by Andrea London
“Would you like to try our rattlesnake and rabbit sausage?” the lady asked us as we walked up to L.A.’s famed Wurstkuche booth. Um, rattlesnake and rabbit? Yes, please! After all, this was The Taste of L.A., a foodie’s paradise that comes every Labor Day weekend, comprised of five different food-sampling events spanning three days. Sadly, we could only pick one event this year: Flavors of L.A. Our ticket included unlimited wine, beer, spirits and food tastings, plus access to all seminars and presentations featuring California's most well-known chefs and foodie journalists.
Sportos may have the Super Bowl, film geeks may have the Academy Awards, but then there's my kind. The Taste is my Holy Grail for food, and I was determined to try everything this event had to offer, even if it did include a sausage that combines rattlesnake and rabbit (for those of you wondering, it tasted like chicken, grilled to perfection). Braving long lines, the hot sun, alcohol at every turn, and some of L.A.’s most fabulous, we roamed the Paramount Studios backlot in search of the city's greatest culinary fare. Of course, stars like Susan Feniger’s STREET, Lukshon, Farmshop, Milo & Olive Milling Co., the aforementioned Wurstkuche, and The Counter took center stage, but other, just-as-worthy restaurants had us raving too.
Some of our faves we'll be visiting again soon:
1. Schulzies Bread Pudding - Finding the names of the eight different flavors as irresistible as the bread pudding itself (Millie Vanillie, Salted Caramel Sutra, Boom Boom Banana), don’t forget to add sauce like peanut butter and whisky for a flavorgasm in your mouth. It made Kaila exclaim, “This was worth the price of admission alone!” ‘Nuff said.
2. Black Market Liquor Bar – A mysterious punch and dessert were on display, prompted me to ask, “What are you serving?” Without missing a beat, the cute guy in the booth told me the punch was, “deliciousness in a cup!” (Pointing to the dessert, what looked like a fried cake of messy goodness) “And is this deliciousness on a fork?” I asked excitedly. “No,” he said, looking at me like I’m from Mars, “It’s deliciousness on a plate.” Duh. (And btw – they weren’t telling anyone about their mysterious delectables. Kaila and I definitely detected marshmallows, bananas and caramel in the fried cake of deliciousness – heaven).
3. Picca Peruvian Cantina – Chef Ricardo Zarate scored high marks last year with his culinary wit in Los Angeles Magazine (fourth best new restaurant in L.A.), GQ (sixth best new restaurant in the U.S.) and Traveler Magazine (tenth best new restaurant in the world). He also became Food and Wine’s best new chef in America. All in 2011. My new culinary hero. That’s a lot to live up to, but when I tried his unagi casa roll (eel wrapped in yellow mashed potato), Chef Zarate had me forever and proved his praise is well deserved. Well done sir. Go visit Chef Zarate at his new location, Mo-Chica, in downtown L.A. and follow them on Twitter @piccaperu.
4. Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwiches – This food truck cum ice cream shop had one of the longest lines of the day, but well worth the wait. Their sammies challenge your palate with flavors like Brown Butter Candied Bacon ice cream on chocolate chip cookies, Fried Chicken and Waffles and Pistachio Black Truffle ice cream on Brioche cookies, just to name a few. You can even eat the wrapper, how eco-friendly is that?!?
5. La Casita Mexicana’s Coconut Agua Fresca - It tasted like horchata but with a different dimension. For someone who grew up in San Diego (and knows good horchata), I will be back for more
Chaya’s tuna burger combines teriyaki and guacamole, making the combination a hit and my taste buds sing.
Sweets for the Soul’s unique and tasty honey and lavender cake.
Food truck Waffles de Liege boasted fresh-baked waffles topped with butter and caramel, making me want to follow them wherever they go.
And Cake Mamas (below) are back again this year with cupcake flavors like salted caramel (a growing trend in L.A. no doubt) and my personal fave, churro.
Let the food coma commence.