Highlights of the Inaugural Lexus Culinary Classic at Cavallo Point

Our arrival in the Lexus NX 300h at Sunset – Cavallo Point, Fort Baker

Apologies for the lack of updates, but I can only blame an excellent month of March spent traveling and seeing more of North America. The first of the trips was a week-long culinary extravaganza, complete with a trip to Northern California followed by nights and days packed back-to-back with multi-course meals, wine education, a cooking class, and a grand tasting. It was the very first Lexus Culinary Classic, which they plan to hold yearly at Lexus partnership properties around the country.

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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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Animal’s Jon Shook & Vinny Dotolo Declared Lexus Culinary Masters

Vinny Dotolo, Jon Shook

When you get offered car service in a Lexus RX450h to a celebratory dinner at Animal because Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are to be presented as the next Culinary Masters, you say Yes. Especially when last year’s anointed, Miami’s Latin fusion extraordinaire and longtime mentor to Jon & Vinny, Michelle Bernstein, is in town and also presenting dishes of her own at the dinner.

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Get Your Tickets For Los Angeles Food & Wine: August 9-12, 2012

Kin Medai Snapper w/Geoduck, Papaya, Peanuts & Coconut foam – Morimoto Lunch at WP24, LAFW 2011

Los Angeles Food & Wine: It’s basically the hottest ticket of the year, in that there’s a hodgepodge of over forty events all packed into four days. There are out-of-town culinary stars that join with local forces to grace us with their presentations of different food and wine themes.

Caviar & Champagne at The Montage? Check. Asian Night Market with Andrew Zimmern? Check. Chocolate & Chocolate with Jacques & Hasty Torres? Check. There are also plenty of cooking demonstrations by a few chef extraordinaires.

For those with Fridays off or non-business hour workdays, don’t forget to check out one of the lunches available – for instance at CUT, which is usually not even available for lunch service.

Of course, for those of you who just can’t decide, it’ll be easy to pick a Lexus Grand Tasting on one of the two afternoons or evenings, wherein you’ll get to walk around L.A. LIVE while sampling plenty of eats & wines from kitchens and vineyards that hail from all over.

And get your tickets fast, because the event starts in a matter of 3 days. Some events are already sold out. This is your final warning.


Los Angeles Food & Wine

August 9 – 12, 2012

Various events at L.A. LIVE (and elsewhere)
800 W. Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Los Angeles Food & Wine: Lunch By Iron Chef Morimoto and Sara Johannes at WP24

Peking Style Duck | Warm Chanterelle Salad, Duck Skin Cracklin, 10-Spice Confit Figs - Chef Sara Johannes

I’m always appreciative of opportunities to try visiting chefs’ food. A couple weeks ago, on the occasion of the Lexus-sponsored Los Angeles Food & Wine‘s 70-event extravaganza, I had the chance to do so at one of the Friday afternoon not-so-power lunches held all over town (Though in the case of Chef “star power,” yes – it was very powerful). It was held at WP24 in conjuction with Executive Chef Sara Johannes, who contributed half of the 4 courses served at the sold-out lunch.

Kin Medai Snapper w/Geoduck, Papaya, Peanuts & Coconut Foam - Chef Masaharu Morimoto

With his title as one of the winningest Iron Chefs no doubt contributing to the buzz, Chef Morimoto and Chef Johannes sent out passed appetizers, a couple of which I never got to try. I’ll have to return to try out those seared foie gras bao buns and steamed XO scallops with hot oil, scallions & ginger – but the spoonfuls of Parmesan “Tofu” and Lobster & Scallop Shiu Mais were tasty enough as starters.

The true standouts, though, were the four courses at the center of the lunch. Never had I had geoduck so tender and the snapper tasted nothing short of beautiful. The papaya and coconut foam were perfect touches to the seafood. It was a refreshing start, and I couldn’t wait for more.

The next course that came up was Sara Johannes’ (and WP24’s) masterpiece – a Peking Style Duck Breast. It came with Warm Chantrelle Salad, the frisee of which tasted like roasted mushrooms, and Ten-Spiced Confit Figs and Smoked Duck Cracklin’. The cracklin was indeed a very nice touch, making a hyperbole of the importance of a crispy duck skin. The figs really completed the platter, adding a tenderized, spice component to the perfectly-cooked richness of the duck. I have to say that this was probably the best dish I’ve had in a very long time.

Washugyu Flat Iron w/Veal Cheek Tempura, Compressed Apple & Chili Soy - Chef Masuharu Morimoto

The Washugyu (a hybrid between Japanese Black Wagyu and fine American Black Angus) flat iron steak was incredibly delicious thanks to its beautiful marbling, but what really floored me was the tenderness of the veal cheeks within their slight, tempura breading. The veal cheeks were probably twice as tender as the already soft beef. The sweet soy was subtle enough to really enhance the flavors of the meat and let the cuts sing on their own.

The dessert that concluded our afternoon was no less impressive than any of the other courses, thanks to brand-new-to-WP24 pastry chef Cassie Ballard. Sure, you couldn’t really tell it was edamame ice cream until you read the menu (after that, it all clicks), but that sesame crisp is so simple yet ingenius. And tasty. Coupled with a Caramel Roasted Apple tart and Butterscotch Miso, the dessert really comes together. It was light enough weight to elegantly close out the wonderful lunch yet left all our sweet teeth satisfied (hello, caramel!).

If the food at WP24 is anything like the refined courses I had during this particular Lexus-sponsored Los Angeles Food & Wine event, it’s clear that there is much, much more to a reservation there than its stellar, downtown views. And now, for that special occasion to make that return visit…

All food & wine were hosted.

Sun – Thur

5 – 10 PM

Fri – Sat

5 – 11 PM

Dining Room:
Mon – Thur

5:30 – 10 PM

Fri – Sat

5:30 – 10:30 PM

Closed Sunday

900 W Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90015