Tuck Room Tavern is the exact kind of posh hot spot that foodie cities need. No, not just another pretty face, with elegant chandeliers hanging over a chic lounge, hot bartenders making a show out of liquid nitrogen cocktails nearby. Sure, at Tuck Room Tavern you’ll be surrounded by hot servers, a vivacious crowd and an insane attention to luxurious detail. But for the food to match—or dare I say, exceed—the mood, from a James Beard Award-winning chef no less? Now that is a truly special foodie experience.
Chef Sherry Yard has mastered the ability to transform backyard barbecue classics into globally elevated masterpieces. Mentored by Wolfgang Puck and taking home two—count ‘em, two—James Beard Awards before taking the helm as parent company’s iPic Entertainment’s Restaurant COO, Yard runs her kitchen with the same seasoned expertise with which she works the crowd. You may recognize the 5’ – 2” Yard from shows like Top Chef, Iron Chef America and Cutthroat Kitchen, and you’ll quickly get a sense of her approach to flavor, because she knocks it out of the park.
The enlightenment commences with your first bite of some of the best calamari you’ve ever tasted, made heavenly with a Korean gochujang glaze for just the right spiciness and a blow-your-mind bold kick. It would be nearly impossible to shift your focus before finishing off the plate, if not for the crab cakes, cleverly sandwiched between two of the thinnest slices of crispy brioche for astounding texture and rich seafood flavor. Hard to put to fork down before both plates are gone, if not for that Tuck Moscow mule, with house-made berry-infused vodka and ginger beer.
Keep going with a crisp and colorful gulf shrimp and beet salad, completed with goat cheese and hazelnuts, before settling in on a round of mains that transports you to the countryside. Southern shrimp and [imported from North Carolina] grits and mango habanero baby back ribs make you feel like you’re rocking on a porch swing during a warm summer night, and then that rich cornbread with whipped goat cheese, plus a farmer’s market sangria, takes you right back into Tuck Room Tavern’s new age ambiance.
The haute crowd is often inclined to skip dessert, but you shouldn’t. Not with a red velvet pavlova—a small mountain of earl grey meringue, vanilla gelato and raspberry red velvet cake crumbles all over—staring you in the face. Or the chocolate hot and cold, with gelato, fresh-baked brownie and a pool of chocolate dipping sauce. Did I mention Chef Yard was one of the top 10 pastry chefs in America?
And at Tuck Room Tavern, you’re always dining with extra company, whether that comes in the form of an exceptionally entertaining crowd nearby or the tuxedo-clad elephant [his name is Percy], painted on a wall made entirely of books.
To think that this is just one part of the experience. As noted above, Tuck Room Tavern is part of iPic Entertainment, known for upscale movie theaters with in-cinema dining. While the main dining room and bar attract its own crowd, the movie theater is a whole different entity just a few steps away. Chef Yard has a completely separate menu for the movie-going experience, clearly in need of further exploration.
Tuck Room Tavern has locations in Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Houston. Westwood location is 10850 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024, open 4 – 11 pm. Mon – Thu, 4 – midnight Fri, 11 a.m. – midnight Sat, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sun. Average out-the-door price for appetizer, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$81/person. For more information, visit TheTuckRoom.com
The Santa Clarita BBQ and Beer festival saw continued expansion in its third year, building on its namesake food and drink with an elevated entertainment focus. Country music star Billy Currington headlined the two-day festival, bringing with him a sea of cowboy hats, plaid shirts and leather boots that gave the festival a true identity for the first time, and one that will inevitably take it further down the country route for years to come.
Another part of the festival’s remodel was the addition of an ‘a la carte’ program to Friday’s bottomless beer offering. Two tents hosted dozens of breweries featuring endless pours, as well as additional stands throughout the venue that worked on a drink ticket system. In both cases, the crowd had no shortage of options. Several local favorites highlighted the lineup—Brewery Draconum, Wolf Creek Brewery, Pocock Brewing Co. and The Dudes’ Brewing Company—showing some exciting development in Santa Clarita’s beer scene. Lagunitas, Shock Top, Firestone Walker and Angel City Brewery were just a few major players on the festival’s growing list of purveyors.
Barbecue was, of course, ever-present. Carter’s Smoked BBQ dished out their heavenly pulled pork and jaw-dropping grande nachos, while Ambience Catering served up some mean hot links and tri tip. Panchos Nachos and Tacos prepared some excellent bbq beef made especially for the event, accompanied by street tamales and other south-of-the-border favorites. Burt’s garlic fries were certainly a crowd favorite, their aroma bringing in a steady stream of patrons
The festival drew its biggest crowd to date, with a venue nearly four times the size compared to years past. The concert stage, previously tucked away in a corner, took its place front and center this time around, majestically flanked by the hilly landscape. Two enormous fields in Santa Clarita’s Central Park were more than enough to accommodate all the cowboy-clad shenanigans that took place, and you’re always pleasantly reminded that you’re in a family-oriented town when you leave a beer festival and there’s a youth soccer game taking place on the other side of the fence.
For more information, visit bbqandbeerfestival.com
Master’s of Taste saw it’s third successful year on May 6, when it brought together some of the city’s top restaurants, wineries, breweries, distilleries and all-things-sweet-eries on the field of Pasadena’s famous Rose Bowl Stadium. More than 75 booths circled the turf, allowing guests the rare opportunity to not only walk along the infield, but to do so in gourmet style.
Eateries of all types took the opportunity to shine, churning out limitless tastings of house favorites. Prime rib and wasabi mashed potatoes from Alexander’s Steakhouse, melt-in-your mouth brisket and cornbread from Gus’s Barbecue, and handmade pasta with imported Italian sausage from Nerano were just a few of the eclectic flavors to be found. Pez Cantina’s seafood tostadas and Maestro’s carnitas tacos duked it out for South of the Border deliciousness while Poppy + Rose and Maple battled over who served the best fried chicken.
Live cooking demonstrations held a stronger presence this year, with The Bellwether’s Ted Hopson and Ardour Hospitality’s Michael Hung putting on excellent shows for intimate crowds.
On the drinks side, wineries gave up their usual lion’s share of the spotlight to breweries, distilleries and alternative beverages…not that there was any shortage of wine, though. Angel City Brewery, Indie Brewing Company and MacLeod Ale Brewing Co. were just a few purveyors of refreshing sips for the warm day, accompanied by wineries such as Navarro Vineyards, Rutherford Wine Company and Larimar Wainery. Dulce Vida Organic Tequila and American Born Moonshine crafted some killer cocktails, and rounding out the lineup were excellent nonalcoholic selections such as Humm Kombucha and Groundwork Coffee.
And what would a spectacular food festival be without dessert? ‘Sweet Masters’ are their own category at Master’s of Taste, and rightfully so with characters like Zooie’s Goodies and Sidecar offering up birthday cake and panda cookies and huckleberry donut holes. Pink chocolate fountains and unicorn poop meringue cookies were just a few more of the day’s decadent staples.
All proceeds from Master’s of Taste went to Union Station Homeless Services, a non-profit organization committed to helping homeless individuals and families rebuild their lives. The event continues to grow as one of LA’s premiere food festivals, and the foodie community is already anticipating what’s in store for year number four.
For more information, visit MastersOfTasteLA.com
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.