MASTERS OF TASTE Helping Homelessness

Last night I dined inside the Rose Bowl Stadium locker room for a preview of the 5th annual MASTERS OF TASTE. This premier outdoor food and beverage festival will once again be on the field of the iconic Rose Bowl Stadium on Sunday, April 5, 2020.

Food and beverage enthusiasts have the opportunity to enjoy a spectacular array of savory and sweet culinary items, and variety of non-alcohol and alcoholic beverages for one price.


This is the #yearofthewoman, as the Master Chef Host is Chef Vanda Asapahu of Ayara Thai. She is the first woman ever to host this successful fundraiser for Union Station Homeless Services.


Culinary host Billy Harris was the emcee of the evening introducing chefs, Union Station members and the great people behind the scene providing creative fare and beverages.


Last year’s host Executive Chef Michael Hung of Faith & Flower prepared the first course of the evening – an exquisite bite-sized, baked choux pastry stuffed with a savory mornay made with béchamel sauce with Gruyère cheese and truffles. He told a crowd of 85 guests, “We raised half a million dollars at last year’s Masters of Taste. He said he is putting his best foot forward to raise more than $500,000 for Homeless Services in 2020.


The second course was a smoked Icelandic cod Smorrebrod, prepared by chef Lene Flemming Houck from Open Face Food Shop. It was served with the most delicious housemade pickled vegetables.


Harris introduced Anne Miskey, the Chief Executive Officer at Union Station Homeless Services (USHS). She shared that “USHS permanently housed 1,200 homeless people in 2019 and that 97% are still housed and haven’t turned back to homelessness.”

She gave advice of how we can end homelessness – EAT. “Eating together connects people,” said Miskey. “Food is a common denominator all around the world. When you break bread with people, you touch and connect a fellow human being.” Miskey believes food has the power to welcome those in need.


Next chef Vanda Asapahu came out to talk about the third course she made with her mother – Nam Ya. “This is one of the most loved dishes in southern Thailand, and we used to eat it every weekend.” It’s a slightly spicy fish curry made with coconut milk and rice vermicelli, Dungeness crab, cilantro and fried basil.  Vanda may be tiny in stature, however this talented chef is fierce in the kitchen. Each dish she makes is prepared from scratch and enhanced with herbs and spices to ensure the boldest, most genuine flavors.


With each course a different pairing of OBVIOUS WINES was poured by Kristen Walters and team. These Estate wines are crafted through sustainably farming practices across vineyards in California, Chile, and France. What makes them distinctive is their labels. You don’t need to be an oenophile to understand the nuances of each wine.


Other beverages served were PATHWATER reusable/refillable purified water, and Petal Sparkling Beverage Blends. Around the table we selected one of each of the six flavors for taste tests. The tall and slim cans have a beautiful label and are packed with powerful antioxidants. There is Original Rose, Mint Rose, Lychee Rose, Elderberry White Tea Flower, Peach Marigold, and Lemongrass Dandelion.


The fourth course was a Ragout de Boeuf by Chef Kimmy Tang served with a taste of dark and bold Obvious #1 wine. Like a slow cooked beef stew, it was served with tender potatoes, carrots and a round slice of bread.


Over the last 4 years, Masters of Taste has raised over $2 million dollars to benefit Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena. 100% of ticket purchases and upgrades are used to combat homelessness and rebuild the lives of families and individuals that are experiencing homelessness.

Click here for a list of the MASTERS this year participating. Click here for information on tickets for the April 5, 2020 culinary extravaganza to help those in need move into a permanent home.

The Magnificent Masters of Taste

The Just Opened Venue - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(An ideal culinary venue for foodies inside the historic Rose Bowl – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

It was a spectacular day to savor the finer things in life on the field of the historic Rose Bowl during Masters of Taste on Sunday, April 3.

The new outdoor, luxury culinary festival opened at 3 p.m. to the public as a fundraiser for Union Station. Approximately 2,000 influential food and beverage enthusiasts enjoyed small plates from some of L.A.’s finest chefs and notable sweet masters.

There were multiple opportunities to sip signature handcrafted cocktails and tastings from over 25 beverage masters from top cocktail bars.

(The friendly wine staff from Alexander Valley Vineyards -Instagram: @AVVWinery – Twitter @AVVWinery – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Participating wineries include Alexander Valley Vineyards from Healdsburg, Paso Robles’ Anglim Winery, the premium boutique winery Ascension Cellars and Ventura’s Four Brix Winery. Guests can also enjoy pressed juices, hand-roasted coffee and entertainment.

Chef Bernhard Mairinger served crispy pork belly crostini w/ fava bean and radish.
(Chef Bernhard Mairinger served crispy pork belly crostini w/ fava bean and radish.)

Here are some of my favorite participating chefs and what they served at the event.  Matt Bata, from Alexander’s Steakhouse; Bernhard Mairinger, of BierBeisl; Michael “Mick” Schepers, of HACHÉ LA; Yoya Takahashi, of Hamasaku; Carolos Tomazos, of Inotheke; Sean Popcock, of Made in Brooklyn; Kyle Schutte, of Wood & Vine; Neal Fraser, of Redbird; and Isaias Pena, of Spare Tire Kitchen & Tavern. Brewmasters include Alosta Brewing Co., Bootlegger’s Brewery, Iron Triangle Brewing, Indie Brewing Company and Golden Road Brewing.

(A good cause to help those in need at Union Station for the Homeless - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(A good cause to help those in need at Union Station for the Homeless – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Proceeds from Masters of Taste benefitted Union Station Homeless Services, a nonprofit organization based in Pasadena and committed to helping homeless men, women and children rebuild their lives. Services include street outreach, meals, shelter, housing, case management and career development.

I hope this event was a huge success and that they will organize another Masters of Taste in 2017. Here’s who I met –

  1. Made in Brooklyn Pizza Food Truck – HOLD IT. FOLD IT. EAT IT. Instagram @MadeInBrooklynNYPizza – Twitter @MIBPizza
(Chef Sean Popock made in Brooklyn Pizza Truck – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

2. Kelly’s Kookies served individual plate of various cookies to each guest before entering the center of the stadium.They were delicious.  Instagram @KellysKookies – Twitter @KellysKookies.

Kelley's Kookies - Melting Moments - Chocolate dipped & lemon shortbread
(Sweet Masters Kelley’s Kookies served Melting Moments – Chocolate dipped & lemon shortbread – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

3. San Antonio Winery served a variety of their wines and offered foodies a chance to win a beautiful wine basket. Instagram @SanAntonioWinery – Twitter @SAWineryLA

San Anotonio Winery basket went to one lucky winner - photo by Jill Weinlein
(San Anotonio Winery basket went to one lucky winner – photo by Jill Weinlein)

4. BAI – Bai is the Mandarin Chinese word for “pure.” It’s also an acronym for “botanical antioxidant infusions.” Bai uses only natural flavors without artificial colors to create our fresh, delicious, 5-calorie beverages. Instagram @DrinkBai – Twitter @Drink Bai.


5. I recently reviewed Executive Chef Neal Fraser‘s newest culinary endeavor Fritzi DLTA and was happy to see him representing Redbird. Instagram @RedbirdLA – Twitter @RedbirdLA

Jill Weinlein with Neil Fraser Redbird while making Ricotta Gnudi with guanchale & spicy tomato sauce.
(Jill Weinlein with Neal Chef Fraser)

6. Spare Tire Kitchen + Bar – I always enjoy seeing Executive Chef Isaias Peña and owner Paul Boettcher. I’ve reviewed this fun gastropub on Wilshire Blvd. along the Wilshire Corridor – / Instagram @SpareTireLA – Twitter @SpareTireLA

Chef Isaias Peña and owners Owner Paul Boettcher and son - Spare Tire Kitchen + Bar
(Chef Isaias Peña and owners Owner Paul Boettcher and son – Spare Tire Kitchen + Bar – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

6. HOOCH is a private cocktail app for your smart phone. The App is free to download to check out. If you decide to become a member, membership is $9.99 per month, less than the price of one cocktail. Instagram @HoochApp – Twitter @HoochApp

HOOCH - Mixwell - Brugal Anejo Buck Rum Cocktail
(HOOCH – Mixwell – Brugal Anejo Buck Rum Cocktail – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

7. Massage Envy offered complimentary massages to ticket holders.

Massage Envy offered complimentary massages to guests.
(What a treat to get a massage – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

8. Choctál representatives offered four tastes of chocolates and four spoons of their vanilla ice cream. The chocolates were from Ghana, Kalimantan, Costa Rica and Dominican Republic. The vanilla beans used to make the vanilla ice cream are from Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Madagascar and Mexico.  The ice cream is elegant, smooth and intensely creamy. Instragram @Choctal – Twitter @Choctal

Choctal Cutie
(Choctal Cutie serving tastes to festival attendees – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

9. Executive Chef Brendan Collins of Birch was at the festival. He had his book – Cooking, Blokes and Artichokes – A Modern Man’s Kitchen Handbook for all to admire. Instagram @BirchLosAngeles – Twitter @BirchLA

Executive Chef Brendan Collins
(Executive Chef Brendan Collins – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

10. Golden Road Brewery Crafted in Glendale/Los Angeles since 2011. They served tastes of Wolf 3D and 329 Lager. Did you know there are 329 days of sun in So Cal? 329 Lager is full-flavored and easy-drinking with a clean, crisp finish. Instagram @GoldenRoadBrew – Twitter @GoldenRoadBrew

Golden Road Brewery brought lively staff members who were enjoying the event.
(Golden Road Brewery brought lively staff members who were enjoying the event – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

11. Indie Brewing Company – I met (L to R) Brewmaster James Mancuso, who loves every Indie brew. Kevin O’Malley – a graduate of the Introduction to Practical Brewing Course at University of Davis, California, one of the top brewing schools in the U.S. His favorite beer is the Indie’s Porter offering a complex rich taste with a drinkability he has never experienced with any other porter. Connor Forbes, an expert at brewing, drinking, and loving beer. These guys were a lot of fun and had a great time at Masters of Taste. Instagram @IndieBrewCO -Twitter @IndieBrewingCo

(Happy guys from Indie Brewing Company - photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Happy guys from Indie Brewing Company – photo by Jill Weinlein)

12. The Raymond – 1886 Bar opened a cocktail program was created by Aidan Demarest and Marcos Tello (The Edison, 7 Grand, Tom Bergins) with a strong foundation in classic techniques. They make perfect Manhattans, Old-Fashions, Sidecars, and Sours with fresh juices and hand-cut chunks of ice. Every syrup, infusion, tincture and foam is house-made and perfectly tailored to suit the recipes. Bar 1886 offers over 600 off-menu house cocktails. Instagram @1886Bar – Twitter @1886Bar.

The Raymond in Pasadena
The Raymond in Pasadena

To learn more about Masters of Taste, go to

LA Foodie Events in June

securedownload-40CHAYA Downtown
In addition to a beer garden at CHAYA this summer, the downtown location is offering a new Kaisen menu to its existing dinner menu. The Kaisen menu features the freshest local seafood available to Executive Chef Kenjo Atsushi, and varieties of seafood flown in from Japan. Fresh $1 oysters will be offered daily, Monday through Friday. The Kaisen seafood platter offers oysters, scallop yuzu kosho ceviche, lobster tempura roll, albacore poke sashimi or tuna zuke with ginger relish, and halibut with plum wasabi salsa. Guests can also enjoy uni-glazed Alaskan king crab leg, yellowtail with jalapeño ponzu, and a selection of fresh oysters. The Kaisen menu is available Monday through Saturday from 5:30 to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. 525 S. Flower St. (213)236-9577.

Demetria Wine Dinner
A boutique winery in Santa Ynez Valley that uses biodynamic farming is having a wine pairing dinner tonight, June 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Trattoria Neapolis. Meet the owner 159and winemaker offering Rhone varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from some of the best vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley. The menu features a spring vegetable salad with an unfiltered Riesling. The salmon rillettes are paired with a Grenache Rose. Pan roasted scallops are accompanied with a Chardonnay and braised beef short ribs arrive with a glass of Red Rhone Grenache-Syrah blend. Dessert is a chocolate semifreddo with a North Slope Syrah. The prix fixe menu with wine is $69. 226 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena. (626)792-3000.

The New and Improved CPK
DSC_0135Recipe for Re-imagination has debuted at CPK’s original location in Beverly Hills. The restaurant, which first opened in 1985, has undergone a complete transformation of the design, décor and menu. The remodel incorporates flexible seating with fewer booths and more tables. New dishes, glassware and utensils complement the upscale, yet relaxed atmosphere. Flooring is unfinished reclaimed wood, and warm colors are used throughout. There is a living herb wall inside the restaurant where chefs can pick fresh herbs to top the pizza and pasta dishes. A diverse selection of lunch duos offers dozens of pairing combinations starting at $8.95. The new beverage menu features an adventurous selection of handcrafted cocktails made with the freshest ingredients and unique flavor combinations. 207 S. Beverly Dr. Beverly Hills (310)275-1101.

Top of the World Experience
Loews Hollywood Hotel has spent two years and $31 million for top-to-bottom renovations. The new “Top of the World” program offers DSC_0105exclusive, customized experiences such as romantic proposals, engagement photo sessions, private dinners and champagne toasts. The SERENE Sunset Rooftop yoga series, presented by SERENE Social and the spa, Exhale Hollywood, offers open-air yoga held 20-stories high, with 360-degree views of Los Angeles. Christi Christensen, one of Exhale’s master yoga teachers, will lead the class at 6:30 p.m. on the last Sunday of each month throughout summer. There are only 12 spaces available per class; cost is $35 for SERENE members, $45 for non-members. 1755 N. Highland Ave. (323)856-1200.
Picca’s Summer Cocktails
IMG_1420Bar master Julian Cox has revamped Picca’s buzz worthy cocktail menu with a selection of summer-inspired libations to complement Chef Ricardo Zarate’s bright, crisp and tangy Peruvian specialties. Cox integrates farmer’s market favorites like beets and celery with tequila, playing with sweet and spicy in a blackberry-serrano demi, and puckering up with salt garnishes in cocktails. Some of the new libations include “Beets by J” with tequila and smoked salt; “Mr. Green” with lemon, celery, grape spirit and salt air; the “Zarate Kid Part II” with egg white, lemon and blackberry-serrano demi; and the “Rhum JM Blanc” with yellow chartreuse and angostura. 9575 W. Pico Blvd. (310)299-0133.

Dinner and Theater

Next door to the Pasadena Playhouse is the redwhite+bluezz restaurant with a fun vibe, yet sophisticated atmosphere. The restaurant DSC_0156offers live jazz with wonderful food and wine specials. Happy Hour specials run from 5 to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. Dine before seeing the comedic actor French Stewart in the theatrical production of “Stoneface”. The show runs through June 29, and is a production about the life of Buster Keaton and his contemporaries. 37 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. (626)792-4441. To purchase tickets for “Stoneface”, call (626)792-8672.

Save the dates from July 14 through 27, when dineL.A.’s Restaurant Week returns. There are two weekends to indulge in prix fixe lunch and dinner menus at more than 300 restaurants. Guests don’t need tickets or passes to enjoy Restaurant Week. Simply dine at a participating restaurant, explore a new part of town or enjoy an old favorite. Tables fill up fast at some of the hottest restaurants in Los Angeles, so I recommend making reservations in advance.

Flavored Mimosas
Open Air Kitchen + Bar, situated in the heart of West Hollywood, is debuting a variety of flavored mimosas. Flavors include grapefruit and St. Germaine, cranberry with Grand Marnier, pineapple and mint, and strawberry with basil. The flavored mimosas will be a permanent addition to the brunch menu, and will change seasonally as the freshest ingredients become available. 829 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310)854-0756.

IMG_7250Golden Road Brewery Tour
The public is invited to tour the local brewery on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 1:30, 2:30 and 4 p.m. Just walk into the pub and tell one of the cicerones behind the bar when you would like to take a tour. Order a tasting flight and grab a seat inside or on their airy patio. Out on the lawn, they have a bean bag toss, foosball and other games. Be sure to wear closed toe walking shoes. Guests will learn about the flavors of craft beer and how Golden Road gives back to the community. Additional $10 tastings are available after the 2:30 and 4 p.m. tours. 5410 W. San Fernando Rd. (213)373-4677.

Chipotle’s Go Skateboarding Day
On Saturday, June 21 from 4 to 8 p.m., guests are invited to visit any Southern California Chipotle restaurant to supportchipotle-logo the Tony Hawk Foundation — a charitable, nonprofit organization. Mention “Tony Hawk” at the time of purchase, and Chipotle will donate half of the proceeds from the sale. Chipotle will donate a minimum of $25,000 to create high quality, public skate parks in low-income areas in the United States. 7660 Sunset Blvd. (323)952-5160; and 110 S. Fairfax Ave. (323)857-0608.

These fabulous foodie events was also published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers.