L.A. Times Celebration of Food & Wine: September 5, 2010

L.A. Times Wine & Food Festival at Paramount Pictures Studios | Photo credit to isayx3 on Flickr

It’s another culinary bazaar (we here in Los Angeles know how often these come around) but this time, it’s our city-wide flagship publication pulling out all the stops. It looks like the L.A. Times will live up to their name, too, because there are names to be had at this event held at on New York Street (yeah, pretty funny) in the backlot of Paramount Pictures.

Feelin’ a little indie with your wine? There will also be music, as She & Him are scheduled to headline the event with a full set. Angela McClusky will support.

Demonstrations will be taking place for your pleasure and education, as will panels by the following:

  • Michael Voltaggio – Winner, Top Chef Season 6
  • Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo – Animal Restaurant
  • Mark Peel –Campanile, The Tar Pit, Top Chef Masters Seasons 1 & 2
  • Suzanne Goin –AOC, Lucques, Tavern and The Hungry Cat
  • Jimmy Shaw -Loteria Grill
  • Ludo Lefebvre – LudoBites
  • Betty Fraser – Grub, Top Chef Season 2
  • Chris “C.J.” Jacobsen – The Yard, Top Chef Season 3
  • Alex Reznik – Ivan Kane’s Cafe Was, Top Chef Season 7
  • John Sedlar – Rivera
  • Barrie Lynn – The Cheese Impresario
  • Ricardo Zarate – Mo-chica
  • Russ Parsons – Food Editor, Los Angeles Times
  • Noelle Carter – Manager, Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen
  • Rene Lynch – Assistant Food Editor, Los Angeles Times
  • Jessica Gelt – Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times
  • Betty Hallock – Deputy Food Editor, Los Angeles Times
  • Krista Simmons – Associate Editor, Brand X

And of course, high brow or not, it wouldn’t truly be a Los Angeles food event without food trucks present. Don Chow Tacos, Wahoo’s, The Sweets Truck, The Buttermilk Truck, DosaTruck, Coolhaus will all be there if you so prefer your food off a 4-wheeler.

Wine, sake and spirits from various vendors will help you wash down your bites. Blackheart Spiced Rum, Broc Cellars / Broadside Wines, Conway Family Wines, Dutcher Crossing Winery, Evan Williams Hong Reserve Bourbon, Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards, Gekkeikan Sake, Hook & Ladder Winery, Lunazul 100% Agave Tequila, Kook Soon Dang Beer, Michael David Winery, Rideau Vineyard, Sinatra Family Estates, and Venteux Vineyards will all be present during the event.

If you buy in advance, you’ll save $10. The best part is that general admission attendees also get to enjoy a good number of pours (8 to be exact) with their food. But if VIP is more your speed, you’ll get unlimited pours and in addition, you’ll get to taste bites from these participants. Benefiting from ticket sales are Share Our Strength and the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, so you can feel good that you’ve spent your day also supporting worthy causes.

Seems like a it’ll be a great debut. I’ll see you there.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

12 – 8 PM

$125 VIP Admission ($135 door)
$55 General Admission ($65 door)
$40 Concert Only, advance and door


L.A. Times Celebration of Food & Wine at
Paramount Pictures
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Animal On Fairfax

amberjack, nectarine, jalapeno, citrus, mint

I have to admit: It wasn’t my idea to visit Animal. It was good that I had opportunity to go, though – since it was on @gregwong‘s LA hit list as a visiting New Yorker. He’s diligent like that; rather, I am probably lazy. But the unmarked restaurant in the heart of the Fairfax District was a pleasant surprise that exceeded whatever expectations I didn’t have.

I was intrigued with the idea that Animal gets its kicks out of including menu items that make you go, “What?” It’s ambitious but the key is that they actually do an incredible job with execution. The menu changes “daily” – although I was able to find online the same menu I ordered off two weeks ago. I find it hard to believe, though, that a menu becomes tired within a 24 hour period. You’ll also notice with these menus that they don’t try and name any of these concoctions with the intent of superficial glorification. Instead, you order each item as in each of its ingredients – as above. As some like to say, Is it what it is?

I’m only about a year late since Animal was first opened by Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo – who were named Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2009. Also on their resume are Iron Chef America appearances and a cookbook on the NPR’s 10 Best of 2008 list.

But I’m glad I didn’t know that from the get-go. I like my palate surprised.

And varied. We started off with the amberjack – which was citrusey and refreshing. Since it’s in the same family as yellowtail, its tenderness had a texture that was very similar. We then moved on to their variation on a southern favorite, crispy hominy – sprinkled with lime. It’s a nice fried, salty consistency to chew on while also being a departure from your typical calamari. With hominy being corn without the germ – and back in the day doubling as animal feed – its novelty as a gourmet appetizer as presented at Animal comes well-served with a fluffy shell.

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