Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival 2015
The fifth annual Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival took place on August 27-30, 2015. The three evening events this year were the same as in past years, with Thursday night’s event dubbed “Ultimate Bites of L.A.” while Friday and Saturday nights’ events keeping the same theme/name as previous years, “Night Market” and “Live on Grand” respectively.
Cooking demonstrations and power lunches at various L.A. restaurants were also offered as they had been in past years. The biggest change was probably the absence of the two “Grand Tasting” daytime events on Saturday and Sunday. Instead, the only Sunday event was a “Champagne & Caviar” brunch with very limited capacity (18 guests).
As a first-timer, I didn’t miss these changes and was glad just for the opportunity to attend the three evening events. I’ve gone to so many food festivals this year that I’ve lost count, but Los Angeles Food and Wine was certainly the most glamorous, with the red carpet running the width and length of Grand Avenue between 1st and 2nd Streets, and celebrities and personalities in and out of the food world participating.
I could easily wax gastronomic for pages on each night, and I know some of you come here for my writing—the same ones who read Playboy for the articles, I’m sure—but most are probably just reading this to find out what my favorite bites were, and for the food porn. So I will oblige and provide the highlights from each night of the Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival!
Ultimate Bites of L.A.
The first night began auspiciously with a delicious “clobster” (crab+lobster) roll from Andrew Gruel of Slapfish.
Dakota Weiss represented two restaurants, with a comforting breakfast-y bacon & polenta dish for her soon-to-be-open restaurant Estrella, and a yellowfin tuna poke with an unexpected but delightful yuzu panna cotta, presented in a whimsical miniature terrarium, for Sweetfin Poké (review).
Celebrity chef and Ultimate Bites host Curtis Stone has not coasted on his fame at his lauded restaurant Maude, and he was equally ambitious here, doling out hundreds of delicious pork pies with perfectly golden crusts.
I’m not an oenophile, so I didn’t really delve into the wines, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get a little sloshed. Faith & Flower served its signature Milk Punch, and, as my Instagram caption states, I had more than a few!
My top bite of the night was from Vartan Abgaryan of Cliff’s Edge, with his foie gras tarts, which tasted as amazing as they looked!
The Asian-themed second night felt a bit more low key than the first. Comfort, rather than flash, seemed to be the name of the game. Alvin Cailan of Eggslut and Charles Olalia of Ricebar (review) collaborated on a comforting arroz caldo or lugaw (Filipino rice porridge) to feed the long lines at their station all evening.
Steven Fretz of The Church Key and his crew made one of my favorite dishes of the entire weekend, tuna over sticky coconut rice, with a passion fruit curd. Sweet, tart, yet briny, it had me craving seconds! I guess it did that for a lot of people, as the station ran out about an hour before the evening wrapped.
The surprise dish of the night for me, and for many I spoke to, was the bánh mì-style hot dog from chef Jeffrey Lunak of Okonomi Dog. It wasn’t that reminiscent of the Vietnamese sandwich—it used a soft bun rather than a crusty baguette, for instance—but the combination of flavors really worked!
The final night boasted the largest number of participants, and the biggest crowds as well. My first bite of that evening was from Scarpetta chef Freddy Vargas, who’s also responsible for Paninoteca (review). His coppa di testa sandwich with housemade tigelle bread was incredibly delicious.
Barrel & Ashes had one of the bigger stands at LAFW, to fit the restaurant’s three chefs, Michael Kahikina, Rory Herrmann, and Timothy Hollingsworth, and their crew. They had an entire roast pig on display and were pulling tender meat straight off the bones to make sandwiches for the guests.
Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria made a non-taco dish of squid and potato with a great recado negro sauce. I’ve only had chef Salgado’s cooking in small increments at food events, but he never disappoints. Several people told me this was their favorite dish of the evening!
Like pigs to truffles, the crowd instinctively rooted out some of the more decadent dishes of the event, including two featuring foie gras. First was seared foie gras on a pig ear crisp from Sean Chaney of Hot’s Kitchen. Second was foie gras torchon on toast from Lenny Messina and Michael Ginor of Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Lola. One could have easily eaten the price of admission in foie gras alone that night!
Torchon of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Toasted Brioche, Sour Cherry Compote, "Dirty Blonde" Caramelized White Chocolate, Fleur de Sel. From Lenny Messina and Michael Ginor of Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Lola Restaurant. #torchon #foiegras #foie @lenny_messina @hudsonvalleyfoiegras @lolarestaurant @lafoodwine #lafoodwine #lafw2015 #lafw #theoffalo #offalolafw
As the sun set, figuratively, and literally, on the event, I had The Roots performing live for my background music as I noshed on a few final dishes, including a smoked salmon tartlette with salmon roe served with crisps that may have been made from salmon skin, from Mourad Lahlou of Mourad.
The last dish I had at LAFW was an impressive-looking and tasting strawberry shortcake by Tyler Malek of Salt & Straw. What a great way to end the event…
Strawberry Shortcake: ricotta cheesecake ice cream,strawberry vinegar, roasted strawberries, buttered almond shortcake. By chef Tyler Malek of Salt & Straw. #strawberryshortcake #ricotta #cheesecake #icecream #strawberryvinegar #strawberry #almond #shortcake @saltandstraw @lafoodwine #lafoodwine #lafw2015 #lafw #theoffalo #offalolafw
…but watching The Roots perform was also pretty kickass!
Wrapped up Los Angeles Food & Wine 2015 with a performance by The Roots last night! Had an amazing time at my first LAFW! Thanks to all the chefs, staff, and everyone involved! #theroots #questlove @questlove @questlovesfood @theroots @lafoodwine @lexususa #lexus @chefsroll #chefsroll #rollwithus #lafoodwine #lafw2015 #lafw #theoffalo #offalolafw
I had such an amazing time at my first Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival, and I explored only half of it. Like I said above, I am not a wine connoisseur; I did try a few wines, but I stuck mostly with food. I posted a total of 51 photographs from the event to social media, including a whopping 26 for Saturday’s Grand Tasting alone! So you’re only seeing a fraction of what I tried in this post. Check out all the shots on Instagram with the hashtag #offalolafw!