Inside The All-Star Chef Classic: American Masters Dinner

Tanayas Table All Star Chef Classic - Wine Glass Logo

Last night, the All-Star Chef Classic turned the L.A. Live event deck in downtown Los Angeles into an epic restaurant stadium. Thanks to Tastemade, who sent me to cover the event, I got to experience the exquisite five-course dinner menu for myself!

I was planning on going to my regular MMA kickboxing class, up until a few minutes before I was about to leave for the gym. Then, I found myself quickly getting ready for a fancy fine dining event and rushing to downtown L.A. for a night to remember! I’m very grateful for the opportunity.

Not only did we witness live demos from five of the immensely talented top chefs in America, but I also got a chance to speak with them about their food! It was a memorable evening, for sure:

Sitting in the restaurant stadium is an amazing feeling. It feels larger-than-life but also has an intimate vibe, as there aren’t a ton of rows so that no one feels too far from the action. Everyone in that room had one thing in common: we are all passionate about high caliber food.

Each of our five courses were paired with wines, and each plate looked so pretty I had to admire it (and pay homage by taking lots of photos and videos!) for a considerable amount of time before taking a bite. Hey, I was just doing my job! 😉

A breakdown of what was served:

Tanayas Table All Star Chef Classic - 1 Santa Barbara Spot Prawns Michael Cimarusti

First course, by Michael Cimarusti of Providence

Santa Barbara spot prawns roasted in salted butter, with citrus and nori. Paired with a 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.

Having recently developed a very slight (and majorly unfortunate) allergy to crustaceans, I was unable to taste the prawns, but the accompaniments were delicious… and the noises my fellow dining companions made after eating this course gave me reason to believe that this dish was every bit as good as it looked.

Tanayas Table All Star Chef Classic - 2 Daniel Patterson Coi San Francisco Vegetables

Second course, by Daniel Patterson of Coi Restaurant

Spring vegetables in a honey-lemon broth, with herbs and flowers. Paired with a 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.

It was indeed “springtime on a plate,” as the San Francisco chef described his own dish. The herbs and the honey-lemon broth brought this delicate dish together. Hooray for healthy, pretty food!

Tanayas Table All Star Chef Classic - 3 Nancy Silverton Roasted Cumin Carrots

Third course, by Nancy Silverton (always one of my favorite chefs to talk with!) of Mozza

Roasted carrots with ceci and cumin vinaigrette. Paired with a 2012 Pinot Noir.

The warm notes from the cumin and the perfectly roasted carrots gave such great flavor and texture… and the yogurt on top brought a cooling element and balanced the entire hearty vegetarian masterpiece.

Tanayas Table All Star Chef Classic - 4 Lamb Loin Black Garlic Wylie Dufresne

Fourth course by Wylie Dufresne of Alder, and previously WD~50

Lamb loin with black garlic romesco, pickled ramps and dried soybean. Paired with a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.

The lamb was perfectly succulent, the ramps added some acidity, and the black garlic romesco gave the entire dish such a deep, rich umami flavor. Holy moly.

Tanayas Table All Star Chef Classic - 5 Miso Butterscotch Apple Pie Christina Tosi Momofuku

Fifth course, by Christina Tosi of NYC’s Momofuku Milk Bar

Apple pie cake with miso butterscotch, sour whipped cream and pie crumble. Paired with a 2012 Moscato… & (unofficially) Stella Cidre.

Oh man, where to start. The cake was moist, with the crumble adding the perfect crunch. The miso added more savory umami, and complemented the flavor of the apples so well. The sour whipped cream brought it home with a delicious tanginess to balance the sweetness of the cake. This is what dreams are made of, people.

Tanayas Table All Star Chef Classic - Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie

Petit Fours by Christina Tosi

Momofuku’s famous “Crack Pie”

We ordered a full-size pie (yes, I had it shipped!) from NYC a few years ago, and it was pretty incredible. This was a nice bite-size version, but I do wish it had more of the addictive filling. Oh Christina, how you always leave us craving more and more! With how good her desserts are, no amount will ever be enough, I think.

Tanayas Table All Star Chef Classic - Red Carpet 2

Moral of the story: Not that I’m saying to always choose eating over working out, but when the right opportunity presents itself, being a little spontaneous and saying “yes” more than “no” can truly do wonders for how much you get out of life. Trust me on this!

Find out about upcoming All-Star Chef Classic events this weekend by visiting the official site. You can join Tastemade and follow me here. Cheers!



SCUBA And More At The L.A. Travel + Adventure Show

The L.A. Travel & Adventure Show was a blast, and the highlight for me was the SCUBA experience they had, right inside the Long Beach Convention Center!

Below is the video with expo highlights and my spontaneous decision to try SCUBA for the first time.

I’ve been whitewater rafting, ziplining, rappelling down a 240-foot waterfall in Costa Rica and much more… but one thing I’ve been anxious about trying is SCUBA, and the whole idea of breathing underwater and feeling okay. No idea why, but that’s pretty much the reason I haven’t gotten around to trying it yet.

So when my friend Sumita – who shared my trepidations about breathing underwater – and I discovered the 15,000-gallon heated SCUBA pool staring us in the face, we decided to just go for it. The folks from Be A Diver were so wonderful, encouraging us and making it fun the entire time.

Mind you, we were not prepared whatsoever to go underwater… but we just looked at each other and knew instantly that we couldn’t pass up this opportunity, so we just made it work!

Tanayas Table LA Travel Adventure Show Tastemade Video Pic

Got an impromptu SCUBA lesson… right inside the travel expo!

The guys at Be A Diver provided the wetsuits and all SCUBA gear, so it was an easy process from changing, gearing up, learning to use the equipment and getting to swim underwater for extended periods of time.

A ton of dazzling popular and under-the-radar travel destinations exhibited at the travel show, and you can find out more on the Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show website.

The travel bug has always kept biting at me since an early age, but it bit me real good again after this expo! It got me wondering if I should visit New Zealand, Morocco or South Africa first… or another one of the countless possibilities out there.

Like I’ve said before, my philosophy is, don’t just wait until “someday” to do the things you really and truly want to do. I’m in my 20’s, and I’ve already traveled to all these places around the world, and more.

So if I can do it — from backpacking through Europe on a budget, to working in Hong Kong, to doing a volunteer and adventure tour in Costa Rica — so can you! Stay tuned for more travel and adventure posts from around the world over at Tanaya’s Travels, and more new and unique food coverage right here. Cheers!

New Opening: Prova Pizzeria + DineLA Week

Lorenzo shows us the top pies created at the newly opened Prova Pizzeria.

VIDEO: Lorenzo shows us some of his favorite pies at the newly opened Prova Pizzeria.

During dineL.A. Restaurant Week, we were invited to go behind the counter at Prova Pizzeria and taste West Hollywood’s newest authentic Italian pizzeria.

Upon walking in, there was already a sense of warmth and welcoming. Once I learned the story behind the passionate owners, it made even more sense. Chef Vito and his brother Lorenzo are from Italy, and their passion shows in their warm and welcoming attitude, as well as in their third-generation, 100-year-old family dough recipe.

The dough is a fusion creation, with influences from Sicily, Bari and Naples. As a result, the dough is thin, yet has a nice rise and chew around the edges of the crust:

20150122_145040Lorenzo was on hand to personally show us the ropes behind their mouthwatering pizzas with unique toppings, such as the “La Vito” (pictured) which consists of savory mortadella ham, creamy stracciatella cheese and crunchy pistachios. It was definitely my favorite pie, although the “Margherita D.O.P.” that we also tried — which is on the DineLA menu — was also outstanding.

We also had appetizers such as the Assorted Olives & Taralli (an imported Italian pretzel) and the Speck (smoked prosciutto) & Mozzarella, as well as the Carciofi salad, which had artichokes, arugula and pine nuts. All had a great acidity and tartness to them to balance out the delectable pizzas.

As you can see in the video above, I even got to fire my own pizza in their wood burning oven! Prova is a fast-casual concept, so it’s perfect for lunch, dinner or even a post-night out quality bite.

20150122_145053DineL.A. runs through this weekend (Feb 1, to be exact), so I highly recommend getting yourself over to your favorite restaurant on the list for a special three-course menu at a special price.

However, even if you miss dineL.A., just know that it will be back… and that there is no wrong time to get a taste of Prova Pizzeria. Service, efficiency, authenticity and quality… this place really does have it all, and it made me miss my days in Italy! Lorenzo’s hospitality and jovial spirit really made me feel part of the Prova family, and I can’t wait to get back for another slice — or two — of that “La Vito” pizza!

20150122_145043You can check out Prova Pizzeria’s website for the menu, as well as for more information on visiting the new West Hollywood eatery. Ciao!


VIDEO: An Italian Food Tour In The Heart Of Los Angeles

Enjoying spumoni push-pops in front of the historic IAMLA building.

Enjoying spumoni push-pops in front of the historic IAMLA building.

Lately, I’ve been missing many aspects of my past trip to Europe… and especially the robust flavors of the simple yet divine food I found in Italy. So the Taste of Italy, held this past weekend in downtown L.A., came at the perfect timing. It was the Italian mini-vacation I needed, right here in Los Angeles!

I covered the event two years ago, and was excited to see what had changed or remained the same since. What didn’t change was the lively atmosphere full of live entertainment and merriment, I’ll tell you that much!

Of the multitude of authentic Italian restaurants and wineries serving and pouring throughout the night, there were a few that really stood out to me. What makes a bite of food special for me at an event is a combination of the taste, originality, balance of flavors and textures, and– last but not least– the service. (It also helps if the item looks pretty on the plate, as it makes the eager food photographer in me very happy!)

Garganelli pasta with pork sausage and fennel pollen

Garganelli pasta with pork sausage and fennel pollen

A couple dishes I really enjoyed were served at the joint booth by Italian restaurants Celestino and Drago Centro, with brothers Calogero and Celestino Drago personally serving guests. They served garganelli pasta with pork sausage and fennel pollen, and plated it right out of a giant, hollowed out cheese wheel (also featured in the video below). The panzanella salad they also served with a smile was refreshing, and a good counterbalance to the flavors and textures in the pasta dish.

Drago Brothers Chefs

The Drago brothers, Celestino and Calogero

Another standout was The Jonathan Club, which served tiramisu and cannoli-inspired donuts that were absolutely scrumptious, and really tasted like their respective classic dessert inspirations. They even included tiny droppers to inject the accompanying espresso or the cherry sauce into the donuts for an interactive experience. They also served spumoni push-pops with pistachio and cherry swirls, which were just as fun as they were tasty (also featured in the video below). Loved the innovative twist on those classic Italian flavors!

Cannoli Tiramisu Donuts Jonathan Club

Tiramisu and cannoli donuts

Di Stefano Cheese served a creamy burrata topped with a smooth pesto sauce, nutty pumpkin seeds and a soft square of focaccia bread to sop up all that goodness. It was one blissful bite! Other dishes served throughout the night included onsite oven-fired pizza, gnocchi with mushrooms, and plenty of cold seafood dishes.

To wash it all down, we sipped on top quality Barolo red wine, long known amongst Italians as the “King of Wines.” I learned that the wine originates from the Piedmont region of northern Italy, and is traditionally made from the native Nebbiolo grape, which is quite thick-skinned and tannic. There was also plenty of Italian coffee on hand, along with cannoli, gelato, and even amaro, which is an Italian digestif.

Barolo Wine

The famed Barolo, also known as “King of All Wines”

With all the hearty food and drink, I found samples of Eden’s Savory Sap to be quite refreshing. It is an elixir made from plants and roots, and I tried their Turmeric-Almond-Rose and Sage-Rosehip-Elderflower flavors in soda water. They tasted like a healthier, aromatic and elevated version of your typical soda, with almost none of the sweetness. I could see them mixed into cocktails as well.

And now, I present you with the best bites in action, right here in this one-minute video packed with Taste of Italy highlights:

Spumoni push-pops and more at Taste of Italy 2014!

Spumoni push-pops and more at Taste of Italy 2014!

It’s also important to note that the annual event is held in support of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, to help raise funds to preserve Italian American history for future generations.

The Taste of Italy was as close as I’ll get in a while to physically being back in Italy, but it definitely transported me back mentally and filled me with nostalgia… all while infusing the event with an innovative L.A. twist. Until next time… ciao!

We Tried It: New Mixlogy Classes At Hard Rock Hollywood

Our group of budding mixologists!

Our group of budding mixologists!

Ever thought it would be fun to learn the art of mixology with your friends? A few days ago, the Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood at Universal CityWalk invited us to try just that, as they’re launching a new interactive bartending class called “Shake It Up” led by the Hard Rock’s very own skilled– and charismatic– mixologists.

We got to play bartender for the night, learning how to make martinis (gin and vodka), margaritas, and even the secret to the Hard Rock’s #1 seller, their world famous Hurricane. It’s been years since I took bartending classes (yup, took ’em back in college), so it was fun to see what I remembered (four-counts, layering, certain drinks) yet how new it felt all over again to be behind that bar and to try and pour perfectly (harder than it looks, I swear).

Our mixology leaders Justin and Will (who have worked at the Hard Rock for over three decades, combined) taught us fun facts about cocktails, liqueurs and the quirky history behind some of the featured drinks. Then came the extra-fun part, where we got to build our own drinks just like the pros. Well, besides the amateurish spills we (I?) had along the way! Check out the one-minute video below for some real, unedited footage of some serious cocktail making… with plenty of laughs along the way:

Take in all the mixology action right here, spills and all!

Take in all the mixology action right here, spills and all! (Here I am, making a gin martini)

We participated with a sizeable bunch of other fellow LA-based food writers, but the classes accommodate any group size between 7 to 40 people so you can either bring your close friends or your extended family if you wanted. 😉

You can make reservations for classes at Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood at Hollywood & Highland, and Universal City Walk (where I took my class). The classes run from $42 per person for just the bartending class (drinks included!), or as part of a three-course meal from Hard Rock Cafe’s newly revamped menu for $65 per person. Considering Hard Rock International has venues across 58 countries, it’s great to know that the “Shake It Up” classes are offered right here so we can take advantage!

Off the top of my head, I’ve been to the Hard Rock in Hong Kong, Las Vegas and Bali… all are in prime locations within each city and I have great memories at each of them. One that truly stands out is when a couple years ago, my American friends were working abroad in Hong Kong for a summer.

We chose to start that Fourth of July off at the Hard Rock Hong Kong, and that classic clip of Whitney Houston singing the national anthem started playing on TV. Everyone quieted down and it felt like a great moment of American solidarity, right in the middle of Lan Kwai Fong (Hong Kong’s nightlife hub). I usually don’t go to American establishments when abroad (I’d rather be soaking up local culture!), but that Fourth of July was definitely a special patriotic moment abroad that I’ll cherish.

I’ve had some great memories at Hard Rock Cafes around the world, but the latest has been the most interactive and informative one, thanks to our very own local Hard Rock Hollywood’s mixology class.

Whether celebrating a birthday with friends, or taking your team members or colleagues out for a night of team building, the new “Shake It Up” classes are a unique and memorable activity to try. Not only do they offer a great experience during the couple of hours of hands-on fun, but they also give you lots of great tidbits of interesting knowledge to pepper into your conversations at future social gatherings. For example, did you know that gin is essentially vodka infused with juniper berries??

Bottom line, the class was a lot of fun and fits perfectly with my life philosophy to get out there and try new things, learn as much as you can, and have a good time while you’re at it. So dive in and get mixing, I think you’ll like it!

You can make a reservation by calling the Hard Rock on Universal City Walk at 818.622.7660 or the Hard Rock on Hollywood Blvd. at 323.606.7150. Cheers!