The Lexus Grand Tasting at Los Angeles Food & Wine Saturday featured 25 celebrity chefs offering samplings of their finest cuisine. This year, it was held at Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, which was elaborately decked out for the event with swooping fabrics and comfortable seating areas. Dishes varied from fresh-from-the-farm corn, okra and pickles to haute ingredients like uni and foie gras.
One of my favorite dishes, and certainly the prettiest, was Marcel Vigneron’s laughing bird ceviche, with shrimp, melon, tomato, puffed quinoa, and leche de tigre for Wolf, his seasonal, nose-to-tail restaurant on Melrose. Chef Billy Ngo of Kru + Fish Face Poke Bar in Sacramento created a perfect bite on a spoon with his Snow Crab Sushi comprised of kani, miso, avocado mousse, nori and arare.
Mark Mollicha of La Vecchia Cucina had a top taste with his intensly umami Portabello Mushroom and Summer Truffle Ravioli with a blizzard of freshly shaved truffles on top. Belcampo Meat Co.’s Chef Brett Halfpap had a lovely organic braised pork belly with pickled grapes, okra, mouse melon, and mustard flowers. Neighborhood favorite Eagle Rock Public House served a shrimp fry bread with pickled corn and okra.
There is perhaps nothing more perfect in its simplicity than fresh focaccia, except maybe a smear of gorgeous white lardo as served up by Evan Funke as he prepares to open Felix on Abbot-Kinney. The Food Network’s Robert Irvine did a spin on “Which came first?” with a moist and boneless Buttermilk and Sriracha Southern Fried Chicken offset by Kimchi Deviled Eggs. South Bay local Chef Sean Chaney of Hot’s Kitchen presented a Hudson Valley Foie Gras Mousse with vanilla-peach jam on Melba toast.
It’s always exciting to see what Chef Bruce Kalman of Union/Knead & C0. has been cooking up. At the Grand Tasting, he went Mediterranean with tender octopus with a Koda Farms chickpea conserva, preserved lemon yoghurt and Dukkah, an Egyptian spice mix. Chef Tomas Mendez of Picca built a composed plate of Ceviche Criollo with seabass, rocoto chile, leche de tigre, choclo (Peruvian corn), cancha (another type of corn), and sweet potato.
Bree’s Cakes served cocktail-themed cupcakes with infusers you could squeeze for an extra boost with flavors like Rum & Coke, Margarita and Pina Colada. BSweet’s bread puddings are always a treat. This year, Barb Batiste brought Bananas Foster (my favorite), S’mores and Ube with Buko Pandan. Someone has always got to go out of the box and this year, Chaya Catering amazed us with uni ice cream with almond cashew praline and ruby port soy served in edible wafer shells. DJ Justin Fuselier kept the beat going right until the end with lots of funk, roller disco and Stevie Wonder.
Mmm, bananas foster…