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 crispy artichoke beignets with the layers of sliced artichoke heart stuffed with fontina and Parmesan cheese, and topped with a crisp coating of bread crumbs are just one of many new autumn dishes at Del Frisco’s Grill, which overlooks the iconic Santa Monica Pier from the northeast corner of Colorado and Ocean Avenue.
The beignets resemble arancini di riso or Sicilian rice balls and come five per a plate. They are served with a pleasing, light green, sweet basil dipping sauce that pairs nicely with cabernet from Aquinas North Coast Wines, which offered a smooth, black cherry finish.
The lively dining room is adjacent to the large bar where patrons were watching the Dodgers and Astro game. The baseball fans were sipping craft beers, red and white sangrias, and cocktails, including the Ocean Sunset made with RumHaven Coconut Rum, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Orgeat syrup, fresh lime juice and bitters.
To continue our meal, we ordered a yellow and dark red roasted baby beet salad, on a whipped feta cheese spread and topped with chopped mint, a flavorsome orange zest and splashed with a sherry vinaigrette.
When our server brought out a steakhouse-style burger, we admired its size and presentation. The Quinn’s Filet Burger is named after the head chef for Del Frisco’s Grille, Shawn Quinn. He makes a decadent, 6-ounce, house-ground filet mignon patty, and cooks it medium rare before placing a generous dollop of in-house bacon and onion jam. This elevated burger has both Gorgonzola and Gruyere cheese, a few sprigs of arugula and whole grain mustard spread on a soft kaiser roll. The large burger is juicy, delicious, and is served with house-cut Idaho potato french fries that are crisp on the outside, and warm and creamy inside.
Another hearty dish worth noting is the prime steak sandwich that is cut from a whole beef loin, hand-shaved to order. Layers of beef are placed on an artisan French roll and then dazzled with a creamy horseradish. The au jus on the side enhances the flavors even more.
My favorite main dish was the perfectly cooked scallops on top of a goat cheese polenta. There were five on a plate with blistered red cherry tomato chermoula, offering North African flavors. The chermoula sauce is made with tomatoes, a squeeze of lemon over earthy spices and a delicious mix of fresh herbs. It’s topped with a pine nut gremolata and roasted chive sticks.
My friend Patricia really enjoyed the tender coffee-braised pork shank with coffee and apple cider glaze. Cubes of bacon pieces, collards and toasted Sea Island red pea gravy make this pork shank extra memorable.
For side dishes, the creamy truffle mac and cheese offers a whole new rich and delicious level of comfort. The sauce is made with cream, Gruyere and Parmesan cheese. Diced shallots and chopped garlic are poured over the cooked radiatori pasta, which is then covered with bread crumbs before being placed into the oven to brown. The final touch is a high-quality truffle oil drizzled on top. It’s simply magnificent.
The charred Parmesan broccolini with squeezed lemon and roasted asparagus are healthier sides to accompany one of the five signature steak options. Del Frisco’s Grille offers an 8- and 12-ounce filet mignon, a 14-ounce bone-in filet, prime New York strip and prime ribeye. On Friday and Saturday, they also serve a special bone-in prime rib.
Desserts range from a coconut cream pie with white chocolate shavings, Nutella bread pudding, a molten chocolate cake and salted caramel pudding in a jar.
Del Frisco’s Grille will be open for Thanksgiving, serving a three-course, prix fixe menu for $42 per person.
Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. $$ 1551 Ocean Ave Suite 105, Santa Monica, (310)395-7333. 55 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena, (626)765-9913.
This article is featured in the Nov. 9, 2017 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News
Last Sunday at 1:30 p.m., the clouds opened at the iconic Rose Bowl in Pasadena less than two hours before hundreds of people were going to arrive for a 3 p.m., entrance to the second annual Masters of Taste.
It was sunny and dry by the time I arrived and strolled the 50-yard line feasting on some of the finest fare from L.A.’s top chefs and restaurants. Here are 9 of my favorite Masters of Taste experiences –
Tony Esnault – Spring and Church and State –
This esteemed chef made a fresh English pea soup adorned with carrots and a few drops of herbed oil. To learn more about his restaurants, click on these links – Church and State and Spring.
The Dirty Cookie –
The Dirty Cookie takes milk and cookies to a new level. Each cookie is handcrafted and delicately hand-coated with premium Belgian Chocolate. Each cookie can be filled with Milk, Vanilla Almond Milk, Cremes – Chocolate and Vanilla, Coconut Cold Brew, Soft-Serve
or Toasted Marshmallow. To learn more, go to The Dirty Cookie.
SpireWorks had one of the most colorful tables at the event. To learn why I think the Eagle Rock and Westwood locations are terrific fast, casual dining destinations click on this link to read my review SpireWorks.
INTRO Art Gallery & Chefs Table –
I was so happy to see Michelin-Star Chef Paul Shoemaker from INTRO Art Gallery & Chef’s Table. He made his signature edible “dime bag” made with translucent Japanese rice paper filled with powdered foie gras, cocoa nibs and puffed rice. Shoemaker makes an elegant 12-course dinner every Friday and Saturday evening. It’s an exciting interactive dining experience of art, music and food. Shoemaker told me that he is popping up on the Westside and Venice showcasing his unique menu items. Check out my review of INTRO –beverlypress.com/2016/12/the-secret-supper-club-intro-art-music-food.
True Food Kitchen –
For healthy options True Food Kitchen offered three tasty bites to hundreds of guests. Here’s my review of True Food Kitchen – True Food Kitchen.
Sprinkles Cupcake founder and pastry chef Candace Nelson is the founder started tthe world’s first cupcake bakery in Beverly Hills in 2005. Today, Sprinkles has locations nationwide, and a traveling Sprinklesmobile. In 2012, Sprinkles debuted the world’s first Cupcake ATM and recently Sprinkles Ice Cream. To learn more http://sprinkles.com/about/cupcakes.
Milk and Honey –
Milk and Honey offered Hawaiian Blast Wellness Bowls that were filled with a base of strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and organic almond milk. The toppings included pineapple, coconut meat, honeydew, organic hemp granola, a piece of honeycomb and beautiful California grown organic edible flower. Click here to learn where Milk and Honey is located Milk and Honey.
I really liked this Kombucha created by Michael Faye. As a commercial photographer and huge dog lover, his bottles have a photo of an adorable dog. His Kombucha is one of the undiluted, organic types . This probiotic is traditionally brewed with tea. It’s BPA-free, raw, gluten-free, and non GMO. Kombucha Dog is available at over 150 locations in bottles and on tap in markets, restaurants and bars in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Diego Counties – Kombuchadog.
Complimentary parking will also be available at the event. Tickets to this event are only available for guests 21+ and over. To book your tickets directly,visit http://www.MastersofTasteLA.com/Tickets.1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena.
It’s America’s New Year Celebration, a greeting to the world on the first day of the year, and a salute to the community spirit and love of pageantry that have thrived in Pasadena for more than 100 years.
The floats are made from structural steel elements and organic materials that include flowers, seeds and fruit. Many floats, along with their drive train, include computer-controlled robotic mechanisms to animate the floats.
It takes 60 volunteers working 10 hours a day for 10 days to decorate one float.
2. Rose Bowl Football Game
On January 1, 2015 the Oregon Ducks champions of the Pac-12 Conference, and Florida State Seminoles, champions of the ACC Conference, are playing in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at 1:30 p.m. PT at the historic Rose Bowl Stadium.
3. Tournament of Roses House
Little did William Wrigley know that In 1914, when he purchased the 18,500 sq. ft. Stimson mansion for $170,000, that one day it would become the prestigious Tournament of Roses Headquarters, the mecca of New Eve’s Eve and New Year’s Day activities.
Located on Millionaire Row in Pasadena, it was one of the Wrigley’s six homes. This mansion was made with one foot thick steel and concrete walls to protect the structure from California Earthquakes.
Wrigley did not like the appearance of the house next door, so he purchased it and leveled the home to turn the area into the Wrigley Gardens. The gardens have more than 1,500 varieties of roses, camellias and annuals.
Enjoying the festivities by the Tournament of Roses each New Year’s Day, Wrigley applied to join the private social club, The Valley Hunt Club, most noted for starting the Tournament of Roses Parade in 1890.
When his membership was rejected from the prestigious circle, maybe because he wasn’t a full-time resident, William Wrigley Jr. was miffed. He made it known to his family that when he and Ada died, the family would deed the 4.25 acre property with the mansion and gardens to the City of Pasadena for the exclusive use as the Tournament of Roses Headquarters. Tours are available to visitors throughout the year. Go to http://www.tournamentofroses.com/history/association to learn more.
4. Band Fest
Two days before the parade, all of the chosen high school Marching Bands perform at Pasadena City College on the football field. It’s really fun to see high school students perform from Japan, Maui, Denmark and from schools around the United States. To learn more go to http://www.tournamentofroses.com/events/bandfest to see the schedule and how to purchase tickets.
5. After the Parade
Guests can get up close to the floats before New Years Day and after the parade. On New Year’s Eve drive over to the the various ‘float barns’ that dot the Arroyo Seco / Rose Bowl where a few floats are being wheeled out to be judged by the Tournament of Roses judges. It’s an exciting time, as volunteers are putting on the final touches before their float gets to be seen by the world.
After the parade on New Year’s Day, the floats are taken to Sierra Madre and Washington boulevards in Pasadena. You can walk within a few feet of them and volunteers will be there to answer questions.
Walking into the lobby of the new iPic Theaters in Westwood is like walking into a posh hotel lobby. There is a full bar with seating areas to enjoy a martini or glass of wine before seeing a movie. The beautiful branch ceiling with lights is eye-catching.
Sitting in one of the large, plush burnt orange-colored leather seats, I arranged my pillow to my comfort level and pulled up a soft and cozy blanket to snuggle in and watch The Amazing Spider-Man 2 at the new iPic Theaters in Westwood. This is the ninth theater to join the iPic Theater Group across the nation. It’s the second location in Southern California, with the first being the successful iPic Theater in Pasadena.
Located in the former AVCO Center Theaters on Wilshire, iPic Westwood has six-auditoriums, and 424-seats. The stylish design, creative cocktails and innovative cuisine create this entertainment experience to be different than other movies theaters.
Guests have a choice of either Premium or Premium Plus seating. The Premium are the first three rows and don’t offer the reclining oversized chairs as in Premium Plus. Premium seating ticket holders sit in yellow leather chairs and may purchase food and beverages direct from Tanzy Express, an Italian sit-down restaurant, located within the iPic Theaters’ facility. Guests may carry their food and libations into the theater.
Premium Plus seating features reclining, oversized leather chairs, complimentary popcorn, pillows and blankets, as well as individual service-call buttons that summon servers to deliver signature dishes and hand-crafted cocktails from a gourmet menu designed by the renowned chef Sherry Yard. She serves as Corporate Vice President of Culinary Direction. The full-service bar offers an exclusive selection of hand-crafted cocktails presented by award-winning mixologist and master sommelier Adam Seger.
The popcorn was a little too salty for my taste buds, yet the Premium Plus seats are the way to go. The Premium seats are too close to the screen and aren’t as much fun.
iPic Theaters Membership is FREE and provides great benefits such as discounted pricing, advanced on-line purchasing of tickets, access to blockbuster films before the general public and more. Sign up today and join the iPic Community by clicking onto https://www.ipictheaters.com.
Ticket prices are $19 for non-members for Premium seats and $19 + a $10 VIP fee for Premium Plus. Members receive a discount of $15 a seat depending on the showtime of the movie. To learn more, so to iPic Theaters.
The Westwood Theatre is located at 10840 Wilshire Blvd. Westwood. There is a parking garage behind the theatre
As the Fire Marshall with a clip board in hand and four other firemen maneuvered through the large crowd at Trattoria Neapolis, I knew Perry Vidalakis private one-year anniversary party was a huge success. He limited his party to 300 invited guests. There were exactly 300 of his most beloved customers, friends, and family members enjoying small bites of pizza, risotto and crispy lobster arancini while sipping wine, craft beer and creative cocktails.
The Fire Marshall stayed for a while and then left without closing the restaurant down. Whew! He didn’t have the heart after talking with Perry. You see, the celebration was for a worthy cause. A portion of the $60 anniversary dinner with drinks ticket went to Foothill Family Services. It’s a non-profit that helps over 21,000 vulnerable children in the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, Glendale, Burbank and Los Angeles County areas.
Perry also held a Live Auction at 9 p.m. to raise more money with 100% of the proceeds going to Foothill Family Services. While standing on top of his gorgeous bar top with a microphone in hand, Perry offered a Pizza class for six people at his restaurant with his master pizza chef, Michele Galifi, to the highest bidder. Our friends were generous winners. Other wonderful auction prizes included a private beer tour with tasting at Bootlegger’s Brewery, two tickets to a six class Neapolis wine series and more. I estimated Perry raised about $30,000 to give to Foothill Family Services.
Guests felt generous as they crowded into the Garden Room, transformed into a Wine Garden, to taste wine from 20 different U.S and Italian wineries. Some of the representatives included Stag’s Leap, Rutherford Ranch, Villa Sandi and Flatten. In the center of the Wine Garden was a whole roasted suckling pig with house made salsa verde and mostarde. Sliced peaches resting in burrata with pistachio and marinated olives were devoured.
Head Bartender Kris Doyle and his crew concocted creative and aromatic cocktails. Some of the guests enjoyed Gelee – a modern take on the classic Jello shot in the bar area.
We fortunately arrived early and were able to secure a booth in the cocktail bar. It was next to the four piece band with a singer who could belt out the notes better than many in town. They were terrific.
Upstairs was packed with patrons enjoying Southern California craft beers from The Bruery, Eagle Rock Brewery, Telegraph Brewery, and Bootleggers Brewery. Trattoria Neapolis offers 14 beers on tap and some craft beers from Italy. The small bites near the beer balcony included Sicilian pork meatballs, steamed mussels, lasagna and roast duck with dried cherry marmolada and rabbit with rosemary.
In the Spirit Cellar were tastes of premium Bourbon, Rye, Vodka, Single Malt Scotch, Blended Scotch and Limoncello. Nearby were a line of people waiting to taste a plate of veal Scaloppini, wood grilled Prime New York steak and Barolo risotto.
After the live auction, coffee and desserts were served. As guests left, they received a goodie-swag bag with theatre passes to an upcoming Pasadena Playhouse production and a two-for-one Caltech production certificate. Also included was a bag of ground coffee from Stumptown coffee and a Wells Fargo key chain.
Happy Anniversary Perry, Chef Bryant Wigger and the staff at Trattoria Napolis. You sure know how to throw one heck of a great party!