In the heart of Los Angeles, LA Center Studios was the host of this year’s Los Angeles Food & Wine’s Lexus Grand Tasting. Like an opening to a blockbuster movie, the entrance was red carpet ready. I was ready for the paparazzi to jump out of from behind a wall. But, really, it was a stunning entry, but that wasn’t even the best of it. To my delight, the Lexus Grand Tasting was actually inside Stage 1 and Stage 2 on the studio lot, which means AIR-CONDITIONING! As we enter between the two stages was a “souvenir stand” with books from your favorite chefs and cooking show icons like Giada de Laurentis and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and commemorative shirts for the event.
As I walked in, I saw the playful Chef Brian Malarkey of Herringbone in San Diego, but better known as one of the judges who joined with Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre, and Nigella Lawson on The Taste. He is a very down-to-earth guy and offered me his “taste” of Lamb Tartar. It was scrumptious!
Jonata Wines is owned by Stan Kroenke, located in Buellton, CA, and opened in 2004. Jonata is very serious about sustainability. They rely on their mobile chicken coops and large herd of goats and sheep to fertilize the vineyard. Fermentation waste (spent skins, stems, and seeds) are used on the ranch for composting to maintain soil health in their two acre vegetable garden. The produce from this garden feeds the pigs, chickens, goats, sheep, and turkeys raised on the property. A nice perk for the team at Jonata is they get to take home the “fruits of their labor” in the form of vegetables, fruits, olive oil, eggs, chicken, pork, lamb, goat, milk, and cheese. Extra food from the garden is donated to local food shelters. 2009 La Sangre de Jonata Syrah is full-bodied with a beautiful dark reddish purple color. The scent is intoxicating. Dark cherry and pepper notes fill the palate with a clean finish. For more information, please visit their website or call 805.564.8581.
Right next door, I was immediately star-struck! It was an honor to be in the presence of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. I grew up in a Japanese household and on the weekends and late evening, we would tune in the Japanese channels to watch wacky game shows, documentaries, and, of course, cooking shows. Iron Chef was one of our favorites and would watch in Japanese. My mom and dad could interpret some of it, but we just stare in awe watching these masterful chefs cooking gourmet meals in an hour. Chef Morimoto offered me his Hamachi Taco with Nuoc Cham & Guacamole. The Hamachi was so tender, it just melted in my mouth. I actually had a flash back to my visit to Morimoto in Philadelphia. I had the best Japanese meals ever and the Hamachi was one of the highlights. The serving was perfect and I really wanted to get another one, but knew I had a lot more food and wine to try.
In 2006, Sacha Lichine acquired Chateau d’Esclans in Provence, France, a vineyard known for its famous range of Rosé wine. Winemaking is in Sacha’s DNA, Château Priuere Lichine in Margaux, France was owned by the Lichine family from 1951 to 1999. Paul Chevalier was not only decanting these beautiful Rosé wines but giving an education on the different types of Rosé starting with Whispering Angel to Château d’Esclans to Les Clans to the supreme Garrus. As Paul educated you on each wine, your taste buds are educated to pick up subtle flavors and experiences – different levels of sweetness, from crisp to velvet, fruity aromas. Their precise process for each wine from maceration to fermentation makes each wine special in its own way. If you’re in Provence, the winery is open from 10am-7pm daily (April through the end of September) and Monday through Friday from 10am-7pm (October through the end of March). For more information, please visit their website or call +33494604040.
Chef Megan Logan of Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse in Los Angeles created Dry Aged Steak Tartar, Olive Crostini, Bacon & Caper Aioli. This was absolutely gorgeous and tantalized my taste buds. The steak was melt-in-your-mouth tender. In the picture, you can actually see the beautiful marbling of this steak. The olive crostini was the perfect vehicle to get this tasty morsel in your mouth. The olive flavor worked really well with the steak and bacon & caper aioli. Brilliant execution!
Pat and Anne Stotebery own Ladera Vineyards in Angwin, CA. They purchased the property and spent a decade restoring it to its 1886 grandeur. The name Ladera, meaning hillside, celebrates its position atop the Napa Valley. Ladera specializes in subtle-but-super Bordeaux-style blends. The 2009 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon shows off the deep dark cherry flavor, fruity nose, and slightly acidic backend. If you’re wine tasting in Napa Valley, make a reservation to experience either a tasting or estate tour. For more information, visit their website or call 707.965.2445.
Chef Ray Garcia of Fig in Santa Monica, CA created a Goat & Habanero Torta. The goat was amazingly tender - like the best pot roast you’ve ever had. The whole thing was a delicious, hot mess from the sauce that the goat stewed in and the aioli. Fortunately, the torta held up well as I licked my fingers clean. I certainly didn’t want to waste a drop of it!
Want to hear more about the Los Angeles Food and Wine’ Lexus Grand Tasting? Stay tuned and stay hungry for Part II…
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Los Angeles Food & Wine's Lexus Grand Tasting