L.A. Times The Taste 2015, Saturday: Field to Fork, Dinner with a Twist
Los Angeles Times‘ annual multi-day food festival, The Taste, took place over Labor Day weekend this year, with an Opening Night event on Friday, then a daytime event and an evening event each on Saturday and Sunday. This was my first year attending The Taste, and while I was unable to attend Opening Night (it was sold out), I was fortunately enough to be granted a media pass to attend the four weekend events: Field to Fork, Dinner with a Twist, Sunday Brunch and BBQ, and Flavors of LA.
As it was my first time at The Taste, I don’t have any frame of reference for gauging how it was compared to previous years’ events, but I may draw some comparisons with other events I attended this year, like Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival last weekend. As far as venues go, while it’s hard to beat LAFW’s literal “red carpet” treatment, The Taste’s was one of the more memorable, with stalls set up in the “streets” of “New York” in the backlots of Paramount Pictures Studios. Because of this unique layout, some of the more popular booths definitely caused some traffic jams, but generally even the longest lines moved relatively quickly.
I’ll cover Field to Fork and Dinner with a Twist in this post, and the Sunday events in my next post. The Taste had cooking demonstrations and panel discussions during each event, but I did not attend any on Saturday. So, I’ll mainly be covering the dishes that appealed to me most on my first day.
Field to Fork
Hosted by L.A. Times Food columnist Russ Parsons and chef Gary Menes of Le Comptoir, the event was described on The Taste’s website thusly: Indulge in the bounty of California with an afternoon inspired by locally sourced ingredients and the pleasures of seasonal cooking. Leading L.A. chefs specializing in fresh-focused dishes will share their techniques and offer tastes.
Perhaps the theme of the event steered some chefs and restaurants toward vegetarian dishes, but two of my favorite dishes of Field to Fork happened to be vegan! First, chef Ray Alvarez Toca Modera made a coconut ceviche that took advantage of the meatiness of young coconuts and combined it with the bright, tart flavors of traditional ceviche. For a split second I forgot what I was eating wasn’t seafood! Second, Margarita Kallas Lee, pastry chef and co-owner of The Gadarene Swine, created a vegan coconut pudding with an incredibly refreshing mojito granita, perfect for the heat during the day! I had seconds, and thirds (and…)!
The Gadarene Swine's Coconut Pudding, fresh strawberry, brown sugar strusel, Thai basil, mojito granita. #coconutpudding #strawberry #brownsugar #strusel #thaibasil #mojito #granita #vegan @thegadareneswine @margaritadenieselee @scratchbarla #scratchbar @thetastela @latimesfood #fieldtofork #tastela #theoffalo #offalotastela
Other (decidedly non-vegetarian/vegan) highlights of Field to Fork included East Borough‘s hot wings with fish sauce, BOA Steakhouse‘s beef sliders with crispy onions, and build-your-own cocktails courtesy of Knob Creek.
Dinner with a Twist
Hosted by Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, deputy Food editor Jenn Harris, chef Michael Fiorelli and mixologist Vincenzo Marianella of Love & Salt, the event was described on The Taste’s website thusly: Enjoy unique dishes from the city’s hottest chefs and drinks that have brought Southern California’s cutting-edge cocktail culture into a golden age.
So, uh, I didn’t actually have that much to drink at this or any of The Taste events. I’m by no means a teetotaler—see the Knob Creek cocktail above—but as I’ve stated before on the blog, I’m all about the food! My first bite of the night, in keeping with the vegetarian vibe from earlier, was Mexikosher chef Katsuji Tanabe‘s falafel taco, which was definitely hearty enough to satisfy this meat eater! On the flipside, I still enjoyed rendering meat off bone with my lamb chop from 10e Restaurant!
Chefs certainly brought their A-game to the event. Chef Kris Morningstar, last seen (by me) groovin’ to the music at one of the LAFW after parties, and his crew at Terrine, made a superb salade landaise with duck gizzard and foie gras that was one of my favorite bites of the night. Right next door, chef Dakota Weiss of soon-to-open Estrella expertly executed three dishes: a green tomato gazpacho with a great kick, a grilled bacon with vanilla bean polenta that I swear contains truffles but the chef insists otherwise, and popcorn seasoned with dehydrated shrimp head salt! Yeah!
One of the big hits of the event was The Church Key and their frozen desserts. Chef Steven Fretz, pastry chef Ian Opina, mixologist Devon Espinosa, and their crew whipped up some addictive alcoholic “odder” pops and bubble gum ice cream dipped in a blue raspberry shell that went unexpectedly well together!
The Saturday evening crowds were out in force—Dinner with a Twist was the only weekend event that was sold out—so it felt a bit overcrowded, but all in all, I was quite impressed with my first taste of The Taste!
I had of course expected an event curated by the Food staff at the Times to have top notch food, and it still exceeded my expectations! And we’re only half way done! In the next post (hopefully up by tomorrow) I will tackle the remaining two events!
To see all my shots from The Taste, check out hashtag #offalotastela on Instagram. You will see shots from the two Sunday events too, but hopefully that’ll just whet your appetite to find out which bites I enjoyed the most at Sunday Brunch and BBQ and at Flavors of LA!
[Update: My post for Sunday’s events!]
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Los Angeles Times The Taste
Paramount Pictures Studios
5555 Melrose Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90038