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