September 2, 2010 might’ve quietly come and gone in your neck of the woods, but in the world’s most famous zip code, 9.02.10 was a pretty big deal. To commemorate the date, Beverly Hills joined with Food & Wine magazine to throw a four-day party: The first ever Taste of Beverly Hills.
Held in the parking lot across from the Beverly Hilton, the event’s main action took place beneath two football field-sized tents, placed side-by-side along the length of the lot. Separate stages were set up for music and food demonstrations. There was a rustic coffee bar by Intelligentsia, a tony American Express card-holder lounge, and various alcoholic alcoves sponsored by the cool folks at Cruzan (with organic coffee drinks supplied by Wolfgang Puck and water by Fiji and S. Pellegrino).
As the name might imply, Taste of Beverly Hills was also a nibbler’s nirvana. Packed with more food stars than an episode of Top Chef Masters, from the likes of Tom Colicchio to Sherry Yard to Joachim Splichal to Nancy Silverton, chefs and restaurants pulled out all the stops to ensure this would be an event to remember. Even Petrossian was there, serving caviar by the spoonful.
But for all of the glam and glitz, what stole the show for many tasters was four little nondescript food stands, tucked into a corner by the main stage. Mariscos Jalisco, Tacos Guanajuatos, Antojitos Carmen and Maricos Chente were brought to the event by Bill Esparza (musician, blogger and expert on Mexican street food), and Evan Kleiman (Angeli Cafe and host of “Good Food” on KCRW). Whatever one’s preconceived notions about street food, this stuff stood up admirably against every lobster pot pie, foie gras spiced Rice Krispie treat, butterscotch budino and piece of prime rib.
With all of that food, diners certainly needed some tasty libations to wash it all down, and the drinks did not disappoint. Of particular note were wine tasting seminars helmed by some of the best in the business, including Mark Mendoza (of Sona and Comme Ca), Belinda Chang (The Modern, in NYC), Greg Harrington (his winery, Gramercy Cellars, was recently named Food & Wine Magazine’s ‘Best New Winery in America’), among others. World-renowned wineries like Duckhorn, Hundred Acre, Hall, Melville and Rosenblum were on-hand to pour, and a Stella Artois tent served as a scarlet temple of hoppishness. Even the restaurants got in on the imbibing action, with special cocktails like Jose Andres’ The Bazaar serving up their very own salt air margaritas (what happens when molecular gastronomy meets the classic margarita) and Mark Peel’s Tar Pit served a Marguey Mezcal (for the people who prefer their agave with a smokey edge).
In an event with over 120 restaurants, celebrity spokespeople, hungry Angelenos and lots of alcohol, were there glitches? Yes. When many of the vendors ran out of food on Saturday night, it’s hard to believe anyone who had paid $150 for their ticket went home happy. But, for the most part, the first-ever Taste of Beverly Hills was a delicious treat. Here’s to future episodes…