Last Wednesday, LA’s inaugural Taste of the NFL took place at the Globe Theatre at Universal Studios. Current and alumni players and cheerleaders from the Los Angeles Rams joined local chefs to benefit the Food Bank. Some of us also got our first good look at Rampage, the Ram’s mascot, who is not as big and weird looking as you might expect from an anthropomorphised ram.
Rampage and the cheerleaders gamely stood on the red carpet for a good portion of the evening posing with all of the guests. There was also a huge silent auction, including classic memorabilia from the Lakers, the USC Trojans and the Dodgers. A gentleman was working the crowd with Ram’s quarterback Case Keenum’s jersey, which would be auctioned off later in the evening. One of the features he touted was the jersey’s “freshness,” as it had not been washed. “It still smells like sweat!” he boasted. That fact did not deter a number of well-dressed guests who posed with the jersey for selfies.
The chefs seemed to be taking their cue from the football theme, serving hearty, meaty dishes. The always personable Chef Steve Samson of Sotto served Braised Pork Meatballs with burrata, arugula and breadcrumbs. Josiah Citrin of Melisse went all out with Smoked Lamb Ribs that literally fell off the bone at first bite. the sauce was exotic and balanced the lamb’s sometimes gamey flavor. They may have been the best ribs I have ever eaten.
On the lighter side, Tony Esnault of Church & State presented Escargot Provincal with wild Burgundy snails, tomato, fennel, and persillade, a seasoning mix made with parsley and garlic. Susan Feniger of Border Grill, and Blue Window reminded us why Border Grill was such a game-changer for LA. Her Yucatan Tacos with pineapple, jicama slaw and pickled onions were tender and rich. We will miss Feniger’s Mud Hen Tavern, which has just closed.
But as one place closes, another opens, and Chef Jessica Largey gave us a preview of the soon-to-open Simone. Her pickled tomato dish with burrata fooled the eye; what you expected to be bacon was actually olive crumbles. Bruce Kalman of Union’s team did our favorite take on octopus, along with chick pea conserva, lemon yoghurt an dukkah, an Egyptian spice and nut blend. Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes, who was surrounded by fans all night, created a fun make-your-own cupcake bar with the Rams’ colors. Everyone loved it, because no matter how old we get we will always love sprinkles.
Chef Ray Garcia of Broken Spanish served mushrooms in stinging Nettle Pipian (a type of mole sans chocolate). As I admired the carefully plated mushrooms resting on delicate little corn masa dumplings called chochoyotes, I commented to the chef, “You know, an entire football team is about to come in here and just destroy this table.”
He replied, “I am torturing them with tiny food.” Well, I guess that’s what they get for stuffing us in lockers in high school. Really though, we loved the event and it was a great way to introduce the Rams to the city.