Highlights of LA Times’ The Taste: Friday Night

Sun Gold Tomatoes and Burrata from Love & Salt. All photos by Elise Thompson for The LA Beat.

The opening event of the LA Times’ “The Taste,” was a wonderful night, with the weather cooling down just in time for the evening, short lines, lots of liquor and happy chefs. It’s always exciting to be on the Paramount backlot, with their New York City streets. This is the first time I noticed that they even have a subway entrance.

Sometimes the simplest dishes are the best when the ingredients are of the highest quality, and Love & Salt turned out of our favorites,  Sungold cherry tomatoes bursting with flavor along with creamy, rich burrata. Braised Brisket Rendang Tacos with pickles veggies and micro cilantro from long time favorite Bone Kettle in Pasadena was juicy and flavorful. We could eat them every day. Las Palmas served their house special Beef Birria burritos, which taste exactly like the ones I had at school as a child.

Chef Timothy Hollingsworth from Otium made tender Veal Meatballs with a peach glaze and Black Market Liquor Bar’s Chef Antonia Alfoso served both Spicy Korean Chicken Wings with cucumber. kimchi, cilantro and mint that were definitely spicy, and a decadent Deep Fried Fluffernutter with fresh banana. LBK Pizzeria from Studio City was wood-firing their house special pizza with Mozzarella, tomato sauce, speck, fresh ricotta and black truffle pate. We will definitely be ordering from them soon.

I love oxtail, and Tar & Roses prepared a delicate oxtail dumpling. But what really blew me away was their Bacon Popcorn. That popcorn is nothing new–I’ve eaten a lot of it, so I popped a handful into my mouth expecting the usual. But wow! It was so intense with salty and sweet and fat flavors battling on my palate, I wish I had some right now. Another one of my favorite dishes was Fried Chicken Wontons with Gochujang (Korean hot sauce) aioli from Bibigo Kitchen. It was the kind of surprising deliciousness that stops you in your tracks.

UMI by Hamasaku had a long line for their assorted hand rolls filled with quality fish like salmon and spicy tuna. Le Grand’s table had gorgeous little blocks of compressed watermelon and a Branzino ceviche. I have never seen Branzino served in a raw form before, but it turns out this treatment of “European Sea Bass) is quite common. Casa Vega brought their legendary corn and cheese tamales.

Wurstkuche served a variety of sausages, including Duck and Bacon, and my favorite, Buffalo, Luxardo, Cherries and Mint. But buffalo was not the most exotic thing on the menu. Chef Neal Fraser of Redbird was daring, serving a delicious albacore tuna crudo with Buddha Hand topped with shavings of salted, cured tuna heart bottarga that added a sinister depth to the dish.

It would not be unusual in Great Britain, where it is often part of a balanced breakfast, but Angelenos are just not familiar with blood pudding. You have to admit the name is rather off-putting. Even the less sanguine black pudding sounds ominous. So you’ve gotta admire the cojones on Church & State to bring their Blood Pudding to the masses. It doesn’t taste anything like blood. It’s fantastic. So I don’t mind if people are squeamish–all the more for me.

Who would have thought the most daring, unusual offerings would be from Wanderlust Creamery? They had three nation-themed ice creams: Catalonian: (P’ Amb Xocotata) Arbequina Olive oil ice cream with a chocolate and toasted baguette crumb shell, Tuscan: (Bergamocello) Bergamot Limoncello ice cream with lemon verbena granita, and my favorite, Singaporean Sundae: (Salted Egg Kaya Toast) Toasted bread ice cream, salted yolk and kaya jam.

Still, we loved the more traditional Churro Ice Cream Sandwiches dipped in chocolate ganache from McConnell’s Ice Cream. And what’s a food event without someone playing with plumes of liquid nitrogen? Supercool Creamery, who have a psychedelic logo and cute guys in bowler hats and red vests, served up some delicious salted caramel ice cream. Lady M was also there serving up rich slices of her decadent cakes which are made up of dozens of layers of crepe and pastry cream.

There are always a lot of fun cocktails at The Taste. Revel was serving a cocktail called “The Deep Deep South with Revel Avila Blanco, spiced peach syrup, black tea and lemon juice. Kelvin Slush Co had Bourbon Street-style slushie machines with frozen cocktails including a Paloma, and a Negroni. Maker’s Mark had taken over a corner of the festival with a selfie station and a bar serving Maker’s Mules

And this was only the first night!

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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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