The LA Food Fest took over the beautiful and historical grounds at Exposition Park this past weekend. Sitting between the Los Angeles Natural History Museum and the iconic LA Memorial Coliseum, the LA Food Festival had every type of food you can imagine and even some you didn’t even know existed. This year’s event was separated into three mini events: the Golden Hours, MRKT and the Rose Garden Pop-Up Restaurant.
I had the privilege of attending the Golden hours, which to mine and my belly’s benefit granted me all I could eat from among the best restaurants and street food in LA. The festival was separated into themed zones. I focused my attention on my three favorite things: the MRKT which housed the food, the Gastro Cerveceria where all the beer was being poured, and the Ice Cream Social – because it’s not a food festival without ice cream.
As you walked toward the gates your sense of smell totally took over and you almost found yourself floating toward the first food booth. Imagine the smell of BBQ, Indian food and buttered bread all hitting you at once. It was definitely a bit overwhelming. Speaking of overwhelming or lack of, the crowd was perfect. The festival itself was significantly easy to maneuver through.
It didn’t take me very long to get food and a beer in my hand. As I walked from booth to booth I don’t think there was a moment when I didn’t have a food item in my hand. From grilled cheese sandwiches to hummus to pulled pork in a shot glass to fried chicken and dumplings. When it was time to wash down the rich, sweet and savory flavors there were agaus frescas made from fruit that I had no idea existed and tons of cold brew coffees.
As for my favorite foods, that award has to go to the fried chicken sandwich from Atta Boy Sandwiches and the Changoneada from El Coraloense. Atta Boy’s chicken sandwich featured spiced buttermilk friend chicken topped with a dill pickle, pickled jalapeno, honey, lettuce and their secret sauce. The fried chicken was absolutely perfect, very crunchy but the batter didn’t overwhelm the chicken. You were very much eating piece of chicken and not a ball of fried breading. As for the toppings, the vinegar from the jalapeno and pickle totally played with your taste buds while the subtle sweet from the honey and secret sauce were enhanced.
The Changoneada from El Coraloense is essentialy a shrimp ceviche. El Coraloense’s version of the shrimp ceviche is drizzled with a habanero aioli and topped with chili peanuts and diced mango marinated in chamoy sauce. I love chamoy and it’s awesome to see it featured in more and more dishes, albeit Mexican dishes, but it’s not just for “Tosti-Locos” and flaming hot Cheetos any more. I couldn’t end my day at the LA Food Fest having only had savory dishes; the deserts were just as appetizing and probably deserve a festival of their own.
My favorite deserts have to go to Salt and Straw’s “Petunia’s Coconut Mint Chip Whoopie Pie” ice cream and the simple and subtly sweet waffle from Waffles de Liege. When it comes to ice cream I love love love coconut so this ice cream by default was my favorite. Plus, its coming from one of my favorite ice cream shops, I’m sure the folks at their Larchmont store know my name by heart. No one can describe the heavenly creation better than the folks at Salt & Straw.
According to their website, “Petunia’s Coconut Mint Chip Whoopie Pie,” is an “Unabashedly non-dairy, non-gluten, non-nothin-but-delicious, cold scooped, full fat, coconut based, mint chip ice cream. There is nothing held back on this ice cream and it turned out to be one of the most delicious ice cream creations of the 21st century. Our muse: These tender chocolate-y, mouth-watering whoopie pies from our friends at Petunia’s bakery in Portland, OR that we lightly chop into perfect whoopie cubes and fold back into our freckled mint ice cream.”
Unlike the rich and intense flavor of the ice cream, Waffle de Liege offered up samples of their delicious powder sugar covered waffles. Everything about the waffle is subtle, from the crunch to its sweetness. Not to be confused with an Eggo waffle or even a diner Belgian waffle, these little gifts from heaven are definitely a desert food. And please believe at one point I was taking my “Petunia’s Coconut Mint Chip Whoopie Pie” and making little waffle ice cream sandwiches. I will probably never get the chance to combine those two flavors and sensations again, I mean unless they’re at next year’s LA Food Fest.
This year’s LA Food Fest was perfect. The weather, setting, food and attitudes made for an amazing weekend. It was definitely a sensory overload, it isn’t every day or even every festival that can capture the attention of all five senses and totally deliver. Thank you Nederlander and the LA Food Fest, I can’t wait for next year.