In fine LAFW tradition, the Saturday afternoon Lexus Grand Tasting featured a fantastic selection of both local and visiting chefs. Summer flavors, refreshing and invigorating, were the order of the day, from Herringbone chef Brian Malarkey’s dungeness crab tostada, to boardwalk-ready fried pickles and grilled pastrami sandwiches from David Codney of the Peninsula, to three different variations on barbecued octopus.
Honors in the Octopus Wars went to Preux and Proper chef Sammy Monsour, who won the day by seasoning a perfectly grilled tentacle with anchovy remoulade and blood orange mojo, served with some fingerling potatoes and mustard frills. Chef Sarah Grueneberg, visiting from Monteverde and Pastifico in Chicago, impressed with an octopus spiedini with shishito peppers, while Holly Jivin from Bazaar by Jose Andres had the most whimsical take, with octopus-shaped crackers serving as the base for her octopus toast.
In another apparent competition, Michael Passmore and Passmore Ranch went head to head against The Plumed Horse’s chef Peter Armellino to see who could craft the more compelling caviar dish made to resemble a sweet dessert. Passmore’s caviar cone, with a pine-nut “soft serve”, summer melon and studs of sturgeon jerky narrowly beat out Armellini’s smoked sturgeon cannoli with caviar both orange and green.
Credit chef Jessie Lugo of Alexander’s Steakhouse Pasadena for the most WTF/OMG dish of the day, a foie gras peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s one of those things that makes you wonder if someone has lost their mind, until you taste it and wonder, how did no one ever think of this before?
It’s always a pleasure to see Antonia Lofaso from Scopa and Black Market at these events, especially when she’s packing steak frites in a cone with little aioli lollies. I drove to Black Market looking for these one day, gutted to find they were not on the menu. That itch was finally scratched today, two years after it first started itching. Needless to say, it was a great relief.
The range and selection of wines on offer was, as always, outstanding. We stayed close to the Nellcote booth for much of the afternoon, especially when getting ready to gnaw on some red meat. They were pouring both a cabernet blend, and a 100% cab, both from 2014, both bursting with complexity and awesomeness. Zaca Mesa from the Santa Ynez Valley also made an impression with their Estrella syrah, an elegant pairing with the spicy duck salad from Ayara Luk situated nearby.
Hendricks Gin had the most visually entertaining booth of the day, with its attendant juggling stilt walker and unicycle-rider engaging passersby in their wacky hijinks. You KNOW you’re at a party when the people that just served you liquor want to pick you up and spin you around.