"The city of Los Angeles has been an incredible partner to us in this endeavor. We never could have done it without their complete cooperation." That comment from the two entrepreneurial gents who founded the L.A. Food & Wine Festival, David Alan Bernahl II and Rob Weakley , was uttered to me late Saturday night at the conclusion of the Grand Lexus Event downtown, almost the last event of the annual four-day festival celebrating the food and wine of the nation and particularly California. I must admit that I had my concerns about the viability of the new venue alongside the venerable ten-year old Walt Disney Concert Hall on Grand Avenue and 1st Street. Their two previous festivals had been at L.A. Live near the Staples Center, humungous street-long events which captured the air of a large part of downtown. This third year was a new, untested venue...and yet I think showman Walt Disney would have loved seeing this wonderful food-and-wine extravaganza co-existing with Disney Hall. Grand Avenue is one of the most iconic streets in the country, wrapped in cultural sophistication due to it proximity to such neighbors as Disney, the Colburn School of Music, the Music Center, Grand Park, MOCA, and the almost completed Broad Museum. My Huffington readers may recall that I have been spending much time of late at MOCA celebrating its various exhibits, from Urs Fisher to the Frank Gehry Beijing display...and trying to shore up the support for its departing director, Jeffrey Deitch. But food and wine is a natural supplement for this austere neighborhood, so the new festival is a welcome annual addition. I talked to 'the boys' about their plans for next year, and they did admit that they might progress it a bit down the avenue to include the street in front of Eli Broad's ambitious new edifice. I would suggest to Rob and David that they rename the festival to include the words "music" and "art" since they seem to be including more of the musical arts to the event. They founded the prestigious Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival held every year in April, and revealed to me that they will be opening a new restaurant shortly downtown on Hope in the art district. I also must celebrate the more than 100 chefs who joined them this year during the four day festivities, and tonight I greeted many of them....old friends and new. Plus more than 100 wineries have joined in, with mixologists and sommeliers coming from all over the nation to participate. (Editor's note: I make it a practice not to drink and drive these days, so my friends in the wine business know I am not shirking my reporting duties when I neglect to sample their wares, although I did make an exception tonight for a sip of the magnificent Justin Wine and its partner, Landmark Wines...just a sip, of course.)
Festival organizers David (left) and Rob (right) with supporters.
This marks the 12th food and wine charity benefit which I have attended thusfar in 2013, with just one more to go on Sept. 28th, the L.A. Loves Alex's Lemonade Culinary Cookout charity event at Culver Studios to raise money for children's cancer research and treatment. These events raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for local L.A. charities, so I swig my stomach medicines and attend them to publicize and praise their efforts. David and Rob told me that their festival this year supports Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry ® campaign. This is the charity which is striving to see that we end chilldhood hunger in America by ensuring that all children get the healthy food they need every day. Did you know that every day one in five children, some 16 million kids in America, go to bed hungry? In California the number is one in four! Don't get me started on that soapbox.
Restaurateur Drew Nieporent comes every year, and eats his way through the town.
Legendary chef John Sedlar reminisced about my first review soem thirty years ago.
I was selective about the F&W festival events I attended this week, but one that I wouldn't miss was the lunch at L'Ermitage Hotel on Burton Way in Beverly Hills hosted by G.M. Sal Abaunza. My readers know that I have become a huge fan of the Livello Restaurant here and its new chef, Benjamin Dayag. On Friday he was joined by Chef Richard Reddington of REDD in San Francisco and George Mendes of Aldea. Together they served up a festival feast which was memorable for its delicious simplicity. Reddington sent out marinated yellowfin tuna, followed by crispy chicken thighs. Chef Mendez followed with an arroz de pato of duck confit and chorizo, while Ben finished with a honey citrus cake. As I waited for my car. Chef Reddington told me he was off to try the new Connie and Ted's, and I gave him a copy of my recent Jay Weston's Restaurant Newsletter extolling the virtues of that New England Seafood Shack in West Hollywood. Tonight he told me that he had a spectacular meal there, and noted that this format would work anywhere in this country. Agreed.
Arroz de Pato was the main entree by Chef Richard Reddington at the festival lunch.
I left the Saturday night event satiated and satisfied, agog at the beautiful sight of the Walt Disney Concert Hall lit up to celebrate its 10th anniversary. And driving home up First Street toward Beverly Hills, I must admit that I made one stop...at Tommy's The Original, for a gooey chile cheeseburger. After all, that is one thing never served at a posh food festival. Too bad, it's awesome.
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