Tom and I attended two food events in the last two months, and I loved both of them. Following Taste of the Nation, Los Angeles, I found the event listing for the Great American Food & Music Fest that had been an utter failure last year, reviews of which were hilariously endless entertainment on Yelp and are ongoing to this day. I was really glad I didn’t even consider going to this last year. Not only was it expensive to even get in the doors (tickets about $40-$50 and don’t include food) and $15 to park at the event, people still had to pay for food once they got in, lines were ridiculous, and vendors ran out of food very early. The Great American Food Fest, it seemed, was the absolutely complete opposite from Taste of the Nation.
I tend to avoid foodie events because, well, it’s no surprise that people like food and when they can get a lot of it in one place, it really brings the masses. We attempted to visit the Street Food Fest in SF last year, and it was a fucking madhouse. Even for the prices, it didn’t make sense, and we ended up getting the hell out of the Mission and having an awesome dinner at Suppenkuche.
Taste of the Nation is a nationwide organization, and many events are held throughout the country to benefit charities dedicated to ending childhood hunger. Believe me, the irony of all-you-can-eat gourmet culinary food events is not lost on me. But I can’t resist. The Los Angeles event was held last weekend in Culver City and I’d managed to get discounted tickets by attending a happy hour at Foundry on Melrose. At first I was concerned about how batshit crazy and crowded it might be, but I read reviews from previous ToTN and a lot of people highly recommended it.
It was fucking awesome. Sure there was a teensy line of people waiting to get in before it started, but once those gates opened, it was chow time. There were tons of upscale LA restaurants, chefs, and wineries strategically laid out, half on one side of the park, half on the other to dilute the crowds. Booths pumped out more-than-generous sample-sized portions of their most delectable food (uh, except for Fig, which was putting out entire hot dogs with buns… it was completely pointless because all people wanted was a couple bites and then they’d throw the rest away). Nobu and the miso-marinted cod, the recipe which I’ve been making a LOT these past couple weeks, was there to show me how it was done (made me so happy). Lots of sliders, which got old fast, but they were all unique and delicious. Lots of braised beef and steak. Some foie gras.
The other food event is one that I’ve attended for three years in a row now. Cooking for Solutions at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is actually a weekend-long series of lectures, cooking demos, and other events intended to inform people about sustainable ways to cook seafood among other things. I only attend the gala, in which they open up the aquarium at night and fabulous restaurants and wineries set up tables throughout and serve all-you-can-eat and drink. The samples are pretty innovative and things I don’t even think I’d be able to make at home (sea urchin butter??) and it’s pretty cool wandering around the aquarium at night with most of the tanks lit up (both by the inhabitants and external lights). While the quality of food was a little better at ToTN, Cooking for Solutions is so much fun.
So summer is here, or at least approaching, and it seems prime time for foodie events. I have a soft spot in my heart for Palo Alto’s Chili Cook-Off, and I hope no one else does.