I Came, I Saw, I Was Conquered By ‘The Taste’

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When it’s convenient for me, I like to consider myself a food blogger (or, at the very least, a man about town, a gadabout, or a poorly dressed dandy). I don’t always look the part — what with my lack of a Digital SLR or any halfway decent photographic equipment, for that matter — but I swear I can be just as nitpicky and snobby as the best of them. However, the one area where I completely fail as a food blogger is the hallowed Food Festival. In Los Angeles, these things happen at least nine times per week during the summer. I swear I can’t keep these festivals straight. If it can be eaten, it will be made into a festival. I’m shocked I haven’t received a press release for a kohlrabi appreciation event.

This is all an overdrawn way for me to say that I never go to food festivals. I can’t keep them straight, and I usually am too cheap to pony up the dough for a ticket. Luckily, as a Food Blogger™, I occasionally receive press passes to things, and I was ever so lucky to receive such a golden ticket to the Los Angeles Times THE TASTE 2014 festival, which featured food, wine, and cooking demos from a wide swath of LA’s varied culinary scene. How could I resist? And so on a blazingly hot Saturday afternoon, I Über’d it over to Paramount Studios where the event was being held and threw myself into foodie heaven.

You guys, it was SO FUNNNNN.

How fun was it? I was only going to go for the afternoon, but then I went back AT NIGHT. ON A DATE. This is serious, yo. Plus, I got, like, eight free glasses, which really should be the beginning and end of this post right there.

Some pics after the jump…

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Upon entering The Taste on Saturday afternoon, I find a large cluster of tents and stages in Paramount’s famed Blue Sky Tank. This space has been used to film all sorts of crazy things, including the climax of Patriot Games. Now it’s a showcase for corn agnolotti.

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My first stop is Pono Burger, which promises Hawaiian-influenced sliders.

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The sliders come with a strawberry compote, and since I don’t really do strawberry, the Pono Burger people are kind enough to make me one sans berry. It’s delicious!

(I should note that while I waited for my personal slider, I downed about four glasses of Vietnamese iced coffee from 9021Pho. I firmly believe that Vietnamese Coffee needs to be the next coffee trend).

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Next stop: a sizable tent from Stella Artois. There’s talk of free glassware; so clearly I get in line. Plus, you know, beer.

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Not only do I get a goblet (pictured, upper-right), but a handy plate with a little notch for my aforementioned goblet to rest in. Oh, and the Stella Artois experience came with a beef tartar crostini, some pâté, and a ganache pizza or flatbread. All very tasty. I would have gone back for seconds, but the line was entirely too long.

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Super tasty gazpacho from Canélé. This Atwater Village restaurant is a favorite brunch spot for me, and now I may just have to try their dinner offerings. This was delicious (although, my mom makes the best).

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Here is a more or less terrible photo of some delicious Indian food from Mayura Indian Restaurant. Will have to seek this place out and sample the rest of its menu.

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A Bloody Maria from Avion Tequila somehow makes its way into my possession. I’m not mad at it.

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Corn agnolotti with shaved truffle. Heaven in a spoon. I had about four of these and would have had more, but… I don’t know. I felt a weird shame.

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Stop everything. This is an ube ensaymada from the Ensaymada Project (no relation to The Mindy Project). An ensaymada is a Filipino pastry that looks like a cream puff (with vague cupcake overtones), but texturally it’s closer to a donut. Basically, the Ensaymada Project is trying to spread the word about these little nuggets of joy by outfitting the classic pastry with some modern flavors such as Red Velvet (not pictured, but etched into my memory in the best way possible). Fingers crossed ensaymadas become a “thing.”

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Moving on from the tank, I head to Paramount’s fake city set. Fun fact: I used to work in an office hidden on this set. Another fun fact: I almost got run over by the Counting Crows when I was walking through these streets. Yet another fun fact: I myself nearly ran over Melissa Joan Hart when I lost control of my bicycle in this very location. So many memories…

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Now I know this food looks a bit, er, digested, but it’s not. And it’s also intensely flavorful. This is food from Lum-Ka-Naad Thai Restaurant, which served up pungent beef salad, among other things. This is probably not up everyone’s alley, but it’s right up mine.

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The good people of Wood & Vine offer up this fine charcuterie: chicken liver mousse, blood bologna, and porchetta (which is basically a pig’s face). All good stuff.

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I don’t remember the item on the left (sorry!), but on the right is a cherry tomato / panna cotta (I think) situation from Freshology, I belive. Very tasty! I would have had seconds, but I think the heat was causing confusion.

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Grasshopper torta from Loteria Grill. Yes, you heard that right. Grasshoppers. And yes, I ate it. Crunchy!

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A little plate o’ heaven right here. On the lower left is a delicious peanut salad from Pine & Crane. Above it is a “One Night In Bangkok” dog from Doghaus (one of my favorite places evaaah), and speaking of favorite places, the lower right is a shrimp and rice offering from Coni’Seafood. So delicious. Beyond.

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Thankfully, I found a lone ice cream vendor in Choctal, which offered dark chocolate Dominican ice cream.

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Some of the free stuff I accumulated over the course of the afternoon.

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As we break between afternoon and evening, please take this moment to enjoy my new crab socks from Target.

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And now it’s night time. New vendors have arrived, including Chaya which serves up this odd salmon roe, seafood concoction. Honestly, not a favorite of mine, which is a shame since I love salmon roe in a deep, dark way.

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Some tasty bites from Lemonade: salmon Louie and an heirloom cherry tomato crostini. They appear to be floating in the night sky, which would truly be an astonishing feat. [Currently filing a copyright on my new feature film, “The Crostini from Outer Space.”]

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Me, getting up close and personal with Hornitos branding.

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A blurry photo of an otherwise super tasty lamb curry dish from Asian Box.

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Yes, I’m back at the Ensaymada Project. This time I’m trying the Maple Bacon option. It’s good, but I’m truly over the Maple Bacon dessert trend. I’d stick with the Ube or Red Velvet offerings.

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A rib. I don’t remember where this came from, but it’s probably for the best because I didn’t particularly love it. Sorry! (Yes, I know, Grade-A food journalism happening here).

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The crowds swarm to the Don Julio airstream trailer. While I love Don Julio (sorry Hornitos — although, I like you too), I was unwilling to wait in the long line. I’m PRESS, dammit! I don’t wait.

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The throngs battle their way through fake Little Italy.

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Everything about this little bite from Craig’s is full of YES. There’s a lot going on, but all you really need to know is smoked salmon, caviar, and crispy potatoes.

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This may have been a butterscotch or caramel pudding or budino. Honestly, I was in a food haze. But I’m pretty sure I loved this. Also from Craig’s, I think. It’s times like these I wish I were more diligent.

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A decent caprese salad and a delicious sweet corn and black truffle offering from RivaBella. Just lovely.

Believe it or not, I actually ate much more than what’s pictured. I’m only sad I didn’t arrive earlier as several vendors had sold out of all their food. Nevertheless, I’m now a convert. Bring on the food festivals!

Only about 360 days until next year’s big event…

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