Sunday Afternoon - Closing Event, Lexus Grand Tasting at LA Live (Ticket Prices: $150, $195 VIP - Sold Out)
The ratio - 30 celebrity chefs and 200 wineries. All beautifully arranged in a massive air conditioned tent at LA Live with all the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood movie premiere after-party, upscale jam packed crowd included. Get the picture? Party time!
The fest even had a sommelier on hand, Byron Rudolph, all the way from Santa Fe. Byron was there to lend assistance to participating wineries, and for the not so savvy wine attendees like myself, he was willing to provide some guidance on wines worth sampling. He was spot on with Kutch Wines, Sonoma County. And, after a sensory tasting of the their Pinot Noirs, the lovely wife to Jamie Kutch and co-owner, Kristen Green then directed me to one of her recommends, Royal Tokaji wine company. The name might seem Japanese, but it’s pure Hungarian with their Furmint dry and Mád Cuvée dessert, which could rival some fine ice wine.
On the nibbly side, Santa Monica’s Drago Centro caught my attention real fast upon siting black truffles! Hand shaven by Chef Celestino Drago, the summer truffle was the topping to a melt in your mouth wild mushroom agnolotti.
There was a big team working behind L.A’s Cleo and Mercato di Vetro table, overseen by Chef Danny Elmaleh. I somehow missed sampling the lamb merguez sausage accompanied by a variety of Moroccan accoutrements. Perhaps I was caught up talking to, and watching the guys churn out their heirloom tomato milled gazpacho with a liquid nitrogen frozened melon basil sorbet. Absolutely refreshing, and cool.
My fav of the day came from Chef John Cox (Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur) who partnered with Lone Mountain Ranch (New Mexico) to spotlight their American-raised 100% wagyu. This fantastic beef was seared rare, and rested on a spicy nasturtium (edible flower) aioli sauce, served with pickled watermelon rind, elderflower compressed watermelon, and sprinkled with Balinese black pepper.
I’m not big on bacon, but Campanile’s (Los Angeles) maple bacon ice cream, made with bits of bacon, maple syrup and dehydrated maple, paired with a chipotle brownie (seasonings included cinnamon, cardamom and chipotle) had me sold. The sweet and salty combo was thanks to Pastry Chef Michael Luna.
I give credit to the big sponsors who found ways to showcase their products and/or services. For example, Delta Airlines hosted an elevated level bar/lounge. Guests could sip on bevvies, snack on the Airlines’ munchies, displayed on airplane food carts, while reclining in an actual airline seat. While there was no room for a plane, Jenn-Air had a full kitchen set up, and top dog Lexus, naturally, had one of their cars parked in full view when guests first entered.
Bottomline: On the food, there were definitely misses and a lot of “just ok.” It was also disappointing to find many dishes running out rather early, and it must’ve been upsetting for anyone having to arrive during the latter half. Poor Chef Francois Payard had 2 boxes of his colourful macarons go m.i.a., and barely lasted the first 2 hours. Guests were sociable and easy going, yet the sheer number of people, at times, was overwhelming, and it felt a little claustrophobic in some over crowded areas.
To me it was more of a drinking event then an eating one. The music was fun and catchy. The ambience had an air of nightlife, and the crowd energized. Overall, most people appeared to be having a “grand” time.
For more information about the Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival please visit their website www.lafw.com