Thursday, September 5, 2013

LA Food & Wine Festival 2013: Live On Grand

I like going to food festivals, almost exclusively the non-FREE ones. You may be asking yourself, why would you prefer to pay for something rather than get something for FREE? I really hate large crowds and long lines. Free food festivals just attract a TON more people, so you end up having to elbow your way around and stand in a long ass line in the, usually, brutal hot sun, to pay for your food plate for plate in the end.  I'd rather pay a larger sum of money upfront for an all-you-can-eat experience, which naturally weeds out a good chunk of people. Buuuut, I suppose I took this attitude a bit far when I gathered the forces, Triple T and Smooth Obturator, for the LAFW festival at $250 a ticket. Was it worth it you might ask?  Wine was pouring from every place you turned, lines moved quickly, celebrity chefs actually prepping and serving their food, and Gavin DeGraw performed live! I guess most of your probably care more about the food though, so on we go...

Kris Morningstar | Ray's  & Stark Bar spiced lamb with pistachio yogurt
Salty but a good amount of spice and heat.

Johnathan Sadler | Rivera autumn corn custard, asparagus, morel mushrooms
Definitely one of my favorite dishes of the night. It's summer, so all the corn dishes I've been eating have been fantastic and this was no exception. It was just a pile of umami goodness. Sweet from the corn, salty from the mushrooms, crunch for the asparagus. Smooth Obturator and Triple T went back for seconds. 

Franklin Becker | The Little Beet tomato, melon, feta, mint dill basil salad
A refreshing summer salad, but pretty simple and Smooth Obturator complained he could have made it at home. The feta was too much, maybe small crumbles would have been better.

Michael Mina | Mina Restaurant Group duck spring rolls, white peach and szechuan pepper
Crispy with a sweet sauce but nothing special here and that sad little piece of romaine seemed so useless.

Levi Mezick | Restaurant 1833 hen egg, prosciutto, brioche, truffle butter
One of the best dishes of the night, hands down!  The brioche was butter, the egg was runny, the truffle butter sauce to die for! Derricious for sure.

Uni risotto with abalone
I'm a bit disappointed. I don't know which chef made this but it was tasty.

Mary Sue Miliken, Susan Feniger | Border Grill crispy bacon summer squash tostada, epazote, sweet corn, frisee, bacon vinaigrette
These two are at every LA food festival that I've been to and usually their food is just ok, but surprisingly they had one of the standout dishes of the night. They had all sorts of summer veggies with crispy perfectly rendered bacon in a crunchy tostada. Nom nom.

Stephen Kault | Caulfields american wagyu beef belly hash, sunnyside quail egg, grilled chicory
I gobbled this one up fast so I don't remember much.

Traci Des Jardins | Mijita baby back ribs in tomatillo sauce
Wow, what a tender rib and such a hearty portion.

Justin Everett | Murray Circle white gazpacho sea urchin, frozen 
champagne grape
A good uni essence permeated, but somehow I still was underwhelmed.

Charles Phan | Slanted Door pork and mushroom dumpling
Smooth Obturator had recently gone to a special one night only dinner hosted by Charles Phan and David Lefevbre at MB Post.  He was most unimpressed with the food from Charles Phan which didn't seem like it took all that much effort. It was the same story here with Chef Phan's pretty sad attempt at a dumpling.

Rick Bayless | Frontera Kitchens 

fresh shucked oyster ceviche
Chef Bayless did not disappoint. The seafood was spot on.

tuna ceviche with plaintain chip

Susan Feniger | Street curry popcorn

Curtis Stone tuna ceviche, chili, pepper, lime, soy
There was some odd sweetness going on here. I have low expectations for his upcoming restaurant.

Neal Fraser | Redbird seared japanese wagyu beef, carrot puree, bonito
An excellent bite with an unctuous piece of ways combined with the sweetness of the purée and the saltiness of the bonito.

John Cox | Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn smoked baby abalone escabeche, heirloom tomatoes, padron peppers, 50 y sherry vinaigrette
Abalone with good bite.

Sweet Lucies pistachio ice cream with truffle honey caramel drizzle
A bit of the hard side but pretty tasty.

Mariah Swan | icdc (ice cream donut coffee) cereal milk donut, honey nut cheerio glaze, cinnamon rice krispies
The donut part was piping hot and fresh. I thought the glaze was a tad too sweet.

George Mendes | Aldea octopus, potato, pimenton, squid ink, lemon puree
Tender all around.

Verite Mazzola | Taberna Arroz Y Vi cider braised morcilla, harissa aioli, green scallion, piquillo peppers
Really solid. I wanna check out this restaurant.

Kamal Rose | Tribeca Grill ciambotta of late summer vegetables
The vegetables were a bit underdone but the broth was delightfully light.

Robert Liberato | STK grilled beef tenderloin, pickled heirloom tomato confit, shallot, maytag blue cheese
I was getting so stuffed by this point and was just eating to eat.

Though it seems like I was critical of many of the dishes, I actually enjoyed myself. The experience was fun. I got to meet many big name chefs and tasted a wide selection of food and wine. The musical performance by Gavin DeGraw really sparked things up and made the night so memorable. It's a heavy price to pay but I think I would do it again next year.


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