I am not sure about what I believe in but, without doubt, I know that I believe in synchronicity. I wrote in my UG and LA Goodbye post that you could see us, Josie and Carina, the OG UG girls at Taste of the Nation LA. However, then I had no idea how significant this event would be. For the last week, I have been up in Nor Cal apartment hunting and trying to get my new life in order. What I have really wanted to do more than anything is write on this site about all of the fantastic LA food that I have had in the last few weeks. I have been busy but on Friday night I finally completed and then accidentally deleted an entire post I wrote about the last night LudoBites 4.0. I was livid but had no time to fix it or rewrite it because I had to be in bed by 10:30P and out the door of my family’s house in Santa Cruz by 5:30A to make it to my TOTNLA volunteer duties back in LA. I was tired and after a very caffeinated Venti Chai and 44oz Diet Coke (which oddly enough was cheaper than the 24oz at the gas station) I was wide awake but with the need to pee every 20 minutes. I made it to the beautiful Media Park in Culver City just in time for my shift. I grabbed my volunteer shirt, went to the station, saw Josie and within minutes we were back to our old antics. We “worked” and, of course, began the day with the most healthy offering at the event…red velvet cupcakes from Sprinkles.
If you really want to know how bad I am, I went directly from those to a St. Germain Cocktail. It was my drink of the day and what I kept drinking even on into the after party. Champagne, St. Germain, club soda, and a lemon peel was exactly what I needed on a sunny day after driving for 6.5 hours.
After some sugar, a drink, and the realization that I was no longer in a car with the need to pee, I was finally ready to delve into the food portion of the day. Just like last year, the food was beautiful, abundant and definitely did not disappoint. Some of the first dishes I had were actually my favorites and I don’t know if it was just me but I noticed a big crispy rice trend in many of the dishes and frozen adult slushies, both of which I loved immensely. The first dishes I tried were from a Culver City restaurant called K-Zo it was spicy tuna over crispy rice and then a spicy albacore roll. There was also a marinated albacore sashimi with radish and carrots that I loved. It was fresh, fatty, and oh so delicious!
Patina had a beautiful hamachi dish but I think it was a tie between K-Zo and XIV for the better sashimi.
Another common dish was meat and a starch or as Mattatouille said on Twitter, “Nice to see so many familiar faces at @TOTNLA. Food was good though too many beef/mashed potato the like dishes on a hot day.” Several restaurants did it several different ways. Hatfields had short ribs over mashed potatoes with crispy rice, caramelized onions, and sea salt sprinkled on top. XIV had beef cheek with liquid corn on the cob. Tavern had a really nice piece of meat on a crostini with cheese on top. Lastly, there was the BLT Steak short rib tortelli that was another winner, it was delicate and well seasoned with fresh corn and mushrooms. Tavern was probably the most tender and delicious piece of meat, XIV had the most interesting side, and Hatfield’s was just a nice and solid dish. In fact it was really funny at the Hatfield’s tent because there was a huge line and the chef was thoughtful plating each dish an ingredient at a time. As soon as the meat was atop the mashed potatoes a guy in front of me in line was being polite and told me to take a plate. I said, “Thank you, but I don’t think he is done plating.” After we waited for the last three additions to be added, I happily took my plate first and this man in line with me looked very defeated. Thankfully this well put together dish cheered him up.
As previously mentioned, the other trend that I loved and supported were adult style slushies. They were refreshing on this hot day and alcohol is always a fantastic accompaniment to food. I had The Bazaar nitrogen Caipirinha and the cucumber adult slushie aka “Brain Freeze” from Marcel at Bar210
In attendance were some famous Top Chef Alum from Marcel to Michael Voltaggio. Michael did a live cooking demo for the event and I was unbelievably impressed by his dedication. He could have easily shown us an amazing and decedent dish to prepare but instead he really promoted the cause and did something much more meaningful. He made a healthy and delicious meal for 8 using $10 worth of ingredients. Also I never noticed it before but Marcel looks an awful lot like Ryan from The Office, although he is not this Michael’s crush. This Michael, Michael Voltaggio has another crush and that is ending childhood hunger. He was so impressed by TOTNLA and Strength that he got their famous apple logo tattooed on his calf, that my friends is dedication.
If you want to know about dedication, then I am the wrong person to ask as much as I was volunteering I was more interested in food. Josie and I had “Talent” on our name tags that wasn’t because we were the talent but rather we worked that station. It was our job to make sure the talent made it to the stage and that the stage area was clean. The very funny Sklar brothers were the hosts and we offered to walk with one of them to hoard food for his wife and child who arrived late. While we were walking the tents, I ended up only getting food for myself. Side Note: the brothers had a funny bit about the TV show Hoarders and how they couldn’t delete any episodes of the show from their DVRs because they had so many memories of watching each of the episodes. Anyway here were some more of my favorites and even some Mission Fruition worthy dishes.
This one bite dish from Church & State totally allowed me to reach the elusive foodgasm. It was eggplant on the softest most delicate chickpea pancake. As soon as I took my first bite I reacted by saying “Baba Ghanoosh, that is good!” Another dish that I loved was no surprise, because I loved it last year as well. The miso ginger black cod in butter lettuce from Nobu West Hollywood is quite simply one of the greatest dishes ever. It is always perfect on hot days and Nobu has been doing this dish for years and way better than everyone else.
Another perfect dish that I loved was the Burmese melon salad from Susan Feniger’s Street. There were nuts, sesame seeds, fresh melon, and delicious coconut shavings that made this dish perfection. I love fruit and this dish brought me to fruition at first bite. Another sweet and seductive dish was the vanilla bean panna cotta from Mozza that came with fresh berries and a brittle. It was the creamiest panna cotta I have ever had and I loved that this dessert was not too sweet.
By far the most filling thing I ate was the hot dog from Fig. I had the one with pork belly and Fritos but I preferred the taco dog that Josie had with just about every taco topping smothering it. When we realized that we needed a picture of the two of us we each had a hot dog and I also had the lamb burger from Ford’s Filling Station (where I ended up last night at the unofficial after after party) in my hands. It was synchronicitic and something about yesterday just felt like old UG times.
The last Taste of the Nation LA event was an entirely different experience, for me, from the event this year. Both events had beautiful weather, delicious food, and both times I was overwhelmed by familiar faces and new tastes in my mouth. Last year, Uncouth Gourmands was just starting to make a name for itself and everything was exciting and new. I met new people, famous chefs, and reached multiple mission fruitions in my mouth. This year I arrived and it was more about closure. Yes, the food was fantastic and it was a good cause. But I really wanted to see old and new friends and say goodbye before I make my move. I rushed for that aspect of the event rather than just the food. I really feel that in going yesterday it made me more ready and able to move on. I have had a ton of amazing LA restaurants experiences, many of the restaurants were featured at this event, in the last few weeks to share with you and perhaps I needed this closure to start the ball rolling on this new site, more blogging, and my new life. I have already proved that I will drive down from NorCal in the wee AM morning hours and trust me a move to SF will not stop me from attending Taste of the Nation LA 2011…this is THE food event of the year! Just to tie it all together and prove that life really is synchronistic as I was downloading photos of the event on iPhoto I hit the Last 12 Months folder and this picture of Josie and I was taken exactly one year ago yesterday. We are still girls eating hot dogs but we are eating our own dogs and heading in two different directions.