Lexus Grand Tasting: Saturday
Los Angeles Food & Wine
800 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 10/15/11
Los Angeles Food & Wine, in its first year, has become the biggest food event in the city. Spanning 4 days and around 50 events, it brought together a top-notch lineup of chefs/restaurants for a whirlwind of events priced between $50 and $2,000. Like the now-defunct American Wine & Food Festival, restaurants across the country were represented, not just LA – something that was a unique draw.
Most of the events featured just a handful of chefs, but there were a few tasting events offering access to a whole bunch. One was the Lexus Grand Tasting, held Saturday and Sunday, with an advertised 30 chefs/restaurants and 200 wineries (though, I’m pretty sure there were less of both in actuality) for an all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink affair at $195. I received a media pass to come taste and sip my way through the Saturday tasting.
The event took place at downtown’s LA Live. A very large tent was set up for some much-needed shade, while food and wine stands were disbursed throughout.
Lexus presented a “tasting lab” featuring a bunch of small bites and mixology demos throughout the afternoon.
On to the food:
Ricardo Zarate (Picca, Mo-Chica) alpaca & chorizo crostini; diver scallop anticucho
Michel Richard (Citronelle) fried chicken with dijon mustard sauce
Kenny Callaghan (Blue Smoke) peanut butter and pork (belly)
Graham Elliot (Graham Elliot) pumpkin bisque
Taylor Boudreaux (WP Bistro) rosemary rotisserie chicken with garlic mashed potatoes
Jared Van Camp (Old Town Social) fennel-scented salami
Chris Pandel (The Bristol) chilled crab, mussels and scallops in brown butter miso
Bradley Ogden (Root 246) duroc pork tenderloin, corn pudding, gremolata of bacon & corn, blackberry cipollini
Sam Christopher (Rosa Mexicano) duck confit taco
Joe Miller (Joe’s, Bar Pintxo) suckling pig sandwich; paella
Rick Tramonto (Restaurant R’evolution) truffled short rib debris po’ boy
Jason Harley (Pici Enoteca) lobster ravioli
David LeFevre (MB Post) veal and pork albondigas
Roger Stettler (Four Seasons Maui) salmon tartare cone; lobster risotto
Bill Starbuck (Lucky Strike Lanes) short rib, garlic spinach, bread pudding
Michael Mina (Michael Mina) smoked squab shabu shabu
Tyler Florence (Wayfare Tavern) cauliflower panna cotta, hamachi tartare
Todd English (Olives) skirt steak, beet risotto, blue cheese, roasted beets
Mark Peel (Campanile) mussels
Kent Torrey (The Cheese Shop Carmel)
Hasty Torres (Madame Chocolat)
While it was reasonably possible to try all of the food, it was virtually impossible to make more than a small dent into the wine offerings.
My favorite pour was from the Beaulieu Vineyard and their 2008 Georges de Latour Cabernet.
Overall, I thought the food was good, but not great. I was expecting some more interesting dishes, especially from the chefs who flew across the country to do this. Still, there were a number of highlights including Michael Mina’s smoked squab shabu shabu. I love squab, and his dashi-based broth screamed umami. This was also the first time I’ve had alpaca; Ricaro Zarate combined the meat with smoky chorizo on top of crispy crostini. Jason Harley of Pici Enoteca churned out a really nice lobster ravioli – flavors and textures were spot on delicious. Joe Miller’s paella was just as good as the one I tried at Taste of the Nation, while Rosa Mexicano served up a succulent duck confit taco. Some of the misses included Tyler Florence’s panna cotta and Todd English’s overcooked skirt steak.
The event was well-run, and lines weren’t too bad at all. Todd English and Tyler Florence seemed to consistently have the longest lines, and those were probably in the 5-10 minute range. Given it’s just in its first year, I thought the Grand Tasting showed a lot of promise. I just hope the chefs kick it up a notch or two next year.
Disclosure: This event was hosted.