The AltaMed Food & Wine Festival, known as ‘California’s prime Hispanic food and wine festival,’ celebrated with a weekend of south of the border flavor and fine wine that spanned across both LA and Orange County. The LA festival, held in downtown’s iconic LA Live, was a sight to see and be seen.
The otherwise-packed streets adjacent to the Staples Center and Microsoft Theater closed to traffic in order to make way for a seemingly endless path of tents doling our bottomless tastes and pours. The city lights shined down on a jovial crowd, with live music from the Spanish Harlem Orchestra igniting the mood.
The festival’s ‘East LA meets Napa’ theme was true to its word, with a smattering of Angelino culinary icons cooking up classic renditions and novel twists on Central and South American favorites. Likewise, an array of wineries ensured that a perfect pairing was always close by. Margaritas and sangrias were free flowing as well.
With a largely Latino focus, it’s safe to say there were no shortage of tacos at AltaMed. From King Taco’s signature al pastor to Maestro’s pork belly tacos, the festival had just about anything that could go into a squid ink, hatch green chile, or just plain ol’ corn tortilla. Tostadas from El Portal and Zapien’s Salsa Grill and Taqueria added to the mix, as did Chago’s tortas.
Pez Cantina went all in with a red argentine shrimp a la diablo with scallion slaw, dried shrimp and chili oil. Equally, Honduras’ Kitchen paid homage to its homeland favorites, such as baleadas with refried beans, cream and cheese, and San Pedro sula, or ground beef in fried plantains. La Fonda’s chicken mole and La Huasteca’s tamales, ceviche and chile en nogada were just a few more of the festival’s worldly items.
For a fun play on Latin fusion, Yamashiro and Bike Brewery each served up some great poke wonton nachos. The Chicken Koop’s (extremely) hot chicken easily matched any chile pepper of the evening, and Otium’s meatballs were melt-in-your-mouth. But of all the places to take the cake for most extravagant dish, the award goes to Sysco—yes, the food supplier—who wowed patrons with lobster claws covered in caviar and edible gold leaf.
Desserts were in full force and naturally picked up steam as the evening drew on. Sweet Flour’s tres leches cake, panna cotta and assorted cookies and Gourmeletas hand-dipped ice cream pops were among the festival’s sweet indulgences. Porto’s Bakery certainly came to play as well, with towers of oh-so-good pastries to be had.
Festival proceeds benefit AltaMed, a full-service medical provider to more than 300,000 people in Los Angeles and Orange County. Founded in 1969, AltaMed was established as a free clinic and remains committed to providing “quality care without exception.” 96 cents of every dollar raised go directly to AltaMed patient care. For more information on the AltaMed Food & Wine Festival, visit AltaMedFoodWine.org.
Hatch Yakitori + Bar sits rather humbly on the ground level of The Bloc, an open-air shopping center in the heart of DTLA where patrons are on constant pursuit of the newest novelties in culinary achievement. Hatch delivers on all fronts, treating guests to meticulously fabricated dishes as innovative as they are beautiful, with other-worldly levels of flavor. It’s ‘so LA’ on so many levels, and somehow fits both young partygoers and nearby residents looking for a relaxing meal under one roof.
Hatch is certainly in good hands with Executive Chef and Owner Daniel Shemtob, who made his first national splash when he won the Food Network’s ‘The Great Food Truck Race’ and hasn’t looked back since. He’s joined by co-owners Akarad Tachavatcharapa and Nara Latip, whose collective marketing background birthed the restaurant’s tasteful layout.
At its core, Yakitori is a Japanese type of skewered chicken. Naturally, the foundation of Hatch’s menu is comprised of intricate compilations that somehow find themselves on a stick. Succulent pork belly and ahi tuna, herb-crusted lamb, and an oh-so-good chicken meatballs with an egg yolk and tare dip (you may not be accustomed to raw egg yolk, but will thank yourself for giving it a try) are some of the highlights, along with vegetarian favorites like brussels sprouts and corn grilled with lime butter.
Main plates further showcase Shemtob’s creativity and Hatch’s charcoal theme, like the signature and succulent black karaage (pronounced car-ah-gey)—two-day brined chicken fried in squid ink and served with black ranch dip. Or the aged ribeye and potatoes three ways, with wasabi mashed potatoes so fine that they may as well have passed through a coffee filter. A revolving list of house specials keep consistent with the team’s mastery of locking in flavor and presenting it beautifully, with scallop and king crab dishes that came out as works of art.
Somehow, Shemtob found a way to keep consistent through dessert as well. The simply fabulous grilled brownies topped with black sesame ice cream are an absolute must. Pair anything from the menu with a crafted cocktail—they all pack a punch—or beer or sake on draft.
Hatch Yakitori + Bar is located at 700 W 7th St Suite G600, Los Angeles, CA 90017. Open 5 – 10p Mon, 11:30a – 2:30p and 5 – 10p Tue – Thu, 11:30a – 2:30p and 5 – 11p Fri, 6 – 11 Sat and 6 – 10p Sun. Avg. Out-the-door price for 3 – 4 sticks, 1 plate, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$90/person. For more information visit HatchyYakitori.com.
sixth + mill [yes, all lower case] is the latest addition to Factory Place Hospitality Group’s growing restaurant collection. Seeking to be the ‘casual’ alternative to neighboring sister eateries Factory Kitchen and BRERA Ristorante, sixth + mill unquestionably upholds group’s home-cooked Italian nature with a ‘very LA’ vibe. And of course, with a location on 6th Street, the place continues the group’s minimalist naming scheme.
Culinary Director Angelo Auriana, whose pastas are some of the best in the city, continues to showcase his prowess with a limited but well-executed menu. Red and white pizzas, a sprinkling of entrees, salads, small plates and—of course—pastas stay true to Italian nature with simple, rich, high-quality ingredients. Case in point with the coppia, a heavenly compilation of buttery ricotta, bold fennel sausage and arugula that melds together amidst a beautiful crown [read: perfectly-baked crust]. Or the fettuccine al funghi, where that homemade pasta with simply perfect texture meets fresh mushrooms and a light cream sauce for lavish decadence.
Portions aren’t overwhelming like you’d find in a true Italian trattoria, but enough to get by. All the better to have room for some tiramisu or indulgent zeppoline. And of course you can pair anything with a selection from the Italian wine list, as well as a handful of beers and a few craft cocktails.
sixth + mill’s claim as a casual spot may seem a bit far-fetched to some, with a price tag that’s digestible but by no means economical. A loud, but not unbearable, dining room brings out the casual element with large groups of 20, 30 and 40-somethings on a festive night out. And veterans of Factory Kitchen and BRERA Ristorante may either rejoice in ironic nostalgia or reactivate some PTSD with the thought of going back to this particular pocket of the industrial district, where glass shards line the streets from the seemingly endless auto break-ins. Probably a good idea to spring for the valet this time around.
sixth + mill pizzeria and bar is located at 1335 E. 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021 . Open 11a – 11p Sun – Thu, 11a – midnight Fri/Sat. Out-the-door price for appetizer, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$81/person. For more information call (213) 629 – 3000 or visit sixthandmill.com.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.