American Wine and Food Festival 2010

Last night Matt and I were honored to attend the American Wine and Food Festival as correspondents for It has suddenly become crazy hot and muggy in Los Angeles, and last night was no exception. As we rode the tram through the Universal Studios backlot the air was heavy and I was already sweating. But did I care? No! I was about to embark upon a foodie wonderland, filled with over 50 chefs and dozens of wineries offering up delicious food and drink all night long. If anything, I was mostly nervous that my stomach wouldn't be able to handle it all!

grilled lobsters, barbeque
Fresh grilled lobsters greeted us as we entered the festival

I wish I could say that I've been to many of these restaurants, but since the creme of the California (and Las Vegas) crop was there, I'd be lying if I said I could afford to eat at most of these places. Amazing chefs like Nobu Matsuhisa of Nobu, Mark Peel of Campanile, Wolfgang Puck of the Spago empire were out in full force. The setting in the "little Europe" portion of the studio backlot was perfect, especially because I felt like I was transported to a surreal place where everything was delicious and wine flowed like water (which is definitely how it is in France and Italy). Matt was my assistant extraordinaire, and helped me solve crucial quandaries like "wine or cocktails?", "meat or fish?" and of course "chocolate or more chocolate?"Seriously, it was pretty astounding the amount and quality of the food available.

Audi sports car, white car
Audi was the presenting sponsor . . . hot cars everywhere!

However, despite the sheer vastness of the event, there were some experiences that truly stood out. I could not get over the deliciousness of the masala spiced lamb chops at the Akasha table. Flame grilled for all to drool over, they were spicy, juicy and oh some meaty. Yum! I especially appreciate that chef Akasha Richmond focuses on local, sustainable ingredients in her hugely successful restaurant, making her food not only healthy for its patrons but for the environment as well.

Akasha grilled lamp chops, barbeque, flames
Lamb chops getting grilled at Akasha

A yellowtail carpaccio at Scott Conant's Scarpetta was light and refreshing with a nice hit of acidity, making it a perfect plate for the hot and humid night.

Thomas Keller's Bouchon had an amazing raw bar set up, with multiple chefs serving up the freshest shellfish all night long. There was a great lively atmosphere around their table as the allure of fresh oysters pulled you in.

raw bar at Bouchon, oysters
No one can get enough raw ice bar action at Bouchon
The braised pork belly bao mai "tacos" at Charles Phan's Slanted Door were fun, savory bites. I've always tried to make a trip there when I'm in San Francisco and it was great to see them down in Los Angeles.

Matt's favorite was the dry miso sea bass at the Nobu table. But really, how could you ever go wrong with Nobu Matsuhisa's food?

Nobu table at food and wine festival
Strip steak lettuce cups and dry miso sea bass at the Nobu table

The Puck-Lazaroff Foundation has been organizing this event since its inception in 1982 and it has grown in its success ever since. Not surprisingly, there were Wolfgang Puck products everywhere, but I have to say that their new organic iced coffee drinks were pretty delicious and I hope they take a nice fat market share bite out of the sugary Starbucks coffee drinks sold at stores nationwide.

artful food
Soft boiled egg with uni and langostino - artful and flavorful

We had many tastes of some really great wine as well. Standouts included the Flowers Pinot Noir, Justin Vineyards' Justification red blend, and Grgich Hills Chardonnay. Both Justin Vineyards and Grgich Hills practice organic and biodynamic farming techniques in addition to being a pleasure to drink.

chocolate truffles
Truffles galore!
I was so full from all the great food that I didn't get a chance to sample too much dessert, but I did have some amazing chocolate truffles. I am also a sucker for cheeses and enjoyed an Irish Stout cheese at the Kerrygold cheese table.

Kerrygold Irish cheese . . .mmm, cheese + beer/whiskey
And of course a night at Universal Studios would not have been complete without some celebrity sightings. Matt and I are huge Top Chef fans, and we got to meet Alex Reznik from the most recent season 7. He mentioned that he has an event coming up at the Test Kitchen, check out their website for upcoming details!

Alex Reznik from Top Chef Season 7, Matt Balaker
Matt meets Alex Reznik from Top Chef Season 7

Mark Peel of Top Chef Masters fame was also in attendance. He served me a peach sherry cobbler cocktail at the table for his bar the Tar Pit - it was strong and delicious. Now, I am familiar with the cobbler as a dessert offering (hot fruit topped with a pie crust of sorts) but Mark educated me on the cocktail version. He explained that in the late 19th century this type of cocktail, which usually incorporated sherry, fruit, sugar, ice and a straw was all the rage. Well, for me it made a perfect end to an amazing night of wining and dining, and the best part is that plenty of money was raised for the event's charitable cause, Meals and Wheels. I look forward to attending next year and urge all of you to as well!

Mark Peel, Top Chef Masters, Campanile, Tar Pit
Mark Peel - master chef!

Estaban –   – (September 30, 2010 at 9:32 AM)  

His chef's coat says Mark Pee.

Susette –   – (October 8, 2010 at 7:33 PM)  

Spoon, spade, and FANTASTIC photography. Love it.

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