I’m almost afraid to be asked what I liked best at the LA Epicurean Fest. It’s like being asked to suggest a wine without knowing the drinker’s palate. How would I know which of the following you would dig as much as I did:
My Vienna coffee in chocolate cups and Cantaloupe sorbet, High Roller’s brand of sweet-sweet potato vodka, dark or milk chocolate truffles, several types of crab meat, Fortaleza reposado, everything Crater Lake Bendistillery in Bend Oregon makes from gin to Hazelnut Espresso Vodka, VIP’s real Bavarian pretzels, my friend Mark Newman’s flavorful Crocktails, a little contraband foie gras, Amalie Rover wines, Jim Kimmel’s wines from Mendocino, La Colombe Pure Black Coffee, smooth liver pate, every winery that the Family Wine Partners is now representing, Sir Kensington’s gourmet scooping ketchup, Living Tree’s Hazelnut Cloud, the lineup from H. Mercer’s imports, Buena Vistas’ “The Count” red blend, Grace & I’s dried fruit bars served on their own cutting boards, Jericho’s cilantro or plain hummus, Art Moskowitz’s Lavender or Rosemary Vinaigrette, Angel Salumi & Truffles LLC Duck salami, Vina Sutil’s Chilean wines, Tequila Dos Artes in a ceramic container or with a glass blown cactus inside?
It seemed to me that a restaurant owner would be the only other person having a harder time narrowing down his favorites as he may want to try them out in a menu. Glad not to have that job I’ll just give you a few more words on a few of my favorites (Or you can scroll down to the bottom of this post to see the website links alone):
I haven’t visited Buena Vista wines in years, but at the fest I got to try “The Count” Sonoma red blend and was pleasantly surprised. Buy it!
My wine friend, and educator, Mark Newman has helped create the new “Crocktails” brand of RTD (Ready To Drink) pouches. I tried the icy-cool Pomegranate Margarita…only to wish that the other five in the line up were ready to sample. Another one to TRY and BUY!
Tequila Dos Artes 100% Agave tequilas were pretty cool. Several had a colorful blown glass cactus inside the bottle, and my favorite, the Amore Mio, came in a handmade painted porcelain bottle. Find it.
The flavors coming out of Crater Lake Vodka and Gin from Bendistillery were remarkable. Tasting the 80 proof vodkas, one distilled 10 times and the reserve at 100 times, you could really taste the difference, yet appreciate both. The gin, with only the juniper showing, was clean. And my favorite was the Hazelnut Espresso Vodka. Only 50 proof it worked great over ice and I would bet would be outstanding in a cocktail. (Note: I asked to taste all straight, no cocktails.)
H. Mercer wine and spirits imports had a nice selection of white and red imports. I started my day with Mark Huddleston and sent my first tweet about my breakfast simply being his 2011 Picpoul De Pinet from Domaine Julie Benau in Languedoc, France…then I had a Sancerre…a great way to start my tasting.
I guess your first taste should be something grand…well Sir Kensington’s Gourmet Scooping Ketchup was just that. Rich flavors in the classic and my husband Eddie enjoyed the spiced version. This is the kind of ketchup I’d much rather see in a nice restaurant, or any restaurant, over the standard brands.
Another tequila brand I tried that I hadn’t had before came from the “oldest” tequila maker, “five generations of tradition”, and boasted 100% stone milled blue agave. I liked all three served: Blanco, Reposado and Anejo, but my palate preferred the last two as I like a little oakiness in my tequila.
Tasting the High Roller sweet potato vodka was a new one for me too. I loved the hint of the sweetest of potatoes! I look forward to finding this one in a bar and liquor store…and soon because the rep gave me a card with lots of cocktail recipes to try.
Living Tree Community Foods made many spreads that a dairy-free girl like me could love. My favorite that day was the organic Hazelnut Cloud and Chia Seed Oil. Tasted like a dark chocolate Nutella, with a lot more substance. Gotta find that.
Another great find was the Family Wine Partners table serving Caliza, Hearthstone, Alta Colina…among a few other tasty brands. Look for more from Bill Brandel’s company – soon to be serving up a tasty selection at The Stonehaus inside the Westlake Village Inn due to open up late this September.
I steered clear of My Vienna Gelato and Coffee table as I didn’t think there would be much for me to try there. But when Ed pulled me over, to sample the coffee served in a dark-chocolate lined cone, I just couldn’t leave. Then…they served me up the freshest cantaloupe sorbet I’ve ever had as a chaser. I would never pass them up again.
LaRRoque wine imports had some nice $5 Chilean wines from Vina Sutil. It was the first Carmenere I had found that day and for $5 I thought you couldn’t go wrong.
Cilantro hummus, plain hummus or mustard? I took all three from Jericho Mediterranean Foods and happily dipped into each with a soft and salty Bavarian pretzel from VIP Pretzels. A great midday break.
Duck salami anyone? Yep, I had this right after my hummus courtesy of Angle Salumi and Truffles, LLC. Incredible.
Jim, not Jimmy, Kimmel had a nice line-up of wines from Kimmel Vineyards from Mendocino that I enjoyed sampling. I remember a crisp Chardonnay followed by a more oaky variety – and I liked both.
Art Moskowitz, of Chef Arts Healthy Eats, serves up an incredible vinaigrette. I had a tough time choosing between two new favorites: Rose Petal-Pomegranate or Lavender.
Picture dark black coffee…in Europe it works, here, for me, not so much. I was thrilled to discover Nicolas Capes with La Colombe Torrefaction coffee roasters, serving his “Pure Black” coffee. Over ice, alone, no sugar needed in a cocktail, I found it just as good as an Espresso in Paris…perfectly robust and lingering. And it is steeped for 16 hours in stainless steel wine tanks!
Amalie Robert Estate in Oregon produces, you guessed it, a very nice Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley. (Pronounced Will-am-et…rhymes with Janet.) I enjoyed an 06 and 07.
Dried fruit combinations, sandwiched in a colorful mini loaf-looking rectangle, attached to its own mini cutting board, stole my heart. The combination of presentation and taste always gets me and the “Grace and I” company did just that with their “extraordinary handcrafted artisan products.”
And then there was Yvan Valentin of Sweet Temptations Artisan Bakery serving up the most decadently rich white, milk and dark chocolate truffles. Shoot. Me. Now.
Our Esteemed Speakers
Anthony Diaz-Blue, Food & Wine Critic
Vinturi, the Essential Wine Aerator, creates better bouquet, improved flavor, mouth feel, and smoother finish. Mr. Diaz-Blue will explain how to use this nifty device and which wines you want to areate.
Phyllis-Ann Marshall, The Experience of Branding
Leading expert on growth strategies for independent restaurants and chains. Together with Gina Mims of Inspiro Brands they will tackle how to best position your brand.
Marc Huddleston, Le Nez du Vin
Le Nez du Vin/Make Scents of Wine is simply the world’s ultimate wine education tool, it helps develop the sense of smell and creates a common language to describe, understand and better enjoy wine.
North American Sommelier Association, Accredited Wine Education
Nina Sventitsky will talk about the Certified Sommelier course and take attendees through a “minicourse.”
List of exhibitors for the 2012 Festival
La Colombe Torrefaction
Farm Fresh To You
Santa Monica Seafood
Viola Imports, Inc.
Kendall Farms Creme Fraiche
Gourmet Balsamic Blends
Farm Fresh To You
Fancifull Gift Baskets
Principe Foods USA – Italian Prosciutto di San Daniele
Blue Star Foods – America’s Favorite Crab Meat
Ecospring – Shellfish Specialist
Azukar Organics – Organic Coconut Products
Cucina della Cucina – Locally Produced Fresh Raviolis and Pastas
Azukar Organics – Organic Coconut Products
Emil’s Swiss Pastry – Cakes, Pastries, Tarts and Breakfast Pastries
Maple Leaf Farms – Duck Products
Melissa’s Produce Company – Specialty and Organic Produce, Dairy, Grains & More
Sadie Rose Baking Co. – Preservative Free Artisan Breads
Sweet Temptations – Breakfast Pastries, Hand-Crafted Gourmet Desserts, Petits Fours
Tahitian Gold Company – Specialty Vanilla Products
West Central Produce – Specialty Produce, Cheeses and Diary Products
White Toque – Importer of Specialty Products from Europe
WINE & SPIRITS
A&T Importing – Tequila Dos Artes
Amalie Robert Estate
Ribevi Wines International
Bejot Vins & Terroirs
Arger-Martucci – Wine California Napa
Bache Gabrielsen – Cognac from France
Canihan Family Cellars – Wine California Sonoma
Canzona Vineyards – Wine California Sonoma
Cuvelier Los Andes – Wine Argentina Mendoza
Frontaura Y Victoria – Fine Spanish Wines
Green River Sake – Premium Sake Wine from Japan
Bernard Magrez – Pape Clément
Italia Wine Trader – Wine Italy
Joy Selection – Bas Armagnac, VDP de Gascogne from France
La Passion des Terroirs – Wine France Bordeaux
Maison Jean-Baptiste Béjot – Moillard – Wines France-Burgundy & Cotes du Rhone
Ambhar Tequila – Santo Spirit Inc
Terra Andina – Premium Wines from Chili
Private Collecion Baltazar Ress – German
Bourgeois Selection – France
Casa Marguery – Argentina
French Wine Company – South West – France
Lapalu Wine Partner – Bordeaux – France
Le Cengle Rosé – Chateau de la Galiniere – Provence – France
Malibu Vineyard – California
Raymond Vineyard – Napa – California
Vignoble Arbeau – Corbiere – France
Hollywood & Wine – Wine California
Hillside Wines & Spirits – New Items & Mixology
Southern Wine Group
W.J. Deutsch & Sons, Ltd.
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