First off, the event was held inside the Petersen Automotive Museum, an unusual choice for a destination food & wine event - a venue with a vibe that feels more Hard Rock than Pebble Beach (in the most fabulous way - it was eye-opening to check out all the classic, futuristic, movie-prop and vintage 'Hot Wheels' cars on display, after the gorgefest was done). Read: no pretentiousness served here, only a curated collection of the noteworthy.
The restaurants and vintners who were hand-picked out of thousands for the event ran the gamut from street food by emerging superstars to fine dining culinary luminaries, with cuisines reflecting some of the incredible diversity that Los Angeles has to offer, from Southeast Asian to Mexican to French to fusion.
The space was well designed - with the main room divided into three aisles, two on the outside for food, and the center aisle for wines - this was perfect as you didn't have to travel far to move from one to the other, and 'Designer Cyclist', her hubby and I found that we loved floating easily between the aisles to spontaneously create our own pairings!
I knew we were off to a great start when the first booth we saw upon entering the main room was Mozza. Regular readers know that Pizzeria and Osteria Mozzas are two of my favorite restaurants in LA, and they didn't disappoint with an incredibly smooth, creamy and yieldy ball of burrata topped with roasted tomato, basil and bread crumbs for contrasting crunch.
So here are the highlights - my absolute favorite / pick for best of show (out of the items we tasted) would be Drago Centro's Foie Gras Panna Cotta with Duck Confit and Beet Crouton in a shot glass. I might be a bit biased as this features some of my favorite foods on earth - but I thought it was a brilliant idea to turn rich, earthy foie into incredibly creamy panna cotta, then to counterbalance with gamey duck and crunchy beet croutons! All in a presentation that highlighted the gorgeous colors, and smartly made it easy for guests to carry away quickly and eat while standing / scurrying through the crowds without making a mess! Sheepishly, I went back for seconds - twice.
last semi-traumatic experience at the restaurant, I was a bit hesitant to allocate precious stomach space to them - but Designer Cyclist and "Mr. Cyclist" tasted first and convinced me with their lit-up eyes and disregard to the sauces dripping down their arms. They were right - I absolutely LOVED the sandwich with its unique combination of ingredients and fatty juices soaked into the bottom of the bread - ESPECIALLY the fact that it is a completely unexpected ethnic offering from a place not normally known for...ethnic dishes. And, we decided that from now on, like Windex in 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding', if something needs fixing or sprucing up we're going to say "put some Banh Mi sauce on it!". Palate's Banh Mi paired incredibly well with a sauvignon blanc whose label I can't remember - will have to ask Designer Cyclist later!
Waterloo & City, brought Chicken Liver Foie Gras Mousse complete with aspic in little plastic shot glasses, served up with a slice of baby baguette. Loved this - it was a little pungent but still a sollid tasting.
The Gorbals, true to form, brought probably the most unusual protein of the show - Grilled Chicken Gizzards with Romesco Sauce and saffron. If there had been a bone for this to fall off of, it would have fallen off the bone - it was that unexpectedly tender.
I also really liked - but could only sample - A-Frame's Furikake Kettle Corn that was spicy and sweet at the same time, with nori, sesame and corn nuts.
To be perfectly honest, I am not at all knowledgeable about wines - luckily Designer Cyclist and her hubby are experts, and took me on a guided tour down center aisle throughout the event. A complete lightweight, I am normally done after one glass - but for some reason I was able to hold up at the event and got to try tons of amazing wines. I can't name half of them, but I do remember Jeio Cuvée Rosé Prosecco, from Bisol - a medium-bodied sparkler with fruity notes (do I sound somewhat like I know what I'm talking about? No? Ok.) I also loved that the event offered a range of cocktails and mocktails as well. My favs were Fine Print cocktail from A-Frame - with its luscious layers of sweet / tangy/ floral flavors from rum, hibiscus, falemum, lime and orange bitters, the Olympus Mons with ginger and lemon infused artisanal vodka from Moon Mountain, and the POM Julep - which was refreshing and critical to hydrate between sips of alcohol.
All in all, we had an awesome time. Beyond all my raving above, I also loved that even A-list chefs were actually in their booths, some actually cooking. In my opinion this is the best collection of amazing restaurants / chefs etc from a wide-ranging spectrum that you will find in LA for just $50 (General Admission is $60, but early birds got $10 with publicized promotion code) - setting a high bar thanks to the eponymous Mr. Gold's currency in the culinary arena. And is the antithesis of the awful, fool-me-once-shame-on-you-fool-me-twice-shame-on-me event thrown by Los Angeles Times ($65 at door). For one thing, I actually left stuffed to the gills, and at no time did I feel like I was going to expire from dehydration out on the streets due to 'exposure' to extreme heat in an uncovered venue in the dead of SoCal summer, with little obvious access to water or other beverages besides alcohol. And I didn't have to pay for any food that's even the tiniest bit larger than one bite-full, after paying exorbitant admission - Gold Standard was AYCE, once you're in the venue, it was a free for all. Gold Standard is definitely, especially very much appreciated by foodies on a budget - if you only go to one food event next year - make it this one! (And as I mentioned, with admission to the event you also get to wander through the awesome auto museum, which includes of all things the Batmobile - the regular cost of admission just to the museum is $10 for adults, so I consider it an additional value!)
Well done LA Weekly - and thank you Mr. Gold - I will definitely be back next year!!!
3rd Annual Gold Standard Food & Wine Event 2011
March 6th 1pm-5pm General Admission, VIP early entry 12pm
Petersen Automotive Museum
6060 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036
$60 General Admission, $80 VIP