Favorite Moments of Los Angeles Food & Wine 2014

RivaBella’s Chef Luigi Fineo shaving black truffles over Sweet Corn Agnolotti with Parmesan – Lexus Grand Tasting #LAFW14

Food festivals come and go, but the multi-event Los Angeles Food & Wine always produces many noteworthy moments across a diverse set of mediums. From lunches combining famous visiting chefs with hometown culinary stars and cooking demonstrations to Lexus grand tastings and informative seminars, the extravaganza is a great way to see how the Los Angeles culinary scene somehow fits in with the rest of the world’s.

Here are some highlights from the daytime events I attended:

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Saint Martha: An Unexpected Dining Destination in Koreatown

Pecan wood smoked brisket with hoisin, tiny lettuce & root vegetables

There’s something incredibly freeing, even liberating about a Western restaurant that sets up shop in a strip mall in Koreatown. While you’d find a stellar sushi restaurant – and Korean BBQ joint, for that matter – in many a plaza in Metropolitan L.A., you wouldn’t hardly ever find a modern American restaurant in one.

But Saint Martha, named after the patron saint of cooks and servants and sister of Mary and Lazarus, demonstrates that this is where Los Angeles is, today. That smart, exciting food isn’t indicated by how hard it is to get a reservation, nor how hard a battle with L.A. sprawl is fought. The vibe was comfortably casual and inexclusive; I took the subway from my Spanish Revival apartment near East Hollywood.

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Nine Noteworthy Upcoming Los Angeles Food & Drink Events

Glimpses of Unmissable Upcoming Events

Let me take this first post in almost one month to deliver some pertinent upcoming event news. It’s now summer and thus, event season, here in sunny Southern California. Now that I’ve somewhat psychologically recovered from a huge picture-data dump from spilling a homemade cocktail all over my non-backed-up laptop, I’m finally ready to move into this crazy part of the year.

So here’s a rebirth of sorts; it’s an intentional start to the summer by tallying up the essential food events continuing into the fall (L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade is in September). One focuses on cocktails. One focuses on tacos. One focuses on ribs. Three are on the same day; thus, yes – I do wish that these were spread out, more. But practically all of them feature world-class chefs. So without further adieu, here’s where you need to be this summer:

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Drizly, the Liquor Delivery App, Now Live In Los Angeles

Drizly Screen Shots

Last week, I got a chance to beta test some awesomely useful smartphone technology. It’s an app that’s called Drizly, which ended up delivering spirits and ice cold beer to where I was within 25 minutes, stat.

On the heels of some significant seed funding, they’ve launched today in L.A.. And the official advertised delivery time frame is 20-40 minutes, in which they’ll have your purchased goods to you. That is, whatever you’ve ordered on their app from a total of 2,500 different products.

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Tokyo, Japan: Wonderfully Whimsical Kaiseki at Den

Sagayu Beef Bowl

There’s something comforting, even relieving, about a 10-seat Kaiseki experience in Tokyo with an especially irreverent presence behind each course, each with unparalleled attention to detail. But that is Jimbocho Den, the brainchild of mid-30′s, owner-chef Zaiyu Hasagawa, whose wry sense of humor delightfully pervades every refined dish.

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What I Learned About the Art of Tea

Mandarin Silk, Rose Lavender, Silver Needle, 1896, Gyokuro, Jasmine Pearls (clockwise, upper left)

More people drink tea than any other beverage besides water. In fact, tea is drunk at least 3 billion times per day. So when I got invited to tour the Art of Tea headquarters in Monterey Park, I jumped at the chance to demystify this ancient practice.

I had seen Art of Tea served in many restaurants and hotels around the city, so to tour the facilities of a tea maker who has successfully captured a lot of the high end market was a great opportunity. Steve Schwartz, founder and CEO of The Art of Tea, first came into tea making when he lost his mother to cancer and became increasingly interested in Ayurvedic medicine.

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Drinking Through New Spring Cocktails at The Corner Door

Beau DuBois and his stoic shaker face

Thankfully, there have been more and more spots popping up on the Westside to which I’ll venture for some great cocktails. Scopa Italian Roots, Belcampo Meat Company join the ranks of Copa d’Oro, Tasting Kitchen, Sunny Spot, Sotto and Picca (the latter two of which are on the east part of the Westside).

But Beau DeBois’ cocktail menu at The Corner Door has always been sort of a sleeper – though this is my easterly L.A. bias speaking. Of course, this status does not apply with locals, because the restaurant and bar regularly draws a legion of neighborhood residents, and for good reason: Great drinks, great pub fare and late night hours.

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Niseko, Japan: Outstanding Kaiseki at Sobatei Rakuichi

Soba Master and Owner of Rakuichi

We were closing out an epic week of snowboarding and skiing some serious powder in Niseko, Japan, when on our last night we visited Rakuichi, the 12-seat kaiseki restaurant at the foot of Annupuri resort. During lunchtime, I hear Tatsuru and Midori Rai have quite a queue as they keep service strictly to soba. While absolutely every plate was pristinely and passionately prepared, soba was definitely the centerpiece of our multi-course dinner.

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New Happy Hours of Note: The Bazaar by José Andrés and Petrossian West Hollywood

Caviar Martini – Petrossian

There are a couple new happy hours at some pretty fancy spots in Mid-City West and West Hollywood launching today. With weather in Los Angeles warming up as much as it has recently, it doesn’t get much better than these refreshing libations and succulent bites on the terrace or patio to begin your night.

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Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese Serving Up Classics and Much More

The Classic with Tomato Basil Dip

As April and thus, National Grilled Cheese Month, comes to a close, I have come to realize that: 1) This classic sandwich needs no one to vouch for its deliciousness the rest of the year, and 2) Who has time to keep track of the celebratory day or month of every food in existence, anyway? (Oh right: Thank you, PR pitches.)

After all, the sandwich has had its own Invitational here for years on end, to somewhat sadly conclude this year as we food enthusiasts find other foods and combinations of food to fawn over. But let’s not forget that as there have been multiple storefronts dedicated to cupcakes and only cupcakes, for a very long time, dedicated grilled cheese slingers has also become a thing.

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