A perfect evening frames the LA Food & Wine event at the Walt Disney Concert Hall put on by Food & Wine Magazine. The air of excitement, effusive energy and anticipation are palpable. Many attendees are dressing to the nines as if this were an Oscar-worthy event. Red carpet everywhere. The admission line is a couple of blocks long which concerns me initially. The fear dissipates as I am distracted by the effervescent conversation and laughter of my line neighbors and other attendees. This group is not dull, time and space unimportant, and we progress quickly to the entrance.
At the door, welcoming glass greeters pass out essential accouterment and necessary elements for wine tasting. The wine glasses. The entrance, set up as if for paparazzi, and the attendees take selfies and group photos to seize the moment, many stepping in to help others capture the event. In LA? No attitude here. Only one of sharing in the experience of food & wine. How refreshing!
A unique smell permeates the venue. Distinct and attention grabbing, enter the almighty bacon. Do I smell bacon? Yes! It’s undeniable. There is some form of fabulous fatty pork cooking away. The journey for me was about to begin on a bacon hunt. Basing my satisfaction on the smell I knew this event would deliver like no other. The vibe was relaxed, the music was hip and the Chefs, all in their element, ensuring quality and speed simultaneously. Painstakingly precise they are, in the delivery of delectable and savory plates.
I dodge people and lines to the wine tables. Looking for wines I’ve not yet had the pleasure of tasting. Struck by the sheer number of wineries and distributors here it becomes a time vs. quantity venture. The pours are generous, the wine delectable, reluctantly I practice carefully spitting so I can accommodate the vast numbers of juicy palette gems. Surely one would not be able to taste all the wine in 3-4 hours, but I diligently work towards that goal. My first stop: Priest Wines of Napa. In my glass, a delicious 2014 Grenache Blanc. Well-balanced, bright and delicious with understated peach notes and a memorably smooth finish. This easy to drink wine pairs well with the lighter fare of the adoringly entitled “Interpretive street grub” specifically from Egg Slut’s Alvin Cailin. He delivers with ‘Arroz Caldo’ a traditional Filipino dish. This beautiful savory marriage of chicken, ginger & rice transforms the porridge with appealing compliments including tofu, chilis, cilantro and scallions, but leaves me wanting more. While speaking to Chef, you could sense his passion for getting back to his Filipino roots and serving traditional food with a high-quality kick. There is no alternative but to check out his brick and mortar when in LA. After moving from Hawaii and eating things that I’m often unable to pronounce I have this perspective of being game to try every dish served. Even if it’s something I’ve never seen before with exotic ingredients. Food adventurer here I am! Egg Slut’s savory version of porridge sweeps me off my feet.
Wine being my focus for this event I turn back to the land of grapes. I encounter an engaging and unpretentious woman representing a world class brand (always love down to earth people). She was pouring for Napa’s Silver Oak. In fact, the 2011 release of Silver Oak is happening in real time here. This vintage has a delightful deep purple hue with herbal notes and an exquisitely light tannin finish. Although the wine is young by Silver Oak standards, its forefathers have brilliantly made this an exquisite bottle to save or savor. I recommend the latter.
Out of all the opportunities, I experience from basic noodles to roast pork (the bacon impersonator and the culprit responsible for that incredible smell), one of my most memorable introductions, is to Chef Jason Fullilove, newly anointed Executive Chef of the recently refurbished and iconic Clifton’s Cafeteria. As his name states, he is a one of a kind whose love for what he does and talent shine. Watch for him in the nation of rising young tastemakers. He’s got the attention of LA food writers and lovers alike.
Just before departing, a young woman who has been to many of the LA Food & Wine events approaches and asks my thoughts. I give her my perspective on the quality of the food & wine, as well as the perfect size of attendees. Enthusiastically I share my thoughts on returning soon. Her advice to me is succinct, “While the LA Food & Wine event is one of the best, there is no better than the Pebble Beach Food & Wine .” You can be sure that is one I won’t miss.
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