Every event at The Taste involves cocktails, but Dinner with a Twist is all about them, with special mixology demonstrations and drinks with every spirit you can imagine.
I started out the evening with my favorite tequila, Don Julio Blanco, in a refreshing drink comprised of watermelon juice with lime, mint and basil. Next up was a “Jalisco Mule,” which added reposado and passionfruit to the traditional recipe. I absolutely had to sample a colorful orange punch from Avion Silver tequila, wisely sticking to one kind of liquor.
But Knob Creek’s saloon soon grabbed my attention and I switched to bourbon, tempted by six different cocktails. “Bookers Bramble” mixed bourbon with fresh blackberries, Triple Sec and a splash of soda. According to my photos, I also ordered something orange. But I may have been picking it up for a chef. Four events back-to-back and four drinks in, my memory isn’t the best.
The mixologists at Suntory Japanese whisky were the life of the party, hamming it up as they mixed highballs, but I had hit my limit before I happened upon their little wooden bar, so it was not “Suntory time” for me.
Still, the food remains the star of the event. Badmaash and Guisado’s joined forces to create an ambiguous dish that could either be Mexican or Indian. I wish I could say it was a maashup, but it was more of an overlapping. It was billed as Carnitas Picante con Crema, chile habanero y cilantro/Goa vindaloo with sweet raita onion achaar and cilantro. What did it taste like? Fire. It was possibly the hottest thing I have ever put in my mouth.
I was pleased to see Little Jewel of New Orleans, who served up a traditional jambalaya with corn bread. Chef Nyesha Arrington of Leona served squares of smokey corn masa, scallion oil, smoked peach, and cotija crema. The Bellwether made meatballs that could rival Chef Bruce Kalman’s version. Suzanne Tracht of Jar served little croissant pies filled with Chinese pork that were comforting, yet elegant enough for a fancy cocktail party.
As usual, the chefs were heavily focused on seafood. We loved Coraloense’s Mariquita and Changoneada seafood tostadas and their crunchy Marlin taco which they call “Taco a la Monroe.” The Blvd. created a gorgeous beet and ginger-cured salmon loin on a fennel and apple slaw. Herringbone’s big eye tuna crudo was garnished with caviar, oyster cream and poppy seeds. The Ivory’s smoked candy striped beets with horseradish and creme fraiche was topped with salmon roe that glistened like jewels. Cafe del Rey served a tender grilled octopus with corn relish and herbed squid ink yogurt. Although this is the first time they have been paired, we have seen a lot of octopus and yogurt during the festival season. Mediterranean influences are everywhere.
Sadly, it wasn’t until the end of the night that I happened upon restaurateur Stephan Bombet’s trifecta of Terrine, Hanjip, and Viviane. Kris Morningstar’s pork and veal terrine with pistachios and purple mustard was, as you would expect from a place called Terrine, spot-on. Viviane cooked up a complex, multi-layered saffron fried rice with duck confit and blueberries. But I missed out on Chris Oh’s pork belly. While on the subject of Hanjip, we recently learned that the restaurant will convert to an all-you-can-eat style service while certain dishes, like the uni egg custard will still be served a la carte.
The line for Circa 55 at the Beverly Hilton’s butternut squash risotto served from a wheel of Parmesan was daunting, but we did make off with delicious chocolate treats that were kind of like Crunch bars with Nutella. Faith & Flower also had a chocolate and hazelnut dessert but went crazy and added caramel. And they had those tiny chocolate nibs. I love those.