Taste of the Nation 2011 (Los Angeles, CA)

Taste of the Nation Los Angeles 2011
Media Park
9070 Venice Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
Dining date: 6/12/11

Taste of the Nation is a series of nationwide culinary benefits, with 100% of proceeds being used by the charity Share Our Strength to help end childhood hunger. In LA, the annual event is essentially a large food/drink festival featuring an impressive lineup of restaurants, bars, wineries and even a coffee roaster (Intelligentsia). In all-you-can-eat/drink fashion (really, the only way to do it), participants hop from table to table, tasting a sample of all that LA has to offer.

This was my first time attending the event. I’ve heard for a little while now that this is one of the premier food festivals in the city each year, so it was about time I checked it out. Having now been to one, I’d have to agree.

A-Frame furikake kettle corn crunked up with Benton’s bacon, dried pineapple and fresh shiso

I’ve had this at prior festivals. It’s an addicting, flavorful popcorn, though not particularly memorable at this festival.

Campanile olive oil fried egg on a grilled bread with black olive tapenade and tomato concasse

I thought this was pretty good; the crusty bread was pretty tasty with the fried egg and tomatoes. Would be great for breakfast, especially.

City Tavern grilled pimento cheese, sweet and spicy meatballs, stonefruit and burrata

I didn’t think there was anything too memorable here.

Comme Ca merguez sausage terrine

Craft liberty farm duck fritter & cherry mostarda; carnaroli rice pudding, apricots & pistachios

The fritters were pretty crispy; served hot, there was a subtle duck flavor which was complemented well by the slightly sweet cherry mostarda.

Culina grilled lamb chops

Farmshop house-made pastrami with green tomato ketchup, pickled spring vegetables & rye brioche; seasonal meringues

FIG torta de lengua with breakfast radish and escabeche

I thought the lengua was really tasty, and there was just a little bit of heat here to spice things up.

Hatfield’s Spanish octopus salad

I really liked the octopus – it was sliced thin but prepared in a way that it was both crispy and tender.

Ink. wagyu beef tongue cold cuts, deli inspiration

We were able to try one of the dishes from the VIP section – Voltaggio’s cold cut made out of beef tongue. Really tender and flavorful, I could see a pretty tasty sandwich being made with this.

Joe’s/Bar Pinxto Peruvian lantern scallops and sweet shrimp, white corn panna cotta, marcona almonds, smoked strawberry gastrique and Paella with chorizo, mussels, and chicken

I thought the presentation here was impressive with the large paella pan. The scallops and shrimp, prepared sous vide, were both very good. The paella was quite good as well.

LA Market lamb lollipops with hibiscus glaze on fava bean puree

I found the lamb to be just okay. It wasn’t cooked too evenly, nor was it overly moist of flavorful.

La Seine coconut jalapeno, albacore, salmon, yellowtail, aioli

This dish was one of the more unique ones of the afternoon. A coconut-crusted jalapeno was fried and topped with fish and an aioli. I thought it was quite tasty.

Le Saint Amour charcuterie

Lexington Social House fried chicken, cornbread, braised kale

One of the best dishes in my opinion. The chicken was exceedingly moist (and it was white meat) with a really crispy, delicate crust. So delicious. Oh, and the cornbread was good too.

Loteria! Grill pollo en mole topped with toasted sesame seeds, onion, and fresh Mexican cheese; conchita pibil pork slowly roasted in banana leaf topped with citrus, pickled red onion and chile habanero; papas con rajas, potato with roasted poblano peppers

Loteria always puts out some tasty tacos, and these were no exception. The lengua tacos I found especially good.

Lucques/AOC/Tavern fattoush salad

Not my thing, really.

Lukshon/Father’s Office chicken pops, beer

Loved the fact that FO brought out some taps of their own. Lukshon’s chicken pops were better than when I had them at Lukshon; slightly spicy with a nice, savory glaze.

Michael’s heirloom tomato gazpacho with tomato confit and burrata cheese

Mozza porcini rubbed barbecued Creekstone Farms short ribs with salsa verde

I thought these were just okay. The short ribs weren’t really memorable in any way.

Patina lobster and fresh almond gazpacho

I thought the almond gazpacho was interesting, delicate and somewhat subtle. It reminded me of Asian almond jello, which is something I really liked growing up.

Picca/Mo-Chica chicken anticucho

Picca is supposed to open very soon now, so this was one of the more anticipated stops. The chicken skewers were very good, showing off a really nice smoky grill flavor and moist, tender meat.

Playa/Rivera tamale chipotle

Public Kitchen & Bar porchetta sandwich, arugula, marinated piquillo peppers, parmesan, rustic country bread; Crème fraiche and buttermilk panna cotta, strawberry-rhubarb soup

Hard to go wrong with a porchetta sandwich. This one was very good, with the moist pork at the forefront. The panna cotta was good as well; slightly tangy and very creamy, the fruit was an appropriate complement.

Red O stuffed chile with chorizo, dates and sherry almond sauce; grilled Mazatlan blue shrimp with fresh jicama ‘chips’

Short Order sloppy bolognese slider

This was my first time trying anything from the yet-to-open Short Order. I’ll be honest, the sloppy joe-looking slider didn’t initially pique my interest. But most importantly, it was delicious. The bread was very soft, and the bolognese and pesto really came together well in each bite. Kind of like an Italian sloppy joe.

Simon LA scarlet scallops and yellow beets napoleon, green garlic goat cheese

LQ&SK boudin noir and mustard tapioca banh mi sandwich

I didn’t get a chance to try the LQ pop-up at Starry Kitchen. I guess I missed out, as the banh mi was very good. Balancing French and Asian flavors well, the blood sausage really fit in the banh mi.

STREET kaya toast, toasted bread spread thick with coconut jam, served with soft fried egg drizzled in dark soy and white pepper

I think they were out of eggs by the time I came by. Still, the coconut jam/soy combo was a tasty one.

Tres by Jose Andres olive sphere, grilled octopus taco

The olive spheres were a nice treat. I liked the flavors of the octopus taco, though it wasn’t as memorable as some of the other preparations.

Whist meatballs with pork, veal, prosciutto and pancetta; grilled octopus with smoked potatoes

WP24 chow feung roll with braised beef short rib

This is one of my favorite dishes at a dim sum house. Here at WP24, it’s made a little bit differently…a sort of haute version. There was a little bit of texture left in the noodle, and the beef was flavorful, especially with a little chile.

Fonuts fonuts

Madame Chocolat 60% dark chocolate chip cookies, 43% milk chocolate covered cheerios, s’mores

Scoops (Westside) makgeoli toffee, miso cheesecake, hefe apricot, salty chocolate, brown bread cognac, maple bacon bites, cherry bourbon ice cream

Scoops served up a number of interesting flavors. I tried a few of these and probably liked the makgeoli (sake) toffee best. Guest scooper (and booth neighbor) Jacques Torres even dropped in!

Sprinkles assorted cupcakes

I was also able to try much of the impressive lineup of drinks. My focus was largely on the beer and cocktails, purely because that’s what I was feeling this afternoon.

I thought there was very good beer representation with Bruery Ommegang/The Golden State, The Bruery/Steingarten LA, Eagle Rock Brewery/Verdugo Bar, and Stone Brewery. I particularly liked the Manifesto (Eagle Rock witbier) and Trade Winds (Bruery Tripel). As for the cocktails…

1886 at The Raymond

Sotto ft. Julian Cox

The Spare Room

I was also able to try Basement Tavern and La Descarga.

Missed out on Intelligentsia…but that’s something I can get anytime.

I thought this was a wonderful event. The park venue is a nice one, and the event was well-run. If anything, I just wish the event was longer. The lineup of restaurants and bars in LA is really top-notch, and given that the American Wine & Food Festival is said to be ending, I could easily see this being the top food festival of its kind in LA. I will be marking this event on my calendar for years to come.

I found the irony of the sheer excess of this event (put on to alleviate hunger issues in America) to be really interesting. Having said that, I understand that events such as these tend to drive in publicity and people ($)…thus leading to more funds for this important cause in the end.


  1. Wow, great wrap-up. Now I know exactly what I was missing out on 🙂

    Although I’m a big fan of A-Frame, I’m not really into their furikake kettle corn. However, I really want to try the “crunked up” version.

  2. Great recap. I was a bit bummed for missing out, but I got lazy with volunteering, especially having to arrive there at 8:30am.

    I think I’m just gonna pay to get in next year.

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