The LA Epicurean Festival, held in the lush environs of Vibiana, is a bit of a riff on the standard food-supplier convention, where dozens or hundreds of vendors display their wares to potential bulk buyers. But for the Angeleno that doesn’t own a restaurant but is willing to drive an extra mile to that one store with the really good balsamic, it’s also an opportunity to indulge the fantasy of cracking open every single jar in the high-end gourmet shop of your dreams, just to see what it tastes like. How are you supposed to choose from between dozen bottles of flavored grapeseed oil? Here, try a bit of each one.
This is an especially fun thing to do with wines, especially the ones you don’t see every day. We can’t always risk $20 for an interesting-sounding bottle. But here, if it sounds interesting, there’s not reason not to give it a shot. Your new favorite thing might be at the next booth over.
While most of the tastes are relatively small compared to the usual chef-themed food event, it’s probably a merciful thing, because of the sheer number of exotic options at hand. Here are the items we noted from the vendors we’d want supplying our fantasy restaurant kitchen. The ones do sell retail may just start supplying our actual, non-fantasy kitchen.
View our six favorite tastes after the jump.
- Pillers Pretzels – Not the most exotic of products, but the premise of taking something basic and delivering it in its ideal form is one of the bedrocks of artisanal cooking. I really, really like pretzels a LOT, and theirs are as good as I’ve had. The top-shelf mustard that comes with them is nearly as exciting.
- Sweet Temptations – These folks provided the fest’s most substantial offering in the form of croissants for the early crowd, chocolate and almond-studded wonders. The butter cookies and truffles sampled were also completely extraordinary, I think they’ve just become my special-occasion bakery.
- Fancifull – I wandered over here after watching a woman accept a toothpick from this gentleman, place it in her mouth, and literally swoon. This company does gift baskets with some of the most exceptional cheeses and deli meats on earth. If you want to know that the people who own the cows and goats are nice people, they are only too happy to provide this information.
- Hillside Wines & Spirits – Caroline, pictured here, is the distributor for the excellent wines on display, mostly imports – including some astounding Bordeauxs and a noteworthy Pinotage from South Africa – but also getting into boutique wines from the States. The Oregon-based Amalie Roberts vineyard was sampling three Pinot Noirs that went down exceptionally well.
- Santa Monica Seafood – “This fish was swimming around in Scotland two days ago!” The sashimi on offer was fine enough to make a grown man dream of becoming a fishmonger.
- The Vinturi Wine Aerator – That’s it to the right of the wine bottles. It looks like a sex toy (a perception enforced by the sloppy grins on the hosts’ faces), and sounds like one of those things sold on infomercials at 4 AM, but I tried it and it works. An instant decanter. Even on a bottle that had been open for a while, there was a noticeable difference. And the spirit aerator was equally effective. We don’t even use the real decanter much, but I might have to get me one of these.