My first time at Taste of a Nation

A coworker of Husband’s told us about this event a while ago and ever since finding out about it, I’ve been keeping watch for the next LA date.  The minute tickets went on sale, I snatched up VIP ones and counted down to June 6th.  Taste of a Nation is an event that occurs in different cities at different times of the year.  Chefs in that locale get together and offer up tastings of various items, all in the name of ending childhood hunger in America via the Share Our Strength charity organization.  Tickets for the LA event aren’t cheap but you get access to an amazing event AND, even better, you help out a great cause.

Media Park in Culver City

The Taste of a Nation LA event was held in Culver City’s Media Park, a perfect location with trees for shade in some areas and easy access parking.  VIP tickets included free valet parking.  It was awfully nice of the organizers not to oversell capacity; there were a lot of attendees but the park was never uncomfortably crowded, nor were there ever any insane lines to get to the food.  I think the only complaint I had that day was about the amount of sun I got.  I need to remember a hat next year and sunscreen.  *ouch ouch sunburned cheeks*

Husband and I were there with a couple of other foodie friends and we attempted to sample everything but failed.  Still, we managed to try some amazing bites like the beef cheeks from XIV, Public’s sliders on brioche and duck and foie gras sausage, The Foundry’s grilled cheese sandwich and Street’s Burmese Melon Salad.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

Watermelon gazpacho shots by Bazaar (Jose Andres)

Liquid nitrogen magic!

The AMAZING beef cheeks with a corn foam courtesy of XIV (Michael Mina)

Salted caramel gelato from Gelato Bar...perfect for the warm day (Joel Gutman/Gail Silverton)

The Foundry's grilled cheese (Eric Greenspan)

Torchon foie gras with organic apple gastrique and marcona almond brittle by Bottega Louie (Sam Marvin)

Burmese melon salad by Street (Susan Feniger)

That’s but just a taste of what was offered. Most of it was amazing though there were a few dishes that were too salty for me or just didn’t really win me over for one reason or another.

Chef Michael Voltaggio demo-ing how to make a pasta dinner

Liquid nitro man

There was a cooking demo by Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio.  If you watched the show, you know that he does some amazing but complex dishes.  For his demo, instead of doing something that seems like it requires years of culinary expertise, he kept it simple and showed how to make a meal for 8 from a few simple ingredients, something that resonated with the theme of the event.  But for dessert, he whipped out the liquid nitrogen and made churros.  That was pretty awesome.  🙂  I had the chance to meet him and he was quite nice.  He also showed off his new tattoo – the Taste of the Nation logo…

Wait, are they auctioning off LudoBites or Chef Ludo?

Part of the event is a silent auction where people can bid on various items like gift baskets or trips.  There was also a live auction to bid on catering services by various chefs.  Chef Ludo Lefebvre offered up his Ludobites Truck and Chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken auctioned off their Border Grill truck for private parties. I have to say, Chef Feniger is just awesomely energetic and enthusiastic, and it was a lot of fun watching her jump on stage and encourage the bidders.  I think she’s my new chef crush…  Her passion is infectious.

There was also a little “carnival” section where you could trade in tickets to make use of the mobile photobooth truck or attempt to win restaurant gift certificates via a culinary trivia game.  I tried my hand at the trivia three times and managed to win three times!  🙂  Wooo…an 8oz Burger and 2 Fraiche gift certs!  I have to say though, some of those questions were challenging…

All in all, this was really a fabulous event and even Husband enjoyed himself.  I think the free booze won him over.  He did say though that he felt like a vegan at a BBQ since there wasn’t much that he could eat due to most items having some sort of fruit or vegetable in it.  *roll eyes*

We both swore that we will try to make this event every year.  We had a lot of fun and got to support a worthwhile cause.  We also want to win one of those live auctions…time to save up a few thousand dollars!  🙂

More pictures can be seen on my Facebook page.

For more information on Taste of a Nation, visit http://taste.strength.org.  I highly encourage you to attend next year!

Top Chef Masters Viewing Party w/ Chef Ludo Lefebvre

Husband and I became avid fans of Top Chef after we caught a few episodes of Season 2.  When we heard that there was going to be a Top Chef Masters, we were excited.  How would some of the most renowned chefs perform, especially the ones that had previously been judges?

The first season last year was my introduction to Chef Ludo Lefebvre.  I was a little padawan foodie, learning my way around the LA food scene (still am!).  I remember watching him, wondering what the hell he was saying, and getting a kick from the bickering between him and Chef Rick Moonen.  Fast forward to the last few months…  I’ve since gotten a better handle on LA food and restaurants and, no surprise,  Chef Ludo’s name has been popping up quite a bit with the exponentially increasing popularity of his pop-up restaurant, LudoBites as well as his LFC – Ludo Fried Chicken.

Finally about to get me some Ludobites!

Wine, wine and more wine

Chef Ludo returned to the 2nd season of Top Chef Masters and when the episode aired on 4/21, he threw a viewing party at Akasha in Culver City.  Husband and I were there to watch all the fun as he and the other contestants, including Moonen, fought for a spot in the next round and redeem themselves.  But more so, we were there to eat some LFC for the first time.

Akasha is in the building that many geeks would recognize as the exterior of Flynn’s Arcade from the movie, “Tron”.  Let’s just say that the interior of Akasha is about as far from an arcade as you can get. The space isn’t huge but the open contemporary floor plan makes it feel intimate yet large at the same time. I couldn’t stop staring at the extensive wine collection behind the large bar.

Sage Lemondrop

Since we got there when the party started, the place was still fairly empty.  That was fine as it allowed us to grab a table.  A waitress came by and we ordered the cocktail of the night – Sage Lemondrop.  Chef Ludo combined organic gin, organic lemonade and sage leaves to make this.  I always thought I hated gin (ugh, gin n’ tonics are nasty!) but this was delicious.  A little tangy, not too sweet…

My plate of everything

Bacon biscuits

They were still setting up the food, served buffet style.  I spied a large basket of jalapeño corn bread, salad, deviled eggs, something in a large pot and biscuits.  Hrm, a Southern theme…  I can dig it.

When everything was set up, Husband and I dug in.  I grabbed a little of everything.  The large pot ended up containing collard greens with black-eyed peas, not my favorite.  I’m not really a bean person.  There was also mac n’ cheese, a red cabbage cole slaw and mashed potatoes.  The biscuits had bacon bits in it which sold Husband on them, and me, as well.  The couple that loves bacon together…well, gets fat together.  These were soft, fluffy; I kept having to constrain myself from going back for more.

Awesome mac n' cheese

As a mac n’ cheese lover, I’m a bit picky about it.  Chef Ludo made a fantastic classic version.  Many other versions I’ve had never had enough cheese sauce for my liking but this wasn’t the case.  And the crunchy crumbs on top is a must from a texture point of view, I think.

LFC

Since they wanted to make sure everyone got some LFC, we were limited to 3 pieces.  That’s okay, because these boneless fried balls of poultry were quite large.  A nice amount of batter that didn’t come out too saturated in oil, the herbs really gave it a lot of flavor.  Even Husband was impressed.  I think I heard the words “some of the best fried chicken ever” come out of his mouth.  I agree.  And the lemon aoli sauce gave a nice tang to it.  I can understand the hype surrounding LFC.

This bird will OWN you...

By the time the viewing started, the place was packed with Ludo fans like this guy.  It was fun watching the show with other people who were just as into it as us.  While Ludo didn’t win on the show, he certainly won me and Husband over.

Now I’m really sad I wasn’t able to get a reservation for LudoBites 4.0 at Gram & Papa’s…*sniff sniff*  Well, there will be a LudoBites 5.0, right?

The Catty Critic give LFC 5 NOMs!  More please…

For more pictures, visit my Facebook page!

LudoBites
Pops up at various locations