Two Sundays ago (but who's counting?) my bestie Marielle and I went to the inaugural Los Angeles Times Celebration of Food & Wine. After seeing a full page ad in the Times about a month or so prior, I immediately marked my calendar, invited Marielle and then like a good friend
Well, it turned out to be a beautiful day-- the day before Labor Day, in fact-- and not just for the obvious, gluttonous reason. It was so wonderful to spend a carefree day with my best friend in the whole world, indulging in tasty treats but also catching up on each other's lives. We're both so busy all the time that moments like those don't happen often, so I cherish them when they do.
The actual event didn't fail to deliver, too. Though trying to find parking in L.A. always proves to be challenging, especially when thousands of people are all going to the same exact place, the venue itself was pretty spectacular: the backlot of Paramount Pictures Studios. While browsing around, weaving between people and hopping from booth to booth, I would occasionally stop to look around and think, "Wow, it looks like we're on the streets of New York!" Which of course only made me remember my unfilled yearnings to visit the Big Apple. But never mind that...
All told we spent about three hours sampling various gourmet foods and wine. Mostly wine. (I have to say, I was a bit frustrated to see that many of the vendors-- especially the food trucks-- we're charging for food as opposed to giving away free samples, as I had expected. We did pay, after all, to get in. That would be my only complaint of the event.)
During our journey around the outdoor fest, we devoured lots of sweets: salted caramel ice cream from the Cooking Channel's Ice Cream truck, cake balls from Delicious Wishes of Beverly Hills (toffee for me, and I think peanut butter for Marielle, or something similarly divine), and a zeppole (basically an Italian donut, covered in powdered sugar) from Rosa's Bella Cucina. We had to fork over a $1 for that last one, but it was sooo worth it.
We balanced out the sugar with a few salty bites: spicy yellow curry (made with coconut milk, potatoes and carrots) from Sedthee Thai Eatery, some bread and cheese (I ate the bread and gave Marielle my cheese) from La Brea Bakery, and a surprisingly delicious mungbean patty but I don't quite remember who from. Blame the wine.
Speaking of vino, there were tons of wineries to taste, and though we had eight drink tickets each (plus extras from a kind lady who gave me hers at the gate), the vendors didn't much care to take them. We sure didn't mind!
First there was a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc from Dutcher Crossing Winery, then a nice, light Syrah from Farella-Park Vineyards, followed by a crisp Pinot Grigio, from the LA Times Wine Club (who we liked for their hearty pours).
Our favorite at the festival, though, was Pech Merle Winery. They won points for taste and experience, because unlike the other wineries, they gave us a true tasting, letting us try several of their vintages. We loved them all!
We also tried Korean black raspberry wine from Kook Soon Dang that was dangerously good, as in, it tastes so much like juice you would get drunk before knowing what hit you. Similar to that was VeeV Acai Spirit. I'm not one to sip straight liquor-- I'm a cranberry and vodka kind of gal-- but with this I'd make an exception. Pour VeeV into a martini glass and you're good to go.
Lastly, we tasted Evan Williams Honey Reserve Bourbon. This would be the one thing we tried that didn't win us over. Too strong, we both tossed it-- but kept the cute plastic shot glass it came in. Guess we're not bourbon girls.
With all that alcohol flowing, and a bit of a buzz going, we took a few silly pictures. Who can resist posing with a Sake bottle or ... doing whatever it is we're doing in that second picture. Oh, I know what we're doing. We're making fools of ourselves! Gotta love it.
As the sun began to set, we made our way over to the Hollywood Stage for the evening attraction. No, not food or wine-- but a concert by She & Him. You know-- Zooey Deschanel!
Even though I had never heard Zooey's music before, I was uber-excited to see her, because she is just so darling. (I finally saw "500 Days of Summer," well, this summer.) Though I had told Marielle who would be performing, she didn't realize who I was talking about until we got to the stage. And then she was just as excited as me! We talked about how beautiful Zooey is while swaying to the music... Her voice sounded as sweet and as lovely as she looks.
Even the back-up singers were adorable. All the ladies were wearing fun, colorful dresses with black tights. Perfect! (And check out that guy's white hat in the audience... too cool!)
The whole gang... Matt Ward, the "Him" in She & Him, is on the far left. And isn't Zooey's green dress pretty? The layers fluttered up and down when she jumped to the music, shaking her tambourine.
Closing out the show, Zooey and Matt tackled the piano, pounding the keys together.
The crowd shouted encore after the band left the stage and a few minutes later, She & Him obliged with one last song. With the last notes hanging in the air, the crowd began to break up. As we were leaving, I noticed that the Crepes Bonaparte truck (if you've watched "The Great Food Truck Race" on Food Network, you'll recognize this truck) was still open for business. Even though I was a tad full and it cost a couple more bucks out of my pocket, I couldn't resist.
I ordered my usual-- Nutella and banana-- and Marielle tried a savory Ranchero crepe. We devoured them on the walk back to our car... Both got two thumbs up!
So there you have it. My first food and wine fest. I consumed many, many calories that day but overall, I'd call it a culinary success.