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:
Summer food events are a dime a dozen, but Angeleno Magazine manages to present a consistently solid line-up year after year at their steady Live and Dine LA event held at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows. This year, there was no award presentation, leaving a core group of favorites to sample their eats in the courtyard surrounding the gorgeous, 130-some-year-old, 80-foot tall Moreton Bay Fig Tree.
Attendees sipped Brugal Summer Hounds, Pavan Sangria Cocktails, Macallan 12 Fine Oak, iced Handsome Coffee brew, Solsticio Wines, 123 Organic Tequila margaritas and more as they savored dishes from some of the most popular restaurants in the city:
If the former Playa Rivera, as it stood on Beverly Boulevard, offered a somewhat intimidating Mexi-China concept for the price point at which it met its clientele, then perhaps Petty Cash Taqueria will benefit from all the lessons learnt. The menu is streamlined straight toward Baja, peppered with a beverage selection fit to satisfy the fussiest drinkers in LA. While quality ingredients are in the picture, that doesn’t begin to describe how well the tacos and flavor combinations are executed.
After all, who else would show the people of Hancock Park that a charred octopus taco is always what they’ve wanted?
The story of Test Kitchen is something of a legend. Legends, though, are usually long gone – relegated to a time past. And yes, that was the year-long story of the Westside Test Kitchen (which now houses Sotto), but it’s about to be revived come next Tuesday.
The series, brought to you again by Bill Chait, heads downtown to Ori Menashe’s (formerly Angelini Osteria) new digs at Bestia and it runs from October 16 through November 11. Notable chefs hailing from Los Angeles and around the country will rotate, just like the 2010 incarnation. Future menus and projects as well as collaborative exhibition nights will be the focus, much like before.
There’s enjoying wine, and there’s enjoying wine with food. And maybe you live or are near Melrose just for the moment, but you probably were looking for something a little less bro-tastic. While pairings have gotten increasingly more attention as of late, it’s hard to come by an expert without the expectation of spending an exorbitant amount as a result of access to that expertise. Thankfully, Colonial Wine Bar brings that luxury to Melrose diners at neighborhood prices.
Chef de Cuisine Ryan Otey, who has all of Patina, Tasting Kitchen and Villetta on his resume, is serving up some rustic dishes in the intimate wine bar. The bar itself lines the wall as your eye is caught by the glass-encased wine cellar in the back. The overall feel of the crown-molding-adorned place is casual with plenty of play available towards getting as serious about the food and wine as needed.
You’ll find familiar dishes such as deviled eggs, bone marrow, flatbreads, burrata and heirloom tomatoes on the menu, but not-to-miss is their lamb – whether as meatballs or a burger. Their mushrom risotto is also solid, appropriately buttressing the definition of “comforting wine bar” as Colonial stands. There are a few beer taps behind the bar, as well, where I pleasantly found Hitachino White Ale on draft.
It’s about time there was an approachable French Brasserie on the block; thankfully, Le Saint Amour is just that restaurant. With Walter Manzke having consulted on the menu and Chef Bruno Herve-Commereuc in-house to see that vision through, the Culver restaurant is putting out traditional French dishes that delight.
DuringÂ our media dinner, I even caught MaÃ®tre Ã‰cailler (that is, shellfish expert) Christophe Happillon stopping by to visit old friends and enjoy dinner at the bar – proof that even an industry Frenchman will stop by Le Saint Amour to get his fix of back home.
All charcuterie, pates, sausages and terrine served at Le Saint Amour are made at the restaurant. Luckily, you can get your taste of them with little commitment, with a plate of pates and terrines starting at $11, or $12 including a serving of foie gras.
My favorite hors d’oeuvres of the night (besides the pates and terrine) was the Moroccan Merguez ($11), with refreshing couscous, arugula and baby carrot salad surrounding two tender, spicy and flavorful lamb sausages. This salad is a great way to start off a meal here, with pickled ribbons of carrot and radishes bringing bright flavors to the beginning of your meal.
Or, you can order a traditional Escargots de Bourgogne, in which you get 6 for $10, each encased in their little containers for you to peel the buttery tops off onto which you spoon the snails in all their garlic and parsley buttered glory.
As for entrees, the mussels in white wine-cream sauce are definitely a must. They come with fries frites, which you can use as sauce and sop up all that goodness thanks to the crispy potatoes. Each mussel was almost like candy – you can’t have just one.
The Boeuf Bouguignon was also an indulgent main and one that I wish I had more room for. The peasant staple at Le Saint Amour was as well an executed dish that I’ve had in memory – though admittedly, my memory hasn’t spanned across numerous Boeuf Bouguignons. I think I’ll let it stand as being a dish of flavorful, braised goodness.
And don’t forget dessert. Their chocolate profiteroles (Profiterolles au Chocolat – $8) were delicious and appropriately hot and saucy on the inside, garnished well with a small scoop of banana ice cream, but what I really loved was the off-menu Blood Orange Granite, atop tangerine ice cream and panna cotta. This was a tart treat, a dessert that never made it so fun to suck in your cheeks.
All in all, you’re in for a rendezvous in France when you visit Le Saint Amour. The best part is, it’s not an experience that will break your bank. It’s down-home, approachable and traditional French fare that’s serious yet doesn’t take itself too seriously.Â Â They’re also open for brunch, which will add a great weekend option to your calendar.Â
All food and wine were hosted.
Mon – Fri: 11:30 AM – 3 PM
Sun – Thur: 5:30 – 9:30 PM
Fri – Sat: 5:30 – 10:30 PM
Brunch: 10 AM – 3 PM
Le Saint Amour 9725 Culver Boulevard Culver City, CA 90232 310.842.8155
Looks like Beverly Hills wants officially mark themselves on the map as a culinary eventÂ destination in Los Angeles – as the first annual Taste of Beverly Hills will take place on September 2 – 5, 2010. With no event legacy, the first thing I’m drawn to is that it spans over 4 days – and over Labor Day Weekend, at that! The second? The price.
Of course, it wouldn’t be L.A., much less Beverly Hills, without all the hot names on the ticket. Names like (Top Chef Season Six winner) Michael Voltaggio, Walter Mazke (formerly of Church & State), Ludo Lefebvre (LudoBites), John Shook and Vinny Dotolo (Animal) all showcasing their work for visitors to the event.
The weekend will commence on Thursday with an ever appropriately named picnic matched to its date, â€œ9.02.10 City of Beverly Hills Celebration.â€ You’llÂ sit under the stars with guests such as Larry King and others while enjoying live musical performances. Remember: This event is separately ticketed and not included in the all-inclusive price.
Enjoy food from over 50 chefs and restauranteurs, beer, wine, cocktail tastings, and chef demos within the Grand Tasting area throughout the weekend. The schedule is curated by KCRWâ€™s â€œGood Foodâ€ Host and Chef Evan Kleiman while the tunes are directed by Jason Bentley, KCRW music director and host of â€œMorning Becomes Eclectic.” The schedule that’s planned in the Grand Tasting area:
â€œThe Art of Mixingâ€ (Friday evening)â€”the cityâ€™s top mixologists and DJs â€œmixâ€ their talents. Ooh, la la!
â€œSecrets From the Kitchen and Cellarâ€ (Saturday afternoon)â€”chefs and master sommeliers showcase the tricks of their trades.
â€œTaste of Something Betterâ€ Cooking Competition (Saturday afternoon)â€”three finalists will vie for the crown of â€œAmericaâ€™s Top Amateur Chefâ€ and compete to represent the United States in the 2010 LG â€œLife Tastes Goodâ€ global cooking competition in Seoul, South Korea, this fall.
â€œDate Nightâ€ (Saturday evening)â€”an evening of good food, wine, music, and one-on-one time with master sommeliers and vintners.
â€œThe Art of Brunchâ€ (Sunday afternoon)â€”free-flowing brunch cocktails, live gospel and jazz performances, a 50-foot grand table featuring the cityâ€™s finest pastries and breads, along with KCRWâ€™s annual pie contest hosted by â€œGood Foodâ€ Host Evan Kleiman.
Okay, Beverly Hills! Show us what you got. Tickets areÂ available today for $125 per person for a day session pass, $150 for an evening session pass and $500 per person for an all-access weekend package. Again, the â€œ90210 City of Beverly Hills Celebrationâ€ on Thursday is an individually ticketed event for $150.