29 July 2006

Cause for Eating

LOS ANGELES, July 22 — The sun was sinking below the concrete horizon that is the 10 Freeway as I drove across town to attend the 4th Annual Food & Wine Tasting Benefit at the California Science Center, sponsored by Project by Project, to fundraise for Visual Communications.

Upon arrival, I was checked in at the door and given a green band that was strapped around my wrist before being allowed in the enclosed courtyard where the event was taking place. Once inside, it was a food free for all as both the walls and perimeter of the wading pool were lined with linen covered tables serving all manner of amuse bouche, drinks, and deserts.

And then it hit me—the heat. The place didn't have air conditioning. The hottest night of the summer thus far, a lot of people in a close space, and excess food and wine: it was a recipe for disaster or, at the very least, the makings of a hot and sweaty evening.

But I didn't have time to dwell on physical discomfort—I had tables to go and things to eat. So, I plunged into the crowd to start tasting anything in sight. Noé, the restaurant presenting at first table I hit, was offering popcorn chicken with honey mustard. The chicken was playfully served in a Chinese takeout box and surprisingly crisp and hot for something sitting out on a table.

Then it was over to Roy's and a savory bite size piece of pork belly. The pork belly had a wonderful mouth feel—a soft, buttery texture for meat so tender it felt apart in your mouth. Next to Roy's was The Oinkster—fun name for a restaurant—serving pastrami sandwiches. While I don't know if a Jewish deli would approve of the bread, it should find no fault with the meat. The pastrami's peppery seasonings provided a pleasantly spicy heat that was an excellent counterpoint to the mellow marbled beef—again, another melt in your mouth meat experience.

But I was OD'ing on fatty flesh and needed to move to lighter fare. It was Whist to the rescue with its lobster and white peach served on a leaf of butter lettuce. The combination was inspired. Topped with thinly sliced red onions, lending a hint of sharpness to the mild lobster and sweet peach, it was one of the more complex dishes, flavor-wise, in the room.

Another palate cleanser came from blue on blue and its shrimp with golden tomato gazpacho. The gazpacho was cool and tangy against the plain cooked shrimp. Then I took 2 steps to The Blvd and oysters on the half-shell topped with tuna tartar. Fresh-shucked oyster on a hot summer night—I lucked out. Each slurp was a shot of cool, briny sweetness, clearing my overheated senses. After 3 quick hits, I was swimming in oyster bliss. If I had seen this table first, I would have parked myself there all-night.
I also ate desert, but at the time, I was already bordering a Christmas goose stuffed condition and wasn't tasting anything beyond soft sweetness in a mini pot de crème, cold sweetness from a small scoop of cinnamon chocolate gelato, and wet sweetness from a sip of watermelon purée.

There were also some nice wines being poured and I sampled a few from Andiamo Vineyards, Cole Bailey Sesquipedalian, and Dark Horse. But my drink of choice for the evening was Adam's ale, a.k.a. water, supplied by FUJI Water—when you're hot, nothing hits the spot—food or drink—like good, old-fashion designer H2O.
In the end, I was hot and sweaty, but the evening was more enjoyable than unbearable. I ate more food than I wrote about and saw more people from the Asian American Independent film community than I thought I wouldn’t meet again until the 2007 VC Film Fest.

My tummy was pleased, but my feet told me the next time I wanted to do another food tasting event, I should leave my sexy, sling-backs at home and take the flip-flops—food and fashion don’t always mix!


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