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All the Best Food & Wine From The Taste Los Angeles

The Labor Day Holiday weekend saw thousands of us flock to Paramount Studios in Los Angeles to spend three glorious evenings eating, drinking, sampling and savoring from LA’s best restaurants at the Taste, the Los Angeles Times annual food festival. The Taste has become Los Angeles’s de facto, signature food and wine festival. And for good reason. At no other festival in Los Angeles will you find such an extraordinary roster of restaurants. It’s the perfect event to cross off your 2018 restaurant “must” list in one weekend.

This year’s event paid special tribute to the late, legendary Jonathan Gold. Dozens of chefs created dishes in honor of the Pulitzer Prize winning critic. What a joy to discover so many hidden gems! For those of you couldn’t make it – here are a few of the many highlights from the festival. Your next dinner reservation starts here.

Hope to see you at next year’s Taste!

It’s always a pleasure to step onto the Paramount Studios backlot, but it’s especially beautiful at sunset.

Jonathan Gold’s presence was deeply felt throughout the festival. He attended each year and I was lucky enough to meet him here in 2017.

Chef Tony Esnault from downtown’s Church & State dazzled us with a fresh from the farmer’s market delicious green summer gazpacho made with cucumber, heirloom tomatoes, garlic, celery, cilantro and EVOO. I asked what EVOO was, extra virgin olive oil of course! In this case imported from Greece. It was the perfect starter, light and fresh.

Herringbone served a golden snapper ceviche with chiles, citrus, aji amarillo on nori chips. Herringbone has several locations in Los Angeles, but our favorite is in Santa Monica where they host an incredible daily Oyster Hour.

Fellow seafood haven Ocean Prime served a perfect end-of-summer water melon and tomato salad.

Faith and Flower made a whimsical toro tuna tartare cone with sauce tomato, olives and pickled blue lake beans with gold. 

Highly Likely was a major hit throughout the weekend. Chef Kat Turner made the most delicious fried cod fish sandwiches, one of Jonathan Gold’s favorites. Highly Likely is a new coffee shop and cafe located in West Adams. Every Sunday they host a Sunday Supper, a pop up dinner series.

Mainland Poke Shop served melt-in-your-mouth spoonfuls of forbidden rice, with King salmon, eel lime sauce, siracha aioli, with scallions, cucumbers and black sesame seeds. They only use sushi grade, sustainable, non-frozen fish and have four LA locations: Beverly Hills, Marina del Rey, Santa Monica and West Hollywood. 

Noree Thai on Beverly made their presence known at the festival not just because of their amazing dishes but because their chefs and staff were seemingly having a lot of fun. Chef Pal and Chef Fern served an outstanding Kao Soi (Egg noodles with tofu in a curry broth). They currently own three restaurants in LA. Noree Thai on Beverly, Crying Tiger LA and Luv 2 Eat. All three are highly recommended!

Top Chef alum and the chef and owner of Hollywood hotspot Wolf, Marcel Vigneron served his delectable crack potatoes made with liquid nitrogen that were apropos to their name, like crack! 

Chef Bernhard Mairinger crafted classic Belgium dishes with a local twist: Steak & Frites with a Béarnaise aioli and a Peaches Au Thon with Sauce Analouse.

Pacific Dining Car served three of Jonathan Golds favorite’s over the three nights. It was the first Taste event for the nearly 100 year old restaurant. Open since 1921 and still family owned and operated, Pacific Dining Car helps keep alive the venerable tradition of the American steakhouse, in style. Jonathan Gold said of the restaurant: “I like the venerable Pacific Dining Car, where the meat is dry-aged to a fine pungency, the martinis are massive, the wine list is profound, and the customers include most of the suits downtown who still believe that a good conversation is more entertaining than ear-splitting house music or the Clippers on a dozen large-screen TVs.”

Day 1: a classic steakhouse plate

Ribeye Steak
Creekstone Farms, USDA Prime Ribeye steak, seasoned with our special house blend ground spices, and grilled on-site

Creamed Spinach
Baby leaf spinach, sauteed with sauvignon blanc, and blended with cream, french cultured butter, cream cheese and parmesan cheese

Mashed Potatoes
Yukon gold potatoes, blended with french cultured butter, cream, cracked black pepper and sea salt

DAY 2 – a light summery surf and turf: 

Filet Mignon
Creekstone Farms, USDA Prime filet mignon steak – a classic, flavorful cut with buttery tenderness

PDC Crab Cake
fresh dungeness crab, more crab than cake, true maryland style

DAY 3 – a dash of late night personality: 

Baseball Steak
Creekstone Farms, USDA Prime, dry-aged top sirloin – our thickest cut. (You might know it from the “Training Day” scene shot in our DTLA location.)

Maine Lobster Mac & Cheese
Butter poached Maine lobster folded into velvety gruyere & Manchego cheese sauce and orecchiette noodles

A definitive highlight from the festival was Otium. They served up incredible yellowtail confit with smoked eggplant and sweet and sour tomatoes served in wooden boats on night one and a scallop potato, burnt allium with ficoide glacial on night three.

I was amazed to discover Farmhouse, a restaurant on Beverly and La Cienega that will surely play host to one of my upcoming dinners. Food & Wine Magazine says the restaurant takes “farm to table to a whole new level.”  Farmhouse’s Executive Farmer, Nathan Peitso, works directly with his family farm and the region’s top farmers to grow, harvest, and create seasonal and vibrant dishes.  All the grain used for the pasta, pizza and bread comes from his family farm. Nathan creates a seasonal farm-traceable “seed-to-plate” cuisine that showcases 6 ingredients at their peak each month. They served a wonderful short rib and polenta that was a major hit with guests.

It’s always a pleasure to see Chef Gilberto Cetina. He displayed his mastery of heat with four distinct hot sauces. Jonathan Gold was a big supporter of Cetina’s Holbox restaurant and called his tacos “transcendent.”

Nerano served Gnudi pasta with chanterelle butter sage sauce and generous shavings from giant black truffles that was truly decadent. I know the photo doesn’t do the beautiful taste of truffles justice.

Paramount Coffee Project is not just a coffee house! They serve food as well and wowed us with a Santa Barbara sea urchin mousse on a rice cracker with furikake and purslane. 

Firefly served fried olives from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market topped with a whipped Creme fraiche. Wow! Decadent treats. We had to go back the next night for another serving. Firefly’s restaurant space is located in an intimate and warm garden patio set against a luscious hillside. It’s one of Studio City’s best restaurants.

The lines for yellow tail, spicy tuna, salmon and kanikama hand rolls at Blue Ribbon Sushi were what seemed like a mile long! Umi Hamasaku served big eye tuna nigiri at a speed of light marathon pace. No sushi no life! Both restaurants were definitely two of the most popular at the festival.

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken was extremely popular! Could this be Gus himself?

Ludo Lefebvre from Trois Mec served an outstanding vegetarian smoked Macedoine that was a crowd pleaser! And beautiful too look at to boot.

Chiguacle Sabor Ancestral de Mexico served Ceviche verde on a jicama tortilla which was outstanding and unique! I’ve had lettuce tacos before but never wrapped in jicama. This was a true winner! Chiguacle is an amazing longstanding restaurant in Chinatown.

Brack Shop Tavern served fire roasted Farmer’s market corn with garlic aioli, cotija, quest fresco, tan spice and cilantro. 

Jaffa LA created a fantastic smoked trout with red beets, garlic labneh, pickled mustard seeds and horseradish. 

Rappahannock Oyster Bar served Oysters from Rappahannock River!

They were simply delightful washed down with the Scharffenberger champagne from the neighboring booth.

French restaurant Avec Nous made an appealing Lyonnaise Salad with duck bacon and yolk caviar.

Bar Garcia served delicious Jamon croquettes that makes it worth checking out their space downtown.

Pickles. Just because.

Takami Sushi and Robata made seared ahi tuna with soy vin blanc literally melts in your mouth!

Located 21 floors above Downtown Los Angeles, Takami Sushi & Robata Restaurant is the premier destination for rooftop fine dining with the best views of Los Angeles.

Other food festival highlights include The Arbour with their smoked salmon tartlet, Sichuan Impression‘s grilled king oyster mushroom with spicy jalapeño, 71 Above served a sizzling hot Crispy Cauliflower with Yuzo kosho bang cauda, peccorino, lime and dill, and Border Grill featured a breakfast after dark with chorizo-wrapped eggs and guava and cheese empanada. 

Throughout the festival, artist Devin Liston painted a mural of Jonathan Gold with Gold’s profile and one of his signature quotes:

“As much as you would from a novel or a painting or an opera or movie, you can go to a restaurant, and eat a meal, and look at the people around you and smell the smells, and taste the flavors and learn something about the world that has a lot to do with what’s on your plate.”

And now onto dessert and the wine, of course!

The vegan Meyer lemon cheesecake with a lavender shortbread crust, candied citrus and edible daisy from Citizen Mustard was exquisite and beautiful. 

Banana pudding pie was epic and courtesy of Tuck Room Tavern.

Eataly served gelato and bomboloni. Why have them separate? Just sandwich it! Imagine a delicious fluffy donut stuffed with hazelnut – chocolate gelato…insanely good!

Kim Crawford Wines have always been a favorite. Known for their Savignon Blanc, their Rosé was a special treat. 

Charles Lafitte sparkling Rosé Prestige was a favorite. 

During the 101 Reasons to Drink Wine panel with Wes Hagen from J. Wilkes winery. He started the panel off with tips for Angelenos: Don’t drive drunk and don’t be a dick. 

Some of the 101 reasons to drink wine:

  1. Wine extends life.
  2. Wine lowers stress.
  3. Wine can lead to more sex and more kids.
  4. Wine is natures voice.
  5. Wine can help you find your friends.
  6. Wine makes you more comfortable naked.
  7. Wine is a prism that exhibits our true character.

As you can see, rosé was all over the festival, which was perfect for the warm end-of-summer evenings. One last glass that was a favorite: the Barton & Guestier rosé. The French wine is affordable, and bright, almost salmon-pink with a fine delicate mousse. On the nose strawberry, raspberry, and gentle spice aromas. The rich, fresh cherry aromas lead to a mouthful of freshly picked forest fruits.

The Taste also has excellent panels and cooking demonstrations throughout the weekend.  Michael Lawless of Shad’s New Cali Catering was joined by LA Times food critic Jenn Harris. Lawless has an incredible story which I’ll let him tell himself:

“It started in 2009 while I was incarcerated in the men’s central county jail. I always had a passion for cooking growing up, before my grandma passed away, she would always tell me to go to culinary school, but I didn’t take it serious. So while I was in jail I rented a recipe book and started looking over it. That’s when I told myself when I get out I wanted to be a chef. Once I was released I went to the kitchen every chance I got. I first started studying components and plate balance, then moved on to studying presentations along with techniques. Fast forward to February 2013 I went to Le Cordon Bleu and started working in a restaurant as a paid line cook while on externship. I soon graduated at the top of my class and moved on to work at another fine dining restaurant called Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion all while creating Shads New Cali Catering. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long because they went out of business February 2014 and that’s when I really started to move forward with SNCC. I started off just selling food through my instagram page since people would always rave about my personal dishes that I would post. Soon I started to make a name for myself once people started to see the quality of the product I was putting out.”

An incredible ending to the festival, Niki Yakanama was joined by her wife Carole for a cooking demonstration. You may recognize Niki from an episode of The Chef’s Table. They also have an incredible story: Carole was Niki’s sous chef and they fell in love. She continues to be Niki’s right hand woman as her sous chef. For Niki and Carole, their plates are all about presentation.

One last thing: the garbage. The Taste is a zero waste festival, which is refreshing and necessary in this day and age. We had the pleasure of meeting Zero Waste Company owner Sofia Ratcovich for a behind the scenes tour of their team in action.

All of her team members had their garbage pickers handles painted in Gold especially for this event. Her team dug through each of the garbage bins throughout each evening finding single use items, collecting Stella Artois glasses, and recycled each item, separating them into recycling bins. While her team recommended that vendors not use forks, many did.

 

Until next year!

Jacqueline Tager | CalBre#: 1476997
jacqueline.tager@sothebyshomes | (323) 697-3040
Sotheby’s International Realty – Los Feliz Brokerage
1801 N Hillhurst Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90027

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