LA Times and Food & Wine Host THE TASTE

Labor Day Weekend in LA just got a whole lot tastier

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Los Angeles is a sprawling city. Every Angeleno has a different idea of the city’s boundaries and they definitely have an idea of how far from home base they’ll go on any one day. So how do you throw a food festival in as indeterminable a city as that? You choose three neighborhoods that span a good chunk of it and throw tons of events in each.

The LA Times and Food & Wine Magazine have paired up to do just that with their THE TASTE Festival over Labor Day weekend (September 2 – 5, 2011). With events hosted by food mainstays like the bubbly and talented Susan Feniger, Giada De Laurentiis, Ludo Lefebvre, the Kogi Truck founder Roy Choi, and Top Chef contestant Fabio Viviani, our excitement was starting to reach a fever pitch. So we caught up with Food Network’s Aida Mollenkamp to talk about THE TASTE, what she’ll be cooking, and her favorite LA food trucks. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Muy Yum)

What makes LA Times and Food & Wine’s THE TASTE different from other food and wine festivals?

Just like Los Angeles, this event is big! It spans the city from Beverly Hills to downtown and it features the top people in food, wine, and mixology right now.

Which events are you most looking forward to attending?

Friday's Art of Mixing at the Paramount Studios is one of the events I'm most excited about. Not only will there be food and wine from the city's top talent, but there will also be cocktail demos by master mixologists, like Julian Cox, and music from the talented KCRW deejay, Jason Bentley.

I'm looking forward to Food Noir on Sunday night because it's a chance to celebrate Hollywood's film roots in a very modern way. It's taking place at the historic Orpheum theatre where they'll be screening film noir shorts and serving noir-inspired food and drink.

Food City: The New Language of L.A at Sunday's Street Eats event is another one I’m excited about. The panel includes LA-food heavy hitters like Roy Choi and Sang Yoon and I'm looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say about the LA food scene and what's in store in the near future. 

Will you be cooking at the festival? If so… when and where?

I'm excited to celebrate Labor Day by cooking at the Picnic In The Hills event in Beverly Hills. Fellow Food Network friend, Giada De Laurentiis, will be hosting the family-friendly event and I'll be doing cooking demos along with Melissa D'Arabian and Candace Nelson of Sprinkles.

My food is based in modern Californian cuisine with flavors that are both flavorful and healthy. I will cook up recipes using fresh, seasonal ingredients that are kid-friendly yet interesting enough to keep adults intrigued. Recipes will include fruit juice "sodas," root vegetable chips, roasted garbanzo beans, a dip, sandwich, and dairy-free chocolate pudding. 

What restaurants and bars are you excited to hit while you’re in LA?

Los Angeles has a lot of talented people making all sorts of delicious bites and various artisanal products. Most of my favorite LA restaurants will be at the event serving food and I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of creativity they unleash for the weekend. Ones on my must-eat list are: Valerie Confections, Xoia, The Spice Table, First & Hope, and foodCrafters alum, Compartes Chocolates.

Do you have a favorite LA food truck?

There are nearly 10,000 food trucks roaming LA on any given day, so to say there's a lot to choose from would be an understatement. I've done my food truck duty and tried nearly 100 of the trucks but it's a real eating work-in-progress. Some of the trucks that I go back to time and again are the NomNom for banh mi, the Kogi for pretty much everything, and the Dosa truck for the Shiva-Shakti dosa. As for sweet eats, I go to Coolhaus every time where you can make-your-own customized ice cream sandwiches such as fig-balsamic ice cream with salted chocolate cookies. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/underactive)

What do you think sets LA’s food scene apart from others?

LA's food scene is at an unprecedented point right now. The focus here is always on seasonal and fresh (and usually healthy) but there's a melting pot influence that's a result of all the ethnic influences here. It's a really exciting moment for food in LA right now and THE TASTE is a time to celebrate that.