Sometimes my fellow food bloggers and I roll our eyes and bemoan having to attend yet another extravagant dinner or indulgent food festival. Even while recognizing the enormous calorie counts and coma-inducing properties of cream, bacon, butter and simple carbohydrates (frequently coexisting in the same dish) friends and loved ones are completely appalled when those of us in the bite-it-n-write-it circles get bitchy about a free lunch.
If you are one of those people, don’t read this.
“But it was thirty hamburgers!” That was the most common complaint I heard about The Taste’s Burgers & Beer event, the kickoff to four days of indulgent wining and dining. A huge expanse of parking lot had been taken over behind the Beverly Hilton. Astroturf rolled out, tents erected, gleaming luxury cars (courtesy of Infiniti) were put on display in all their self-conscious opulence. And in that space, from September 2 – 5, The Taste took over – at least for some of the events.
“Thirty! That’s a lot of burgers.”
True. That is a lot of burgers (the number of restaurants was actually thirty-two; the crowd’s favorite burger was from Santa Monica’s Rustic Canyon). At the Taco Tequila Tryst event, spread out on the New York City backlot at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, there were a lot of tacos. And tequila, too.
But, then again, what else should one expect from events called Burgers & Beer and Taco Tequila Tryst? In their defense, the meat spanned the spectrum from beef to pork to sheep and goat and fish, and even the taco party was influenced by a host of different cultures.
See? Sometimes a taco is more than just a taco. Even when there are seventeen different purveyors, all distributing their goods (twenty-seven different tacos in all), wrapped up in a warm tortilla (or a large, circular slice of jicama – from both Taberna Mexicana and Red O).
There was a lot of wine at The Taste, too, but I didn’t hear as much complaining that the bulk of it appeared to be Cabernet Sauvignon (and most of that was poured at Saturday’s Secrets from the Kitchen & Cellar…although, given the name, that’s probably not much of a surprise). What was a surprise was that the wine of the day was actually poured by Ray’s and Stark Bar and it was a sparkling from Westport, Massachusetts: Westport Rivers 2006 Westport Brut “RJR.” Sommelier Paul Sanguinetti said a friend from the area had introduced him to it. Great sparkling from MA? That’s a secret worth sharing.
Another secret from the cellar was that Chateau D’Esclans had all four of their Rosés on hand (Whispering Angel, Chateau d’Esclans, Les Clans and Garrus), and they were all gorgeous.
Back at Paramount, Street Eats (Sept 4) took it to…well…the street, with an assortment of finger foods from a variety of kitchens – including the wheeled kind. There were food trucks, a few dessert stalls and – cheese ‘n’ rice – more tacos. Despite feeling under the weather, I ended up going balls-out at this event: Two of my favorites were Great Balls On Tires’ Ballywood balls (garam masala chicken, coconut madras curry, crispy fried onions, tomato and cilantro chutneys, saffron basmati rice), and the tiny wheels of cream puff goodness from TiroVino wine bar. Pitfire Artisan Pizza got rave reviews from the crowd.
Perhaps the most inventive of the events was DTLA’s Food Noir. Many of the festival’s previous vendors returned for the final night (Giada De Laurentiis hosted Picnic in the Hills the next afternoon to close the festival, for the second year in a row). Restaurants served everything from pan-seared sea scallops (The Raymond) and hand-sliced prosciutto (Terroni) to…more burgers (The Counter) and more tacos (Pinches).
In addition to a great show by the LA local band Dengue Fever, The Orpheum showed clips of old black & white films to support the evening’s theme. That (and the cocktails (The Varnish, Mas Malo, Seven Grand) and the prosciutto…and the cocktails) were my favorite part of the evening.
Actually, Food Noir was probably my favorite part of the entire event (the cocktails: Caña Rum Bar, Las Perlas) certainly helped (but I hadn’t made it to Friday’s Art of Mixing, so that might’ve been a game changer). I also had to skip Fashion Bites Brunch and Desserts After Dark; although it probably would’ve been amazing to see Rodeo Drive closed off and lined with loaded tables of decadent treats…
But, then again, how many desserts can a blogger actually be expected to eat in a weekend? I mean, honestly.