Do you seek out local, sustainably produced food? You may be a locavore. Get a taste of who’s dishing up farm-to-table dining experiences in Los Angeles.
I’ve been known to choose vacation destinations based on the native cuisine. (Ah, Barcelona, where the tapas are as hot as the men, how I’ve missed you!) But when I’m not traveling to eat, I try eating food that hasn’t traveled too far.
I buy from local producers at the farmers markets and I patronize restaurants that use organically grown, locally sourced ingredients. It’s a well-intentioned first step toward living the life of a locavore—a person dedicated to eating locally grown food—but I’ll never be a fully accredited member of the society.
Several years ago, chef and author Jessica Prentice combined the word “local” with the suffix “vore” to create “locavore” to express her passionate commitment to local, sustainable food systems. Like Jessica and other locavores, I believe that locally grown produce is fresher and tastes better than supermarket fruits and vegetables that have been doused with pesticides on factory farms and trucked thousands of miles.
I like reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting local farmers, butchers and bakers. However, many locavores define “local” as within 100 miles of their homes, and I have my vices—French cheeses, Swiss chocolates and jamón ibérico de bellota, a magnificent ham from black-footed free-range pigs that graze on acorns along the border between Spain and Portugal.
Forgive my love affair with imported food, Jessica; I’m committed to global cuisine. I could try to raise chickens in my backyard, forage for wild mushrooms and other locavorian pursuits, but I could never, ever restrict myself to less than 100 food miles required of a bona fide locavore.
Nevertheless, I will continue to seek out restaurants that serve locally grown produce and protein. And one of the best ways to discover who’s dishing up farm-to-table experiences is to attend what I consider two of the city’s finest moveable feasts: Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival and Los Angeles Magazine’s The Food Event.
Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival
This epicurean extravaganza spans four days at four locations: Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Downtown and Santa Monica. Tickets range from $50 for a cooking demo with a master chef to $500 for an indulgent five-course dinner featuring Champagne, caviar, lobster and truffles.
I checked out the Lexus Grand Tasting on the Event Deck at L.A. Live, where the entire space was transformed into a culinary wonderland, and there was lots of deliciousness going on.
Danny Elmaleh (SBE) served stuffed squash blossoms with shaved summer truffles. Paul Shoemaker (Savory) prepared juicy burgers accented with kim chi on brioche buns. Mark Peel (Campanile) sampled truffle duck sausage. Gabriel Ask (Montage) offered corn puree topped with shaved uni. Jeremy Berlin (Church & State) dressed heirloom tomatoes in vinaigrette. David LeFevre (M.B. Post) served lamb belly with peaches. I’d dined and gone to heaven!
The Food Event
Can you bestow a Michelin star on a location? The setting for Los Angeles Magazine’s seventh annual shindig was reason enough to attend. The Food Event brought together more than 40 of the city’s top restaurants and 20+ wineries at Saddlerock Ranch, a spectacularly scenic 1,000-acre wine ranch in the hills of Malibu. I spent a perfect Sunday afternoon sampling and sipping amidst fruit orchards, pastureland and vineyard-covered slopes. And I found an impressive selection of palate pleasers that locavores would love.
Blue Cow Kitchen & Bar created a special duck confit sandwich that rivaled one of their most popular menu items, Pitman Farm’s duck wings grilled with aji amarillo glaze. The folks at Blue Cow support farms, ranches, fisheries and artisans that are guided by the principals of sustainability. They even serve complimentary triple-filtered flat or sparkling water as an eco-friendly option to bottled water.
Soledad Goats offered generous tastings of unbelievably fresh goat cheeses. I couldn’t decide between sweet pepper and shallot, lavender and lemon, or port wine and honey, so the kind proprietors (Julian and Carol Pearce) fixed me a plate of all three. This sweet couple rescues animals, breeds goats and produces cheese on their Mojave farm. Look for them at farmers markets in Silverlake, Santa Monica, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Torrance.
I don’t think this qualifies as locavore, but the guys from Black Market Liquor Bar made a damn fine cocktail, so I’m going with it. Their delicious seasonal concoction, the Autumn Apple, is crafted with Buffalo Trace bourbon, fresh-pressed apple juice, lemon juice, cane syrup and cinnamon. I highly recommend it.
Every year, I mark my calendar months in advance for these premiere showcases of local flavors, and I suggest you do the same. (I know some of you are commitment-phobic about making social plans, waiting until the last minute in case a better offer comes along, but you are missing out on some major gastro-orgasmic fun.) So, do yourself a flavor and save the dates:
Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival: August 15–18, 2013
Los Angeles Magazine’s The Food Event: October 20, 2013
Meanwhile, I’m Barcelona-bound. Spain is calling, again. Adios, my locavore friends. This food lover is loca for cold tapas and hot men.
Copyright © Michelle Gigon/2013 Singular Communications, LLC.