Highlights from Masters of Taste 2019

Mango Passion Fruit Tres Leches cup from Porto’s at Masters of Taste 2019. Photo by Elise Thompson.

Last Sunday the Rose Bowl’s verdant field was dotted with white tents and umbrellas as guests spilled out of the stands to enjoy The Master’s of Taste food event. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and there weren’t so many people as to make it uncomfortable, but just enough to make it a party.

Chef Host Michael Hung had two tents going, with Faith & Flower serving a seasonal English Pea and Angus beef shepherds tartlet, some of which were sprinkled with caviar. I am a sucker for cute tiny tartlets. The other tent, Raymond 1886, was dishing up a hearty Vignole–an Italian Spring vegetable stew topped with a perfectly-cooked porschetta that added a lovely crunch from the crackling skin.

Lock and Key Social Drinkery + Kitchen from Downey was true to its rep as a meat-forward eatery with their 30-day Dry-aged Ribeye with smashed potatoes and truffle sauce. Also in the category of decadent beef was South Pas’ Gus’ BBQ with a fatty, melt-in-your-mouth brisket and cornbread. Gus’ World-Famous Chicken was not to be outdone with their spicy Nashville-style hot chicken–they were serving whole breasts.

Making the day more fun was Mrs. Fish, with Chef Alex Reznik using chopsticks to hand-feed hay-smoked Albacore Warayaki with shiso, citrus soy, and myoga (ginger) to eager guests. The fish was exquisite too. Like maybe I will have my birthday dinner there good. There were also plates of Seared Black Cod Nigiri with tare, spicy miso, and micro shiro, but you had to feed yourself the cod, like a common peasant or something.

I also spent a good part of the day hypnotized by the endless stirring at Preux and Proper, which is required for a good gumbo. Their Seafood Gumbo Pot was more of a hot bar, with guests filling their own bowls with Louisiana Crawfish, Black Tiger Shrimp, Seasonal Oysters and Mussels, Geechie Boy Farro and Okra. I guess the farro works better than rice if you’re pre-mixing everything.

There were a lot of Asian dishes, but who’s complaining? Lunasia Dim Sum House brought their soup dumplings (xiao long bao), which burst with hot beef stock when bitten, beautiful shrimp har gow and giant vegetable pot stickers. Chef David Tewasart of Sticky Rice arranged Chicken Khao San with noodles and cilantro in a mild coconut milk curry. Does it get any better?

Two of our favorite restaurants went head-to-head with Chef Vanda Asapahu of Ayara Thai Moo Ping (Grilled skewered pork) and sticky Rice wrapped in banana leaf, with additions like Pork Floss with nori and sesame seeds. While Bone Kettle served a straight-up Satay with peanut sauce.

In an unusual situation for Los Angeles, there weren’t a whole lot of tacos. Chef Bret Thompson of Pez Cantina was one of the few people repping Mexican cuisine with a Chicken Pozole Verde topped with a potato and broccoli taquito with roasted poblano crema. The broccoli was charred, so it looked like beef. One of the LA Beat editors warned me, “That has broccoli in it, you know.” He knows broccoli is a hard no for me.

I insisted, “No, it’s beef.” It looked too good not to eat.

So he laughed at the face I made when I took a big bite of charred broccoli. “I don’t know why you just don’t believe me.”

I must mention, though, the potato half of the taquito and the chile verde were excellent. I still love Pez Cantina!

Another fun stop was at Supercool Creamery’s nitro artisan handmade ice cream. You can have a lot of fun with nitrogen, and there were two pros putting on quite a show. I opted for the salted caramel over cookies and cream or lemon sorbet. It was nice and creamy, like a soft-serve. Lady M once again thrilled us with their layered crepe and pastry cream cakes. Lark Cake shop served the freshest, moistest carrot cake cupcakes that I have ever eaten, or at least as far back as I can remember.

Portos Bakey and Café had a tempting trio: a Vanilla Crème Brulee tart with chunky guava jam, a Mango Passion Fruit Tres Leches cup and most decadent of all, a Dulce de leche éclair filled with dulce de leche custard, garnished with salted caramel and white chocolate crispy pearls. Out of the three, the crème brulee was our favorite. I asked whether that might be on their menu from now on (Yes, I know every single pastry in Porto’s case. I am a madwoman). They told us that making tiny pastries for food events is kind of like product testing, and that’s how they decide what to add to the case.

We anticipate The potent potables at the Masters of Taste just as much as the food. We enjoyed some excellent suds from MacLoed Ale, Iron Triangle Brewing, and several others that were brought over by a friend, and thus, remain nameless. The Hitching Post was pouring Pinks Rose, Cork Dancer Pinot Noir, and Highliner Pinot Noir. They also hipped us to the fact that The Hitching Post 2 has opened right there in Beullton. No need to go far afield to find their juicy steaks and house-made desserts. No more pea soup for you!

The most popular cocktail by far was the oddly named “Midnight Pancakes” from Cameron Madsen of The Raymond 1886. With Haku Vodka, Lemon juice, maple and raspberry, the drink was bright and refreshing…a perfect cocktail to while away a warm spring day.

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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