Friday, June 17, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Taste of the Nation

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It seems like there is a food event every other weekend in Southern California. Some of these events are worth trying and some of these events should be an annual pilgrimage. Taste of the Nation is a food event that should not be missed and maybe LA's best. This was my first time attending and I can't wait till the next year.

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My plan was not to over indulge, but that would be tough. I headed straight to most visually appealing food first and that was Nona Sivley and Kerry Simon's lamb lollipops with hibiscus glaze on fava bean puree. It was nicely cooked and a great start to the day.

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What happened next was a complete blur. The Bazaar/Tres served their signature olive spheres, a burst of pure unadulterated olive flavor. They also served a delicious grilled octopus tacos, served in bib lettuce with flowering cilantro. The octopus was tender, the taco itself was good, but could've used some acid.

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Then came Campanile's olive oil fried egg served on grilled bread with olive tapenade and a tomato concasse. Putting a fried egg on top of perfectly grilled bread, is not fair. Simple but delicious.

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Chaya restaurant group was the next food tent and I was not sure what to expect here. But Chef Shingefumi Tachibe really impressed me, as a matter of fact, my favorite single bite of food was the Hamachi Mole Pressed Sushi. Clean, great texture and perfectly seasoned. Their Sukiyaki short rib with porcini mushroom puree was also delicious.

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I had to grab a beverage, so I headed over to The Spare Room and they were offering the Nantucket Sound. Boy have cocktails come a long way, this drink included the following: chamomile and lemon balm infused Plymouth gin; Bianco vermouth; and cantaloupe juice, served over spiced ginger sorbet. So refreshing, but back to the food. Up till this point there really weren't any lines, but at Go Burger, had a line, all for a burger? This better be good. I grabbed a lamb slider with minted goat cheese and grilled fava relish. If grading on looks, this burger would get an A, but for flavor this burger got an A+. Perfectly cooked medium rare, well seasoned and just great lamb taste. I want another one right now.

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I'm still pacing myself at this point and skipping any dishes that I may have tried before. So I decide to head over to the VIP tent to try out what Chef Michael Voltaggio had to offer. Wagyu beef tongue cold cuts with pickled red onion, pumpernickle bread and mustard snow, the tongue was perfectly cooked, super tender and all together the dish was delicious. He also had an ice bar, with micro-cones, ice cream flavors included olive oil, bacon and blueberry pancake. I tried the olive oil and it was really good, so rich and creamy with a subtle olive oil finish. They also had my favorite cocktail of the day, their version of a Pimm's Cup using gin, sweet vermouth, Triple Sec, orange bitters and Peychaud's bitters; he combined it with fresh lemonade and garnished it with cucumber, mnt, borage, freeze-dried apples and strawberries.

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AFrame served their signature pop corn, Buttered furikake kettle corn topped with Benton's bacon, dried pineapple, and fresh shiso. Lukshon served chicken pops, The Red O, had pork belly sopes and grilled blue mazatlan shrimp served on fresh jicama "chips". All of these dishes were good.

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Okay, so this was just one side of the venue, I had yet to visit the other side. Next up, Osteria Mozza served porcini rubbed barbecued short ribs with salsa verde. This reminded me of kalbi, but a touch too sweet for me.

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I missed the king crab chive dumplings at WP24, but I did get a taste of their chow fueng roll with braised beef short rib. This was a successful interpretation, but it just doesn't compare to the delicate chow fueng made at most dim sum restaurants.

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The torta de lengua from FIG restaurant was another amazing preparation of beef tongue. And the escabeche served with the sandwich was awesome. Border Grill's offerings were Cold poached Alaska salmon on a jicama tostadita, topped with tomatillo herb salsa; Alaska crab and quinoa fritters with aji amarillo aioli, piquillo pepper romesco. I enjoyed the crab on the quinoa fritter, but the salmon was pretty bland.

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All of this food and I only had about half of what was available. So much for my plan. I expected the food to be amazing and it was. But the surprise was the amazing cocktails being served at this event. Some of the best I have ever had. Thanks to everyone that contributed and donated their time for this event. You did an amazing job.