Monday, August 1, 2011

Taste of the Nation (Better late than never...)

Oh what a difference a year makes. Last year, I was on top of my blogging. I wrote up my TOTNLA post within a week after the event. This year, work is ramping up so this post is coming to you over 2 months late. At least our strategy for tackling the event has been refined. Last year, we left the place uncomfortably full and even had to forgo some of the stands because we were too full. We foolishly had breakfast at home which consisted of seared foie gras and brioche. This year we skipped breakfast and even opted for a lighter dinner the night before. Last year, we also each had a bite from every stand. This year, we shared the same bite so we were able to hit almost all the stands.

Taste of the Nation is an annual charity food & drink event, where restaurants, bars and winemakers come together to raise money for the charity Share Our Strength. Of a handful of food events that I’ve been to, this has been my favorite because it’s very well-run, the restaurants present are all very reputable, and it never seems too crowded because they hold it at the Culver City Media Park with almost 50 restaurants.

Some of my favorites:

Culina ~ Grilled lamb chops
This was probably my favorite bite of the day. Perfect finger food and easy to eat. The lamb chop was juicy and cooked to a perfect medium rare. It was served with cous cous, sweet corn and saffron mint pesto.

Street ~ Kaya Toastwith coconut jam and dark soy custard
Susan Feniger’s take of Singaporean street food. The kaya toast, made with coconut jam, was delicious and decadent. This is getting me excited for my trip to Singapore in 19 days!

Public~ fried pig skin crispy on newspaper
Public’s dish was a porchetta sandwich which was sold out by the time I got there, but they had some leftover pork which they served up. Perhaps the best thing I ate all day. The fried skin was greasy and porky in flavor. Tasted like suckling pig skin.

Bazaar by Jose Andres - olive sphere, grilled octopus taco
There were a few octopus dishes at the event but this was by far the best. The octopus was grilled to perfection. It was tender and well seasoned.

Joe's Restaurant - Paella with chorizo, mussels and chicken
I love Joe Miller’s other restaurant, Bar Pintxo. Their squid ink paella is to die for. This seafood version was delicious. Bonus points for cooking it up on the spot.

Michael Voltaggio’s upcoming restaurant Ink was set up in the VIP tent, serving a cocktail that tasted like a Pimm’s Cup.

Ink ~ Wagyu beef tongue cold cuts with pumpernickel and drizzled with mustard snow
The tongue was so delicate and buttery. It was served with pickled radishes and a pumpernickel beignet which tasted like pretzel bread.

Other bites:

Fig ~ torta de lengua with breakfast radish and escabeche
The thin beef tongue was spicy with its juices abosrbing into the bread.

Jitlada ~ Crying Tiger Pork, Pork Belly Green Beans
Flavorful and delicious but extremely fiery. I’m glad they served it with rice which helped to dissipate some of the heat. I thought the pork belly was a bit too greasy, but overall, a very delicious dish.

Patina ~ Lobster and Fresh Almond Gazpacho
Light and refreshing for a warm day. There was a crunch in the gazpacho.

Harfields ~ Tropical tres leches cake topped with lime curd, coconut crumble, marinated strawberries, and a coconut filo wafer

Hatfield's - Spanish Octopus Salad
I thought the salad needed additional seasoning and the octopus was rather rubbery.

Grace/ BLD~ Berkshire pork banh mi
The Banh mi was quite tasty with spicy slaw, fresh herbs, and crispy cracklins.

Border Grill: Cold poached Alaska salmon on a jicama tostadita, topped with tomatillo herb salsa, Alaska crab and quinoa fritters with aji amarillo aioli, piquillo pepper romesco

The Foundry: Grilled cheese sandwich made with taleggio and apricot-caper puree on raisin bread
Pretty similar to what they served last year, the grilled cheese is Chef Eric Greenspan's specialty.

Wp24 ~ Chow fueng roll with braised beef short rib
Probably the city’s most expensive dim sum, I think. I just dined on this at WP24. The beef noodle roll had a non gummy nice wrapper and was stuffed with tender meat.

Mozza ~ porcini rubbed BBQ Creekstone Farms short ribs
The meat itself was well seasoned and tasty, but I thought it was too difficult to eat without a fork.Le Saint Amour~ charcuterie
I opted for the rabbit rillette which was fatty. Also sampled the foie gras and cherry pate.Fathers office/Lukshon ~ Chicken Pops
Really enjoyed this chicken lollipop. The meat was spicy with a sweet caramelization.Red O ~ sope stuffed chile with chorizo, dates and sherry almond sauce; grilled Mazatlan blue shrimp with fresh jicama ‘chips’Whist ~ grilled octopus with smoked potatoesLa Siene ~ Coconut jalapeño with albacore, salmon, yellowtail, and aioli
La Siene is Top Chef Alex Reznik’s new French Asian restaurant. The breaded jalapeño had a really nice crunchy breading. Interesting inclusion of coconut in the batter. The yellowtail was fresh and seasoned adequately.

Loteria ~ Pollo en mole topped with toasted sesame seeds, onion, and fresh Mexican cheese; conchita pibil pork slowly roasted in banana leaf topped with citrus, pickled red onion and chile habanero; papas con rajas, potato with roasted poblano peppers
I loved the fatty lengua. They also made a really fresh tortilla.

Chaya ~ Hamachi Mole Pressed Sushi

Chaya ~ Sukiyaki Short Rib
I liked the combination of the salty short ribs with puree

Campanile ~ Olive oil fried egg on grilled bread with black olive tapenade and tomato concasse
The fried egg was cooked nicely with a runny yolk, however I thought the rest of the dish was rather ordinary.

AOC ~ African salad
A bit underwhelming. Wish they served something more appetizing.

Simon ~ Scarlet scallops and yellow beets Napoleon with green garlic goat cheese

Lexington Social House ~ fried chicken and cornbread
I love fried chicken so I was excited for some of this. A bit dry but I liked the seasoned breading. I also enjoyed the kale which was braised in ham hock and garlic.

Playa ~ tamale chipotle
Playa is John Sedler (Riveria)’s new restaurant. Sadly, I found the tamale to be dry.

Picca/ Mo chica ~ Chicken Anticucho
Richardo Zarate’s new restaurant Picca showcased this chicken skewer which was juicy and flavorful. Excited to try Picca after sampling this bite.

Finally, on to desserts.

Scoops ~ Miso cheesecake and bacon maple
Scoops never disappoints. I love the unique flavors of Scoops and I never feel ill even after eating a pint of their ice cream. Can’t wait till they get Durian flavor back again.

We also got some beer from Golden state (sour cherry cuvee) and made a float from the bacon ice cream at Scoops. Comme Ca ~ strawberry panna cotta
I did not care for this dessert. I found it to be bland with a weird consistency.

Similar to last year, I was impressed with the event. The participating restaurants were all pretty top-notch, and the event as a whole was well-run. There were lots of lengua and octopus this year, some better than others. The only critique I had was the VIP valet line was over 30 minutes long. Regular parking was faster than VIP. But at the end of the day, it's all for the kids. Till next year. Here's hoping it won't take me 2 months to write it up again.

Taste of the Nation
June 12, 2011
Culver City Media Park
9070 Venice Blvd.,
Culver City, CA 90232

1 comment:

Diana said...

Wow! I can't believe how many dishes I missed! Wish I had seen the octopus from the Bazaar! I love those cephalopods. ;)

Nice work eating the whole nation! I bow down at the master.