After the last food festivity at LA Food & Wine just a week ago, I didn’t think I would be hitting up any food festivals any time soon. But The Offalo’s instagram feed alerted me that the LA Times would be hosting its annual food festival, The Taste, very soon. I had been to the The Taste 3 years ago for one of the daytime events and vowed never to let myself burn away in the heat again. Unlike the LA Food & Wine festival which was essentially indoors and wonderful ventilated, the LA Times hosts its events on the Paramount Studios backlot in Hollywood. I brought Mama H.o.P. and Uncle Lush as my guests to their first ever food festival. I thought they would enjoy the massive all-you-can-eat feast. Of course, I opted for Saturday evening’s “Dinner With a Twist” hosted by Jonathan Gold. Like a total goof, I clumsily introduced myself and told the man I liked his documentary when in actuality I thought it was just OK. I didn’t know what else to say! I probably should have asked to take a picture with him, but alas, I only got this memento.
The event definitely felt much more lively than my previous experience. The DJ was spinning some awesome jams. In between bites, I would just dance by myself in place. Few things make me happier than upbeat jams and good food. It just felt like a big party. It was pretty crowded considering the ticket prices went from $65 to $125 in just 3 years.
Doomie’s | Vegan Pulled Pork Canape
Surprisingly good considering there was no meat here. As a first bite, I was pleased. Had I eaten this at the end I probably would have been more “meh” about it.
Local Black Mussels black garlic, vinegar sea foam
Uncle Lush skipped non meat items and went straight for this. I forgot where it was from, but it was still tasty nonethelesss.
The Little Jewel of New Orleans | Cajun Jambalaya sweet corn bread muffin
The cornbread was so dry and tasteless. The rice was spicy with plenty of chorizo.
The Bellweather | Pork & Beef Meatballs
I love a good meatball, and this fit the bill.
Surf ‘N Turf Taco
Shrimp & Scallop Coctel Verde
We unanimously agreed, the Mexican duo of taco and seafood cocktail was one of the best dishes of the night. The proteins were deliciously prepared and plentiful. The kicking Mexican flavors shone brightly.
Tentenyu | Chicken Ramen
Mama H.o.P. and I were thoroughly impressed by the chicken ramen here. Normally, I’m a die hard tonkotsu ramen fan. I find chicken ramen quite bland by comparison. But the broth here was incredibly rich, having a similar silky luscious body to that of its pork based brother. However, the flavors were more clean. This probably gets my vote as best bite of the night. YUMS!
Teriyaki Chicken Rolls chia seeds, roasted onions
The lines were longer than we preferred so I just went for things that didn’t have big crowds. This was a nice bit, but nothing too special.
Ivory | Smoked Candystripe Beets horseradish creme fraiche, salmon roe
The smokiness of the beets was interesting, but too overwhelming in the end.
Herringbone | Tuna with caviar
I’ve checked out Brian Malarkey’s restaurant, Searsucker, in Scottsdale a few years ago. It was pretty good. This was my first taste of Herringbone. It wasn’t anything too memorable.
Aqui Es Texcoco | Mexican Style Lamb Barbecue
Mama H.o.P. was simply horrified at the gaminess of the lamb, but I quite enjoyed it and didn’t find it all unpalatable. The line was long for this one if that’s any indication of its popularity at the event.
Church & State | Endive, Candied Walnut, Blue Cheese
A pretty ho-hum one bite salad with no surprises.
Carne Asada 3 ways
The meat all sort of tasted the same, though the salsas varied. I preferred the salsa verde.
Broken Spanish | Camate sweet potato, pig parts, chile de arbol
This was easily my least favorite dish of the event. I usually don’t mind that deep porky aroma that borders on funky. But I didn’t find the sourness at all tasty. I guess the sweet potato was supposed to add some balance, but I found the dish all around odd for me.
Asian Box | Coconut Curry lamb meatball, jasmine rice
I was glad to have something as comforting and familiar as this curry to wash away the taste of the previous bite. The curry was more savory and sweet, which I loved. The lamb meatball was not too gamey. Delicious. Sadly, I was already getting full at this point.
Leona | Smokey Corn Masa cotija crema
I’ve heard many good things about Leona, but have not been able to check out the cuisine of Top Chef’s Nyesha Arrington here. She was manning her booth and plating her food with great care and attention to detail.
I was worried her offering would be as uninteresting as it sounded. Taken as a whole with the crunchy popcorn and lightly tangy crema, it was actually pretty good and the most unpredictable dish of the night. Tacos were EVERYWHERE so it was nice to try something totally different.
Circa 55 | Butternut Squash Risotto
I love seeing any sort of risotto or pasta dish finished off in a giant cheese wheel for that extra sharp or creamy punch.
The risotto was deliciously creamy and rich. I didn’t taste chunk of butternut squash so it must have been incorporated to make the risotto just a tad sweet. Well done.
Nutella Milk Chocolate Crunch Bar
Like a fancy chocolatey Crunch bar, nutella style.
Faith & Flower | Milk Chocolate Hazelnut milk chocolate supreme, praline cremeux, gianduja whipped ganache, caramel
I was surprised Faith & Flower was serving dessert, but it was rich, chocolatey, and very satisfying.
Terrine | Country Terrine pork, veal, pistachios, purple pickled mustard
Being the Francophiles that we are in my family, we know a good terrine when we have one and this wasn’t it. I think there was something off about the mustard.
Chaya Downtown | Salmon Tartare fuji apple, japanese cucumber, red onion, sesame oil, soy sauce, brandy, golden pea shoot, nori crisp
I was so full and was not going to try this, but Uncle Lush said it was pretty good. Uncle Lush was right. The salmon was well seasoned, but the nori chip really cinched the deal for me. It was a much more interesting than a wonton chip for sure.
Guisados + Badmaash
Carnitas Picante crema, chile habanero, cilantro
Goa Vindaloo sweet raita, onion achaar, cilantro
I’ve been to Badmaash and really liked the food. I was intrigued to find a Mexican and Indian restaurant teaming up to present one dish. Call it carnitas picante or goa vindaloo, the dish was one in the same. Aside from being well balanced and well made, it was DAMN spicy. Like it was a slow onset and slow release heat that totally killed me and triggered instant heart burn. It took me a while to recover from this and I didn’t even eat the whole thing. Thumbs up for the creativity and flavor! Thumbs down for being almost inedibly spicy.
Jinya | Tonkotsu Spicy Miso Ramen
The noodles were pretty much the only good thing going on here. The broth was oddly sweet.
Smitten Ice Cream | Mojito
I am a fan of nitrogen made ice cream. The texture cannot be beat. Mojito was definitely minty, sour, and sweet, just like it’s namesake. Delectably unique.
Cookie Dough pretzel, chocolate chips
Pretty standard, but still tasty.
I didn’t feel like I ate a lot, but I was so full at the end. I probably only got to try 2/3 of the booths at the event. I was too impatient and skipped booths with more than a 3 minute line, or I was too full by the time I got to the booth. Either way, I wish I had done better to get my money’s worth. All in all, it was a well planned and well organized event. It was fun for the whole family. Mama H.o.P. and Uncle Lush were pretty wiped by the end. The old people aren’t used to so much activity for one night. We probably agreed that not all the food was spectacular, but we were satisfied and happy with the awesome dishes we did have. These days, I can’t seem to fit eat as much as I used to without feeling the negative consequences, so I am not certain these events are worth it for me in the future. It was just great to show Mama H.o.P. and Uncle Lush a good time.