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A taste of The TASTE

on 11/09/12 at 4:36 pm

a woman walks into a bar..., Booze News, BoozeBlog

Is it possible to put on 10 pounds in one weekend by gnoshing your way around The TASTE? Add to that many many sipping  samples of ‘creative’ cocktails or straight booze and I’m thinking 10 pounds is ‘cheap’! Here’s the official lowdown on THE TASTE:

THE TASTE, Los Angeles Times’ annual celebration of the Southern California culinary scene, brought together thousands of avid food and drink enthusiasts and holiday-weekend revelers for a three-day festival on Paramount Pictures Studios’ iconic backlot. Each of the five events reflected The Times’ award-winning coverage of all things edible and highlighted current food and beverage trends as well as the distinct influences and flavors found in Los Angeles. Through unlimited tastings from standout restaurants and food trucks, special cooking and mixology demos by the best local chefs and bartenders, informative wine seminars, and topical roundtables, attendees were treated to a unique opportunity to savor the region’s diverse epicurean offerings and delicious inspiration.

Scroll down for pix…

Despite temperatures that would melt an ice castle, adventurous foodies – it was PACKED – lined up for their favorite bites from sushi to chicken wings via some fab restos, but hamburgers, of all things, had the longest lines. Can you believe people waited an hour in the hot sun at the hamburger food truck? Yes they did! Well, I guess they figured they paid their 65 bucks, they were gonna get their ‘free’ burgers no matter what. Brian Lenzo, of Blue Palms Brewhouse, served ONE THOUSAND of their fabulous famous truffle burgers which translates to 250 pounds of meat, 3 pounds of fresh shaved black truffles and 15 pounds of Maytag blue cheese.

Not to be outdone, by ‘to-be-forever-known-as season 2 “Top Chef” winner’, Ilan Hall, partner in the venerable, The Gorbals, served a tasty tongue dish. That would be 150 pounds of tongue or about 15 beef tongues (or were they veal?) and probably quite a bit more by the end of the night. I didn’t ask every vendor how much product they brought but based on The Gorbals and Blue Palms, it must have been a crazy amount.

In between scarfing food from every possible vendor, one could take a break by attending one of the presentations by either a celeb chef, mixologist/bartender, sommelier or sake expert and which were very well presented.

The mixologist contest was hosted by Jessica Gelt, Food & Night Life Writer for The Times, Julian Cox, Cocktail Guru and chief mixologist for Rivera and Playa, and Jonathan Gold, Fresser-in-Chief of, well, the world, and someone, one could say, who has never seen the inside of a gym. If he ever did, I’m sure it was just out of curiousity. Anyway, it was interesting because the contestants – great bartenders from around town – got a mystery box of ingredients à la tv show Chopped. The contestants were given 8 minutes to create a killer cocktail and were judged on looks, smell and taste.

I asked Julian Cox, “Why EIGHT minutes?” Julian, “So it’s not 20.” Seriously, if you can’t make an amazing cocktail with fabulous ingredients in THREE minutes or less, then this is not a real contest. If a patron is at a bar and has to wait 8 minutes for a cocktail, the bar is losing money…and a customer. Marcos Tello of Tello Demarest/Liquid Assests was the winner with a watermelon, fennel and cinnamon cocktail. Wish we could have tasted but were relegated to salivating in our seats.

The sake presentation was very informative for us sake neophytes and Sunday’s FLAVORS OF L.A., hosts Jonathan Gold,  again Fresser-in-Chief and Times Restaurant Critic, KCRW’s “Good Food” host Evan Kleiman presented the area’s mosaic of multicultural accents with an in-depth discussion of the L.A. and O.C. food scene with Sang Yoon (Father’s Office) and Gustavo Arellano (Ask A Mexican/OC Weekly). It was a lively conversation, indeed, with the take-away being that Del Taco was waaaay better than Taco Bell which was deemed unacceptable. Sang Yoon is the ultimate contrarian, a rule-buster and a tad cantankerous but  – NO ketchup allowed at his restaurants – it was refreshing to hear that swimming upstream can be a successful business strategy.

On the way out of the final day, Thomas Keller was spotted chatting with Russ Parsons at a food for kids presentation, but by that time, heat exhaustion and food and drink exhaustion had me longing for air conditioning and ice water. Herewith are some pix of the TASTE in action: