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.
Art Beyond the Glass saw another successful year, bringing together a lively community of LA’s bar and beverage professionals in electric and ever-so-festive fashion. The annual event, which is dedicated to celebrating the artistic side of bartenders’ lives—literally—showcases painting, music, and all types of performance for a like-minded and rowdy crowd. Throw in endless craft cocktails and vendor experiences that stretch the realm of creativity and you’ve got about as ironically sophisticated take on a college party as you can get.
Held in the Los Globos Theater, Art Beyond the Glass welcomed an array of classic and up-and-coming drink purveyors that came ready to cater to their seasoned audience. Hendricks Dry Gin commemorated the event’s timing with a ‘midsummer solstice’ that included a number of summery drinks combined with a fully-costumed [read: scantily-clothed] Puck, emblematic of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Ilegal Mezcal was back with hand-injected Jell-O shots (yes, they had syringes on hand). Adjacent to them, Tromba Tequila offered up a sinfully sweet alcoholic melon sorbet topped with vanilla tapioca.
While Art Beyond the Glass is not necessarily known for food, Marker’s Mark made the day by dressing up their booth as a makeshift In-n-Out and—you guessed it—ordering dozens of In-n-Out burgers for the crowd. Patrons chomped and drank away whilst playing Duck Hunt at the Super Mario Bros setup hosted by Suntory.
Ford’s Gin went the extra mile by serving their drinks in gigantic ice blocks. Jägermeister promoted its new Jägermeister Manifest, but only for those who deemed themselves worthy by completing a medieval maze in 2 minutes or less to obtain the key necessary to unlock the libation from its display case. Jack Daniels, which hosted “Lynchburg Crossfit,” served up a drink that supposedly required handstand pushups and burpees to order, but—unsurprisingly—most were able to try it by just asking nicely.
On the artistic side, Art Beyond the Glass featured a number of live art creations, a silent auction, and musical performances. Event proceeds benefited Beautify Earth, an LA-based nonprofit dedicated to beautifying communities through public art. Be on the lookout for next year’s Art Beyond the Glass, taking place June 2020. For more information, visit ArtBeyondTheGlass.com.
Taste Walk Glendale is an LA food event like no other. While most culinary extravaganzas take place in remote locations, Taste Walk Glendale has the restaurants serve on their home turf, dishing out bottomless samples right outside [or inside] their doors. It’s the adult trick-or-treating of food festivals, with guests going door to door for the next sumptuous bite…and yes, there’s candy too.
This year’s event drew more than 40 food and drink purveyors from Glendale’s seemingly endless list of restaurants. The half-mile stretch along Brand Blvd, from the Americana at Brand mall to just north of the famed Alex Theater, was teaming with live entertainment and booths emblemizing Glendale’s ever-evolving food scene, featuring timeless icons and new players alike.
The historic Porto’s Bakery & Café served its legendary potato balls, as well as an enticing selection of sandwiches and sweet pastries. Just down the road were Rockbird’s ridiculous chicken sandwiches, coated in a just-spicy-enough sriracha glaze or a just-sweet-enough honey mustard. Mr. Furley’s Bar, new to town, offered up its signature pretzels, which were about good enough to make you rush through the door and order a dozen had it not been for the festival taking place.
Khinkali House served up its famous Georgian dumplings and Gauchos village made a rich Brazilian chicken stroganoff in garlic rice. The night, however, went to Rainbow Asian Taco Truck, where the panang curry tacos were nothing short of heaven in a tortilla, followed closely by its ‘geisha’ tacos, wrapped in crispy seaweed.
With a route that could easily entail 3 hours of walking, guests could feel a little better about themselves when indulging in custard from Shake Shack, assorted mocchi from My/Mo Mocchi, Sprinkles Cupcakes and Lolli & Pops many goodies, ranging from ‘crack cookies’ to bacon chocolate and the one-thought-extinct Jolt Cola.
Proceeds from Taste Walk Glendale benefit Glendale Arts and the Alex Theatre, with a portion of the proceeds going to support youth arts programs. For more information, visit TasteWalkGlendale.com
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.