Pop-Up Dinner: Love As Art

We, as a society, often refer to love as a science, a lot of times citing research on how certain chemical reactions in the brain and body create the feeling of romantic love. However, this past week, I was fortunate enough to experience a five-course pop-up Valentine’s dinner that made me see love in a different way– as an art form.

Thanks to Chef Tiffany of Something Good 2 EatThe Art Institute and Artistic Taste LA, we were in the company of talented artists, singers, and an open bar as we experienced thorough all our senses wonderful works of art and acts of love through food and entertainment. Shoutout to my wonderful, inspiring friend Yuri for inviting me to experience this beautiful dinner affair at Nobo in Los Angeles with her and a few of our other awesome friends this past Friday!

As we enjoyed wonderful conversation with other couples and single pals, we were serenaded in the background by singers and a live band. The candlelight ambiance really set the tone for a memorable evening!

Tanaya's Table Love Pop Up Dinner Soup

We sipped on cocktails and dined on an incredible five courses, starting with a velvety, creamy, comforting tomato soup with a crispy, gooey bite of grilled cheese to dip into it.

The second course was a refreshing garden salad with crisp vegetables, dried cranberries for a little sweet chewiness, and a fresh raw honey-lime dressing that I just couldn’t get enough of.

The third course was quite possibly my favorite, as it was a succulent scallop sitting on a bed of creamy cauliflower puree, topped with crispy bacon crumbles. What a delicious play on surf and turf!

Tanaya's Table Artistic Taste LA Scallops

I chose the chicken for my third course, which was hearty with the addition of garlic white cheddar mashed potatoes, chives and lemon butter asparagus. Loved the veggies, and the cheesy potatoes were a great accompaniment as well.

The grand finale was an incredible half brownie, half chocolate cake heart-shaped dessert iced with decadent ganache and garnished with a chocolate heart and raspberry sauce. This Chocolate Devotion dessert  was sweet art on a plate, and I was in chocolate heaven as I devoured it.

As we enjoyed the entire evening filled with love and art, I realized something… love, itself, is art. It is an art that can be practiced, yet is open to interpretation. Love is something that comes naturally to us, yet some are better at it than others. Yet everyone can learn to love themselves and others, in their own unique way.

Art is something that is very personal, and very unique to the individual who creates it. Yet, others can appreciate that art, be moved by it, and draw inspiration from it. In that same way, so is love.

I reflected back on how I interpret and show love, and came to the realization that although I’ve worked on giving love and showing my love to others over the past many years, I have neglected to show myself that same love… and to fully allow myself to freely receive love in all forms from others.

I discovered in that moment that it felt good to pause the multitude of “to-do’s” and “should do’s” running through my head and allow myself to enjoy a beautiful dinner experience with some of those I love. I realized while eating the food, that it was indeed food for the soul… not because of the type of cuisine served, but because it inspired me to stop and appreciate the moment, and realize that I am worthy of taking a break and allowing the love to flood into my soul sometimes.

Tanaya's Table Artistic Taste LA Chocolate Cake

Perhaps many of you can relate, but oftentimes, I feel that I don’t deserve a complete break from working until I reach my goals and achieve success. But perhaps I should simply aim to love and nourish my soul more, and to enjoy the little moments along the path to success. And perhaps success is also the ability to let go once in a while and enjoy the moment for what it is, with people who truly care about you. All these revelations came to me over the beautiful five courses that night, and I couldn’t be more thankful for it all.

I’m so grateful to have been part of this journey through the senses to experience food as an art form, and as an act of love. By cooking for someone, we are showing our love to another person. By eating food that nourishes us, or gives us pleasure, we are showing love to ourselves, and acknowledging that we are worthy of good food and love. By sharing a meal with those around us, we are connecting, sharing and spreading that love. And that is exactly why I decided to focus on food, and to start Tanaya’s Table years ago.

Let this unique pop-up dinner experience by Chef Tiffany, The Art Institute and Artistic Taste LA be an inspiration to us all… to view our lives, our food and the people we share that experience with, with love and appreciation. Not just on Valentine’s Day, but each and every day!

With love,

Tanaya’s Table

PS – If you’re interested in attending the next pop-up dinner experience, follow my Instagram account @tanayas.table for updates on upcoming events!

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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!

 

VIDEO: Celebrity Chefs + Highlights from LA Weekly’s “The Essentials”

Tanayas Table LA Weekly The Essentials Logo Wine

Where do you go to interview top-tier LA chefs of celebrity status, all in the same room? How about the likes of Curtis Stone, Roy Choi, Michael Voltaggio and Sang Yoon?

Well, this past weekend, LA Weekly hosted The Essentials, an annual food event produced in honor of the recently unveiled 99 Essential LA Restaurants list. This is where I got to chat with all of the aforementioned immensely talented chefs!

Check it out here, along with some of the amazing bites offered by 50 of the 99 restaurants honored on the list:

Here are some of the highlights from what we tried at the event:

Roy Choi’s Kogi served its classic short rib tacos, while Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio of Ink served a bagels & lox-inspired dish featuring rye pasta with smoked trout roe, bagel crumbs and dashi brown butter.

Michael Voltaggio of Ink served up a pasta play on bagels & lox

Michael Voltaggio of Ink served up a pasta play on bagels & lox

Plan Check served their famous (and heavenly!) cruller donut holes with caramelized goat cheese, coconut sugar, almond sauce, white chocolate and candied rosemary.

Plan Check's all-star cruller donut with candied rosemary, caramelized goat cheese

Plan Check’s all-star cruller donut with candied rosemary, caramelized goat cheese

This little ball of rich complexity was definitely one of my ultimate favorite bites, as the donuts were crispy on the outside and light, airy and slightly custardy on the inside. The caramelized goat cheese was the perfect balance of sweet and savory, and the candied rosemary added the right amount of aromatic essence.

A savory favorite of mine had to be Little Sister’s banh hoi with chili braised beef shank and tendon, herbs, sprouts and fried peanuts. Great balance of hot and cold, sweet and salty, and the perfect amount of heat and acid.

Little Sister's banh hoi getting some finishing touches

Little Sister’s banh hoi getting some finishing touches

Alimento’s escolar crudo was also excellent, plated with eggplant, wild fennel and mollica. The succulent yet firm white fish absolutely melted in the mouth along with its Mediterranean-inspired components. It was a very cohesive plate indeed, with deep flavors.

One last donut that stood out was Hinoki & The Bird’s miso donut with honey caramel. It was a perfect umami and sweet combination in one fluffy bite!

Spago served an interesting “Vietnamese style banh mi” with pork belly, but somehow it didn’t taste as good as it looked for me. Still, it was pretty to look at, with all its brightly colored veggies.

Spago's take on the banh mi

Spago’s take on the banh mi

Tar & Roses’ steak tartare was delectable, as was its popcorn with bacon, brown sugar and aleppo pepper. Petit Trois also served a steak tartare, while Park’s BBQ served the flavors of Korean BBQ in one bite. There was also some great Ethiopian food, and a lot of deep-flavored moles served at the event.

Korean BBQ in one bite, by Park's BBQ

Korean BBQ in one bite, by Park’s BBQ

I only heard that chef Curtis Stone of Maude’s white asparagus pain perdu with foie gras mousse, pickled pearl onions & mustard seed was amazing, since we didn’t get to try before they ran out. Still, he talks to us about it in the video above… which kind of makes up for it!

Here’s Roy Choi cracking jokes and plugging Kogi, by the way:

Joking around with Roy Choi

Instagram video: Joking around with Roy Choi

Szechuan Impression’s spicy noodles were hot and flavorful, and had just the right bite. The variety of food, from authentic international street fare to refined European-inspired dishes was a pretty accurate reflection of so much that LA has to offer.

Spicy noodles by Szechuan Impression

Spicy noodles by Szechuan Impression

Although they didn’t exhibit at the event, I was pretty proud to learn that Surati Farsan Mart was recognized as one of the 99 Essential Restaurants!

Wine, cocktails and spirits also flowed at the event, and there was even vodka made from sweet potatoes. Oh, and how could I forget shouting out Philippe The Original and their OG French dip sandwich? There was so much food and drink to try, such little time!

The original French dip by Philippe The Original

The original French dip by Philippe The Original

I do wish some of the fine dining restaurants hadn’t run out by the time we got to them, but overall we definitely left stuffed and satiated with some of the most essential bites LA has to offer.

It was a good time talking food with some very well-respected chefs, as well.

Roy Choi & Tanaya's Table talking food

Cheers from Roy Choi & Tanaya’s Table… peace out!

Check out the full list of stellar vendors here. Until next time, cheers!

VIDEO: CREAM Opens In Downtown Los Angeles

Backstory: Went to Berkeley back in 2013 for a few hours to visit a friend. Heard of CREAM, the Berkeley-based ice cream sandwich place that always has a huge line. Pressed for time, we bypassed the line, hoping to try it someday.

Flash forward to present: CREAM has opened in Downtown Los Angeles, right near USC on Figueroa. The line for free ice cream sandwiches wrapped around the block, but I had to bring you guys the “scoop” (pun totally intended), right?

Here’s what we got, and a word from Hector, the owner of CREAM (which stands for Cookies Rule Everything Around Me, by the way):

Check out the one-minute rundown on CREAM, the newest ice cream sandwich on the block.

Check out the one-minute rundown on CREAM, the newest ice cream sandwich on the block.

The final verdict for me is that it’s worth a try, but they will never come close to what Diddy Riese has done for UCLA and Westwood (which CREAM is said to be trying to do with the USC area).

I have attended both schools and yes UCLA is my alma mater so there is a slight bias by default, but nothing beats Diddy Riese in its history, charm, authenticity, and just the OG experience in general.

Their cookies also go better with the ice cream, in my opinion, but I will say that when the CREAM cookies get soaked in melting ice cream, they have a delicious texture and flavor that makes me very very happy.

They also have ice cream made in-house & vegan options… but what I really love are the toppings you can add to your ice cream cookie sandwich. Everything from Oreo pieces to sprinkles and gummi bears.

However, I wish they had a few more unique flavors, and that their salted caramel had more saltiness to it. I wasn’t mindblown for all the hype, but it was a very solid and satisfying ice cream sandwich. Plus, the service was great.

Go check CREAM out for yourselves in you’re in the downtown area, and share your verdict!

VIDEO Sneak Peek: Unique LA Returns For The Holidays

Note: If you’ve noticed my absence, it has been due to a family emergency I’ve been dealing with on an ongoing basis… but I’m back for now, or at least trying to be as much as possible.

Thanks for your understanding and patience, and I’m looking forward to sharing more good eats, events, behind the scenes videos and recipes with you all! Much love.

Featured items in my Huffington Post article on the first ever Unique LA.

Featured items from my Huffington Post article on the first-ever Unique LA back in 2012

When I covered the first ever Unique L.A. a couple years ago, I found everything from red velvet ding-dongs, bacon-banana macarons and raspberry-habañero jam, to DIY headbands, gingerbread donuts and all-natural smoked tuna cat food flakes… plus lots of locally crafted items resembling moustaches, octopi… and octopi with moustaches.

You can see what other peculiar, adorable and intriguing items were featured at the inaugural Unique L.A. in my coverage piece, published on the Huffington Post.

Although we can only time travel back to past Unique L.A. experiences by reading about them, the good news is there’s another weekend of fun coming to downtown L.A. starting tomorrow. And even better than just reading about it, this time I will share a video with highlights as well!

A couple weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek — or should I say, a “snack peek” — at some of the artisanal food crafters who will be selling at this weekend’s Unique L.A. thanks to my Tastemade crew.

Here’s a look at some of the treats you can expect to find… including pumpkin spice donuts from Donut Snob, Meyer lemon pie from Sugar Pie Honey Buns, chipotle dulce de leche macarons from Soft Peaks, and so much more:

Tanayas Table Unique LA Donut Snob etc Sneak Peek Tastemade Video Image

Check out this 1-minute video for a sneak preview of what unique treats you can find at this weekend’s Unique LA! (Blooper alert!)

Good times, bloopers and all! Also, here’s a bonus feature I did on Bon Puf’s all-natural, organic cotton candy in interesting flavor combinations like mango chili, salted caramel and lychee green tea. Plus, I get to try my hand at making some cotton candy as well! Join the mini adventure here:

The sweet folks at Bon Puf show me how to make my own Mango Chili cotton candy!

The sweet folks at Bon Puf show me how to make my own Mango Chili cotton candy! Check out the video right here ^

To find out more and to grab your tickets to food, entertainment and DIY workshops, check out the Unique L.A website. See you there!