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Last month, Bon Appetit named Alma, the downtown Los Angeles restaurant headed by 27-year-old chef Ari Taymor, as the year’s number one new eatery in the U.S. Four other Los Angeles spots — Allumette in Echo Park, Bar Ama in downtown Los Angeles, Chi Spacca in West Hollywood and Hinoki & the Bird in West Los Angeles — also made the magazine’s list of the year’s top 50 newcomers. Driving around the entire city to experience the fresh additions to Los Angeles’ celebrated food scene — if you can even get a reservation — can be quite the challenge for someone visiting Los Angeles. That’s where Los Angeles Times’ The Taste, a food and wine festival, comes in.
Each year, the event, held in Hollywood at the New York City backlot of Paramount Pictures Studios, offers a curated culinary experience hosted by the editors of the Los Angeles Times. This year’s Labor Day weekend event marked the annual festival’s third year and, once again, visitors were treated to unlimited tastes from the city’s range of restaurants; cooking and bartending lessons from the city’s best chefs and mixologists; and thoughtful discussions on topics that reflect what is important to the Los Angeles food scene, from sustainable seafood to pop-up restaurants. Events are priced at $85 each, though a limited amount of weekend passes are also available.
While some guests don’t go beyond sampling food and drinks, the real reasons to go to the festival are to learn about the special food experiences L.A. offers and to see the city’s talent in action.
One highlight was Ari Taymor’s cooking demonstration, where he discussed Alma’s food philosophy and showed how to dissect a duck before roasting it in lavender wood chips. I have to admit, though, that the cooking demonstration by Evan Kleiman (host of KCRW’s Good Food podcast) was more my taste — her tomato pie was the best thing I ate all weekend. I also enjoyed watching Nancy Silverton, the chef behind one of my favorite Los Angeles restaurants, Osteria Mozza, demonstrate how to prepare eggplant toast and grain salad.
Though SunCafe Organic’s kale shake — voted one of the city’s best shakes by SeriousEats — helped me survive the daytime heat, my other favorite drinks were those prepared during a cocktail demonstration hosted by Betty Hallock, deputy editor of the Los Angeles Times, and Jessica Gelt, a food and nightlife writer for the newspaper. Instructions and samples were provided by Allumette’s Serena Herrick as well as mixologist-around-town Matthew Biancaniello, Brady Weise of 1886 and Christiaan Rollich of Lucques/A.O.C./Tavern. Rollich’s concoction — featuring homemade absinthe and arugula simple syrup — was among the weekend’s best reminders of the creativity and hard work that put Los Angeles’ craft food and drink scene on the map.
The Taste features cooking demonstrations from Los Angeles’ best chefs, including Ari Taymor of Alma, Bon Appetit’s number one new restaurant of the year. // © 2013 Mindy Poder
Many dishes highlighted the changing, seasonal menus of L.A.’s best restaurants. // © 2013 Blessing Yen
Andre Royo (left), who plays Bubbles on HBO’s The Wire, helped serve gazpacho with sieved egg from his wife’s acclaimed restaurant, Canele. // © 2013 Blessing Yen
The Taste takes place on Paramount Pictures Studios’ New York City backlot. // © 2013 Mindy Poder
Among the most popular hard liquor vendors at The Taste is Veev, a brand of organic vodka. // © 2013 Blessing Yen
Le Comptoir and Allumette (shown here) clipped individual flower petals to top their dishes. // © 2013 Mindy Poder
Out of the five individual events, the Labor Day Picnic is the most child-friendly. // © 2013 Mindy Poder
Los Angeles Times’ food critic and Pulitzer Prize winner Jonathan Gold moderated a panel on pop-up restaurants. // © 2013 Mindy Poder
The ingredients in Christiaan Rollicho’s homemade cocktail, featuring arugula simple syrup and an absinthe wash // © 2013 Mindy Poder
Chef Gary Menes of Le Comptoir, a 12-person, counter-only, dining experience that sources ingredients from local farms // © 2013 Mindy Poder
During the course of the events, the Paramount backlot was rearranged. // © 2013 Mindy Poder
Evan Kleiman, the host of Good Food and a native Angelino, teaches how to make tomato pie. // © 2013 Mindy Poder
Nancy Silverton, of Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza and La Brea Bakery // © 2013 Mindy Poder
Reflecting the tastes of Angelenos, kale was an ingredient in many of the weekend’s dishes. // © 2013 Blessing Yen
From left: Nguyen Tran (Starry Kitchen), Mindy Poder (TravelAge West), Craig Thornton (Wolvesmouth), Jonathan Gold (Los Angeles Times) and Laurie Ochoa (Los Angeles Times) // (c) 2013 Blessing Yen
The crowd at a panel during Flavors of L.A., one of the most popular events at Los Angeles Times’ The Taste // © 2013 Mindy Poder
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