The Best Food & Wine from East LA Meets Napa

East LA Meets Napa took downtown Los Angeles by storm on Friday, July 15 as upwards of 2000 wine and food lovers converged at California Plaza to partake in tastings from Latino owned wineries from around the world and small bites from some of LA’s best Mexican restaurants. In case you missed it, here’s all the bottles you’ll want to pick up, the restaurants you need to try, and a special Ensalada Andina con de Menta recipe from Chef Hamlet Garcia you’ll be excited to make.


The first bottle we tasted was from the Retorno family label, a boutique winery in the Valle de Guadalupe in Mexico. Their wines are inexpensive and surprisingly complex.


The first food we had was the avocado pork belly tartine prepared by Chef Daniel Godinez of Anepalco Cocina de Barrio.


The pork belly was served with molcajete’s guacamole, fennel, red radish, and shaved cotija. Yes, we went back for seconds.


Next up we had a spinach quesadilla and freshly made tortilla chips with beef machaca from El Tepeyac Cafe, located in Boyle Heights. Wonderful! But we noticed we were out of wine and moved to our next tasting.


Herencia Wines has been producing heritage blends in Napa Valley for over seven decades. They have both mid-range ($30-$40) bottles of zinfandel and merlot and pricier options like their Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($125). The Reserve had concentrated aromas of blackberry, licorice, and cigar box. We loved it.



Frogtown’s newly opened Salazar, an outdoor oasis for all-day dining and drinking along the LA River, was one of the most popular booths.


Chef Esdras Ochoa was serving unique swordfish and sea urchin tacos with a hearty dollop of caviar.


Yes, it was my first time having caviar on a taco and it was decadent and delicious.


Don Chente’s Grill & Bar impressed all with this huge crustacean, oysters, and rice fideuà in this gigantic paella.


Only 200 bottles of this artisian cabernet from Llamas Family Wines were produced. We started with that and then had a flight of each of their more affordable wines including the Carneros chardonnay and syrah. Llamas Family Wines is a small lot venture aimed at honoring the family’s journey from ranchers & farmers to field workers and finally vintners. Their wine is definitely a contender for our favorite of the night.


Delgadillo Cellars is truly a family affair, run by father and son team Ignacio Delgadillo, Sr. and Ignacio Delgadillo Jr. Each Delgadillo Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon spends several years in French oak and has been bottle aged for three years in ideal cellar conditions before release. We loved the cabernet with its lush fruit and deep, smooth finish and then were told it was a $105 dollar bottle. 


El Cholo Cafe served hearty corn tamales.


And their chefs seemed to be the most jovial, having the most fun that night. El Cholo Cafe is definitely worth a trip to Pasadena, where their effusive vibe continues at the restaurant!


Justicia Wines chose the Goddess Themis to represent their first brand as “the protector of freedom, equality, and justice.” Their 2009 red and 2011 pinot noir had flavors of plum, chocolate, and vanilla.


LA’s favorite fast food Mexican eatery King Taco was of course on hand, serving tacos al pastor.


Picaditas de huichole, clams marinated in a citrus huichole chile sauce topped with avocado and cilantro courtesy of El Coraloense Restaurant, located in Bell Gardens.

picaditas de

The sun was beginning to set but we still had so much more to try.


Chef Hamlet Garcia, the National Spokesperson for American Heart Association, made a refreshing and healthy Andean salad with mint and white balsamic vinaigrette. He was kind enough to share the recipe with us, which you’ll find below.


Ensalada Andina con Aderezo de Menta y Balsámico Blanco
(Serves 4)
3 cups chopped kale
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup onion in small squares
3/4 cup diced mango
1/2 cup walnuts or almonds

Preparation: Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and add white balsamic dressing as necessary.

White Balsamic Dressing and Mint
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup mint leaves
1 teaspoon chili paste
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation: All ingredients are placed in a blender and mixed until an emulsion is created.


Next to Hamlet, Chef Doreen Colondres was serving more healthy bites tapas style and enthusiastically gifted us a copy of her cookbook La Cocina no Muerde, which translates to The Kitchen Doesn’t Bite.


Perhaps the oldest winery at East LA Meets Napa, Château Franc Patarabet traveled all the way from France to imbibe us with our first glass of champagne that evening.


Honrama Cellars presented two tastes for us: Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. The wines are produced by husband and wife vintners Juan and Miram Puentes in Napa. Production is small – about 1000 cases of the Cabernet Sauvignon and 250 case of the Sauvignon blanc so it was a real treat to be able to try.

Around the end of the event, booths began to run out of food so we quickly grabbed a few more tacos.

After music by Pancho Sanchez, some of the celebrity chefs gathered for photos.

Our final wine tasting of the evening was Pavo Real red and white. Their wine originates in Baja, Mexico and with its citrus flavors was an excellent pallet cleanser after an excellent evening. We also loved their peacock inspired bottles and packaging.


And what’s a Los Angeles wine, food, and charity event without running into former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa?


Tickets for the event are not cheap ($175 for an individual ticket; up to $300 for VIP admission), but the proceeds will benefit local clinic service AltaMed, so you can savor the delicious foods and libations with the added comfort of knowing you contributed to a very good cause. Thank you East LA Meets Napa! We’ll see you again next year!


For more information on East LA Meets Napa and AltaMed, go here.

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