Highlights from LAFW Lexus Live on Grand Saturday Night

Ricardo Zarate of Rosaline plating a kampachi ceviche at LAFW (All photos by Elise Thompson for The LA Beat)

Saturday night’s Lexus Live on Grand is when the big guns come out — the best chefs presenting their best dishes in a superglam setting. High-end ingredients like King crab, scallops, and sushi-grade fish were the order of the day. Bulleit Bourbon and Hendricks Gin were flowing freely. Celebrity chef Tyler Florence hosted, and spent all evening good-naturedly posing with fans. The feasting and partying led up to a performance by Haitian rapper, philanthropist and former member of the Fugees, Wyclef Jean.

Just like Riff Randall and the Ramones, I was thrilled to be first in line for Chef Andre Bienvenu of Joe’s Stone Crab. Whether he is serving light-as-air pork tamales or paninis cooked on a contraption made up of double sets of irons, the line for his booth is always the longest, year in and year out. This year the chef served a sexily named “Menage a Trois of Clams,” including clam ceviche, Clams Casino (cooked in an herb butter with peppers and garlic), and a fried clam with green pepper relish.

One of our favorite splurges was duck rillettes on maple cornbread with cherry, red frill mustard and quince vinegar from Executive Chef/Owner Ted Hopson and Beverage Director/Owner Ann-Marie Verdi of The Bellwether. A slightly unusual dish that still managed to work well was the marriage of sweet and savory in Chef Kevin Nashan’s smoked scallops with peaches, Delice de Bourgogne (a French triple-creme cheese), and dill. Chef Kevin Nashan came all of the way from the Sidney Street Cafe in St. Louis, Missouri, to participate in the event.

We are always excited to see what the Water Grill is up to. This year Chef Damon Gordon served a simple and perfectly sliced albacore crudo with a little yuzu cream and pickled grapes. When this fish is such a high grade, it doesn’t need much embellishment. Another simple but perfect dish was burrata combined with melon and chiles from Chef Jessica Largey of the highly anticipated Simone. On the other hand, Ricardo Zarate of Rosaline was plating a complex dish of kampachi ceviche with roasted sweet potato mousse, garlic-lime leche de tigre and a garlic-lime pesto.

A party just isn’t a party without Nguyen Tran passing out Starry Kitchen’s crispy and delicious tofu balls in his banana suit. Just give him a Mr. Mike and he is ready to stir things up! Also turning up the fun factor were old-school Frito Pies from Chef Abraham Posada of Barrel and Ashes, upgraded with smoked brisket chili.

The real stunner of the night was “Message Failed” by Chef Matthew Beaudin of The Monterey Bay Aquarium. He has gone over the top before, so I was not surprised by his surrealist dish of squab leg (with a note still tied to its leg like a downed carried pigeon) and breast, spattered with beet sauce to resemble blood. If that was not enough, the dish included a tiny bouquet of onion flowers with tiny crickets tucked inside. The best part, though, was the tender and succulent squab. I wasn’t sure I was into squab before, but now I am all in.

Chef Chris Ford of the Four Seasons ended the night for us with his decadent “Chocolate Nachos.” The dessert, which primarily contained a generous serving of rich chocolate mousse will not be soon forgotten. It really was an unforgettable night, with too much gin, a slaughtered squab, and the Starry Kitchen banana suit. Oh, and someone brought a cat on a leash.

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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