LA Food & Wine: Saturday Grand Tasting (Los Angeles, CA)

Saturday Grand Tasting
Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival 2012
L.A. Live
800 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 8/11/12

While this past weekend’s LA Food & Wine festival offered a host of options in its 40+ events, the ones that piqued my interest most were the tastings. Food is the centerpiece of almost every event, but there are a few events (Saturday/Sunday Grand Tastings, Live on the Plaza) that offer food from dozens of different restaurants from around the country.

Saturday’s Grand Tasting featured around 30 chefs/restaurants and many more wineries (100+) in all-you-can-eat-and-drink fashion. The event was held during the day at LAFW’s “base” – LA Live. A huge tent shielded patrons from the searing sun, though the AC was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people (and makeshift kitchens) during one of the summer’s hottest heatwaves. Given the heat, water, champagne and cold beer seemed to be in strong demand to go along with the food.

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Each chef/restaurant had its own booth, with many of them serving multiple tastes.

Perfecto Rocher (Lazy Ox Canteen) watermelon gazpacho, jamon iberico, caviar

Perfecto Rocher (Lazy Ox Canteen) watermelon gazpacho, jamon iberico, caviar

jamon

Gabriel Ask (Montage Beverly Hills) corn panna cotta, bacon chips, uni

Gabriel Ask (Montage Beverly Hills) corn panna cotta, bacon chips, uni

Floyd Cardoz (North End Grill) mangalitsa pork, chutney

Floyd Cardoz (North End Grill) mangalitsa pork, chutney

Ernesto Uchimura (Plan Check) fried chicken, smoked milk gravy, pickled okra

Ernesto Uchimura (Plan Check) fried chicken, smoked milk gravy, pickled okra

Mark Estee (Campo) blood pudding, crispy polenta

Mark Estee (Campo) blood pudding, crispy polenta

Andre Bienvenu (Joe’s Stone Crab) popcorn with lobster, shrimp, crab, pork belly; seared ahi with merlot sugar

Andre Bienvenu (Joe's Stone Crab) popcorn with lobster, shrimp, crab, pork belly; seared ahi with merlot sugar

Andre Bienvenu (Joe's Stone Crab) popcorn with lobster, shrimp, crab, pork belly; seared ahi with merlot sugar

Hector Ramirez (Ruth’s Chris) mini filet oscar style; crabtini; sweet potato casserole

Hector Ramirez (Ruth's Chris) mini filet oscar style; crabtini; sweet potato casserole

Hector Ramirez (Ruth's Chris) mini filet oscar style; crabtini; sweet potato casserole

Hector Ramirez (Ruth's Chris) mini filet oscar style; crabtini; sweet potato casserole

Fabio Viviani (Firenze Osteria) pasta with duck sausage and fennel

Fabio Viviani (Firenze Osteria) pasta with duuk sausage and fennel

Anthony Meidenbauer (Holstein’s) pork belly slider

Anthony Meidenbauer (Holstein's) pork belly slider

Joachim Splichal (Patina) summer corn pudding, crab salad, lobster espuma

Joachim Splichal (Patina) summer corn pudding, crab salad, lobster espuma

Rick Tramonto (R’evolution) BBQ shrimp and grits

Rick Tramonto (R'evolution) BBQ shrimp and grits

Jeremy Berlin (Church & State) heirloom tomatoes, balsamic vinegar

Jeremy Berlin (Church & State) heirloom tomatoes, balsamic vinegar

Stephan Pyles (Stephan Pyles) scallop escabeche, red corn, spiced chicharron, huitlacoche foam

Stephan Pyles (Stephan Pyles) scallop escabeche, red corn, spiced chicharron, huitlacoche foam

Ricardo Zarate (Mo-Chica, Picca) grilled paiche miso

Ricardo Zarate (Mo-Chica, Picca) grilled paiche miso

Kerry Simon and Nona Sivley (LA Market) snickers, chocolate peanut butter cups

Kerry Simon and Nona Sivley (LA Market) snickers, chocolate peanut butter cups

Justin Everett (Murray Circle) saison ale peach preserves, oat financier, brown sugar creme

Justin Everett (Murray Circle) saison ale peach preserves, oat financier, brown sugar creme

Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (Border Grill) summer bean salad tostadita

Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (Border Grill) summer bean salad tostadita

Hasty Torres (Madame Chocolat) assorted chocolates

Hasty Torres (Madame Chocolat) assorted chocolates

Hasty Torres (Madame Chocolat) assorted chocolates

Magnolia Bakery banana pudding, cupcakes

Magnolia Bakery banana pudding, cupcakes

Magnolia Bakery banana pudding, cupcakes

Mark Ainsworth (Pastry Smart) chocolate cremeaux

Mark Ainsworth (Pastry Smart) chocolate cremeaux

Ryan Morrison (Towne) pig in a blanket with lobster and smoked sausage

Ryan Morrison (Towne) pig in a blanket with lobster and smoked sausage

Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier (Arrows) lobster fried green tomato sandwich

Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier (Arrows) lobster fried green tomato sandwich

Paul Shoemaker (Savory) ribeye, kimchi, umeboshi

Paul Shoemaker (Savory) ribeye, kimchi, umeboshi

Duane Owen (Pechanga) pan seared lobster and crispy pork belly, savoy cabbage slaw, chardonnay reduction, micro greens

Duane Owen (Pechanga) pan seared lobster and crispy pork belly, savoy cabbage slaw, chardonnay reduction, micro greens

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Cold champagne was a popular choice in the muggy tent, and I had more than my own fair share.

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Highlights for me included the dishes from Patina and Lazy Ox Canteen. Patina’s corn pudding and crab salad provided two layers of sweetness in some delicious, cool and refreshing bites. A little bit of lobster flavor provided some extra depth of flavor. Lazy Ox’s dish featured a duo of decadent flavors between the jamon iberico and caviar; the cool, sweet watermelon was a welcome accompaniment to bring it all together. Plan Check’s fried chicken was one of the most popular booths all afternoon and for good reason – the smoky fried chicken was very juicy and flavorful with an addicting crunch from the crispy batter. Finally, Fabio Viviani’s pasta with duck sausage was simple yet well-done, with an al dente pasta and rich duck ragu. I’m always a sucker for a good pasta, and came back for couple more portions.

Aside from stronger air conditioning, I’d like to see more national representation from the chefs and restaurants next year in this event. One of the things that separates LA Food & Wine (and Pebble Beach Food & Wine) from a lot of the other festivals in LA is the fact that it can draw chefs from outside of LA, allowing patrons more of an opportunity to try something new.

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Note: This was a sponsored event.


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