Saturday, October 23, 2010

Artisanal LA - Home Run for Local Food Makers

While sports fans were preparing for / engrossed in game 6 of MLB playoffs, foodies and local business supporters converged in the bright, airy Cooper Design Space in the heart of downtown's fashion district today for day 1 of Artisanal LA, a celebration of local artisanal food makers, community and economy.

A long-time fan of Compartes and Petrossian, when I saw their names on the vendor/speakers list, I knew the caliber of food makers I could expect at the event - and Artisanal LA didn't disappoint. In this blogger's opinion this inaugural event definitely hit it out of the park - especially for the very reasonable admission price of $10 (advance purchase; $15 cash at the door). 

Almost everyone showcased their wares with generous samples, and I LOVED discovering sweet and savory treats from foodmakers who were new to me, as well as tasting new offerings from familiar ones.  Here are some of my 'best in shows' for Saturday:

Compartes brought a beautiful display of their chocolate truffles, which you can handpick a custom assortment into gift boxes, as well as chocolate bars ($8) with classic to unique / exotic ingredients from mango and strawberry to orange and pink peppercorns, to candied flowers.  Jonathan also presented his new homemade Honey Peanut Butter with Sea Salt, which is amazingly smooth with a lovely kick of salt (as sampled in his peanut butter truffle!).  Also on hand were spicy chocolate skull pops ($5), just in time for Halloween.

Villebois, purveyor of homemade delicacies,  showcased pates and some amazing flavored butters ($7) - Sundried Tomato & Rosemary, Lemon & Dill, Fig & Port, and Blueberry. Fig and Port definitely stood out as my favorite - I brought home a tub and doubt it will last through the weekend!  Villebois also offered samples of their quiches, and probably had the largest spread of samples at the show. Those who never venture to the Valley need to try the butters at the show - currently, their products are not widely available at retail and just sold through one location in Burbank.

Tartist had a streamlined booth, the better to highlight four of their tarts.  I especially loved the apple tart with the creative touches of rose water, persian honey-vinegar glaze and sprinkling of pistachio, on mascarpone in a french crust ($35 for 10" fruit tart regularly, discount given at event).  DON'T MISS trying this at the show - Tartist isn't available at retail and owner Xarene produces to order only.  She makes these tarts from fruit in her own and friends' gardens right here in LA, but can also make them with fruits from your own tree on request!

Another best-in-show flavor discovery was at Morning Glory Confections - with their unique handmade candy items from fusion brittle with flavors like Thai Curry Peanut (the tasting curveball of the show - it tastes like regular brittle at first, then surprises with a great kick of spice when you least expect it $5 small box, $10 big) and New Mexico Chili and Pumpkin Seed to their sea salt caramels made with Bacon Fat, Smoke Spanish Paprika and Fleur de Sel!

ChocoVivo offered hand stone-ground 'whole bean' dark chocolate bars - that are handmade, natural, and dairy-free with no milk powder, soy lecithin or additional cacao butter!!!  My favorite out of the ones sampled was Coffee & Vanilla.  They also offer hot chocolate mix ($16) that is dairy free - a rare find! - in flavors like Vanilla Bean and Mayan Traditional.   You can of course make it with milk if you like, but this mix is a dream come true for the lactose intolerant - you can also make it with soy milk or rice milk.
Greenbar Collective/ Tru Organic Spirits offered up organic liquers infused with flavors from Orange to Jasmine and Hibiscus which held the right balance for me - not overwhelmingly fruity/sweet or floral.  They are working on getting these into bars everywhere, but for now, I'm told Tru Organic spirits and liquers are served at Geisha House!

In addition to vendor booths, there were also talks and demos throughout the day - the two MVPs for me were: (1) "Christopher Klapp, (GM of) Petrossian, about Sustainable Caviar" - very informative about the process of harvesting and pricing caviar, and how to serve and taste it.  Followed of course by a tasting of 5 caviars from Trout and Salmon Roe to a cubed sturgeon caviar!  This tasting alone was worth the $10 admission fee (to the Artisan LA event - there wasn't any extra charge for the talk or tasting!!!).

(2) "Lindy & Grundy, Heritage Meats and Home Butchering with Marissa Guggianna, Author of Primal Cuts" - somewhat out of left field, but in a good way!  The team non-chalantly brought out an entire pig, and gave a live demonstration of how to butcher it to get pork chops, sirloin, roast, bacon etc.!  I'd never seen it done in person before and it was an interesting thing to watch, especially in the penthouse space in fashion district!

Coming off the excitement of the talks/demos, had to stop by Akasha's table - I had great meals at the restaurant in Culver City, and was interested to see what they had brought to the show.  Spread over the length of the table were jars of various organic jams, preserves and chutneys with flavors ranging from apple-quince to berry-rhubarb-ginger (~$6-$8 for small jars) - all of which tasted amazing.  I went home with a jar of the apple-quince.

Chef Ricardo Zarate of Mo-chica fame, and who has set food writers abuzz with Test Kitchen, was on hand with his Anticucho tomato-less bbq sauce with Peruvian spices - also incredible.

Lastly, courtesy of the LAUSD School Garden Programs (a portion of proceeds from Artisanal LA will go towards this program, which supports a garden in every school in order to create opportunities for kids to discover fresh food and healthier food choices), guests can take home individual herb seedlings of their choice to start their own garden. 

For those who are crafty - there was also a DIY booth by Common Thread Studio, where you can sew your own felt egg cozy (or close the bottom and stuff it to turn it into an ornament).  The designs were adorable, but it will cost you $5 for 1 and $10 for 3.

All in all, there is plenty to see, do, and taste for everyone at the show, which goes into its second and final day for this season tomorrow.

Some final tips for those game for this awesome event:

Free Take-Home Loot:
  • Honest Ade Pomegranate Blue organic juice drink
  • Bonadea Aguas Frescas - Guava, and Tamarind drinks
  • Compartes 10% off coupon (postcard)
  • Ococoa 15% off coupon (postcard)
  • Seedlings from LAUSD School Garden Programs
Raffle: Don't forget to drop off your raffle ticket stub at the table immediately to your right as you enter the show space, for your chance to win prizes throughout the event!  Drawings are to take place every 15 minutes, I was told - but it was a little hard to hear them call out the numbers sometimes with all the background noise.  You can go up to the table at anytime to ask them to check your ticket against the winning numbers that have been drawn.

Going Back for Seconds:  Your admission fee is good for unlimited re-entry - both days!  Those who attended today can go back tomorrow without paying another cent for admission.  Just bring back your wristband.

  • Easiest and safest, but not the cheapest: Cooper Building has an underground parking garage that's superconvenient, as you can take the elevators right up to the building and then to the event space on the 11th floor, but it will cost you - Artisanal's site says $10, but the sign at the garage entrance says $8 (flat rate).  If you parked here - comment and let the rest of us know which is right!
  • Short walk, less secure, but dirt cheap (for downtown):  Aside from the lots mentioned on the event site on Santee Alley, there are also some on Los Angeles St between 6th and 7th Streets:  the first one is $4, second one for $3, both flat rate, both outdoor (first one is roof parking, not sure about the second).  Seems safe enough for daytime parking.  There is also a street level outdoor lot on 7th for $3 flat (if you were going south on Los Angeles St, make a right on 7th and it will be on your right).
 Looking forward to the next event in Winter 2011!


Artisanal LA
Saturday, October 23rd and Sunday, October 24th 11am-6pm
Cooper Design Space, Cooper Building
860 S Los Angeles St., Los Angeles, CA 90014


  1. i didn't make it past "fig & port butter" - GOOD LORD. where do i get myself some of that?!

  2. I inhaled the whole tub this weekend!!! Should have bought more... but apparently you can get Villebois goods at Full 'O Life Market in Burbank

  3. Wonderful post! Wish I was there...the flavored butter looks amazing!



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