Taste of the Nation 2011 Recap
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.
My first bite of the day was Chef Ray Garcia’s tongue sandwich from FIG at the Fairmont Miramar.
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.
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!
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.
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 brought an interesting non-tomato gazpacho to the table. It was a light and foamy soup with lobster.
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.
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.
I love Joe’s Restaurant and was excited to see they were doing paella. Chef Joe personally was serving everyone.
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.
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!
Chef Nona Sivley at La Market by Kerry Simon handed out lamb lollipops. I wish all lollipops were made of meat.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next door, Pablo Moix and Steve Livigni of La Descarga were shakin’ daiquiris for the Taste of the Nation crowd.
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.
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.
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
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?