Favorites from Masters of Taste 2017

Hoke Poke’s Spicy Tuna (Photo by Elise Thompson)

Once again Masters of Taste brought their “A” game to the field of the Rose Bowl. There was a wealth of delicious high-end food and cocktails throughout, plus comfy sofas and lounging areas. And maybe my favorite perk of all — chair massages! In spite of a lightning storm midway through the event we soldiered on.

The steamed oxtail dumpling with a plum wine reduction from Home Kettle was the hands-down favorite bite of the day. It was rich and loaded with umami. Even the pasta was meaty. Another crowd-pleaser was the Thai style roast beef belly from Claud Beltran & Co./Bacchus Kitchen. The meat was so tender and the marinade was fragrant with Thai spices.

The Pork, beef and lamb meatball with marinara, pecorino and basil from Magnolia House had so many layers of flavors. It was hearty and comforting in the cold weather. Asian steak lettuce cups with pickled carrots and bacon coleslaw with cilantro from Hyperion Public House were irresistible even though we were already full.

A perennial favorite, Michael Hung of Mama Lion in K-Town wowed us with an uni tostada with avocado, creme fraiche and grapefruit. The Shrimp and Crab roll is probably our favorite thing to ever come from the Venice Whaler. I ate two. Smoked fish seems to be in vogue this year, and we couldn’t be happier. Applewood Smoked Pacific Albacore Salad with green cabbage, crispy quinoa, burnt leek aioli and pickled beets from Little Beast surprised me with how fantastic it was. I was expecting to take the requisite bite and move on, but I sat there and cleaned my plate.

Hoke Poke created three pokes, one of which was a vegetarian version with mushrooms. But our favorite was the Spicy Tuna — Ahi tuna mixed with scallions, sesame seeds and a spicy sauce. Light and fresh. Also on the light side was the chilled pea soup with mint from Spring/Church & State. Such a relief after all of the heavy, meaty dishes.

To satisfy our sweet tooth we looked to Nothing Bundt Cakes, a Pasadena bakery where we buy the birthday cakes for the office. Their chocolate is so light as if it came straight out of the oven.

There were a number of booths I just couldn’t get to; that’s what happens at these huge events. We missed out on The Raymond’s giant cheese raclette –cheese on everything, Helado’s ice cream served in coconut shells, and Kato Restaurant’s beautifully plated smoked hamachi with soy-pickled cucumbers and scallion, topped with edible flowers.

Well, there’s always next year…

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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