It was my luck day when Cathy of Gastronomyblog let me know that I was the (randomly selected) lucky winner of her 2 tickets to Taste of Beverly Hills, a weekend long celebration of great wine and fantastic food from local restaurants in the Beverly Hills/Los Angeles Area, hosted by Food & Wine magazine. I’m sure you could imagine my reaction. I had just won $300 worth of foodie fun festitivites! I am usually aware of the various food festivals taking place around LA, but usually do not attend because of cost and crowds. I’d hate to fork out money when I can’t guarantee the food will be good, or when I can anticipate being elbow to elbow with other obsessive foodies.
I took Miss Nancy Rheeeee, and she brought The Millionaire Man, who obviously purchased his own ticket but at a discounted price. I was planning on being uber cheap and parking at the Century City Mall and walking over to the shuttle stop nearby, instead of parking in the $15 lot. I got lazy and parked there anyways. They had shuttle buses, but they also had these cute little trolleys, which I got to ride.
Everything went smoothly from parking, to shuttle busing, to will call line, to entering to the festival. It was pretty well organized and set up, as you can see below. There were two large tents like these with all the food & wine stations, and various smaller tents and tables with cocktail, beer, beverage, and demo stations.
Wide-eyed, hungry, and camera-ready, I made my way through as many stations as possible. Big thanks to Nancy Rheee and Millionaire Man for being so patient with me and my photography. I managed to do a decent job with the pictures considering I was eating and fighting crowds at the same time.
Foie Gras Duo brioche crouton, honeycomb, strawberry marmalade, spiced duck jus – One Pico @ Shutters on the Beach Hotel, Santa Monica.
I should have enjoyed this in two bites to appreciate the cool, smooth, creaminess of the foie in contrast to the marmalade. The marmalade was probably a little too overwhelming for the subtle flavors surrounding it. It was a good bite in the end.
Grilled Octopus potatoes, capers, parsely – One Pico @ Shutters on the Beach Hotel, Santa Monica. This was unanimously one of the winning dishes of the night. I patiently waited for a serving of this after The Millionaire Man raved about its deliciousness. It was in fact, MARVELOUS. The octopus had great texture without being tough and chewy and the potato mash had unique components that made the dish sing.
Peanut Butter & Chocolate Rice Crispy Candy – One Pico @ Shutters on the Beach Hotel, Santa Monica.
I hate to eat out of order. I wanted to save the sweet stuff for the end when I had my fair share of savory bites. It was just too chaotic to expect any order, so we ate everything that came our way. I don’t like peanut butter things all that much, but this was a nice nutty bite that wasn’t too sweet.
“Duck Ball” – Sunset Marquis.
This little bite was interestingly delicious. It was a chewy doughy ball filled with duck. It was reminiscent of something at dim sum, but Americanized. The sauce was a bit tangier version of a plum sauce I suppose. It was enjoyable and I wish I could have had another.
Mozza Caprese slow roasted vine tomatoe, burrata, pesto sauce – Pizzeria Mozza
Osteria Mozza might just be my favorite high end restaurant in LA, so I was so anxious to get a bit of Mozza in my mouth. I think I was in such a hurry to eat this, so I don’t think I was appreciating the harmony on the plate in the moment. In retrospect, I’d eat this in a heart beat. I suppose the tomato became a bit of a mess when you bit into it, with all the juices oozing out.
Beef Skewers – Chaya Brasserie
These were nothing terribly special, but were still delectable and perfectly cooked.
Beet Ricotta Gnocchi – Angeli Caffe
I thought these looked more like mochi than gnocchi. They were the ugly step sisters of the night, but they were still light and cheesy. For fear that my stomach was filling up too fast, I only one and half. I wish I could go back and eat the other half.
Fig served the following:
In between mouthfuls, I was saying “I don’t get it, where the bacon wrapped part??” But if you look closely you can see a thin strip of bacon coming off the big slab of bacon. I thought about picking off the hunk of fat, but I just shoved it all in my mouth. The salad helped cut the salt.
Lacquered BBQ Ribs chili-caramel sesame glaze
Green Mango & Papaya Salad tomatoes, carrots, crushed peanuts, and crispy shallots – Rock Sugar Pan Asian Kitchen
This was one of Miss Rheee’s top dishes of the night. Millionaire Man and I agreed that the pork was falling off the bone tender, but that it somehow wasn’t fireworks spectacular. I can’t even remember what the salad was like, but it was nothing like Somtum Gai Yang in Portland.
Potato Pancake with applesauce – I don’t remember where this was from. I didn’t even want to waste precious stomach space on tasteless carbs, but Millionaire Man insisted. It tasted like a dry hashbrown topped with baby food. Worst dish of the night.
Sea Salt Caramel Chocolate Truffle – Compartes Chocolatier. Not as impressive as I was expecting, seeing how delicate and beautifully crafted they were.
Monterey Red Abalone cucumber and fennel – Melisse. I was looking forward to sampling a bite from this 2 star Michelin establishment. Unfortunately, it was not a noshable nibblet. It was like a piece of artwork that you just don’t get. Pretty much like all the “fantastic” artwork all over Cedars, that I’m too small minded to “get.” This combined with the fact that most people I know who have been to Melisse have not been impressed, really bumps Melisse down on my “to try” list of restaurants.
Marinated Beans, Beets, Salsa Rustica – Tasting Kitchen
The guy serving these was douchey beyond belief. This is what happens when I have no obligations to any of the foods or restaurants I try. I can be completely and totally honest. So again, douchey. Faux-hawk, designer fitted shirt that had the top buttons undone baring his hairless Asian chest, fitted camel color blazer accentuating his sculpted delts and guns. When I asked him what the dish was, he just fired off a lot of big words really fast, and the above was all I could manage to write down. As for the food, I appreciated the innovative presentation. It was herby, fresh, and bright bite. That’s about all I can remember. Maybe if the server guy wasn’t so douchey, I would have been able to dedicate more hippocampus space to the food.
They kept announcing overhead that the famed Michael Voltaggio would be featured at the LG demo station. After too much time spent to technical difficulties, this rock star of the culinary scene finally got started, showing us how to make an extremely innovative and inventive twist on the traditional caprese salad without using any pesto or mozarella. We didn’t stay to see him complete his dish, but it’s safe to say that I would love to try his new restaurant when it finally opens. Apparently he’s shopping around for a space?
Mini Pork Carnitas Taco Bites – Border Grill.
These were really really good! Miss Rheee had to go back and get second and maybe third helpings. They also served a wonderfully refreshing virgin mojito drink. Border Grill only has 3 stars on yelp, and Susan Feniger seems like a hippy and I’m not quite sure I want a hippy cooking me food. I’m think I prefer the tatted-up bad boys a la Michael Voltaggio. In any case, Border Grill has moved up on my list.
The Office Burger – Father’s Office
Having been the only thing I’ve actually tried beforehand, I was expecting execution to fall short in this hectic out-of-element cooking environment. This was probably the second best version of the burger I’ve had (everytime I go, the burger tastes slightly different). It was a healthy portion too! Essentially half of the normal burger. My eyes wanted to devour the whole thing, but I could only do about 2/3rds before giving up. The meat was so juicy and hearty, the caramelized onions were perfectly sweet, and the blue cheese wasn’t too overpowering. A consistent winner!
Just as a side note, Umami Burger was also there with a huge crowd of people salivating in wait. When I figured out what the big deal was, I told this one girl that Umami Burger was totally overrated and that she shouldn’t waste her time. Only too late did I realize I just said this in front of the Umami people. I embarassingly tried to retract my statement, but just ended up scurrying away like a little kid who just wet his pants. Ooops! “Walk away, walk away. Just WALK….A….WAY!”
Green Papaya Salad & Thai Boxing Chicken Skewers – Talesai
As you can see, I didn’t put that much effort into this photo. A few bites and I was over it. Not good!
Vanilla Panna Cotta watermelon soup, basil gelee – Fraiche
Everyone’s favorite sweet of the night. I looooove panna cotta! This was no exception. Though the watermelon soup was just the right amount of sweet, I would have preferred my panna cota with some tart berries just for better contrast.
Salmon Tartare basil aioli, crispy potato chip – Fraiche
A perfect bite of succulent raw salmon, a crispy chip, and a delicate sauce.
Pig Trotters sauerkraut, dijon mustard – Church & State
These pig trotters aka pigs feets, were overwhelmingly porky for me, me of all people! The sauerkraut was pretty good though! Had the smell of oinker been tamed a bit more, I think the dish would have been more successful.
Saffron Risotto Ball buffalo mozarella, spicy tomato sauce – Culina
The saffron flavor was strong and fragrant. I just got a bit of the mozzarella before I got fed up with struggling to eat this. I was scared it was gonna roll away or splash sauce in my face.
Chicken Tamale – Guelaguetza
This was sorta room temperature bordering on cool which was not so appetizing. It was flavorful and plenty of meat, but I couldn’t get over the temperature.
Rattlesnake & Rabbit Sausage – Wurstkuche
Nothing special as you might expect. It was actually dry, which was only minimally offset by the grilled peppers.
Duck Sliders – The Tar Pit
I was getting so stuffed by this point, but how could I pass up something by one of the Top Chef Masters?? This was pretty plain. It really was just bread and meat. It really needed some veggies, something pickled, or some contrasting sauce to kick it up. The meat was quite tender, I’ll have to admit.
I really wanted to try the grilled cheese sandwiches from Campanile since there was a huge crowd craning to get taste of the cheesy goodness that was perfuming the air. I waited as long as I could before I gave up. By the time I went back, they had run out. Booo! But I did get a picture of Mark Peel, who was looked really intense and busy cleaning up his station but immediately stopped, smiled, and posed when I asked to take a picture.
I didn’t get to try any wine or cocktails since I was busy stuffing my face with food, and alcohol really is something you savor and enjoy with food. The cost of the ticket would really be worth it if you drank just a few drinks.
Here she is after she took a sip. Then I took a sip, and told her that was a strange lingering flavor in my mouth that brought back memories of the gross anatomy lab. I tasted formaldehyde!! I felt like I just took a big bite of my old cadaver! Needless to say, this drink was quickly trashed.
Molten Chocolate Cake – Il Cielo
One of the least appetizing lava cakes I’ve had. The cake tasted rubbery or something! It was oozing in all the right places, but nothing could make up for the off texture.
Homemade Parpadelle white truffle sauce – Il Cielo
Can we say BEST DISH OF THE NIGHT!!! Oh man this was the most amazing bit of pasta! The sauce had a great earthy umami quality. The truffle taste was rich completely out of this world. They even shaved a bit of real truffle over the pasta before serving it. I helped myself to a couple more tastings of this one. We all LOVED this dish. I might just hit up Il Cielo one of these days!
The sauce was so flavorful and delicious, I had to lick it up, every last drop of it.
I got some sauce on my face!
Lamb Slider – Little Next Door
I was soo stuffed. I took one bite and called it quits!
I snagged a photo of the well renowned celebrity chef, Wolfgang Puck, who was representing his steakhouse, Cut. Unlike Mark Peel, Wolfgang was not hard at work churning out food for the masses. He was chillaxing with his glass of wine, schmoozing with his peoples. Doesn’t he look like a mischievous little smurf here?? I kind of want to rub his belly and pat him on the head.
Look! Wolfgang is now a beverage! It wasn’t that good, too watery. It comes in 3 different flavors, vanilla, mocha, and caramel!
Maple Bacon Donut – Nickel Diner
Great concept. Falls short on flavor. The donut was dry. The icing and the bacon just tasted like separate components as opposed to a harmonious combination.
Fried Catfish corn cake, brussel sprouts – Nickel Diner
Tuna Sashimi soy sauce, arrugula, shaved parmesan – Sushi Roku
Nice chunks of tuna with the interesting addition of cheese and greens!
Chicken & Mushroom Rigatoni ground chicken, shitake mushrooms, herbes de provence, parmesan – Nonna of Italy
A hearty finish to a wonderful evening!
Like the true celebrities that we are, we had to stop and pose on the red carpet on our way out. Miss Rheee was more successful than I in the “head tossed over the shoulder” celebrity pose. I just look like I’m sticking my butt out.
What a great night!! I totally overate, and as a result had some major GERD before bed. But what did I expect, I mean we did manage to get a taste of almost everything. The Millionaire Man probably did a better job than the rest of us. We were all full and happy. In addition to the 3 celebrity chefs I got pictures of, we also saw Ted Allen. And if I only I had remembered his name at the time, because I would have asked to take a picture. All I could remember was Tod Allen, Tim Allen, and that somehow didn’t sound right, neither did calling him Queer Eye. Disappointingly, I didn’t see any other real celebrities. I guess they all came out on opening night.
As we were being shuttled back to the parking lot in the cute trolley bus, I really felt I had just been to Disneyland for adults! If you’re not a cheapass, and you enjoy eating and drinking, than this event is definitely for you! I hope I can go next year. I doubt I’ll be so lucky to win tickets again, but hopefully I’ll be making more than the chump change I do now so I could buy my own tickets.