I went to LA Weekly’s Essentials 2014. May belt loosening commence.

Pardon me as I crawl out of my food coma to report back from my visit to today’s LA Weekly Essentials foodie event.

Last year’s event, then called Plate, was where my journey as a LA foodie began. Having only lived in Los Angeles for a few months, I had heard of a few restaurants but hadn’t really started to go out and explore them. When I saw LA Weekly announce an event where you paid a flat fee and then got to sample dishes from a plethora of LA area restaurants, It sounded like a good way to test the city’s foodie waters.

Myself and the friend that attended the event with me, had a great time tasting dishes from a bunch of Los Angeles restaurants. By the end,we were so stuffed that,had we not been in public, trouser buttons would have been relieved of their duty. Seriously, I barely ate for a couple days after last year’s event.

As a result of attending last year’s LA Weekly food event, we became regular patrons of a few of the establishments we discovered that day. Nickel Diner and Fred 62, in particular, became favorites.

When this year’s event, now called LA Weekly Essentials was announced, I immediately bought a ticket.  It suppose it is part of the foodie nature to want to have as many new food experiences as possible. Events such as this one allow us to have a series of them in one afternoon and decide which ones we want to go back and have again in greater abundance.

LA Weekly Essentials 2014

Just as was the case last year, I went for the VIP pass.  The general admissions ticket for LA Weekly Essentials was $50 and the VIP was $65. For the extra $15, you get a swag bag and,more importantly,the ability to be let into the event an hour before the general admission ticket holders. Take my advice for next year and buy the VIP pas. Just let me get mine first, okay?

I was about the fifth person in line when I arrived at 11am. By the time it opened at noon for VIPS, the line was stretched around the block. Standing in a long line is annoying at the best of times but in today’s strong sun, I am doubly glad that I only had to be out there for an hour.  When I left the event, there were still people lined up around the block waiting to allowed to enter.

LA Weekly's Essentials

That extra hour may not sound like much but it makes all the difference. Generally, it means that there aren’t lines at the booths. Once they let the general admission ticket holders into the event, you can be waiting in a line for a decent length of time. If you had the VIP ticket you probably just walked by and grabbed a plate and kept moving.

Another factor is that the restaurants that are exhibiting at the event bring a limited amount of ingredients with them. So, they can only produce their dishes so many times before they are ‘sold out’.  Which means that anything other than a VIP ticket is increasing the likelihood that you will have paid $50 and missed the chance to try the more popular dishes.

Oh, and if you are going to be drinking , you can get at least several pints in before there is an insane line at the Stella stand.

stella glasses

They let you keep the glasses. Isn’t that cool? I am not embarrassed to admit that I now have several of them in my cupboard.

As good as the beer and wine is, it really is all about the food for me. Once I was inside, I got started with my tastings.

I’ve made a rule for myself when I go to these foodie events. Since I paid good money to get in, I am going to get the most for it and try everything. That means challenging my spice levels or trying something that I previously thought I didn’t like. Taste buds do change, after all.

Sometimes, it works out great and I discover a new foodie love. Other times, as was the case with the lamb tartare from Lucques, I find my opinion stays the same.

lamb tartare

I love lamb and it certainly looked pretty but I reconfirmed that, no matter the quality, raw meat is not for me. My mouth just says no and stops chewing. Still, I can say that I tried and that feels better to me than just assuming I won’t like something without trying it first.

There was plenty of food that I did enjoy though. Sometimes because of the taste alone and sometimes in combination with the presentation.

HomeState, certainly hit both notes with their Frito Pie in a Bag. Inside the the Fritos bag there is a yummy chili con carne, cheddar, lettuce, sour cream, pickled jalapenos, pickled red onions and, of course, Fritos.

homestate frito pie

Apparently the presentation wasn’t just a gimmick for event,it is how it is served at their restaurant too. Certainly a different and tasty way of recycling packaging that would otherwise go straight into the trash.

Of the nearly forty different dishes that I sampled today at LA Weekly Essentials 2014, there were were a few that made my list of favorites.

Angelini Osteria’s beef and spinach lasagna was the first dish that really made me stop and go ‘mmmm’.  In addition to its rich meaty and cheesy goodness, it was helped by being a contrast to all the tacos and salads that I had been served up until that point.

Beef and spinach lasanga

Who doesn’t like good Italian?  Yet, I don’t see much of it at the Los Angeles foodie events. Last year’s event introduced me to Little Dom’s. So, maybe it is going to be a tradition that each LA Weekly Essentials I discover one really good Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. I can live with that.

Next on my list was the chicken liver mousse with onion jam from Father’s Office. Before I lived in Europe, I couldn’t have predicted myself even trying anything like a liver mousse. I must have gone a bit native because now I love a good pate.

chicken liver father's office

Over there, you will find pates in every supermarket. Here, not so much. Which has made something such as this chicken liver mousse even more of a treat.

If I am honest, Superba Snack Bar hasn’t been on my foodie radar. At least it wasn’t until today when I tasted their fried chicken. I am a sucker for restaurants that take comfort foods and kick them up a notch. These guys certainly did that by giving their fried chicken a red wine vinegar glaze and sprinkling it with pickled chilies & parmesan.

Superba Snack Bar fried chicken

I’ll admit to being a bit concerned when I saw the chili but the sweetness that comes from the pickling and the red wine vinegar glaze balances them out and makes it more tangy that spicy. So, good!

Unlike Superbra, it would be a falsehood to say that I hadn’t drooled over a few photos from The Oinkster over the last year.  I’m not somebody that has to have an abundance of meat in their diet but there are some types of meat for which I have a weakness and properly cooked pastrami is high up on that list.

oinkster pastrami

The Oinkster’s house cured pastrami was going to have to be an epic fail for me not to love it. Happily, I can report that no fail was experienced. The pastrami sandwich with a thin layer of deli mustard was incredible. So much so that I had to stop and send a photo to Chris. That was the only dish of my day at LA Weekly Essentials where that happened.

I am both excited for my taste buds and frightened for my waistline, to have learned that The Oinkster will soon be opening a Hollywood location.

If a doughgasm is a thing then a meatgasm can be too, right? At least I think that is what happened when I saw the Chi Spacca booth. Not only did they treat us all to some beautifully smoked meats but they brought what may possibly have been the show stopper of the entire LA Weekly Essentials event.

meat

Pork butter. Yes, a spreadable ‘butter’ made out of pork fat. Incredibly indulgent? Well, duh. Crazy good? You know it!

meat butter

The final entry on my list of favorites from LA Weekly Essentials 2014 is Horse Thief BBQ.

Only fellow foodies will understand when I let you all into this secret. On more than one occasion,myself and Chris have spent an evening  watching barbecue porn together. We sit on the sofa watching food television presenters visit barbecue joints. There might actually be drool. Most certainly there are audible sounds of desire. There are few foods we enjoy more than really good barbecue.

Being a Los Angeles foodie, of course, I have heard of Horse Thief BBQ but until today I had never tried their barbecue. Silly as it may sound, I want to experience that with Chris but until he is living in Los Angeles we have limited time to go out and explore restaurants together.

After tasting the smoked pork belly they served today, I  know for sure that we need to move them to the top of our LA Foodie bucket list. If the mouthwatering combination of a crispy seasoned crust and succulent pork is representative of the rest of their BBQ, we may be in for a spiritual experience when we finally do get there.

Horse Theif BBQ Smoked Pork Belly

As if I had not had enough to eat already, I finished up my time at Essentials 2014 with a quick stop at the McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams booth. There weren’t many sweet items on the menus today. So, if was a nice way to refresh my palate after all the richness of the day’s food.  I know that they had several flavor of ice cream available but once I saw ‘double peanut butter chip’ I was blind to the rest.

peanut butter ice cream

Onward I go into another year of exploring the LA area restaurants that I was introduced to at this year’s LA Weekly food event. At least I will once I have digested enough to move off the sofa.

P.S. Next year, can somebody have toothpicks at their booth? Just saying.

 

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