September 4, 2010, Beverly Hills, CA
Saturday was the third day of the Taste of Beverly Hills, but my first appearance at the sprawling culinary event presented by Food and Wine. It's actually six different food and wine fests under the umbrella title. Thursday and Friday nights were great fun, I heard. Saturday and Sunday have sessions during the day and night.
How It Looks
The sessions are built around two great tents in the parking lot of the old Robinson's-May store at 9900 Wilshire Boulevard, next to the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Inside the tents, food tasting tables ring the perimeter while an inner circle of tables offers wine and other delicious beverages.
In between the two great tents is a large, open area and a smaller tent where Stella Artois pours three versions of their brews. A main stage has sporadic entertainment on it. When I arrived Saturday morning, Melinda Lee was doing her “Food News” show there, live on KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO. Throughout the day, I heard musical acts performing from that area but, to be honest, I was so involved with the amazing array of food and wine being presented that I never went over to check out the shows.
There are other small stage areas where cooking and cocktail demonstrations are offered. Some wine events take place inside the hotel, in a wine room called The Chateau.
If it sounds like it's a circus for food and wine lovers, that's not far off the mark. It's just a little more upscale.
Events where many restaurants cook and serve samples of their wares usually are rather hit and miss with the food quality as it varies from table to table. I was surprised that the Taste of Beverly Hills didn't seem to have a bad booth in the bunch. Every food sample I tasted was deliciously prepared and happily served. Here's how I reported on the food at the Taste of Beverly Hills on my Twitter account (@randyfuller1):
#TOBH 9021pho serving killer tofu tamarind salad.
#TOBH Meatball from Delancey, and Gonpachi is serving salmon on a stick! Also shrimp dumpling that rocks.
#TOBH Mr Cecil's pork cracklin's are great. So's the salmon tartare on a potato chip from Fraiche.
#TOBH Nonna's of Italy has fried risotto balls! I feel like I'm at the county fair.
#TOBH No clunkers yet, foodwise. Cheesecake Factory even wows with Piña Colada Cheesecake!
#TOBH Stop for water before the Jitlada table. "Not spicy" is spicy, "Spicy" is OMG. Rocks the house, though.
#TOBH My first Taste: William Sherer's Iberian Remix White. Then the red. Both quite nice. White craves seafood, red wants sausage pizza.
#TOBH Lioco table is a hit. Two Chardonnays - Sonoma & Carneros, both unoaked! And Indica blend, mostly old-vine Carignane.
#TOBH At the Sommelier Blind Tasting event. Boys vs girls. yfrog.com/7ebvbbj/>
#TOBH Taste of Beverly Hills sommelier Bonnie Graves leads the tasting. moby.to/cq5vvf/>
#TOBH Layer Cake Primitivo '07. Bright and juicy. Tons of fruit.
#TOBH Bonny Doon pouring a variety, including "Riesling To Live" sparkler.
#TOBH Four Vines only has Biker Zin today. They'll have full line tonight.
#TOBH Edith Piaf singing "La Vie En Rose" while I sample La Crema Chard, Murphy-Goode Cab and KJ Summation. None as good the song.
#TOBH Stella Artois Hoegaarden, white beer, cloudy in the glass but clean on the palate.
#TOBH Love the Sextant #wine - Zin's always good with me. Night Watch and Genoa are my faves, and are mostly Petite Sirah.
#TOBH After letting taste buds recover from B2B Thai and Indian #food, Jettlynn's Estate Petite Sirah scored! This place has only reds.
I got a little busy toward the end of the session and let a tweet-op pass. I should mention that the Ventura County Wine Trail folks are there, pouring a nice Barbera and an elegantly understated late-harvest Zinfandel. They also have all the information you need to tackle the Ventura County Wine Trail.
The Sommelier Challenge
The highlight event for me was the Boys vs Girls Sommelier Blind Tasting challenge. Eight noted sommeliers – four men and four women – competed in a wine competition that was spirited and aimed more at whimsy than winning.
The Taste of Beverly Hills Event Sommelier Bonnie Graves presided over the competition with a light touch. It was an entertaining event which included panelists David Rosoff from Osteria Mozza, Dana Farner from CUT, Christopher Lavin from XIV, Caroline Styne of AOC and Lucques, Jonathan Mitchell of the Palm, Rebecca Chapa from the Culinary Institute of America, Mark Mendoza of Sona and Comme Ça, and Diane DeLuca from the Estates Group.
The competition was a battle of the sexes. The male sommeliers jumped out to an early lead with the correct identification of the first wine as Prosecco. The gentlemen scored again by getting the Macon Chardonnay right. The ladies nailed the Sauvignon Blanc, but could not correctly identify it as a New Zealand wine. Wine number four was the ringer – Charles Shaw Merlot – which sent both sides scurrying to name it – to no avail. The game changer for the women was getting the Rioja Tempranillo Reserva correct down to the last detail.
Sunday's two sessions – The Art Of Brunch, from 10:00 a.m. To 3:00 p.m., and A BBQ In The Hills, from 7:00 – 11:00 p.m. - promise to be just as jam-packed with food and wine sampling and more. Here are some highlights:
Sunday, September 5, 2010: The Art of Brunch
10:45 a.m. (LG Main Stage) - Live cooking demo by celebrity chef, author, and TV personality Scott Conant
11:15 a.m. (Mix Stage 1) - Mixology demo by Clark Moore (Stone Rose Lounge/Gerber Group)
11:45 a.m. (LG Stage 2) - Live cooking demo by Ray Garcia, executive chef of FIG at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel
12 p.m. (Mix Stage 1) - Mixology demo by Matthew Biancaniello (Library Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel)
12 p.m. (The Chateau) - Master Sommelier “Iron Sommelier” panel
12:15 p.m. (LG Main Stage) - Live cooking demo by Richard Ruskell, executive pastry chef at the Montage Resort and Spa in Beverly Hills
12:45 p.m. (Mix Stage 1) - Mixology demo from Jim Beam Global
1 p.m. (The Chateau) - Sommelier Belinda Chang Wine Seminar
1:45 p.m. (LG Main Stage) - Live cooking demo by chef, cookbook author, and media personality Michel Nischan
4 p.m. (LG Main Stage) - KCRW 89.9 FM’s Pie Contest hosted by “Good Food” Host and Chef/Restaurateur Evan Kleiman
Sunday, September 5, 2010: A BBQ in the Hills
7:30 p.m. (LG Main Stage) - Live cooking demo by renowned Chefs Celestino and Gaicomo Drago
8:45 p.m. (LG Stage 2) - Live cooking demo by “Rock and Roll Chef” Kerry Simon
9 p.m. (Mix Stage 1) - Mixology demo from Jim Beam Global
It was a tad warm on Saturday, so if you are attending Sunday's day event, keep the Beverly Hilton's lobby bar in mind as a place to which you can repair for something cool to drink and a bit of air conditioning. It'll come in handy. It also makes a nice setting for an after-session meeting to discuss favorite tastes and sips.
Denise Fondo joins in from her vantage point on Middle Crescent Kitchen. You can read her views on the Taste of Beverly Hills on the Now And Zin main website.
I hope to tweet from the event again on Sunday. I'll be hashtagging #tobh.