The Los Angeles Times | The Taste definitely knows how to celebrate Labor Day weekend right! With five great events filled with food and wine, it left anyone who attended the weekend food and wine festival in a daily food coma. I was luckily enough to attend the Flavors of LA hosted by Jonathan Gold (LA Times restaurant critic) and San Yoon (Father’s Office). This sold out event took place in the back lot of Paramount Studios on their New York set. Unlimited food and drink while “walking the streets of New York”–I felt like I was in foodie heaven!
My tastebuds were more than pleased to spend the night with some of the best L.A. based restaurants. The atmosphere was perfect and the weather had thankfully cooled down. My favorite part of this event was the variety of food. From grilled cheese sandwiches and sliders to braised ox tail and branzino, there was something for every type of food lover. There were just too many food options so below are just a few of my top favorites of the night.
My first stop of the night was RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen. Chef Mohan was serving up Cashew Glazed Shrimp. The Thai herbs brought so much flavor to the glazed shrimp while the cucumbers and cashew provided a cool crunch to the dish. Chef Mohan never disappoints when it comes to dishes full of flavor. He always manages to find the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. I’ll definitely making my way to RockSugar to see what else his menu has to offer.
The Counter showcased deviled eggs and three types of burgers. The deviled egg was the perfect “appetizer”. Bacon (my love for bacon runs deep), shredded cheddar, mustard, mayo, paprika & topped with parsley was the perfect mix. The texture was creamy and it wasn’t too sweet. I also tried their Mini Turkey Burgers. At first bite, I was happy to find the turkey juicy and full of flavor. The burger was topped with brie, apple chips and apricot spread which gave the burger more of a sweeter taste than your normal burger.
In the mix of the more casual dining food options, I also wanted to sample some of the restaurants located in some of the most luxurious hotels in the Los Angeles County. I stopped at the Estérel Restaurant’s (located in Hotel Sofitel in Beverly Hills) table. They served a delicious Kale Salad along with Branzino. Served on top of a tomato, fennel, onion compote virgin sauce, it was the perfect combination to the fresh sea bass.
Another one of my favorites was from The Blvd located in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The dish was a Braised Oxtail, Smoked Potato Foam, Horseradish and Crouton. This by far was my favorite savory dish of the event. The Oxtail was soft and melted in my mouth. The Smoked Potato foam added a little sweetness while the crouton gave it a little crunch to balance out all the flavors.
Some of my other favorite dishes of the night include:
Al Pastor Tacos from Pinches Tacos
Spicy Beef Salad & Pad Thai Sliders from Ayara Thai
Peanut Butter Cake with a Grape Macaroon from Bagatelle
Thank you to the Los Angeles Times for putting together a great weekend of events! See you next year!
– Kathleen Capalla
I didn’t really know what to expect when we arrived for Giada’s Festa Italiana night, but I know my tastebuds were excited. L.A. Food & Wine didn’t spare any expense when they laid down red carpet throughout the whole venue making all that attended feel like they were getting the VIP treatment. It’s only when the sun had set and DJ ?uestlove took the stage did I realize how beautiful the venue was being surrounded by the lit up skyscrappers. I think every song that DJ ?uestlove played made the crowd want to dance (or it could have been the several glasses of wine) which made the night even more entertaining.
Giada De Laurentiis was the host for the evening and she is just as sweet and welcoming in person than she is on her show. Being that it was her birthday, she was surprised with a cake presented by Duff Goldman.
With unlimited food at our fingertips and over three hours of eating time, we decided it was best if we just talk about our top 5 favorites of the night! Being that a majority of the places below are California based, we hope to visit these chef’s restaurants to review some of their other food (and because we just love to eat).
Michael Chiarello – Napa Valley
Fresh Mozzarella, Heirloom Tomatoes, Balsamic Caviar, Basil Oil and Micro Basil
The next time I imagine summer in Italy I’ll think of this simple dish. The fresh mozzarella cheese was smooth rich and creamy, the Heirloom Tomatoes sweet, the Balsamic Caviar (Congealed balls of balsamic vinegar) salty and acidic. The Basil Oil and Micro Basil tied it all together to help show that a great dish need not be overly complex, in terms of both ingredients or preparation.
Chef Brandon Boudet – Dominicks / Lil Dom’s Los Angeles
Cold Smoked Albacore with Almond Hull Preserves & Salsa Verde
Sashimi on an Italian night? Don’t be alarmed, it’s Cold Smoked Albacore and is absolutely delicious. The Albacore was clearly fresh when smoked and wasn’t fishy whatsoever. The garnish of Almond Hull Preserves & Salsa Verde complimented it beautifully. They both gave some crunch and texture along with a sweet acidic finish. This dish would make a fantastic party platter item.
Anthrony Carron – 800 Degrees Neopolitan Pizzeria – Los Angeles
A night spent sampling Los Angeles’ best interpretations of Italian food wouldn’t be complete without some pizza. Thankfully 800 Degrees Neopolitan Pizzeria came through big with an outstanding Margherita Pizza cooked in a wood fired brick oven. The crust was light and a little chewy in the center, while the outside had those charred bits that can only be created in a brick oven. The crushed tomatoes, cheese (both mozzarella and parmigano reggiano) and basil were all fresh. The pizza had the perfect amount of each ingredient. I could eat 3 or 4 slices. And I did.
Chef Peter Armellino – Plumed Horse Saratoga
Smoked Sturgeon Mousse Filled Canoli with California Caviar and Chives
The name of this appetizer alone should pique your interest. Don’t let this handheld bite size treat size fool you; it packs a big flavor and texture punch. The crunch of the delicate canoli was satisfying. The smokey creaminess of the mousse could put a smile on the face of even the most discerning of palettes. The rich salty caviar and fresh chives with their delicate onion flavor worked together to create what I can only imagine is on the short list of appetizers for royalty.
Chef Bart Vandaele – Belga Café New York, New York
Prosciutto Waffle with Pesto, Roasted Tomato & Parmegiano
Alright, I realize this isn’t from Los Angeles but our friends in the Big Apple do know a thing or two about Italian food as well. This dish was included for not only being delicious, but also because it’s fairly easy to duplicate and serve at home. The waffle was light and a little on the crispy side, while the prosciutto was well cooked and salty. The nutty flavor of the parmegiano worked well with the earthy sweet flavor of the roasted tomatoes and the pesto provided a brightness to the dish. The balsamic vinegar drizzled around the plate completed the experience with a satisfying finish.
Beverage options were in no shortage as many of the best wineries in California were represented along with Stella Artois’ excellent line of beers and Chicago’s’ Goose Island brewery. As we are not great connoisseurs of wine, nor fans of public intoxication (Kathleen is a lightweight), we chose to stay within the friendly confines of the beers. I had an opening Stella Artois and intended to return for some of their other offerings, but got sidetracked by Goose Island. They have an amazing Matilda Belgian Style Pale Ale and Sofie Belgian Style Farm Ale. Both have ample hops with the darker amber colored Matilda carrying a fruity spice note and the lighter tart blonde Sophie finishing citrus-y smooth.
Review By: Daniel & Kathleen
From the moment we stepped onto the red carpet of last year’s LA Food & Wine festivals Asian Night, wide-eyed with an empty stomach and an uncontrollable grin, the decision to attend this year’s LA F&W’s Festa Italiana was set in stone. If California’s Asian food scene is this good, why wouldn’t the Italian food scene be as well?
Let’s fast forward a year and here we are sitting at the pre-show cooking demo by Alie & Georgia (of “Tripping out with Alie & Georgia” on the Cooking Channel) with Giada De Laurentiis along with 150 of our new closest friends.
Giada acted as the subtle and calm yin to Alie & Georgia’s brash and funny yang. They started off the demo by making a rum based cocktail called Pump up the Jams. As we were all given generous samples of everything that was made throughout the demo, we can report that this sweet and satisfying cocktail was just the right amount of citrus bite from the lime. This drink as a starter was an ideal way to kick off the evening.
After some Q&A from the audience, Alie & Georgia went on to create their Date & Blue Cheese Stuffed Meatballs. I know you are thinking–why dates? Yes, it may sound strange, but when combined with the blue cheese it balances very nicely. In fact, after the bacon is combined with the meatball mixture and cooked on a bacon grease coated pan, these party favorites take on the life of a rich bacon cheese burger. A person could get in trouble if left alone with a pan of these meatballs!
After all this “work” in the kitchen, it was time for Alie & Georgia to revisit what they do best… mix up another cocktail! We’re not sure if they wanted to get Giada tipsy or not (it was her birthday after all), but they did their best. This cocktail was called Fernet My Heart in San Francisco and utilized the old standby of Jack Daniels as a base along with Fernet (A bitter digestif decribed by Alie as Jagermeister without the shame), ginger beer, lime juice and a surprise ingredient of Chinese 5-Spice simple syrup. The overall result was a cocktail that possessed the full bodied characteristics of the whiskey while being sufficiently tamed by the other ingredients to make it easy drinking. And that Chinese 5-Spice simple syrup? It made for a nice spicy finish and a great after dinner drink.
For a final act Spicy Key Lime cupcakes were made and through the magic of Jenn-Air ovens (or accurately, pre-baking and planning) they were complete within a few minutes. These cupcakes are easy to make and both light and refreshing. They call for a box mix and some fresh limes for juice and zest. The unique ingredient is the cayenne pepper as a garnish. Again, a nice subtle finish that is a departure from the the rest of the flavors.
The event ended with a brief auction for charity and a few minutes of meet & greet time. Giada was gracious throughout and willing to answer any questions the audience posed. Alie & Georgia were friendly, engaging and approachable during and after the event as well. It was the perfect way to kickoff an evening of foodie heaven.
Review By: Daniel Miller
Photo Credit: LA Food & Wine & Allie and Georgia Instagrams
I decided that San Diego was my next stop for a foodie adventure. After a few Google searches and some yelp review reading, I realized that it would be impossible to get a taste of San Diego in one trip. So, I narrowed down the possibilities and just focused on Coronado and Little Italy. I will definitely be back soon to explore The Gaslamp Quarter, Old Town San Diego, Mission Bay and La Jolla–the food options are endless.
Our first stop was the famous Hotel Del Coronado. The Del opened over a century ago and I can only describe it as classy. Edward, Prince of Wales, Clark Gable and Ronald Reagan are just a few well known people who have visited the Del. The hotel is sophisticated and elegant with breathtaking views. Because we had quite a few food stops on this trip, we decided on drinks and appetizers at the Babcock & Story Bar overlooking the ocean.
Nothing says classy more than a couple martinis paired with an olive & almond plate.The marinated California olives had an earthy, pungent taste. The toasted almonds as a “chaser” helped balance out the saltiness of the olives.
For drinks, we ordered a Marilyn Martini from their 125th anniversary cocktail menu and a Coronado Martini with pimento stuffed olives. The martini consisted of Nolet’s gin, dry vermouth, orange bitters and a lemon twist. It had a very strong floral taste while the Coronado Martini just tasted like straight vodka (or as I like to describe it–jet fuel). It was fun to try new drinks and tap into the “Old Time America” theme we were experiencing as soon as we stepped foot into the hotel. We will definitely be back to try some of the other dining options the hotel has to offer.
After a walk along the beach, where we can see Mexico from a distance, we made our way to our next food destination: Miguel’s Cocina of Coronado. It was only fitting to taste a bit of Mexico being that we were so close to the border. Miguel’s Cocina is located in the courtyard of the historic El Cordova Hotel and is right across the street from The Del. It was a perfect day to sit out on the patio and enjoy lunch.
The chips and salsa they served also came with a jalapeno white sauce which was so delicious. The spiciness of the jalepeno was softened by the white cheddar sauce. I loved it so much that we went with one of their house specials: camarones jalisco as well as their grilled swordfish tacos. The sonoran-spiced swordfish fillets with red cabbage and shredded cheese in corn tortillas were fresh and delectable.
The Camarones Jalisco was jumbo shrimp stuffed with jack cheese and rajas, wrapped in bacon and grilled. It was also topped with the jalapeno white sauce that I love so much. The frist bite of the shrimp wrapped in bacon was an explosion of smoked bacon mixed with the sweet, succulent taste of the shrimp. The consistency of the bacon and the shrimp together almost made it feel like I was biting into a juicy steak (crazy, I know). The portion of the rice and beans were also perfect. We didn’t leave there feeling “too full” for dessert.
After a quick trip across the water on the San Diego/Coronado ferry, we made our way through Seaport Village and walked our way to our last stop for the day in Little Italy: Extraordinary Desserts. As soon as we walked in, they handed us a piece of paper where we could write down the desserts we wanted so we could hand it off to our server when we were seated.
We might have went overboard with 3 desserts and french pressed coffee, but it was totally worth it. We also ended up having to run all the way back to the ferry so I feel like our 3 dessert dinner was justified. 😉
Probably my favorite dessert of the evening was a slice of their Viking cake. This cake was dangerously decadent, but so worth it. Chocolate Crème brûlée and milk chocolate cremeuse are hidden between chocolate cake layers. The cake was topped with crushed chocolate almond pralines that put me in a sugar coma within two bites.
Their banana creme tarte was also delicous. The sweetness of the cream and banana was paired nicely with the tart of the pureed mango on the side. Lastly, we tried their raspberry tart which was light and fluffy. It was the perfect end to our food filled day.
For more information on the places we visited, check out the links below. Remember to always take the time to explore new places and eat new things. It will leave your heart light and your stomach full 😉
Babcock & Story Bar: http://www.hoteldel.com/babcock-and-story.aspx
Miguel’s Cocina: http://www.brigantine.com/miguels_cocina/location-coronado.html
Extraordinary Desserts: http://www.extraordinarydesserts.com/