Stepping into the luxury of the Grand Tasting tents last Sunday was a blissful respite from the noonday sun. Wineries and restaurants shared space in both of the main tents so you did not have to travel far to be satiated. For the most part there was little or no waiting. The longest lines were for Chef Todd Fisher, Chef Ernesto Ushimura of Plan Check and Chef Ricardo Zarate of Mo-chica and Picca.
Perhaps the most memorable, and definitely the richest, bite of the day was the grilled pork rillettes and peach sandwich from Chef Michael Ginor of Hudson Valley Fois Gras and Lola New York. Chef Vartan Abgaryan of Cliff’s Edge describes his dish simply as “Crispy pork, watermelon, crispy rice, barrel-aged fish sauce, lime and herbs.” The vehicle appeared to be a crispy rice cracker, but was surprisingly toothsome, revealing itself to be the crispy pork with the other ingredients carefully arranged upon it. Chili peppers provided some serious heat.
Chef John Carlos Kuramoto of Michael’s Santa Monica created delicious banh mi tacos as well as a chocolate budino. Chef James Ta of Fickle and the Sandwich Chef was serving up a conch seafood fritter, but what really made me swoon were the fried chicken skins that blew chicharrones out of the water.
Chef Dan Murray of Pedaler’s Fork produced a refreshing plate of yellow watermelon, prosciutto, heirloom tomatoes and burrata. Chef Mark Peel and Chef Christopher Eddie cooked a mini brunch with Grand Marnier cured salmon on olive oil blini, a mimosa granita, and a perfectly poached 62 degree egg. I was too busy chatting with the adorable Chef Michael Fiorello of Mar’sel to note his dishes exactly, but they were canapes of liver mousse and another of whitefish. The whitefish was delicious, and positive raves came back to me about the liver.
Chef Andre Bienvenu of Joe’s Stone Crab confused me. First I was provided with a deconstructed clam chowder with a spoonful of clams and potatoes followed by an eyedropper full of broth – so far so good. But then I tried the fish and chips, and as with the other dish, I took a bite of the delicious fish and cute little round chips, then shot malt vinegar straight into my mouth. It was quite bracing, and the server was dismayed, “You were supposed to squirt that over the entire plate!” Luckily they also provided a shot of liquor I used to counteract the vinegar.
Along with the wealth of wine, both Perrier-Jouet and Roederer were pouring champagne,and there was no dearth of cocktails, with rum drinks, a shot topped with Pop Rocks and a smooth Bourbon Lemonade.
August is a fine time of the year for a tasting event as chefs create with both the last fruits of Summer alongside hints of the approaching Autumn. Melons, corn, and tomatoes enjoyed their last hurrah, while braises and comfort foods edged their way in. I am already looking forward to next year’s event.