“Flavors of LA” at The Taste 2014

Lefevre shrimp and gritsSunday night’s “Flavors of LA” was the grand finale of The Taste and everyone was ready to let their hair down and party. A bartender said, “I have to stop pouring. This is my jam,” then he and everyone else in the tent stopped what they were doing and started dancing.

One of our favorite chefs, Kevin Luzande from Acabar, presented me and John from Social Domain with fry bread filled with lamb and it was so good we immediately started shouting expletives. It was definitely the best bite of the night. Nay, the best bite of the year. The lamb was intense, but not in an unpleasant, gamey way. It was lamb in its highest form.

In spite of competing against lamb nirvana, the other chefs made excellent dishes. The dynasty that is Mozza/Chi-SPACCA served Mozzarella with Field Beans. Chef David Lefevre of MB Post and the stellar Fishing with Dynamite presented shrimp and grits. The grits and sauce were familiar, but he made it his own with the addition of an egg.

Lum-Ka-Naad Thai Restaurant smiled at me and I waved my hands in front of myself in a “keep away” gesture. These are the people who burnt my face off the day before. They implored, “It’s not spicy! It’s not spicy this time!” True to their word, the sour-pork sausage and sun-dried beef jerky with pickled mustard green cabbage was mild and delicious. The person waiting to burn my face off was the deceptively friendly Jazz from Jitlada. I ran up to a bar and said, “Give me anything, fast!” The bartender observed, “Oh, you’ve been to Jitlada.”

Joe’s in Santa Monica served up a delicious lamb paella with lamb meatballs, and a corn panna cotta that was heavenly. Mud Hen shaved heirloom melon onto white chocolate yogurt, while right next door Mary Sue Millikan of Border Grill was handing out tomato watermelon gazpacho. Rock Sugar, who has participated in The Taste since its inception, had enormous Vietnamese Meatballs.

Two renowned chefs served oysters on the half-shell. Vartan Abgaryan of Cliff’s Edge added a little squid ink and maraschino cherry juice, along with some other concoctions. Michael Cimarusti of Providence shucked Barnstable and Sweet Petite oysters with more traditional garnishes.

For dessert, we enjoyed Sprinkles cupcakes and Bulgarini Gelato. Almond was my favorite.

This night was as much about the drinks as about the food. Legendary mixologist Damian Windsor was tapping Whiskey Smashes and Long Island Iced Teas. The Don Julio Airstream was again serving a rainbow of cocktails. I offered Chef Kris Morningstar of Terrine a bright red drink. He asked what was in it. I replied, “Tequila…and red.” He did not take me up on the offer. He did, however discuss his upcoming project with Stephane Bombet. Kris said that Terrine is the first time he felt like a restaurant reflected his style, rather than his cooking having to reflect a restaurant’s style. There was also a huge champagne punchbowl of Chateau De La Gardine and Charles Lafitte with pineapple floating in it, but I had a feeling I would be none too happy about it in the morning. There were two bartenders from The Cocktail Academy. One was mixing Mezcal and the other shook up a strong and amazing ginger cocktail.

Then it was time to sober up for the ride home. I stocked up on Icelandic Water, found an empty tent and waited on hold with my cellular phone company.

Elise Thompson

About Elise Thompson

Born and raised in the great city of Los Angeles, this food, culture and music-loving punk rock angeleno wants to turn you on to all that is funky, delicious and weird in the city. While Elise holds down the fort, her adventurous alter ego Kiki Maraschino is known to roam the country in search of catfish.
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