines you’ve never had before. If you don’t like it, you can just dump it. But if you tend to drink every single one, just make sure you Uber or take public transportation home.
Of course, I cannot leave finish this article without mentioning desserts. First of all, there was NOT a lot of dessert choices. (Which was a good thing) Many a times I attend a food festival and half the food available are desserts. And as much as I like desserts, I cannot fully enjoy desserts when there are too many. The Ice Cream sandwiches from Sweet Lucies/Jon & Vinnies on Friday and the Ube/ Pandan dessert from B Sweet on Saturday paired beautifully with their coffee on nitro. These desserts were all I needed to complete my glutinous experience at this year’s LAFW.
I have to commend the organizers and the Chefs on a successful year for LA Food and Wine this year. Everything I had was delicious. And I as much as I love to mention everyone here who showcased their food and wine at the festival, I applaud the the workers, volunteers, organizers, chefs, and everyone involved in this highly coveted sold out event.
Los Angeles Food and Wine
August 25-28, 2016