LA Times' The Taste 2104

 My pals at Cooking on the Weekend & Christina's Cucina

My pals at Cooking on the Weekend & Christina's Cucina

As I mentioned last week, food festival season is in full swing. It can be challenging to navigate these weekend long eat-a-thons, assuming you want to fit into your fall clothes, but I'm here to help. Luckily two food blogger friends, Christina from Christina's Cucina and Valentina at Cooking on the Weekends were also with me this past weekend to help sample, share and snap all the goods at the LA Times' The Taste.

The event sprawled across Paramount Pictures Studios with covered booths in several areas, along with 3 stages for cooking demos and chef discussions. The event featured a who's who of top LA Culinary Talent, representing many of the hot restaurants in Southern California.

Saturday morning kicked off with a Field to Fork event, celebrating the breadth of farm fresh produce in Los Angeles. It was sweat rolling hot out, but there were places to grab shade and the lines were pretty manageable with never too long of a wait.

There were drinks for every palate being poured to appeal to cocktail fans, beer drinkers and wine sippers.

The veggies were quite the star on Saturday like Blvd 16's spiced cauliflower and chickpeas, an arugula, pistachio, goat gouda salad from Akasha and Loteria Grill's bright squash blossom soup.

Freshology gave us a beautiful savory vegetable parfait with an interesting addition of puffed rice, while Eveleigh showed off their rustic, chewy bread topped with a confit of wild albacore. We got back into the meat game with BOA's steak, sesrved with a side of summer succotash. The Pono Burger was one of the longer lines, and with good reason. They were serving grass fed beef with a homemade strawberry chipotle sauce and a fresh strip of bacon on top. Mmmmm.

One of the standouts in the pasta department was Napa Valley Grille's corn agnolotti. They could have shaved their white truffle on just about anything, but the al dente spoonful was just perfect. THEBlvd infused truffle into a yuzu dressing, producing a light and bright dish of Japanese noodles, roasted artichokes and shitake mushrooms.

Valentina got to experience her first Umami burger and this was my first Umami truffle slider and we agreed that it was one of our favorite tastes of the day. We were more than full by the time we reached Dog Haus, but they told us everyone was claiming they had the best bite so we broke the bite into 3 smaller one's and went in to make our own decision. That dog was indeed packed full or flavor. I loved the spicy Thai red currywurst with a creamy peanut sauce and a crunchy slaw.

Russ Parsons, the food editor for the LA Times, hosted a panel on farmer's markets with Josiah Citrin from Melisse and others from Sqirl, Cooks County and Copa d'Oro speaking about the great selection of produce we have in Southern CA. Everyone is a fan of the 2 big farmer's markets in Santa Monica and Hollywood, but there were also props for some of the smaller one's like in the Pacific Palisades and in Venice.

LA Times' The Taste

Sunday's eat-a-thon started with what else, but brunch. This wasn't just any brunch. This was brunch where the dish of the day was chicken and waffles. It came in all shapes and sizes. Muddy Leek presented chicken fried bacon waffles with tomato jam and maple cream, while Dia de Campo did a blow away spiced chicken and churro on a bold bed of yellow mole. Loteria Grill upped the ante with a grilled Mexican French toast. The creativity award went to Doma for their belgian waffle egg sandwich. You heard that right. I've had each of these separately, but together, they take brunch to another level. 

Farmshop delivered sinful brioche cinnamon buns while Zinc at Shade made sure we were equally well fed with homemade biscuits and gravy, topped with candied applewood smoked bacon. I'm getting full all over again, though there were some lighter dishes as well. Firefly had one of my favorites with their lobster and caviar cup, and Wilshire had a welcome and refreshing ceviche.

I was able to finally understand and experience what all the hype has been about around the ramen burger. I wasn't expecting much and was pleasantly surprised at all of the Asian notes coming between the two, pliable ramen "buns." The grilled cheese truck also delighted with ooey gooey cheese sandwiched between crisp bread and hot pastrami.

We digested our final bites of the day while listening to a fascinating talk on 20 years of the French Laundry. Russ Parsons had the king himself, Thomas Keller there, along with several of his former (and current) chefs. They talked about the very strict guidelines they followed while working for Keller, but all seemed to agree that it had to be that way. Keller likened his kitchen crew to a sports team. They work together, train each other on the accepted practices, sometimes get traded, but in the end, they're a team and they play by the coach's rules, and this is one coach who knows what he's doing.

LA Times' The Taste Thomas Keller

What a great weekend. I'm off to cleanse and exercise for the next month, or at least a few weeks until I hit Portland.

 Photo by Christina's Cucina

Photo by Christina's Cucina

*I was a guest of the LA Times' The Taste, but all my opinions are always my own.

Portland Feast

 Photo by: Feast Portland

Photo by: Feast Portland

There are still a few tickets left to select events at Portland Feast so don't delay. There's the sandwich invitational, which is an invite you definitely want to jump on. Top chefs from across the country compete to be crowned sandwich czar. 

There's an opportunity to have a dinner comprised of all desserts. Who hasn't ever dreamt of that?

If you know anything about Portland and their brunch rituals, then you also need to go to their Sunday morning event. All your favorite breakfast food will be in one spot. 

And of course, there will be all day tastings and drinks flowing into the evening. Coffee, candy and cocktails could be yours all day.  Tickets available here.