The Taste: Picnic in the Hills (Los Angeles, CA)

Picnic in the Hills
The Taste 2011
9900 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 9/3/11

The Taste’s final event of the weekend-long festival was this picnic, hosted by Giada DeLaurentiis. I was glad to return to Beverly Hills (my favorite of the venues I visited); for the most part, the set-up was similar to the other events at this venue. One of the main differences was that it was a picnic with more of a family focus. Plenty of faux grass, foliage and picnic benches were brought in to set the tone. Given that children 14 and under were free (and it was a hot, sunny day) this place was packed with adults and children alike.

Summer picnic? Of course there had to be a lemonade stand. Upon entering, everyone received a mason jar to be filled up at this stand. Fresh fruit and herbs were available for customization. Fun!

Angelini Osteria lasagna verde

BLD/Grace farro salad, wild arugula, parmesan

Clementine sloppy joe; summer fruit crisp

Dolly’s Sweet Dreams Cotton Candy

Factors Famous Deli pastrami reuben

Fig & Olive gazpacho

Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate

Huckleberry bbq pork n’ biscuit sliders, tabouleh salad, raw kale salad

Inn of the Seventh Ray mole braised short rib, 63 degree quail egg, cauliflower escabeche, crispy carrot

Kate Mantilini lamb lollipop; white chili

Lawry’s Catering watermelon arugula salad; mini roast beef sandwich

Lexington Social House fried chicken, corn salad

Literati Bar & Grill herb hummus; curry chicken salad

M Street Kitchen/Stella Rossa Pizza Bar grilled ciabatta, mozzarella, grapes, olive oil

Pitfire Artisan Pizza sausage pizza

Richard Ruskell Pastries at Montage

RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen ovaltine shaved ice

Sprinklesmobile assorted cupcakes

Terroni tagliatelle with beef and pork ragu; spaghetti; rigatoni with eggplant

Vinoteque on Melrose roasted tomato & herbed cheese tarlets; key lime cheesecake bites with toasted coconut

Waffles de Liege liege waffle

Wurstkuche duck, bacon & jalapeno sausage, sweet bell peppers, whole grain mustard

Even though there were a lot of children around, the alcohol was as plentiful as any other event. Below, a variety of soju as well as dark & stormy cocktails being made all afternoon.

“Hungry Girl” Lisa Lillien was interviewed by Rene Lynch of the LA Times, while Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos (“Extra Virgin”) hosted a cooking demonstration.

My favorite dish here had to be Lexington Social House’s fried chicken, which was also one of my favorites from this year’s Taste of the Nation. In both instances they used white meat (a drumette here), but was able to keep it very moist and flavorful. The well-seasoned batter had just the crunch I was looking for…so good. Selfishly, I had 5 or 6 of these throughout the afternoon.

A visit to Angelini Osteria has been long delayed on my part, so I was really excited to try the lasagna verde. It did not disappoint, displaying a homey, delicious ragu (made of beef and veal) topped with crispy fried spinach. I also enjoyed the dish from Inn at the Seventh Ray, which somehow was able to compact mole-braised short rib, cauliflower and a quail egg in one bite.

I found myself coming back multiple times to Terroni, which was making fresh pasta on the spot and serving a rotating pasta dish. Fresh pasta? I am so there. Of the three I tried, I liked the meaty tagliatelle with beef and pork ragu best, but they were all very good.

I enjoyed this event quite a bit and the whole festival overall. As food festivals go, I’d say The Taste is one of the more expensive ones (the last-week promotions made the price much more palatable), and I’ll be interested to see if is changed or maintained next year. I thought the venues were pretty well done, with the crowds not being too bad either. The abundance of tables and space was kind of unique and a definite plus as well.


Other posts from The Taste 2011:
Burgers & Beer | Secrets from the Kitchen & Cellar | Street Eats

Disclosure: This event was hosted.

The Taste: Street Eats (Los Angeles, CA)

Street Eats
The Taste 2011
Paramount Studios
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
Dining date: 9/4/11

Day three of The Taste brought 4 events: Fashion Bites Brunch, Street Eats, Desserts After Dark, and Food Noir. I wanted to check out the Hollywood venue, and “Street Eats” would provide a perfect opportunity. I feel like ‘street food’ in LA is becoming synonymous with food trucks, but there’s a lot more exciting options in LA outside of the truck scene. This event had a good balance between trucks and established restaurants making their interpretations of street food – something that interested me. Ironically, this was one of the more expensive tickets at $150 ($90 with promotion).

Whereas the Beverly Hills events were concentrated under two large tents, the Hollywood events took place in the open air of the Paramount Studios backlot.

Akasha masala chicken taco, jalapeno slaw, chili chicharrones, peanuts

Ayara Thai chicken sate crostini

Border Grill churro tots, dulce de leche

Cast Iron Gourmet bourbon bacon chutney

Chichen Itza Restaurant black bean filled tortilla, turkey

Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwiches

Firenze Osteria duck sausage, fresh pasta

Great Balls on Tires italian meatball

Guelaguetza tamales oaxaquenos: black mole and chicken breast tamales wrapped in banana leaf

Jitlada crying tiger beef

Loteria Grill esquites: corn kernels infused with epazote, chili powder, mayonnaise, lemon

Osteria La Buca corn on the cob, paprika, garlic aioli

Palate Food & Wine lamb flatbread

Pitfire Artisan Pizza heirloom tomato pizza; sausage pizza

Steel City Sandwich duck pierogi

Susan Feniger’s STREET kaya toast

The Foundry on Melrose grilled cheese

The Grilled Cheese Truck american melt; cheesy mac melt

As with all of the events, plenty of alcohol was available, inclusive of the ticket price. Wine, beer, tequila, vodka and a host of other spirits.

Fabio Viviani hosted a cooking demonstration where he made pork belly sandwiches, while Jet Tila (Wazuzu), Sang Yoon (Father’s Office, Lukshon), Roy Choi (Kogi, A-Frame, Chego) and Mario Alberto (Chimu) talked about the food scene in LA, particularly the rise of Asian cuisine.

Food highlights for me included Akasha’s chicken masala taco. I thought it was unique (naan -> taco?) with a well-executed, deep curry chicken flavor. The Italian meatball from Great Balls on Tires was easily one of the better things I’ve eaten from a truck, with a moist meatball complemented well by a tangy tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. Pitfire’s pizzas were rather simple and done well – the sausage had great flavor.  Coolhaus had a pretty long line each time I walked by so I didn’t get an ice cream sandwich, but I’ve been a fan of their stuff from the start.

I don’t think this event presented as much value as the others I attended, especially at the elevated price point. Not that anything was bad; this event had just as much to offer as the others. However, I don’t think the ‘street food’ theme commanded such a high price tag.


Other posts from The Taste 2011:
Burgers & Beer | Secrets from the Kitchen & Cellar | Picnic in the Hills

Disclosure: This event was hosted.

The Taste: Secrets from the Kitchen & Cellar (Los Angeles, CA)

Secrets from the Kitchen & Cellar
The Taste 2011
9900 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 9/3/11

After Friday’s opening night event “Burgers & Beer,” Saturday brought two more: “Secrets from the Kitchen & Cellar” and “Taco Tequila Tryst.” I elected to go to the first. Whereas the “Burgers & Beer” event was focused around burgers, this one was open to the restaurants cooking whatever they wanted. Given I had close to 20 burgers the previous evening, I was looking forward to some variety.

The venue was set up pretty much exactly the same as the previous night, with two large tents housing the food & drink, and a number of tables outside. Also, a few tents with small stages were set up for various cooking demonstrations and chef panel discussions.

Cafe del Rey lobster ceviche

CHAYA Brasserie seaweed salad with chicken; compressed watermelon with basil oil

Craft sonoma pork, heirloom beans

Enoteca Drago cherry balsamic glazed roasted pork belly, sardinia fregola salad

Il Pastaio baked spaghetti wrapped with eggplant, mozzarella, tomato basil sauce

K-ZO crispy albacore

Larsen’s Steakhouse prime new york strip, creamed spinach, garlic mashed potatoes

Locanda del Lago rainbow trout marinated with celery, carrots, onions, juniper berries

Mezze ginger cookie, honey milk sorbet

Momed duck shawarma

Mr. Chow shrimp with glazed walnuts

Napa Valley Grille wild halibut crudo, summer root salad, gin citrus vinaigrette; heirloom tomato gazpacho

Oliverio at Avalon Hotel orecchiette with lamb ragu

Picca beef wrap, quinoa risotto, rocoto sauce

Public Kitchen + Bar pork sausage on ciabatta

Ray’s & Stark Bar marinated bay scallops; pork meatball

Sam’s By the Beach wild boar lasagna

Scarpetta yellowtail

Simon LA braised short rib, creamy farro, pea puree, toasted pine nuts, merlot glaze

Sotto crispy pork belly porchetta

Sushi Roku heirloom hamachi salad

Tender Greens wild alaskan salmon, corn, arugula, roasted peppers, red onions, cherry tomatoes, lemon basil aioli; agave cupcake, black mission fig

Wood & Vine foie gras & pork terrine

Dozens of wineries and spirits were featured, but my favorite drink happened to be this one:

Cuties has started bottling their citrusy goodness (I love their clementines). I tried the clementine/Mandarin juice and it tasted just like the fruit…I will be buying these in the grocery store soon. Love the bottle too.

I also dropped in on Scarpetta chef Scott Conant doing a cooking demonstration, the Lefebvres talking about their history and new show, and Craig Thornton (Wolvesmouth), Walter Manzke, Michael Voltaggio and Jonathan Gold discussing the role of social media in today’s restaurant scene. I thought these side events were an excellent opportunity for anyone wanting to take a break from stuffing their faces with more food.

My favorite dish would was definitely Sotto’s pork belly porchetta. The meat was rich and succulent with a complementary fennel flavor. And a crispy skin! So good. Neighbor Picca had another memorable dish, with chunks of beef and a quinoa risotto wrapped in lettuce cups, topped with a rocoto pepper sauce. Sam’s by the Beach had a simple-seeming lasagna, but it was comforting and delicious. Lastly, Chaya’s compressed watermelon were refreshing sweet bursts of flavor, while the basil oil really elevated the bites. Perfect for the weather.

I actually liked this event more than “Burgers & Beer” particularly for the wider variety of food, as well as the option of the chef panel discussions.


Other posts from The Taste 2011:
Burgers & Beer | Street Eats | Picnic in the Hills

Disclosure: This event was hosted.

The Taste: Burgers & Beer (Los Angeles, CA)

Burgers & Beer
The Taste 2011
9900 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 9/2/11

Last year, the Labor Day weekend brought the debut of two new food festivals to LA. LA Times brought the one-day fest called the LA Times Celebration of Food & Wine to Hollywood, while Food & Wine Magazine presented a 4-day festival called Taste of Beverly Hills.

This year, they’ve decided to combine forces for The Taste, covering 4 days and both Beverly Hills and Hollywood (and one downtown event). 9 all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink events (of various themes) make up the weekend festival, with ticket prices varying from $125-$150 each. However, significant discounts of 40% were available in the last couple of weeks leading up to the event. Luckily, I was able to get a media pass granting access to all of the events.

The first event was in Beverly Hills called “Burgers & Beers.” I liked the setup of the venue – two large tents housed the food and booze, while tables were available outside to chill. I’ve found that many of the food festivals I’ve been to have very limited room to sit, and I liked the fact that there were dozens of tables available for anyone to sit and relax with their food and drink.

25 Degrees hatch chili, tomme dolce, nueske bacon, chipotle aioli, arugula

Blue Palms BrewHouse kobe beef cooked in duck fat, black truffles, maytag blue cheese, pop & wop peppers, crimini mushrooms, onions, white truffle glazed bun

BOA Steakhouse braised kobe beef brisket

Delphine burger on a stick

Ford’s Filling Station lamb burger

Rosewood Tavern beef burger

Rustic Canyon black angus, tillamook sharp cheddar, housemade pickles, herb remoulade, onion fondue, wild arugula

STK bbq short rib sliders, sour cream and chives, roasted corn salad, stk bbq sauce

The Bowery gruyere, red onion confit

The Glendon Bar & Kitchen house burger: angus beef blend, horseradish aioli, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms

The Gorbals onion six ways burger: onion marmalade, caramelized onions, grilled onion steak, pickled red onion, crispy shallots, green onion mayonnaise

The Misfit grass fed paso prime beef, edmond fallot dijon, aioli, cheddar, tomato, arugula

The Spice Table hangar steak & short rib, curried pickled cucumbers, sambal, fried shallots, kraft american cheese

The Yard chorizo burger

Westside Tavern cheeseburger

Wilshire Restaurant roasted pork slider, apple chutney, arugula, dijon aioli

The Cake Mamas

A host of beers and vineyards were represented as well. Some of my favorite local breweries were featured, including Craftsman, Stone and Eagle Rock. From halfway around the world, I was pleased to find Ferran Adria’s Estrella Damm Inedit.

There were a bunch of other burgers I didn’t get to try (some willing and some unwilling) but my stomach could only hold so much. Sounded like I definitely missed out on Osteria La Buca and The Tasting Kitchen. My favorite singular item of the night was the Wilshire’s roasted pork sandwich. The bun was soft and buttery while the pork was tender, moist and full of flavor. The apple added a nice sweetness to balance the peppery arugula. However, I wouldn’t really call it a burger, per se. While Rustic Canyon won the ‘Best Burger’ vote, my favorite of the evening was The Misfit’s. The patty ate like a steak, with its 1+ inch medium-rare grass-fed beef exuding a wonderful juicy, beefy flavor. The crostini “buns” weren’t the easiest to bite through (meat and juices would come out the other side), but I liked the change of pace.

I thought this was a fun and tasty event. For an event that is sort of in its first year (yet, sort of second), I thought it was pretty well-run. Parking and entry were both quick. The tents got a little crowded midway through the evening, but all of the lines were pretty short with the exception of The Tasting Kitchen.

Was the event worth $125? I would say probably not…unless you really, really love burgers. For $40, I could go to Father’s Office and have an excellent burger and a few pints of really good beer. However, that’s not entirely comparable – the venue here was a pretty nice one, and the variety of burgers and alcohol easily justify a higher price point. At $75 (the promotional price in the last week of ticket sales), I think this event presented a good value. I look forward to seeing what else The Taste has to offer in the coming days.


Other posts from The Taste 2011:
Secrets from the Kitchen & Cellar | Street Eats | Picnic in the Hills

Disclosure: This event was hosted.