Tuesday, September 25, 2012

No. 223: Observations & Tips for The Taste LA

It's been three weeks out and I still can't get over the sheer gluttony & indulgence at The Taste LA, the three-day, five-event L.A.Times-organized extravaganza highlighting the amazing bites & sips this city has to offer.

Taking place over Labor Day weekend, The Taste was a series of events structured around different themes, from the family-friendly Labor Day Picnic on Monday to the more spirited Cocktail Confidential to profiling SoCal's signature eats with Flavors of L.A.

Overall, I had a fun time, from . . .
Huckleberry Sweets 
. . . tasting dishes from some of my favorites around town, from Huckleberry's baked goods to the mini lamb burgers at Haven Gastropub to the Autumn Maple beer from The Bruery.

FigOly Crab Gazpacho 
. . . to trying new fare, like FigOly's crab-topped gazpacho, lobster rolls from the Terranea resort and beer cocktails made with Hangar 24's Orange Wheat by the Golden Gopher.

Beer Cocktails Demo 
. . . to attending the demonstrations & presentations, such as this one on beer cocktails with LA Times' Betty Hallock and The Beer Chicks.
Zahra Bates   
. . . to, of course, meeting the chefs, bartenders, proprietors and fellow bloggers & writers in-person and upfront (which, frankly, is too many to list unless I want to turn this blogpost into a NaNoWriMo production!)
The Taste 
That being said, like most other food events in town, there are always room for improvement--while The Taste was held on the lovely Paramount Studios set, it had a dearth of devices to deal with the crazy heatwave that weekend; fans, misters, or an A/Ced room would've been much appreciated. (I was, however, plenty thankful that Icelandic Glacial provided plenty of cold bottled water to the hot & parched masses.)

Then there are mishaps typical at most food fests, oppressively long lines at some stalls, vendors running out of foods/drinks way early into the event, not enough seating for demos/discussions and some tables turning into a precarious garbage Jenga (the trash cans aren't that far away, people!) 

And in anticipation of The Taste's comeback next year, here's some handy tips to keep in mind to maximize your fun at this event:

1. Buy tickets early. A no-brainer, but especially worth mentioning here - the price from it's initial pre-sale to day-of purchase went from $50 to $75 a person, a 50% hike! Also, Flavors of L.A. completely sold out ahead of time.

2. Strategize & prioritize. Study the map and note which restaurant/bar/vendor are must-trys and hit those up first to minimize the chance of them running out by the time you get there.

3. Buddy up. While one of you wait in that uber-popular (and ultra-long) line, the other(s) can go hit up the shorter lines in adjacent stalls, making that wait a lot less grueling (and a lot more tasty.) 

4. Share your plates (at least for the first run.) The small sampler portions are deceptive, but they add up and before you know it, you're beyond full and not even halfway through the venue. Divvy up that first plate with your line buddy, and if you really like it, go back for your own seconds. It also helps cut down on the food waste.

5. Swaps and subs are a no-no. Generally, what you see is what you get, so don't break the cadence of the production line (who are already swamped enough as is churning out hundreds, if not thousands, of dishes & drinks) with special requests.

6. Get to demos/discussions early. Like, by 10 to 15 minutes -- even if they are running behind schedule. Those seats fill up fast!

7. And, if they are not in a rush cranking out orders, chat up the vendors. These people are definitely passionate about the places they work or the products they represent, and you might even get the scoop on an insider tip and be the cool cat who knows about the off-menu dish or upcoming changes. Or even a gift card/coupon for a future visit.
Bricia & Fernando Lopez 
Just a few things to keep in mind for next year's Taste, which I look forward to checking out again!

Disclaimer: My admission to the Taste events was hosted.

Additional photos on flickr set here


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