The LA Food and Wine Festival for Top-Notch Feasting and Culinary Elite
From October 13 – 16, the 2011 Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival tickled palates all over town with a variety of events, including the Lexus Grand Tasting tent at downtown’s L.A. Live. With over 30 celebrity chefs and over 300 wineries represented, it was a plethora of pinots and pork belly and, happily, JetSet Extra was there to report.
Here were some of the highlights:
Iron Chef Morimoto, representing his Napa Valley restaurant, presented a congee clam chowder that was heaven in a tiny bowl: sweet, tender clams in a creamy broth topped with a (literal) fried oyster cracker. What brought everything together, though, was the bright citrusy punch of lemongrass at the finish of each spoonful.
Not surprisingly, grilled cheese continues to make its meteoric ascent from humble to haute, and there was no shortage here at the festival: from tiny crouton-sized bites adorning an heirloom tomato gazpacho to the decadently rich offering from larger-than-life chef Eric Greenspan (The Foundry on Melrose and The Roof on Wilshire). Greenspan’s version – the Winner of the 2008 Grilled Cheese Invitational and a feature on the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” – oozed taleggio cheese between two slices of golden-toasted raisin walnut bread. It was topped with oven-dried tomatoes and a sweet/salty apricot-caper puree, and we considered never looking at another sandwich ever again. Yes, it’s that good.
Pork belly futures (and, well, pretty much all pork parts) continue to be lucrative, at least in the culinary marketplace. And, although there was no shortage of great plates from which to choose, some standouts included: Chef Daniel Holzman’s (The Meatball Shop) saucy and delicious spicy pork meatball over polenta; Chef Ray Garcia’s (Fig Restaurant) Berkshire pork sausage on a biscuit with an unctuous bacon gravy (yes! bacon gravy!); and Rocksugar’s Chef Mohan Ismail’s seriously succulent glazed pork belly bun with crunchy pickled vegetables and shallot mayonnaise.
This being Los Angeles, there was no shortage of heat at the festival either. Master of Mexican cuisine and owner of West Hollywood’s recently-opened Red O, Rick Bayless, delighted with his braised shortrib and carmelized onion taco topped with a tart and spicy Serrano chile salsa. Similarly, Chef Roy Choi, who started the whole food truck craze with his Kogi Truck, gave us a few hot flashes with his rock star smile and peppery, spiced-quite-nice jerk chicken wings.
We’d certainly be remiss not to mention dessert, of which there were plenty. However, what took the cake, so to speak, was New York’s The Northfork Table & Inn Chef Claudia Fleming’s creamy but not-too-sweet buttermilk panna cotta with rich, jammy poached figs and crunchy pistachio.
Last, but definitely not least: there was wine, wine everywhere and plenty of drops to drink. Although we can’t begin to tell you which had hints of boysenberry preserves or top notes of apricot, we can tell you we had some extraordinary sips from some newly made friends at Champagne Billecart-Salmon, Captûre Wines, Kunin Wines, Meteor Vineyards, and Skylark Wines.
For a complete list of chefs and wineries in attendance or for more information on the Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival, visit their website.