Under the frenetic lights of the Nokia Plaza, located in the epicenter of the hip and ever-expanding downtown Los Angeles, affectionately known as DTLA, is the opening of the LA Food and Wine Show. The decadent four-day event spans from downtown across the city to the shore of the Pacific in Santa Monica and features countless chefs from restaurants across California. Chef superstar Giada De Laurentis hosts Thursday’s event, called Giada’s Festa Italiana and it features Italian chefs from restaurants as far north as Big Sur and more than 200 wines from wineries across the world.
While the process is simple, the event itself, is at first, daunting. It is hard to wrap my brain around the availability of 200 wines and food from twenty-eight of California’s finest restaurants. Not to try each and every one would be a colossal slap in the face to foodies across the globe, and while the term “foodie” makes me cringe, tonight, that is just what I am.
By night’s end, culinary delights from such chefs as Matt Molina from Osteria Mozza, Gino Angelini from Angelini Osteria, John Cox from Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn, Danny Elmaleh of Cleo, Top Chef’s Fabio Viviani from Café Frienze, Michael Fiorelli of Mar’sel will be fighting for space in my stomach in a sea chardonnays, merlots, pinot noirs, pinot grigios, syrahs, and tempernios to name a few and while that thought makes me fear for the future, never in my life have I been so eager to live in the present.
The line for a tasting of Giada De Laurentis’ featured dish of the night, Penne with Short Ribs Ragu and Summer Watermelon and Coucous, is long but moves fast. As it does, I sip a Pinot Grigio from an Italian vineyard called Barrymore, owned none other than Drew Barrymore. There are whispers that she might even turn up to pour a couple of glasses herself. To my right, Giada herself poses for pictures with adoring fans and upon trying her Short Rib Ragu, I understand exactly why. Forget that she’s famous. Her food is perfect.
Some of the dishes are familiar ones. Others, like Post Ranch Inn’s John Cox get creative, serving oysters with lemon verbena, cucumber, basil seeds and balsamic. Cleo’s Elmaleh personally hands me a squash blossom with tallegio, honey and truffle. While I don’t have the slightest idea what tallegio is (sorry foodies), my taste buds are pulled into a thousand blissful directions.
As the hot Los Angeles evening turns dark, the event is as packed as my stomach. I bring the night to a close with a olive oil and sea salt truffle from Los Angeles Chocolatier Jonathan Grahm, owner of Compartes Chocolatier and a alcohol infused push up pop (like the ones we had when we were kids, only with booze), courtesy of the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, called a Pour Some Sugar on Me. It is made up of Maker’s Mark, Peach Rooibos Tea, pureed peaches, and lemon juice. As I finish this modified version of a childhood favorite, Saturday’s featured chef saunters past me. It is none other than Wolfgang Puck and if I’m going to eat some of his food, I best stop for now so there will be room.