y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: Taste of the Nation Highlights

Taste of the Nation Highlights

Last Sunday I volunteered for the second year in a row at the annual fundraiser, Taste of the Nation in Media Park, Culver City. This annual event supports hare our Strength, a charity devoted to ending childhood hunger with their "No Kid Hungry" campaign. All proceeds of the event are going to L.A. Food Banks

The event contains booths from close to 50 top restaurants, spirits from bars, craft beer garden, wine, a live auction, carnival style games, cooking contest and a VIP tent!

Since I volunteered and had limited space to store or carry belongings, I opted for a no-camera day. However, I broke out my Blackberry to get a few shots whenever it was possible to balance the phone with plates and cups!

Although image quality isn't great, here are a few of my favorite sites and eats from the day.

Spare Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

Those vintage looking polka dot aprons were right up my mid-century alley, as were the inventive drinks at the Spare Room table.

Spare Room, Le Saint Amour

The ladies at Spare Room made this Plymouth Gin and cantaloupe drink with a scoop of spiced ginger sorbet in place of the ice (and a little wooden spoon). What's not to love?

Le Saint Amour offered a cherry foie gras pate, rabbit terrine with golden raisin compote on a crostini, a merguez sausage sandwich. I love anyone who serves these semi-hard to find North African spicy lamb sausages.

Luckhson - Chicken Pops

Chef/Owner Sang Yoon had both a Father's Office booth serving beer floats and a Lukshon both serving these finger-licking good Chicken Pops. One of the best chicken wings I've ever had in terms of caramelized seasoning, juiciness and presentation. I could have eaten 10 of these plates but settled on 1 1/2.

Simon LA

Simon LA's Kerry Simon and Marius Blin personally served up these Scarlet Scallops and Yellow Beets Napoleon with Green Garlic Goat Cheese. Visually stunning and it contained all my favorite ingredients in one refreshing dish. I've had squid ink pasta/risotto/pastries and now I've eaten a scarlet scallop.

Cocktail from VIP tent

The Foundry - Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Finally tasted the infamous Grilled Cheese Sandwich from Eric Greenspan's The Foundry on Melrose. The chefs at the booth were really fun. Before he handed me this beauty one of the chef's said this was the most beautiful plate of the day. People were asked to ring a large bell before getting their plate and he said my attempt at ringing the bell was the best of the day too!

La Descarga

La Descarga made perfect, classic daiquiris.

La Descarga - Bill Esparza performance

We stopped at La Descarga table at the right time because special guest musician Bill Esparza of one of my favorite blogs, Street Gourmet LA broke into a saxophone solo. Perfect timing.

1886 Bar at the Raymond

1886 Bar at the Raymond served up Bols Genever gin cocktails both during the event and at the after-party.

1886 Bar

They were "making" their own smaller straws fro the drinks and for some reason we asked for an encore. They are just fun to watch.

1886 Bar
The drink on the right was spicy and named Razor Blade. Both were excellent.

There were many other favorites not pictured:

  • La Seine served two winners - a coconut crusted jalapeno with a topping of albacore, salmon, yellowtail and aioli. Chef Alex Reznik's braised short rib with crispy chicken skin was my absolute favorite dish of the day. But since I devoured it so fast, I forgot to take the photo. You can see it at My Last Bite's page, who photographed it beautifully and also declared it her favorite bite of the day.
  • Michael Voltaggio's micro cones from the upcoming ink. I tried the blueberry pancake and olive oil vanilla cones.
  • Picca, Ricardo Zarate's (Food & Wine's Best New Chef) chicken anticucho, or skewers, with his grilling sauce and rocoto chili peppers
  • Ray's & Stark Bar Chef Kris Morningstar served stuffed chile with chorizo, dates and sherry almond sauce
  • Street's Susan Feniger & Kajsa Alger served the popular Kaya Toast, toasted bread spread thick with coconut jam, soy butter, drizzled with soy sauce and white pepper
  • Tres by Jose Andres' grilled octopus taco with lettuce wrapper and olive spheres
  • A-Frame's Roy Choi served Cracked Out Kettle Corn, a buttered furikake kettle corn with Benton's bacon, dried pineapple and fresh shiso. I've devoted another blog post to this soulful popcorn, which was kicked up a bit here.

Even though I was too full to continue eating, I barely made a dent in the nearly 50 choices.

Between noshes, there was plenty of chef sighting - several Top Chef alumni, Top Chef Masters finalist Mary Sue Miliken. My favorite was a brief encounter with Jonathan Gold, who "elbow"-shaked me since both of our hands were full of food.

Overall, a wildly successful event on a perfect summer day.

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