Photos by Ben Brown

Masters of Taste Sees Landmark Sellout in Its 4th Year

Masters of Taste solidified its presence as one of LA’s elite food festivals this year, selling out for the first time and bringing in a record-setting crowd. More than 100 vendors, or ‘Masters’ as they’re called here, showcased an eclectic lineup of global cuisine, craft beer, wine, spirits and—an apparent crowd favorite—desserts for guests to enjoy. Taking place on the field of the historic Rose Bowl in Pasadena, this year’s Masters of Taste couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather, and despite its infancy compared to other long-time food festivals, went off without a hitch. 

Masters of Taste saw the return of several past favorites, as well as some new players that took people’s breath away. Local eateries from across LA came out in full force, dishing out everything from American classics to worldly fusion to exotic dishes from far-away places. Sticky Rice’s chicken khoo soi noodles, served in an absolutely addictive red curry, exemplified the latter statement. Mercado’s equally addictive tacos, Gus’s Bar-b-q’s brisket and cornbread and LKSD’s dry-aged ribeye with smashed potatoes added to the day’s rich flavor. 

Ascension Cellars, Kieu Hoang Winery and Navarro Vineyards were just a few of the event’s many wine providers. Local breweries included Indie Brewing Company, MacLeod Ale, Iron Triangle Brewery and Los Angeles Ale Works. The Raymond 1886, while serving an excellent porchetta, took the cake for killer cocktails with its ‘midnight pancakes,’ which bore no resemblance to its name but went down in spectacular fashion nevertheless. Making a strong presence as well were non-alcoholic beverage vendors, such as Humm Kombucha and East Imperial Superior Beverages. 

The event’s ‘Sweet Masters,’ or dessert purveyors, proved yet again to be among the day’s highlights. Leading the way was Supercool Creamery, which put on a show by utilizing liquid nitrogen to make their ice cream on the spot. Fantasy Frostings had a new pastry on display every time you turned your head, with head-turning creations like salted caramel and confetti cupcakes, banana crème tarts and cranberry scones. 

This year’s Masters of Taste was hosted by local Celebrity Chef Michael Hung of Faith and Flower, who could be seen conversing with guests while somehow simultaneously serving signature creations. Each year, Masters of Taste proceeds go to Union Station Homeless Services. 

For more information, visit MastersofTasteLA.com.

Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival Shows off Worldly Flavor and Celebrity Chefs

The Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival saw another landmark year, bringing in a new lineup of celebrity chefs, along with more than 40 restaurants and 60 libation purveyors. A weekend celebrating the region’s culinary achievements was highlighted by two grand tastings, both taking place at the El Paseo Shopping District. And with a venue split between indoors and outdoors, guests enjoyed the festival’s continued streak of absolutely perfect weather. 

Saturday’s Grand Tasting kicked off with a cooking demo from Scott Conant, former Scarpetta owner and acclaimed TV personality. Following him, across the event’s three stages, were demos from more culinary artists such as Top Chef Winner Brooke Williamson and restaurateur Fabio Viviani.  Adding exciting flare to the day was Martin Howard, also known as Chocolatina, a 6’7” drag queen [far taller in heels and an updo] who put on a musical show alongside a lesson on chocolate macarons.  

Agua Caliente Steakhouse’s ribeye, Fleming’s lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, and Bernie’s Lounge custom prime rib sliders were among the savory highlights of Saturday’s restaurant lineup. The crowd favorite may well have been La Quinta Cliffhouse, however, which served what can only be described as ‘crack in a cone’—seasoned ahi tuna served in a savory, buttery cone made of miso, flour, soy and sesame. 

Sunday’s grand tasting came with a worldly theme, focusing on Latin American and Mediterranean flavors. Local celeb Drew Davis of Catalan came out in full swing, dishing out chicken skin chicharron covered with jamon iberico. Joining the ranks were Villa Roma’s massive beef empanadas and dulce de leche alfajores, as well as Adobe Grill’s infladitas, or ‘inflated’ tortillas stuffed with black beans and cochinita pibil and topped with avocado. Then came Carte Blanche’s Gourmet Tacos, serving tostadas with pulled pork, bacon, pear and bleu cheese. Another sweet addition was Brandini Toffee, serving their signature creation three ways. 

Chef Jaime Gwen led Sunday’s guests in a three-part demo on spring and summer favorites. Additional demos were led by Food Fanatics Chef Bo Marianowits, cookbook author Stuart O’Keefe and Extraordinary Desserts Owner Karen Krasne, among others. 

Drink purveyors included a slew of wineries such as Ruffino, Vinemark Cellars, Fallbrook Winery and Malibu Family Wines. Local favorite Babe’s poured their signature honey blonde ale alongside breweries such as Calidad Beer, Chihuahua Cerveza, Towne Park Brewery and Refuge Brewery. New flavors included Boochcraft, with some killer alcoholic Kombucha, and Malfy Gin, pouring cocktails from a very entertaining lemon display. 

Palm Desert Food & Wine 2020 is already underway, with Curtis Stone and Carla Hall in the lineup. 

For more information, visit PalmDesertFoodandWine.com.