THE TASTE took over Paramount Pictures Studios again on Sunday, September 1 for the Labor Day Block Party event. It was hosted by Noelle Carter, Times Test Kitchen Director, and Nancy Silverton, Chef/Co-Owner of Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza, and spotlighted family fun and cool treats.
THE TASTE was broken up into two areas – a beautiful courtyard immersed in the area where they would normally film scenes on the water and the cityscape that could be streets from Brooklyn, Boston, or Los Angeles. Let’s take a tour…
Our first stop was Stella Artois for an ice cold taste of Cidre apple cider. It was very smooth and had the sweet, crisp taste of apples. Need to stock our fridge with this!
Our second stop was Manhattan Beach Creamery in Manhattan Beach, CA serving up the Cream’wich. It’s the luscious marriage of freshly-baked cookies and homemade ice cream. To keep these at an optimal temperature in the sizzling heat of the day, the cookies were frozen solid. After a few minutes in the heat, they were absolutely amazing – cool, creamy, luscious vanilla ice cream with home-baked chocolate chip cookies. Everything at Manhattan Beach Creamery is handmade in the shop just a block away from the beach and has been a local sweet and treat emporium for 10 years. Cream’wich was launched in December 2012 and is now available in over 40 retail locations. Every Wednesday is “Make-Your-Own Cream’wich” Day – choose from 6 varieties of cookies and 28 flavors of ice cream. Summer temperatures are still with us so make a stop at Manhattan Creamery this weekend and then take a stroll on the beach, watch the waves, and feel the sea breeze!
Our third stop was Fluff Ice in Monterey Park, CA serving up Peach Fluff Ice. It’s shaved ice but the flavor is in the block they are shaving versus Hawaiian-style where the ice is shaved and then flavored with syrups. It has an interesting texture almost like gelato or sorbet when it hits your tongue, but then disappears quickly like shaved ice. It’s a fantastic concept and my second time trying it. The first time I tried Fluff Ice was during a pop-up at Fat Choy in Las Vegas (article coming soon). I loved it then and had to hit it up again for more!
Our fourth stop was Rosa Mexicano in Los Angeles, CA serving up Pato Confitado (Duck Tinga) Tacos with slow-roasted duck, rocket greens, pear and guajillo chile salsa, and citrus pico de gallo. The flavors in this taco were amazing – tender duck meshed well with the citrus pico de gallo. My only complaint was that it had far too much juice from the meat and sauces which made the tortilla soggy and leaving behind a broken mess on a plate. Fixed that problem with a fork and munched away. They also made tableside guacamole with tortilla chips for dipping. It had a good, creamy flavor, but it was way too chunky. Some of the avocado pieces were almost 2 inches long and was very hard to eat with the tortilla chips. It was hard to scoop out with the tortilla chips so I used the pointed edges of the chips to “spear” the avocado pieces. Interesting concept but might be done better in a restaurant setting.
Our fifth stop was the Sysco Pavilion to get more of the sliced tri-tip that we had the day before at the “Field to Fork” event. They must have changed chefs as it was not as good as the day before. It was chewy and much too well-done than I would have liked. The three-potato salad was really flavorful. Some of the potatoes need a bit more cooking time, but otherwise, a great summer picnic salad.
Our sixth stop was Got Kosher? Café & Bakery in Los Angeles, CA serving up Almond Macaroon. Unlike the normal coconut-laden macaroon that you are used to, these delights exude the true flavors of almonds – not too sweet, with a nutty flavor, like an almond truffle. Alain Cohen opened Got Kosher? Café in the spring of 2012 with French-Tunisian inspired Mediterranean cuisine. Their Gourmet Challahs started the buzz and were on display at their booth – beautiful deep, brown color, with little peeks of what is inside from kalamata olives to rosemary. I must make a trek to this restaurant soon as their lunch and dinner menus sound amazing! The Grillade Royale, which is a mixed grill of steak, lamb shoulder, merguez, heart, and sweetbread, is the number one priority for me to try! Take a look at their website and see what pops out at you. They even have Smokin’ Sundays with pulled beef brisket and barbeque.
Our seventh stop was McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams which I visited at the “Field to Fork” event. I tried the Double Peanut Butter Chip ice cream. It was onolicious! If you love peanut butter and chocolate as much as I do, you definitely have to try this flavor. The peanut butter isn’t that candied stuff either; it’s the real deal – peanutty richness, smooth, and silky. The chocolate chips were more like chocolate speckles like in a mint chip ice cream, just small enough to melt on the tongue and mix with the peanut butter. I love that artisan ice creams have become mainstream so we don’t need to eat that store-bought, artificially flavored stuff anymore! Once you have the real deal, it’s hard to go back to processed stuff.
Our eight stop was the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. They are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year and what better way than with the Birthday Cake Ice Blended. I am a big fan of CBTL, but this flavor is not one of my favorites. The vanilla base was too bland for me. I like the chocolate and fruit flavored varieties better, like the Blackforest or Pomegranate Blueberry. The presentation is very cute with the confetti confections sprinkled on top.
Our ninth stop was Haven Gastropub in Pasadena, CA serving up Bratwurst-Style Pork Sausage with Pickled Cabbage and Beer Mustard. The sausage had the perfect brat-texture, not too chunky and not too fine. It was so juicy that it would be great in a crusty French roll to absorb all of those flavors. The pickled cabbage paired well with sweet, sour offset. The beer mustard was as a little too strong for me, but if paired up with a sandwich, it would be great. Chef Greg Daniels is an iconic name in Orange County with his 3 sites – Haven Gastropub and Provision Market in Orange and Taco Asylum in Costa Mesa. Once you have his Short Rib Taco, you’ll never look back. His passion for food makes us foodies hungry for more. He is pro-Foie and can’t wait for it to come back to California. I miss it so much! Check out Haven Gastropub and let Chef Greg dazzle your taste buds! I guarantee you’ll be coming back for more.
Our tenth stop was Coni’Seafood in Inglewood, CA serving up Tostaditos with Shrimp, Octopus, Sea Snail, and Jicama Ceviche. The variety of seafood in this ceviche was great. It wasn’t too sour from the citrus and had a nice texture from the tender seafood and crunchy red onions, jicama, and corn tostadito. Great cool food for a hot day!
Our eleventh stop was Cuties serving up their Rockin’ Red Tangerine, Strawberry Smoothie Drink. The cute bottle made the kids come up, but with the hot, sweltering day, these little drinks were ice cold and gave us the sugar rush to perk us up and continue our quest. The texture was thick like a smoothie, yet light enough to quench your thirst. I would definitely stock these up at home for myself and future child.
Our twelfth stop was Dog Haus in Pasadena, CA serving up Soo Cali. It was served a little differently using their Red Thai Currywurst and topped with arugala, diced tomato, crispy onions, spicy basil aioli, and avocado. It was fantastic and spicy! I couldn’t stop eating it. The bun was crispy on top and soft and tender on the inside like a Hawaiian bread roll. The sausage was medium grind and spicy, but not spicy enough that it stopped me from finishing it. The toppings worked well with the sausage making it a delectable dish.
Our thirteenth stop was Juan’s Restaurante in Baldwin Park, CA serving up Empanada de Huitlacoche. Huitlacoche is a mushroom that grows on corn cobs and tastes like a sweet truffle. I have wanted to try this ever since I saw Andrew Zimmern eat it on Bizarre Foods. I love bizarre and outrageous foods! But, my journey came to a halt as I tried a ‘spicy’ mango salsa they offered. It was so hot it burned out my taste buds and numbed my tongue and throat for a while. I love hot and spicy, but this was straying close to ghost pepper city and it was, admittedly, a little painful. I should have gone back for one of those CBTL Birthday Cake Ice Blended drinks to put the fire out. From what I could barely read on my taste buds was a little cheese and slight truffle-like flavor. The texture as you bite into it was like a Totino Pizza Roll, crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside in a good way. I think I will have to make a trek to this restaurant to try it again. I’ll just stay away from the mango salsa!
Our fourteenth stop was Waffles de Liege Food Truck serving up their Original Liege Waffle. Their waffle is very different from any I have had before. It was soft yet the texture was a cross between a croissant and dense cake. This base is what has made them famous in SoCal. I can’t wait to see them on the road again to try one of their sweet selections of waffles for dessert!
Our fifteenth and final stop was the Taiwan Tourism Bureau. I played a dice game and actually got the highest roll, all 6s on 3 dice, only the 3rd one of the day. Your roll must beat the other player and I won a stick of Taiwan Night Market Sausage and a small collectible tea cup. The sausage reminded me of lap xiong, but sweeter and with a coarser grind. This would be great cubed up in fried rice or served in a bao. Thanks to Tea Station for providing the sausage for the event!
Thank you, Los Angeles Times, for putting together such great events for The TASTE! I can’t wait to go again and look forward to what you have planned for next year!