This popular dish from EggSlut, the Opulent Slut was decadent but a tad salty. (David Tobin/Living Out Loud LA)
Although this was the fourth year for the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival, it seemed as if they’ve been doing it for decades. I only attended one of the several events that took over the city, and it was amazing. From Aug. 21 through 24, attendees had the option of enjoying the best the world has to offer in Santa Monica, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Downtown. The offerings ranged from fine wines from France to junk-food pairings that would make any dentist cringe.
The Lexus Grand Tasting Event located at the LA Center Studios in Downtown was where I found myself on Sunday. Tickets for the event were $350 for three hours of high-end cuisine. I was joined by three friends of varying backgrounds, so we could have a fair discussion of the food we were about to experience.
When you walked in, the first thing you were given was a sturdy wine glass and a smile. You ambled down the carpeted and elegantly draped canopy lane, and the first sound stage opened up. Upon entering you couldn’t tell you were in a giant grey box. It was decorated gracefully, with fabric hanging from the ceilings and walls that made you feel like you were in a tent in the South of France.
The first item that we went for was some wine, a nice blend from Skipstone to start things off. After the glasses were full we picked up a local favorite, some Top Round Roast Beef Sliders. There’s something amazing about a simple sandwich made correctly.
From there, it was time for something a bit more exotic. Lamb buns with, well, lamb and veggies in a handheld portion. The flavors were Indian, with a touch of the exotic. It was exactly what we were hoping for: the pushing of the palate envelope.
As we walked from booth to booth, the wine began to flow and you could actually taste the differences in regions. Some of the wines from France that boasted big names were nothing compared to an Oregon winery and some other local western destinations. It seems that the wine world has gone through a more boutique phase, and smaller players are finally getting a chance to get their product noticed.
The beer options were thin, but Stella Artois had a pairing set up with three options. The food was good, but the beer is what saved it. Their small bites were dry and needed the refreshing accompaniment of good beer – maybe that was the point.
The beer that got our vote is an old Midwest favorite, Goose Island. They had their Matilda on tap as well as my favorite, 312. I almost felt like I was on my way to a Bears game, but I was brought back to reality when we left their booth and headed to an L.A. heavyweight.
EggSlut was on hand with a concoction that had a line that ran the length of one of the soundstages. So hearing the buzz, we had to try it out. I’m glad we did, but damn, lay off the salt!
Their dish was called the “Opulent Slut” and featured whipped potato, a coddled egg, caviar and sea salt. For those of you unfamiliar with caviar, it is, by nature, very salty. Adding sea salt rocks to the mix was a bit too much. You would get a good bite, but then the second might be just shy of tasting a saltlick … and they used a wooden spoon.
In fact most restaurants used a wooden spoon for their food offerings. I get it, you want to make sure that you are eco-friendly, but if it affects the taste, don’t do it. The wood on these spoons wasn’t treated, and it absorbed all flavor and moisture from your mouth as you ate. Not to mention the lingering fear that you might get a sliver was hiding in the back of your head. Some had metal and plastic options, but they were far and few between.
With two huge soundstages, there was way too much food to list in one article. There were fresh truffle shavings on pasta that blew my mind, extremely fresh seafood that you could actually pet in an aquarium before tasting (crude but refreshing), desserts galore, proteins and our group’s favorite, the pork belly with melon garnish.
Time flew by, and we didn’t get to taste everything, but it’s OK, I like being able to walk instead of waddle after a food event.
When L.A. Food & Wine returns next year, save up and get early-bird passes. It’s worth every penny if you like to cook or just as a reward your taste buds after a long year of the same old food.