The thing about these food extravaganzas is sometimes you can expect a lot of piecemeal efforts from restaurants who run the gambit of quality andÂ notorietyÂ and are there to garner publicity because they need it. Not so with Los Angeles Magazine‘s The Food Event – heldÂ at Saddlerock Ranch in Malibu last Sunday and which featured a ton of power players in the L.A. scene. First of all, the setting was beautiful and couldn’t be more fairy tale. Imagine food and wine in a bowl set inside rolling hills with rows of grape vines and a clear blue sky above. Second, I actually regretted not having enough capacity to try everything. If I knew what everyone was serving ahead of time as I perused stand to stand, I could prioritize the space in my stomach somehow. Then again, that would have taken oodles of self-control that – let’s face it – I frankly don’t have.
Highlights that I was actually able to digestÂ included a steak sandwich from Dakota (above), three different tacos including a potato variety from Loteria! Grill, an interesting foie gras-eel sushi roll (yes, the magic was in the foie gras) as well as an astounding lettuce wrap (below) from Wilshire Restaurant, and – I’m sure – tons of other things I eyed with a look only a diner with anÂ overwhelmed yet yearning palate could exude.
Oh – and how nice it was to see the newly-expanded Petrossian in my neighborhood, in Malibu. Their blinis and borscht was one of the smallest bites there but also the most delectable and luxurious. And you’d think I’d never be so excited to see so many sliders, which I’d normally view as fillers. There were so many varieties of meats and perfect buns to accompany them, including Westside Tavern‘s lamb dip.
It’s safe to say that the first ever Taste of Abbot Kinney can be logged in the books as a success. I had a great time going from restaurant to restaurant (especially in the company of Caroline on Crack, H.C. of LA-OC-Foodventures, Sam of LAist – while running into The Delicious Life and Choisauce), having bites of everything each storefront offered to entice us back on a later date. For the most part, the Abbot Kinney restos put in good effort in making sure each guest got to enjoy a decent-sized portion rather than token smidgens. My main qualm was that there could have been more wine and cocktails served for the pairing. After all, regular price admission was $60 per person (or if you were savvy enough to catch the discount on Goldstar, $41 with ticket fee).
But there were pleasant surprises. It was my first time at most stops – with mental notes made to revisit Lemonade, Intelligentsia andÂ Tasting Kitchen. Avoid: The Brig – an Abbot Kinney “dive” bar undergoing an eastsideÂ identity crisis, who served up a Brazilian Lemon Drop. It was Brazilian in the sense that it was made with rum, not vodka – but rum is sweet and lemon drops are sour, so the point escaped me. Stick to the 1:2 pours here, as the point of this bar is to knock ’em back rather than to actually taste. The rib from Beechwood served at The Brig, while an unfair gauge on the establishment’s food as a whole, was sweet, average and unremarkable.
Back to Lemonade (yes, it’s a chain)Â – who gave us a generous portion of their delicious cucumber mint lemonade and a sampling of three salads (above): Sesame vinaigrette atop snap peas andÂ edamame, Hazelnut vinaigrette atop roast beets and pickled red onions, and roast cauliflower, golden raisins and almonds in a light curry sauce. Three salads, three words: Bursts of flavor. Super fresh ingredients. Perfectly, lightly seasoned. Must try it.