Monday, September 12, 2011

The Taste - Picnic in the Hills

Last Monday I was lucky enough to attend one of LA Times and the Food Network's events at "The Taste". The series of food demonstrations and tastings took place in Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and downtown LA all weekend and were hosted by celebrity chefs such as Giada De Laurentiis ("Everyday Italian", "Next Food Network Star"), Susan Feniger (Border Grill, "Top Chef Masters"), and Duff Goldman (Charm City Cakes, "Ace of Cakes"). Themes included "Burgers and Beer", "Street Eats", "Desserts After Dark", and "Picnic in the Hills". 

Sheltered by massive tents to combat the late August heat, the "Picnic in the Hills" VIP pass included fresh lemonade in basil or strawberry (Target), endless wine tasting from California vineyards, and little bites from the best and brightest of LA's culinary scene. From Santa Monica's M Street Kitchen to on-the-go food truck B Sweet, every plate I sampled was artfully assembled and exquisite. 

Though I couldn't bring myself (or my stomach) to sample every dish, I did plow through a fair amount. Here are my top picks from "Picnic in the Hills":

Angelini Osteria

Anyone who knows me knows my undying adoration for Italian cuisine and my relentless quest to find authentic restaurants in Los Angeles. Though I've been to Angelini Osteria, I didn't order my favorite dish of all time, lasagna bolognese. I've been disappointed and hurt before by chefs boasting their true Italian roots and I hesitate to risk a meal on sheer luck. Boy, was I mistaken. 

Angelini Osteria served their spinach lasagna with bolognese sauce and a side of sauteed spinach. The bolognese was brown, a true sign that the meat has been simmering for hours and does not have a tomato-based sauce. Unlike delicately stacked American lasagna, Italian lasagna is sloppy -- a mound of sauce and soft pasta sheets melting into one orgasmic hybrid. I'll tell you a secret: I went back for another taste. Angelini Osteria, I'm coming for you. I need a full size lasagna, stat.

Stella Rossa Pizza Bar

How can something so simple make the cut? This was my last stop of the afternoon, and I almost didn't make it. For two hours I stuffed myself silly with chocolates, barley salad, red wine, white wine, strawberry infused vodka (Yes! Vodka), key lime cheesecake bites, beef kogi over rice, various pasta dishes, orange bread budding, goat cheese tomato tart, and Kate Mantelini's new lamb pops (available off their catering menu). Even with a voracious appetite, I was nearing my breaking point.

Then, the heavens opened up. I spotted M Street Kitchen's sign and wandered over, curious to see what they were presenting. M Street Kitchen now has a pizzeria and bakery next door, Stella Rossa Pizza Bar. A series of chefs brought piping hot bread out of the oven and topped it with burrata. I was hooked. Burrata, for those poor souls who don't know, literally means "buttered" in Italian; imagine fresh mozzarella mixed with cream and you get the sinful and luxurious taste of burrata. Topped with grapes, olive oil, and a sprig of spinach, this modest dish quickly became my favorite of the day.

Each restaurant brought its own flair and style to the presentations, and I was left feeling plump and content -- ready for a nap. Most of these LA-based eateries are participating in the upcoming dineLA event, and I have an ever-expanding list of new, delicious places to try!


Drew said...

with all due respect, I realize that pizza came from Italy. That being said, USA effectively stole pizza decades ago, and that, Miss Heine, is NOT pizza.

Regardless - that all looks inCREDibly tasty. :-)

Anonymous said...

omg i post yet!!!! keep up the good food rach! (this i sal)

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