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Photos From Los Angeles Times’ The Taste at Paramount Studios

The LA Times labor of love Labor Day tradition continued over the past Labor Day Weekend with The Taste LA. Along with celebrating amazing and inventive cuisine by Southern California’s best chefs, The Taste also celebrated the legacy of the late Jonathan Gold. His image appeared in certain shadows of the event space as if he were watching from above and smiling down. We went to all three nights of the event!

It was an absolute food marathon. We tried our best to pace ourselves throughout each evening to make it to the very end and try absolutely everything we could get our hands on. There were so many great restaurants to experience. I hate to admit it, but even with Nancy Silverton’s new Triple Beam Pizza on the menu, I avoided all pizza and most other carbs to save room for other, lighter dishes. Okay, I may have snuck in a slice or two.

We’re all still on our new fall diets even a week later! The Taste, as always, was very well attended. The crowds arrived early and waited outside the gates. Ready, set, go…the gates opened and it was like the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Read on for tasty photos of the amazing festival and make sure you don’t miss the culinary event of the season next year!

FRIDAY

We kicked the night off with a Salmon Mousse Crostini and Veracruz Shrimp Salad from Prawn Coastal Casual by Chef Mark Peel. Despite their restaurant’s name, Prawn is actually located in Grand Central Market in Downtown LA.

We wouldn’t normally have had dessert so early, but because of the heat, these Churro Ice Cream Sandwiches dipped in Chocolate Ganache from McConnell’s Ice Cream were absolutely irresistible.

And, of course, a refreshing scotch cocktail from The Singleton was completely necessary, too.

Chef Timothy Hollingsworth of Otium served Peach Glazed Veal Meatballs. Otium is my favorite restaurant to dine at before or after a visit to The Broad Museum in DTLA. And not just because it’s just right next door. I love their outdoor patio, oysters, and wine selection.

It’s always a pleasure to run into Chef Fern and Chef Pla of Noree Thai at these food and wine events. Always smiling and having a good time as usual.

Noree Thai were serving Kao Soi with Tofu.

Le Grand offered a Compressed Watermelon and a Branzino Ceviche.

Both dishes were simply refreshing and perfect on the still very warm Friday evening.

Not to mention also beautiful to look at! Le Grand has quickly become one of Downtown LA’s hotspots. It’s a modern Mediterranean inspired restaurant with a focus on fresh seafood with a coastal California touch. Helmed by chef/brother duo, Alex (Executive Chef) and Chris Manos (Chef de Cuisine), Le Grand embodies a luxe yet relaxed feel and a menu replete with imaginative, ingredient forward dishes, homemade pastas and fresh seafood.

Arts District French Bistro Church and State supplied a (I’m told) appetizing Blood Sausage.

Fat Dragon, which is located on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake, offered Sichuan cold noodles.

Fat Dragon specializes in authentic Asian food with a kick of their own creations. Ramen, Asian dumplings, and Chinese food with bold and amazing flavors. And, yes, these cold noodles are on their full time menu.

Bibigo Kitchen was serving KFC. By KFC I mean, in this case, Korean Fried Chicken, with a honey and sweet chili sauce glaze and edamame. And they didn’t stop there. They also doled out Bulgogi Sliders and Mini Chicken Wontons. Can’t wait for their brick and mortar location in Century City to open!

Donut Friend offered donut flavors with names like Yo La Mangoi, Dag Nutty, Strawberry So Far, Green Teagan & Sara, Rites of Sprinkles, and Polar Berry Club.

Jonathan Gold, as ever, was a lasting and true presence of the festival. The festival was a favorite annual event of Jonathan’s and the Paramount backlot a few years ago is where I was lucky enough to meet him and talk for a few minutes about his latest restaurant favorites.

And, of course, there was a lot of rosé. One rosé highlight for us was the Hampton Water Wine at the Gerard Bertrand Table. Hampton Water is slang in the Hamptons for rosé in the summer. The rosé was created by Jon Bon Jovi and his son Jesse Bongiovi and it tastes much more incredible than you might expect for a  celebrity brand.  It captures the spirit shared between the Hamptons and the South of France flawlessly.

Inko Nito won our prize for the best dish on night one! It was well worth waiting in the long line. The dish was a Yellowtail with Yuzu topped with generous shavings from fresh black truffles. A serious YUM!!! Inko Nito also served a delectable Avocado Maki. Inko Nito has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants in LA.  Inko Nito serve unconventional, contemporary robatayaki and sushi, expanding the Arts District’s easy-going vibe and offering a highly welcoming environment and warm atmosphere.

 

Back to the Gerard Bertrand table for more wine. They just released a new Cotes de Roses chardonnay in the same beautiful bottle as their rosé with an etched rose on the bottom and a glass recyclable cork. Gerard Bertrand is known for their biodynamic and organic wines and this chardonnay did not disappoint.

There were a lot of tacos on the Paramount lot that night! As should be expected in Los Angeles. The popular La Cienega-based Petite Taqueria was serving a variety of mouth-watering meat based  tacos.

More Rosé wine…yes, it was that kind of Friday evening but they are only small tastings, I assure you…

This glass was from Bodvar and they had the most beautiful presentation, like a fantasy wedding with strawberries, pink roses, and candles.

Hamasaku – No sushi no life! Hamasaku served three different sushi hand rolls: salmon, ginger albacore and spicy tuna. They were simply racing to keep up with the crowds so I didn’t quite get the shot I wanted.

Lady M Confections served Vanilla and Chocolate 10 Layer Crepe Cakes. Yes, ten layers. It was unbelievable.

Studio City’s LBK Pizzeria served a pizza with San Marzano tomatoes (the only kind of tomatoes for pizza), fresh mozzarella, ricotta and truffles.

Off to the tour de France whirlwind wine tour! Hosted by Ira Nora, Erin Landsberg and Troy Chappel. We tasted wines from all over France.

#1 taste was Simonette-Febvre Cremante de Bourgogne Brut, a sparkling wine from Chablis area of Burgundy which was easy to drink, goes with everything, a “desert island” drink. And very reasonably priced, too, at just $20.

#2 taste was a rosé called Hampton Water from the Languedoc region. I was excited to learn more about the wine I had sampled earlier at the Gerard Bertrand table. Named in 2018 was the best rosé in the world by Wine Spectator Magazine. 

#3 taste was a pino gris from the Alsache region called Hugel. Made by German people living the French lifestyle. The wine’s ages very well with its prominent minerality, a lot of complexity, and hints of fruit too. 

#4 taste was Barton Guestier Vouvray from the Loire Valley. Wonderful to drink in the summer and perfect all year round in LA. Great with salads, a nice afternoon wine for sitting on the patio, very versatile grape and a very reasonable bottle at $15. 

#5 Cote du Rhone. When you see “Cote Du Rhone” on a bottle you know it’s the real deal.  This was a Vidal Fleury from the Southern part of the Rhone, nice spice and pepper. Would go great with BBQ! 

#6 Mouton Cadet means Sheep, little hill, the little brother of Mouton Cadet is a high quality table wine., a blend of 50/50 Cab and merlot. It is a well balanced and elegant wine. With global warming, grapes are getting riper and much more approachable. And modestly priced at $15-18.

As a wrap up, Ira recommended putting a bottle of wine away to remember each year. There is a history, and something to remember with every wine. Each year, just as each bottle, should be a sensual experience, a pleasure!

Tacos 1986 had the longest lines… Jorge Alvarez-Tostado, AKA The Joy is real! He was strikingly charismatic, and you can see in my series of photos why he has quickly become LA’s hottest street food sensation with his delicious Tijuana-style tacos.

 

Kelvin Slush Co. is a the first Organic cocktail mix specifically designed for frozen cocktails. And who wouldn’t need a frozen cocktail on a 90 degree evening?

Lasa served Squid Ink Fried Rice with smoked Cocounut Oil and Herbs. In the  LA Times  Jonathan Gold wrote of the Chinatown restaurant, “Nobody has quite caught the spirit of modern Pinoy [Filipino] cooking like LASA, named after the Tagalog word for ‘taste’.”

LASA was founded by Filipino-American brothers, Chef Chad Valencia and Chase Valencia.

Silver Lake’s always bustling Ma’am Sir served a Milkfish Tostada.

The restaurant offers unique Filipino cuisine & cocktails served in a chill, stylish space with leafy wallpaper & hanging vines.

Hollywood’s L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele was serving a Spaghetti Nerano and it was the absolute best plate of pasta at the Taste this year. Hands down!

They also thoughtfully served a vegetarian version made with zucchini, basil, and pecorino.

Manhattan Beach’s Love and Salt made a playful Sun Gold Tomatoes and Burratta dish. Or cup, I should say.

The Italian Cooking Demo with Paola Da Re and Giorgia Sinatra – otherwise known as Pasta Sisters – and Chlara Soldati was a really fun panel and the display of their breadth of knowledge of Italian cooking was a true joy to watch.

 

As I’ve mentioned, Jonathan Gold and his memory frequently made pop up appearances. This was his “Five Rules for Dining in Los Angeles, which reads:

1. If the restaurant you have been directed to lies between the 7-Eleven and the dry cleaners in a dusty strip mall, then you’re probably at the right place.

2. The restaurants with the longest lines are either better than their competitors or fifty cents cheaper. Try and know the difference.

3. There is no shame in avocado toast.

4. The best choice is always the restaurant 15 minutes further than you are willing to go.

5. The taco honors the truck.

MANEATINGPLANT served a Fried Shroom Bao with organic king oyster shroom, lotus-steamed bun, cashew hoisin, pea sprouts, herbs, roasted chili oil, pickled chilis. And, yes, MANEATINGPLANT is their name. They are a plant-based pop-up concept co-created by partners Phil Kwan & Candice Tzeng driven by the love of our planet and all beings.

Phil had been working in the restaurant industry for five years while Candice had been working in Photography and Marketing when they both decided to adopt a fully plant-based lifestyle in 2016. After two years of being vegan and noticing countless cravings being left unsatisfied, they decided to combine their skills in and out of the kitchen to create MANEATINGPLANT – a platform to spread sustainable eating through tasty, cravable plant-based eats and connect consumers to living more conscious and compassionate lives. Taking inspiration from their Asian roots and all around love for good food, they aim to show consumers just how delicious eating compassionately can be.

   

Roberta’s Pizza in Culver City served three different pizzas.

And though the lines for Roberta’s were long throughout the fest, slices were always coming fresh out of the oven all evening.

With so much pizza at the festival this year you may be wondering who had the best slice? Well, each venue offered a slightly different approach. We’ll have to return next year to truly put these slices to the test.

Legendary Los Angeles institution Casa Vega Restaurant served a Sweet Corn Tamale. The chefs were friendlier than this photo would imply.

A friend of mine is convinced Quentin Tarantino named Vincent Vega, his iconic character from Pulp Fiction, after this iconic LA restaurant. I think she might be right.

SATURDAY

We started the night off with one of my top three favorite dishes of the whole festival. I absolutely LOVED Baltaire’s smoky charred Spanish Octopus on top of Roasted Weiser Farms Potatoes with a Romesco sauce. I never would have guessed the swanky steakhouse would be the creator of something I enjoyed so much.

The Studio City lounge Mister O’s served a Filet Mignon with Pomme Puree Cremini Bordelaise and a Corn Bisque with a curry Octo Togarashi.

I skipped the filet, but friends said it was truly killer. The corn bisque was more up my alley.

Barton & Guestier felt, by now, like old friends. Our first sip of the evening was an exquisite sancerre. Brilliant golden colour. Complex, fine and elegant nose with pineapple and apricot aromas combined with notes of acacia and honey. Smooth, persistent and fruity on the palate.

Izakaya Osen was there all three nights and we made several visits to their booth. 

One of my favorite dishes of theirs was the Salmon Sashimi wrapped around Snow Crab Meat topped with Caviar and Truffle sauce.

They also served a Grilled Seabass Yakatori and Grilled Shishito Peppers. 

And though there was never a moment all weekend when the line for Osen wasn’t around the lot, they kept their cool and were always a blast to talk to.

Nic’s on Beverly served gratin fries with harissa sauce. To prepare them they thinly slice the potatoes, soak them with vegan butter, layer and press overnight, then cut and fry in canola oil. This nearly ended my night. 

But I forged on! The always reliable Ocean Prime Beverly Hills served a Shrimp Sautee with Tobasco Cream Sauce.

 Granville has three locations – Studio City, West Hollywood, and Glendale. I had never heard of them until that night and they chose to make a dish that was sure to leave an impression: Uptown Mac & Cheese – aged cheddar, gryure, chicken, asparagus, and peas. “Comfort food” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Vchos Pupusas has been roaming around Los Angeles for years now.

Vchos Truck is Los Angeles’s first gourmet Pupusa truck, serving up traditional Salvadoran and Central American food with a modern twist. Mmm. Just looking at this picture and I want to find where they’re parked right now.

Studio City’s Firefly served Octopus Ragu. Firefly has one of my favorite patios in LA. It’s an intimate and warm garden patio set against a luscious hillside. This ragu was a real treat.

Gus’s Fried Chicken consistently had one of the longest lines of the festival.

And when you finally get to the front of the line it was easy to say why: that perfect crunch fry on these birds.

A wonderful Saigon Chilled Prawn Salad with Papaya, Viet herbs, Scallop, and Rice cracker.

Coni Seafood served a Ceviche Verde and a Ceviche Marinero. Coni now has two locations in LA, one in Santa Monica and the other in Inglewood.

Dog Haus Biergarten delivered with a seriously hearty Hot Chicken Grilled Cheese. I skipped it, but it was a big hit at the festival.

The Bellweather offered something more my style: a Marinated Spicy Ahi Tuna with Soba Noodle Salad, Shiso, and Basil. So many Studio City festivals graced the festival. Could Studio City be LA’s current hottest dining neighborhood?

Sichuan Impression made a Spicy Beef and Tofu Skin with Sliced Ginger. Sichuan Impression now has three locations in Westwood, Tustin, and Alhambra.

Leblon Tequila kept the pours strong with their One Night in RIO margaritas. Leblon Cachaça is a single estate artisanal Cachaça made at the Destillerie Maison Leblon in Patos de Minas, Minas Gerais in Brazil.

Yes, we went back for seconds.

Eataly‘s booth was a big hit. Who doesn’t love authentic freshly made pasta, all of which can be purchased to go at their big Century City store

Kali served a Yellowtail Crudo with Buttermilk “Leche de Tigre” and Sea Grass topped with a Rice Cracker. It was sublime.

Lillet was a major presence at the festival this year because they offered the perfect end-of-summer cocktail: Lillet, sparkling water, cucumber, and strawberries. A great summer spa drink. Lillet is an aperitif wine, a blend of Bordeaux wines and citrus liqueur. In France, Lillet is usually served on ice with a slice of orange, or a lemon or lime peel.

More pizza.

Always more pizza. And wine.

We were lucky to get seats at the Sake tasting with Courtney Kaplan (Ototo & Tsubaki), hosted by Andrea Chang (LA Times).

OTOTO & Tsubaki are two of LA’s absolute best sake bars. OTOTO is located on the southern end of Echo Park and is a dimly lit, romantic and hip spot.

It was great running into Jeremy Raub founder of Eagle Rock Brewery! We used to work together at Modern Music. He poured me a taste of the brewery’s new ROSE GOSE. 

It was so light and refreshing, and although I am not a big beer drinker, I’d definitely like to have a four pack of these on hand for guests.

A small bite to end the evening because, sure enough, we were back Sunday and ready for more.

SUNDAY

And we’re back for night three. The final night of the festival! The Bazaar by Jose Andres, which is located at the SLS Hotel in West Hollywood, served a theatrical Smoked Hamachi Cone.

Cafe Birdie is my dedicated favorite restaurant in Highland Park. There’s something un-pretentious about their food.

It’s not comfort food, not exactly, but it’s hearty and made with only the freshest and local ingredients. That night, they served Maitake Mushrooms with Yellow Peach, Arugula, Mushroom Aioli  & Pecorino. One of my favorite dishes at the festival.


Jitlada, one of the restaurants championed by Jonathan Gold again and again, offered a Spicy Basil Chicken or Tofu.

The mystery of Jitlada is their dishes seem so deceptively simple and yet the flavors taste anything but.

At this point in the festival, could it really be possible I was only having oysters for the first time? Thank goodness for Rappahannock Oyster Bar!

Rappahannock served super fresh Oysters on the Half Shell with an “Awesome Sauce.” Rappahannock is part of ROW DTLA’s consortium of restaurants, coffee houses, and shops in the historic heart of LA reimagined to celebrate the city’s cultural, culinary, and creative essence.

A three course tasting menu is an ambitious endeavor and certainly a difficult one to pull off at a crowded food festival, like a challenge from Top Chef. But Le Comptoir did it: Crispy Kale and Garlic Aioli, and Chilled Artichoke Veloute with Breadcrumbs and Greek Yogurt, ending with a Sourdough Donut hole with Chantilly and Orange Preserves. 

Le Comptoir is Koreatown’s counter-only, vegetable-centric, French specialist with only eight seats. Yes, eight. So this may have been our only chance to try their innovative cuisine!

The Pasta Sisters cooked their to die for Handmade Gnocchi with Porcini Mushroom Sauce. Pasta Sisters’ brick and mortar location in Culver City is a great place to shop for freshly made pasta, or to dine in at the casual & cozy Italian deli.

It’s always a pleasure to see Holbox‘s Chef Gilberto Cetina at these festivals! 

His cookbook, Sabores Yucatecos, should be in every kitchen.

He served Wood Grilled Omega Blue Baja Kampachi Fish Tacos. Holbox is known for using only local and sustainable seafood.

Ronan LA served a simple yet stunning Radish with Parisian Hotel Butter. Melrose’s Modern pizzeria boasts a changing, seasonal menu, in an industrial-chic space. It was a surprise they opted out of the pizza game that weekend, but with all the pizza we had and the pizza to come, it was also a relief.

Silver Lake stalwart Same Same Thai served a Khao Soi Chicken Curry Noodle that was amazing.

Yours Truly is a Modern Californian restaurant from Chef Vartan Abgaryan, Paul Pruitt and Dave Reiss in Venice. They served a Potato Cacio e Pepe that was a big hit.

Osteria Cal Mare served a delightful Saffron Arancini with Smoked Mozzarella in a Green Marinara.

While Cal Mare’s Beverly Center location may deter some from going, Adam Sobel & Michael Mina’s upscale eatery serves really terrific coastal Italian seafood & handmade pasta. And parking is easy besides.

And last, but certainly not least: Nancy Silverton! The La Brea Bakery alum and Osteria Mozza and chi SPACCA chef and all around bread baking legend had two restaurants at the festival, both Mozza and Triple Beam Pizza.

Mozza was serving Nancy’s take on Eggplant Parmesan. Her “Fairytale” Eggplant Parmesan with Fonduta and Tomato was unlike any eggplant parm I’ve ever had. I was surprised to see her working the line. It was a treat to meet her after so many years of admiring her work.

Her mastery of the cooking medium definitely inspires me, like so many others, to get in the kitchen. But, hey, sometimes you need a night off so it’s good news Triple Beam delivers. And FREE via Caviar with the promo code: TBPECHO.

Triple Beam now has a second location in Echo Park. The first, on Highland Park’s busy Figueroa Blvd, is flourishing.

And that’s a wrap on another fantastic The Taste. We sampled over 100 dishes, desserts, wines, and drinks and hopefully offered you over 100 reasons to attend the festival next year. It is simply Los Angeles’s premiere food and wine festival at the most Hollywood of locations.

See you next year!

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