The Taste 2013: Field to Fork (Los Angeles, CA)

The Taste 2013: Field to Fork
Paramount Pictures Studios
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 8/31/13

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LA Times’ The Taste was held this past Labor Day weekend, completing the largest tandem of LA food festivals in back-to-back weeks (with LA Food & Wine). This is the third year of The Taste in its current incarnation (fourth if the LA Times Celebration of Food & Wine is included) and I’ve attended every single year. This year, the festival encompassed five individual events at the Paramount Studios backlot.

The Taste’s events have a number of similarities to LAFW events, particularly the tasting events (large lineups of all-you-can-eat food/drink). One of the main differences is The Taste’s events tend to be more all-inclusive, including cooking demonstrations, wine/cocktail tasting/demos, and various discussion panels in the price of admission. Speaking of price admission, it’s much cheaper ($65 GA to most events with a variety of discounts available), although another big difference is the more LA-centric lineup of chefs/restaurants represented here.

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LA Food & Wine 2013: Asian Night Market (Los Angeles, CA)

Asian Night Market
Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival 2013
Grand Avenue between 1st and 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 8/23/13

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Friday night’s Asian Night Market was one of two LA Food & Wine tasting events this year to have a ‘theme’ (the other being Giada’s Festa Italiana). It had to be one of the more impressive chef lineups around for a night market, with 25 chefs from LA and around the country represented. Some big names like Masaharu Morimoto and Roy Yamagauchi combined with some of LA’s favorites to create a modern interpretation of a night market.

This was by far the most approachable tasting event price-wise at $125 ($175 VIP). As with all of these tasting events, it’s all-you-can-eat/drink. The venue was in the middle of downtown – Grand Street was shut down for the event in the shadow of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

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LA Food & Wine 2013: Live on Grand (Los Angeles, CA)

Live on Grand
Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival 2013
Grand Avenue between 1st and 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 8/24/13

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Live on Grand was one of the marquee tasting events of this past weekend’s LA Food & Wine Festival. Formerly called Live on the Plaza when the event was held at LA Live, it’s now moved to the heart of downtown – on Grand right outside the Walt Disney Concert Hall. In the shadow of downtown skyscrapers and the concert hall, it was an ideal location for a summer evening food & drink fest.

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Similar to other LAFW tasting events, approximately 25 chefs/restaurants were on hand from around the country to serve up samples of their food in all-you-can-eat fashion. Dozens more wineries, breweries and a couple of mixologists were around to keep glasses full. Unique to this event, Gavin DeGraw provided live entertainment towards the end of the evening.

General admission was a hefty $250 with VIP tickets (allowing earlier admission) running $350. My tickets were compliments of luxury kitchen appliance maker Jenn-Air, one of the festival’s main sponsors.

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LA Food & Wine 2013: Lexus Grand Tastings (Los Angeles, CA)

Lexus Grand Tastings: Saturday & Sunday
Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival 2013

LA Center Studios
1201 W 5th St
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Dining date: 8/24/13 and 8/25/13

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This past weekend marked the third annual Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival. It’s the largest food/drink festival in the city with around 25 different events, primarily held in downtown LA. Friday power lunches, cooking demonstrations, and a number of food/drink tastings make up the bulk of the events. At the larger tasting events, 25+ chef/restaurants (and even more vintners) are on hand to serve their food in all-you-can-eat and drink fashion. One of the distinctive features of these LAFW tastings is the presence of many out-of-town chefs. The size and brand of the festival (sibling to Pebble Beach Food & Wine) draws some big names including Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, Michael Mina, Masaharu Morimoto, Rick Bayless and Scott Conant.

Lexus has sponsored daytime grand tastings each year since festival inception and I obtained a media pass to attend both days. This would be my third year attending; regular-priced tickets were $150 each day, with a $195 VIP option allowing earlier access.

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Alma (Los Angeles, CA)

Alma
952 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 8/20/13

alma door

Ari Taymor opened up Alma in the middle of last year, after having brought his pop-up restaurant slowly east from Venice to Silverlake and finally opening permanently in downtown LA. Taymor has had a relatively brief cooking career (he’s only 27), having spent time in San Francisco’s Flour+Water and Bar Tartine, but has really exploded onto the scene in recent months.

alma interior

Last week, Alma was named the #1 best new restaurant in America by Bon Appetit, beating out even the vaunted Saison. The restaurant has been a critical darling since opening (JGold/LA Times, Besha/LA Weekly), though it currently maintains a relatively pedestrian 3.5 star rating on Yelp. I dined here towards the end of last year and placed it in the ‘good but not great’ category, but figured it was time for a return.

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Wolvesmouth (Los Angeles, CA) [3]

Wolvesmouth Underground Dining
Various locations
Dining date: 7/13/13

Chef Craig Thornton’s Wolvesmouth concept has continued to grow in popularity. It’s been written about time and time again (see this New Yorker write-up) and Thornton has even taken the show on the road, hosting dinners in NYC. While Thornton and team have been working on opening up a full-time brick-and-mortar restaurant, they’re continuing to host private and public dinners in the LA area.

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It’s been a full year and a half since I dined at a Wolvesmouth dinner (though there was that collaboration with Miles Thompson of Allumette for Le Grand Fooding a few months back) and I was glad to be back. It was coincidentally the night before my birthday, so it was a great place/meal to celebrate the occasion.

As usual, the evening’s menu is scrawled on a piece of paper on the refrigerator. This evening’s dinner would be nine courses. Unique to these underground dinners is the ability to see everything happen right then and there – nothing’s hidden, and interaction with the staff is commonplace.

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