Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Taste of the Nation, The Taste of Alhambra: A day of Conquest and Passion (not for the sqeamish)

In my goal in life to one day, get paid to eat, today was a milestone.

When people find out how profound my passion for food is, they tend to treat me differently. Most, just brush me off as some sort of weirdo, some reply with the automatic "why are you so skinny!?" and of course, the imminent envious non sequitur of "just wait until you get older..." is sure to follow.

In this case, for the first time ever, it got me on the "comped" list for an event of such massive proportions, The Taste of the Nation.

Can anyone imagine the degree of my anticipation? I almost couldn't sleep, these were all the restaurants I only dream of eating at, the places where the closest I get are the countless hours spent revering over their online menu's.

And...oooh, did I seize the day.

I tasted almost every single thing from every single booth, and still went back for seconds after those appalling feelings of utter disgust occasionally popped up.

From my first encounter with Foie Gras in the form form of a "foie gras nutty buddy" ice cream cone from Sunset Restaurant (flavor reminded me of some distant cast-off cousin of bologna) to the ambrosial richnesses of Melisse's meltingly tender "Liberty Duck Breast" with buttery, creamy polenta and the season's first sweet cherries, I saw just how beautiful life can be.

I can't obviously list all of them, so here are some of my most venerated.
(To make sure I got to sample everything, I tasted whatever was offered by the booth at the time I went to them. So, I would swith radically between "entree" and "dessert", I'm not such a stickler for for that kind of structure yet, but I noticed a lot of people their were):
Simon L.A: An extremely light and refreshing "Jumbo Lump Crab Salad".
Napa Valley Grille: Niman Ranch "Braised Short Ribs" with Polenta.
Ciudad: Vegan "Watermelon and Ca. Avocado Ceviche w/ Agar-Agar Jelly cubes"
M Cafe: Vegan Carrot Cake, Macademia Nut Brownie, Pistachio Macaroon.
Providence: Luscious "Valrhona White Chocolate Saffron Cremeux, Apricots, Black Olive Nougatine", oh my god.
Sona: "Braised Pork Belly, Smoked Eggplant puree, Celery Root-Shiso Salad"
Ford's Filling Station: "Smoked Trout Brandade", silky.
Joes's Restaurant/Bar Pintxo: "Passionfruit Tapioca with Coconut Granita"!
Little Dom's: "Pistachio Cannoli"!
Fraiche: "White Gazpacho with Marcona Almonds and Scallops",mmmmmm.
Angeli Caffe: "Riccota gnocchi", voluptious.
K-ZO: "Spicy Tuna on Brown Rice Cracker", crispy!
AK: "Cognac Salmon Gravlax, Pumpernickel Crostini, Expresso Honey Mustard"
Citrus at Social: "Kit Kat Bar" (Hazelnut Wafer with Dark Chocolate Ganache)
Boa Steakhouse: 12 Hour Smoked Kobe Brisket, dissolving.

These were only SOME of the ones I liked the best, and this was without all the free booze (damn those staunch utopian protestants!)

As you may have noticed, I have still much practice due to merit the art of "pacing myself". Especially since The Taste of Alhambra happened to also be on the same day, and I was not going to let the little fact of both being on the same day ruin either experience for me, so...I went to both. The black hole which is my stomach had trouble accepting that decision, but like my great guru Jonathan Gold enlightened me with at the event, "you get used to it".

Since my self-esteem was at an all time high, I managed to get in to this free as well (just said I was on the "press list" and "walked in like I owned the place") fortunately for me but unfortunate for Alhambra, it was the exact same thing as last year. A corporate, franchise bonanza teeming with dull, bland, pedestrian, flavors biasly aimed for the masses: sickly sweet things from "Tony Toma's", "T.G.I.F Fridays", "Red Brick Pizza"...need I say more.

In fact, the best thing I had was this Phyllo pastry cup filled with whipped goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes, courtesy of the culinary art class at San Gabriel High School, I am serious. Aside from that, the only other thing that really stood out were the Collard Greens from Angelenas Southern Food, just like last year.

If it makes anyone feel better, I enjoyed every single thing I ingested today, oh yeah, and I walked all the way home, to still live to tell the tale (from Alhambra to East L.A: 2 1/2 hrs).

A day full of conquest and fueled with nothing more than cheap, sustainable passion.


Anonymous said...

Hello! This is Tiye from your creative writing class at PPC! Just wanted to say that this is all very cool! Good job.

kirby! said...

JESUS! I kind of hate you. That sounds unbelieveable. So how do normal/not-culinarily-important peeps like myself get access to events like these (for free)????

Anonymous said...

HI - I was there too - wasn't it the best! I got to taste everything and meet several great chefs like Ben Ford of Ford's Filling Station, Govind Armstrong of Table 8, and Jimmy Shaw of the Lotteria Grill. It was awesome to see the brains behind my favorite food! Your blog is awesome!

Anonymous said...

check you out, celebrity!! ;)
so, entree and dessert at one booth, then entree again (and dessert) at the next, booth after booth!?!
talk about schizophrenic mixed signals to your body!!
congrats on all the tasting:)

H. C. said...

Wow... I'm so jelly of your freebie into the Taste of the Nation. But so glad that you got to taste all those wonderful delights.

I am not sure that I'd want to go to Taste of Alhambra even if I had the bravado of just marching up and saying I'm "press"

pleasurepalate said...

TG: You definitely have hutzpah (sp?) All that eating and a 2-1/2 hour walk? I only wish I had your passion and your energy. :)