Taste of the Nation 2011 Recap

Eli Sussman Auctioning off Michael Voltaggio

After going to a few different food festivals in L.A. last year, my favorite was Taste of the Nation. I knew I had to go again this year. Plus, it’s a worthy cause.The proceeds go towards fighting childhood hunger. It’s a bit odd to think about our day of overindulgence but somehow it magically works.

Chef Ray Garcia of FIG

My first bite of the day was Chef Ray Garcia’s tongue sandwich from FIG at the Fairmont Miramar.

FIG- Torta de Lengua with breakfast radish and escabeche

This was a great bite to kick off the day. It was a little bit spicy so I appreciated the pickled veggies it came with.

Jitlada- Crying Tiger Pork, Pork Belly Green Beans

Sometimes Jitlada is too spicy for me but usually it’s fine. On this day at Taste of the Nation, it was crazy spicy hot! I ate up all the rice, downed some Singha beer and ate the rest of Fig’s pickled veggies hoping my mouth would calm down. I still had the rest of the festival to go through!

Hatfield's - Spanish Octopus Salad

The buzz through the festival was octopus. While bacon and pork belly have been king the last few years, this year it was trending to lamb and octopus (though I thought beef was very popular as well this day).

As it turned out, my favorite octopus bite was from Hatfield’s. It was very tender and I thought about going for a second helping but alas, there were many, many other booths to try.

Ray's and Stark Bar- Ginger Rogers

I stopped by to talk to barsmith Michel at Ray’s and Stark Bar. He was serving his Ginger Rogers which was very refreshing on this sunny day. I didn’t have anything to eat from Ray’s because I knew I was doing lunch there soon (edit- I just had lunch there last week!) and I was trying to be reasonable about what I was trying. I ended up skipping all the desserts as well.

Patina- Lobster and Fresh Almond Gazpacho

Patina brought an interesting non-tomato gazpacho to the table. It was a light and foamy soup with lobster.

Picca- Chicken Anticucho

We decided to skip over to Picca’s booth which was serving chicken anticuchos. Picca just opened over this past weekend and I’m looking forward to more from Chef Ricardo Zarate. I hear the second Mo-Chica will open soon as well.

Tres by Jose Andres - olive sphere, grilled octopus taco

The next octopus dish I tried was the grilled octopus taco from Tres by Jose Andres. The accompanying olive sphere was very salty. Although pretty, the lettuce leaf overwhelmed the bits of octopus.

Joe's Restaurant - Paella with chorizo, mussels and chicken

I love Joe’s Restaurant and was excited to see they were doing paella. Chef Joe personally was serving everyone.

1886 Bar - Highland Park Swizzle

What was neat about this year’s festival was the increase in craft cocktails at booths and several bars including 1886 Bar at the Raymond in Pasadena participated. They slung Bols Genever cocktails including the Highland Park Swizzle.

Chaya - tuna

Chaya - Sukiyaki Short Rib

I’ve always liked Chaya restaurants and the sukiyaki short rib was great. I thought it was hilarious the guy at the booth said I must try the food and not just photograph the offerings. But of course! Thanks for the tasty bites!

LA Market - Lamb lollipops with hibiscus glaze on fava bean puree

Chef Nona Sivley at La Market by Kerry Simon handed out lamb lollipops. I wish all lollipops were made of meat.

Spare Room - Nantucket Sound

Over at the Spare Room bar’s table, we were treated to the Nantucket Sound (chamomile and lemon balm infused Plymouth gin, Bianco vermouth, cantaloupe juice,  spiced ginger sorbet). I loved the apron bartender Naomi was wearing!

Public Kitchen & Bar - Porchetta Sandwich

Lexington Social House - Fried chicken, cornbread

Short Order - Sloppy Bolognese Slider

I really enjoyed the substantial offerings from Public’s porchetta sandwich to Lexington Social House‘s fried chicken to Short Order’s sloppy bolognese slider.

A-Frame - cracked out kettle corn

Craft- Liberty Farm duck fritter & cherry mostarda

Lukshon - Chicken Pops

We’re just hitting our stride when we got to A-Frame, Craft and Lukshon. The popcorn and Lukshon’s chicken pops were familiar but I hadn’t been to Craft in a while. The duck was pretty good and I liked the fresh purslane with it.


Sotto - Fennel cocktails

I wonder if we can get all the best bars in the city to make drinks at a classy food event? Oh wait, this happened! I enjoyed the fennel cocktail from Sotto. Bartenders Kate and Chris were on hand that day.

Michael's Santa Monica - Heirloom tomato gazpacho

LQ at SK - Boudin Noir + Mustard Tapioca banh mi

Whist Restaurant - grilled octopus with smoked potatoes

For the next round, I chugged a shot of gazpacho from Michael’s Santa Monica and then tried LQ at SK’s boudin noir (the picture is from when I had it at the restaurant). The next round of octopus was another salad from Whist with smoked potatoes.

Pour Vous - Cinq a Sept


From the people who brought you La Descarga and Harvard & Stone comes Pour Vous which opens August 1. The new bar will also have food. I’m quite excited by that! Davidson Fernie was manning the bar and whipped up the Cinq a Sept cocktail for everyone.

La Descarga - daiquiri

Next door, Pablo Moix and Steve Livigni of La Descarga were shakin’ daiquiris for the Taste of the Nation crowd.

WP24 - Alaska King crab crystal chive dumplings

Comme Ca - lamb merguez

La Seine - coconut jalepeno


The next round were Alaska king crab crysal chive dumplings from Chef Sara Johannes at WP24. I managed to score one of the last two. I also tried the lamb merguez from Comme Ca and was talked into La Seine’s coconut jalepeno stuffed with albacore, salmon, yellowtail and topped with aioli. People were calling it neo-sushi.

Grace/ BLD - Berkshire pork banh mi

Mozza - porcini rubbed BBQ Creekstone Farms short ribs

Ink - Pimm's Cup

I was starting to wind down but not before gobbling down a Berkshire pork banh mi from Grace/ BLD. Mozza brought short ribs that had been porcini-rubbed and barbequed. At this point, someone snuck me a taste of Ink’s ice cream and one of the cocktails, a Pimm’s Cup, they were serving from the VIP area.

Street - Kaya Toast

Border Grill- cold poached salmon, Alaska crab & quinoa fritters

And last but not least, I ended with kaya toast from Street and the lovely Alaska salmon on jicama tostaditas and Alaska crab and quinoa fritters from Border Grill.It’s great to see how involved Chefs Susan and Mary Sue are.

The server races are always fun! I managed to get some great vids:

Heat #1 – Starry Kitchen VS Border Grill DTLA

Heat #2 – Border Grill DTLA VS Street

Heat #3 – Border Grill Santa Monica VS Street

Culina - lamb chop


Oh wait! One last bite. The buzz was for Culina’s lamb chop. Remember it was one of my favorite bites from last year, I headed over to their table and scooped up the most juicy and luscious lamb chop. It was a great way to end the festival. Who needs dessert when you got cocktails and meat?


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