Making plans for Labor Day weekend? SoCal food and drink lovers should definitely carve out some time to attend The Los Angeles Times’ The Taste – an annual weekend-long celebration of the Southern California culinary scene with five distinct events that honor the unique flavors, restaurants and esteemed culinary personalities in Los Angeles and beyond. This year, “beyond” includes one of Orange County’s most celebrated chefs, Carlos Salgado of Taco María, who can now add Food & Wine Best New Chef 2015 to his growing list of achievements.
In case you haven’t dined at Taco María yet, I had to share these photos from the first in a series of Guest Chef dinners that Salgado has planned. The 8-course dinner was akin to a culinary epiphany where myriad and surprising components come together in a delicate dance of subtlety – all in perfect harmony, not one upstaging the other. Allow me to support that with a description of the most memorable dish of the evening: Squid, Potato, Recado Negro (top right). Dubbed “Black Magic” by moi, one of my dining partners posted that it was “Indescribable!”, followed by this mouthwatering account: ….”earth shattering flavor mash ups that people can’t even conceive of ….deep, dark mole, hitting that squid, and coating it it with the murky depth of subtle sweet, spicy, nutty, chocolate, layered with the umami of squid ink. Not to mention the sweet, light flavors of sweet potatoes. And the saltiness of a light dusting of cheese crumbles. Pause and ponder people, it’s magic”. Indeed.
To launch the series, Salgado joined forces with Chef Eric Salmaniego, the talented chef recently departed from Little Sparrow restaurant in Santa Ana, where he served as Executive Chef since its opening in 2013 winning it widespread praise and recognition including his appearance this year on Bravo’s Best New Restaurant.
Dessert: Coconut, Brioche Papaya
And the dessert! People describe dishes as “orgasmic” – this cool coconut cream, brûléed brioche with intensely-flavored papaya jam had us channeling that famous “Harry Met Sally” moment….just not at Katz Deli. But I digress. Back to what’s happening at The Taste, Labor Day weekend, at the Paramount Pictures Studios (a suitably iconic LA location).
The Taste’s star-studded lineup will also include chefs like Curtis Stone (Maude) and Niki Nakayama (n/naka), among others from all across LA, who will participate in demos and roundtable discussions with the LA Times’ most notable food critics, columnists, and editors. Both the food-obsessed and the recreational foodie can enjoy the festivities while sampling some of the southland’s top dishes from its top-rated restaurants.
Hosted by members of The Times’ editorial staff and co-hosted by renowned Chefs Gary Menes, Michael Fiorelli (with Bartender Vincenzo Marianella), Corina Weibel, and Carlos Salgado, the events feature unlimited food tastings and pours from wine, beer and spirits purveyors, and a selection of engaging cooking and mixology demos, wine seminars and dynamic panel discussions. Attendees can expect to enjoy unlimited tastings from the region’s most renowned kitchens coupled with pours and sips that reflect the local cocktail and nightlife culture.
Opening Night; Fri., Sept. 4th, 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
An intimate fete attended by The Times’ renowned Food staff, the festival co-hosts and participating chefs and bartenders will offer a curated selection of distinctive bites, premium cocktail and wine offerings and live entertainment. Restaurants include BierBeisl Imbiss & Bakery, Chichen Itza Restaurant, Coni’Seafood, Horse Thief BBQ, Komodo, Sotto Restaurant and THEBlvd Beverly Wilshire.
Field to Fork – Hosted by Russ Parsons, Times Food Writer and Columnist, and Gary Menes, Chef/Owner of Le Comptoir; Sat., Sept. 5th, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
California’s bounty of fresh produce inspires this homage to seasonal cooking, punctuated with engaging demos from Jessica Koslow (Sqirl), James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef Sherry Yard (Helm’s Bakery) and Niki Nakayama (n/naka). In addition to offering a glimpse into these locally-inspired perspectives, the event will feature a roundtable moderated by Parsons that examines the rise of the “root-to-stem” philosophy with Menes, Bruce Kalman (Union) and Ari Taymor (Alma). Restaurants include Hinoki & The Bird, Kye’s, M Café, Mayura Indian Cuisine, Michael’s on Naples and Westside Tavern, along with Choctal ice cream.
Dinner with a Twist – Hosted by Jonathan Gold, Times Restaurant Critic, Jenn Harris, Times Deputy Food Editor, Michael Fiorelli, Chef of Love & Salt, and Master Bartender Vincenzo Maríanella; Sat., Sept. 5th, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
The city’s boldest bites and cutting-edge libations come together in a celebration of pairings highlighted by demos from Love & Salt’s Fiorelli and Marianella; The Church Key’s Steven Fretz and Devon Espinosa; and Petit Trois’ Ludo Lefebvre. Belgian Chef Daniel Joly and Master Beer Sommelier Marc Stroobandt will be on hand for a food and beer pairing demo presented by Stella Artois, and Los Angeles’ innovative cocktail scene will shine in a group demo from Bricia Lopez (Guelaguetza), Zach Patterson (Melrose Umbrella Co.) and Josh Goldman (Soigne Group). Restaurants include Aqui es Texcoco, Diablo Taco, Ensaymada Project, Estrella, Ford’s Filling Station, Rocio’s Mole de los Dioses and The Churchill.
Sunday Brunch and BBQ – Hosted by Amy Scattergood, Times Food Editor, Noelle Carter, Times Test Kitchen Director, and Corina Weibel, Chef/Co-Owner of Canelé; Sun., Sept. 6th, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Over-the-top eats from some of the city’s favorite brunch purveyors and pit masters will be served up in conjunction with demos by Carter, Weibel, Roy Choi (Kogi/A-Frame/POT) and Neil Strawder (Bigmista’s Barbecue). Scattergood will lead a discussion focused on the varied, innovative ways that fire is used in the kitchen with Quinn Hatfield (Odys + Penelope), Michael Kahikina (Barrel and Ashes) and Francisco Perez (Aqui es Texcoco). Restaurants include Canelé, Doomie’s Home Cookin’, POT, The Churchill and The Hudson, along with Diablo Pops.
Flavors of L.A. – Hosted by Jonathan Gold, Times Restaurant Critic, and Carlos Salgado, Chef of Taco María; Sun., Sept. 6th, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
The depth, breadth and diversity of flavor that make Los Angeles one of the most exciting places to dine are showcased in the closing-night celebration. Taco maestros Salgado and Wes Avila (Guerilla Tacos), along with critically-lauded chefs Curtis Stone (Maude) and Suzanne Tracht (Jar), will each choose a favorite dish to demo for festival-goers. Delving into the latest SoCal culinary phenomenon, Gold will discuss Things in a Bowl with Alvin Cailan (Ramen Champ/Eggslut), Christine Moore (Lincoln/Little Flower Candy Co.) and Minh Phan (Porridge + Puffs). Restaurants include Bar Pintxo, CHAYA,Gasolina Café, Joe’s Restaurant, Madcapra, Racion and Worldwide Tacos.
The Taste will bring thousands of food lovers together for the city’s premier feast and there’s an event that is sure to please any culinary passion you possess. For more information and to purchase tickets visit: http://events.latimes.com/taste/tickets.
Photo credit: Event photos courtesy of LA Times The Taste
Los Angeles Times The Taste is produced in association with Best Events. Sponsors include The Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, Knob Creek, Hornitos Tequila, Stella Artois and Don Julio Tequila. Opening Night tickets are $150. Tickets for each of the Saturday and Sunday events range from $100 to $125, and a $25 discount on individual tickets is available exclusively to Los Angeles Times subscribers. Details and tickets: latimes.com/thetaste. Connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @TheTasteLA (#TasteLA).