Sriracha Series, Part 1: Sriracha Festival Brings The Heat to L.A.

This post is Part 1 of a three-part series dedicated to the modern holy grail of hot sauces, sriracha. Stay tuned for a Halloween-themed post and a behind-the-scenes look inside the sriracha factory!

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

See the stellar spicy sweet & savory foods in action at the 2nd Annual Sriracha Festival!

The 2nd Annual Sriracha Festival hosted by Josh Lurie of Food GPS & Randy Clemens, author of The Sriracha Cookbook was by far the hottest event to hit Los Angeles this past weekend, taking place at the historic Chinatown Central Plaza. As an avid heat seeker, this was an event I especially looked forward to this month, even with a total of three events to attend that very same day!

By far, the Sriracha Festival showcased some incredibly unique and impressive eats. Chefs and mixologists alike highlighted the versatility of the most trendy chili sauce to date with creative uses in savory and sweet dishes, as well as in cocktail form.

Beachwood BBQ Sriracha Ribs

Beachwood BBQ’s sriracha-glazed smoked ribs

The Mexican chocolate fountain you see in the video above is to dip crispy, sriracha sugar-dusted churrones (similar to chicharrones) courtesy of Eagle Rock Brewery, whose beer on tap included Witbier and IPA. And those meaty smoked ribs being doused in sriracha BBQ sauce come from Beachwood BBQ.

The deviled eggs also featured are not your mama’s deviled eggs. They’ve got a chicken skin crumble and sriracha caramel on ’em, thanks to “Top Chef” contender Mei Lin. Speaking of a great sauce, Willy B’s pork belly had some great flavors from their hot sauce.

That pork belly though.

That pork belly though.

Mud Hen Tavern’s Kajsa Alger served a smooth, creamy sriracha-braised pumpkin purée with white chocolate yogurt and basil oil, along with some fresh greens for texture… and the flavors came together beautifully. Meanwhile, “Next Iron Chef” & “Chopped” alum Nate Appleman of Shophouse served a moist and flavorful pork and chicken meatball with tamarind vinaigrette and green papaya slaw, along with a Thai basil and cilantro salad with crispy garlic.

Crawfish mac 'n cheese with house smoked Andouille sausage by Little Jewel of New Orleans

Crawfish mac ‘n cheese with house-smoked Andouille sausage by Little Jewel of New Orleans

Newcomers on the scene such as The Gadarene Swine and Little Jewel of New Orleans served diverse dishes such as a vegan crispy yucca with sriracha and avocado mousse, and a not-at-all-vegan crawfish mac ‘n cheese with house smoked Andouille sausage, respectively.

Last but not least, you know Eggslut brought the heat (and the longest lines!). Chef Alvin Cailan dished out his spicy pork tan tan men and explained (see video above) that the dish, topped with a seasoned soft-boiled egg, togarashi and bacon, symbolized the debut to their new Ramen Champ concept, set to open in Chinatown by the end of the year. You heard it here first, straight from Alvin!

Eggslut debuted their tan tan noodles from their new concept, Ramen Champ opening soon.

Eggslut debuted delectable tan tan noodles from their new concept, Ramen Champ opening soon.

The smoky bacon, tan tan noodles with a bite, the spicy kick from the togarashi, and the perfectly cooked egg with a soft yolk made for a splendid symphony of flavors in each sizeable bowl.

I also appreciated that there were plenty of cocktails and ice cream to cool palates down for another round of spicy goodness. There were frozen treats such as McConnell’s sweet cream and salted caramel chip ice creams, as well as cooling drinks like a cucumber jicama beverage by Hollywood bartender Jason Bran. However, being the sriracha fanatic that I am, my cocktail and ice cream of choice still incorporated sriracha… in very innovative ways!

Amaretto Sours with a Mango and Sriracha twist

Amaretto Sours with a Mango and Sriracha twist

Jason Bran mixed up a DiSaronno cocktail with mango, lemon and sriracha (see video), while Santa Barbara-to-L.A. transplant McConnell’s Ice Cream scooped pumpkin pie ice cream with a generous drizzle of thick, crave-worthy sriracha caramel. So simple, yet brilliant when paired with the pumpkin ice cream!

Pumpkin pie ice cream topped with sriracha caramel

Pumpkin pie ice cream topped with sriracha caramel

Crème Caramel LA brought their “Holy Petit S’mores” to the party. Want to know what those are? Buckle up before you read this: A sriracha marshmallow layered on a dark chocolate fudge brownie, dipped in white chocolate, rolled in graham cracker crumbs and sprinkled with sriracha honeycomb dust! The marshmallow had just a little kick, and complemented the chocolatey goodness of the brownie.

Yup, there is sriracha in there too!

Yup, there is sriracha in there too!

My absolute favorite dessert of the night, however, came from Red Bread. They served up plates of their (deep breath…) Whole Wheat Crusted Sriracha Black Bottom Meyer Lemon Custard Pie! It was heaven in a pie slice. They also served a Sriracha Apple Crumble Pie, which was a great sriracha-fied version of the classic American dessert. But I can’t deny that it was love at first bite with the Meyer lemon pie! That layer of sriracha-chocolate bliss on the bottom was superb, and I could eat it anytime, any place I tell you!

Thanks to the L.A. Sriracha Festival for a delicious experience. From what I heard while chatting with repeat attendees, last year was great… and this year was even better. I have no doubts that the Sriracha Festival will continue to impress in the years to come. Also, props to the fest for donating a portion of the proceeds to Food Forward.

Extra sriracha on that Greenspans Grilled Cheese, please!

Extra sriracha on that Greenspans Grilled Cheese, please!

Stay tuned for more heat in the next two installments of the Sriracha Series, right here on Tanaya’s Table!

Advertisements

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!

Weekend Fun: Special Olympics Pier Del Sol Event + Tanaya’s Table on KTLA 5

Pier del Sol KTLA 5It’s a widely known fact that the weekend is an insanely short amount of time. Much too short. Two days, to be exact, and on Sunday you can either laze around like any other Sunday and run mundane errands while dreading Monday, or you can seize the second half of that glorious time away from the office to go do something memorable to make the most of it. So, what do to?

Well, there are a few things I can suggest. Perhaps going to brunch? Or maybe the Santa Monica Pier for a beach view on a sunny day? Or maybe an amusement park with rides and games… Or perhaps just tasting a bunch of top notch food around L.A. and meeting your favorite chefs? OR maybe doing something meaningful for a good cause? Good news is, the Special Olympics’ premier annual Pier del Sol event allows you the opportunity to do all that and more!

You can meet top chefs from around Los Angeles and taste their finest bites, enjoy all-access status to the rides at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier, and the best part would be that you’re helping a great cause, which is the Special Olympics of Southern California. I got a chance to meet some of the athletes this past week at a live KTLA morning news segment (or 5 segments, to be accurate) with Gayle Anderson, and it was a great time getting to know them. More on that below!

The VIP brunch features the aforementioned top quality cuisine from 38 of LA’s top restaurants, including Chef Michael Cimarusti of Providence, Chef Olivier Rousselle of On Sunset, Chef Tanino Drago of Tanino Ristorante, and Chef Ermando Robles of Porto Via.

VIP Tickets are $150 each, and include the VIP Brunch, unlimited rides, plus 12 game tickets. General Admission is $45 and include unlimited rides, eight game tickets and a meal coupon for Pacific Park’s food plaza… but come on now, you know you want to try all the top food from all over L.A!

While generatl admission tickets are available on the day of the event, there area only a limited number of VIP tickets still available, so it’s best to get your tickets now. Another great thing about this one-of-a-kind special event is that proceeds go straight to the non-profit, so it is tax-deductible. Can’t complain about that!

Here we are on the KTLA 5 morning news with Gayle Anderson, right onsite of where Pier del Sol will take place! Totally worth waking up extra early for, as I got to meet wonderful Special Olympics athletes, staff, plus fellow blogger e*star LA, Pacific Park executives and great chefs. We also got to eat on camera… the first step in my dream of eating on camera as a career! 😉

Thanks to my friend Dani for snapping & sending me this!

Thanks to my wonderful friend (since preschool!) Dani for snapping & sending me this in realtime! Click above for all the segments.

On camera, we tasted the 62-degree egg on a beef cheek hash with housemade sriracha aioli prepared by Chef Joisah Citrin, and boy was it good! I hadn’t seen Josiah Citrin since his cooking demo last year, which I had also covered. He’s still just as friendly and witty! Chef Erik of the Daily Grill was also onsite, preparing his seared ahi tuna salad. These were just two of the bites, but you can get all 38 bites this Sunday, October 12 starting at 10 a.m. right on the Santa Monica Pier, complete with sun and surf.

What better way to spend a Sunday than with good food for a great cause, in sunny SoCal? Whether with family or friends, it’s the perfect way to spend a Sunday, and hopefully I see you there!

Since 1997, Pier del Sol has raised nearly $8 million, benefiting and changing the lives of more than 17,000 Special Olympic Southern California athletes. For more information and to get your tickets, visit the Special Olympics of Southern California’s Pier del Sol event website.

Happy weekend, all! 🙂

Weekend Fun: Taste of Italy Coming to L.A.

Taste of Italy Los Angeles

Looking for something fun to do with family or friends this Saturday? The 6th annual Taste of Italy is coming to downtown L.A. and it looks like it’s going to be another fantastic night.

I covered the event back in 2012 for Neon Tommy, and it was a wonderful time! It almost felt like I was back in the streets of Florence at night, under the lights.

This year, participating restaurants will include Valentino, Drago Centro, Locanda Del Lago, Il Fornaio, GROM and Celestino. I’ve tried a few of these restaurants, such as Celestino, located in Pasadena. It had the most authentic Italian food I’ve had outside of Italy, and the service made me feel like I was dining at a warm and inviting Italian home.

In fact, I tried Chef Calogero Drago’s food at the L.A. Zoo’s Beastly Ball media preview first, then again at a special dinner with my good friend and fellow blogger Rachael. They had the most sumptuous, delicate pappardelle pasta (with pheasant and morels) I’ve ever had! I’ve also been to the other talented Drago brother’s restaurant, Drago Centro, for DineLA Week and even did a Tastemade video there:

Copyright Tanaya Ghosh 2014

Here’s a video throwback to Drago Centro’s DineLA week menu!

Bottom line: these are some quality Italian places serving up some of their best bites. Wineries that will be pouring include Casa Torelli, Le Vigne, Mazzocco, Ventura Limoncello and more. Proceeds from the event will support the Italian American Museum’s exhibitions and the preservation of the Italian Hall (the building in which the Museum is located).

The event, filled with authentic Italian food, drink and entertainment will be held at the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (424 N Main St. Los Angeles, CA 90012) this Saturday, October 11 from 5 to 10 p.m.

Tickets start at $55 and include tastings from more than 50 of L.A.’s top Italian restaurants, over 100 wines, plus live entertainment and cooking demos in the heart of downtown L.A. If I can’t make it back to Italy anytime soon, I can at least get my Italian staycation fix at this great event right here in the City of Angels! (More on my trip to Italy and other travel adventures to come soon, by the way…)

For event information and tickets, check out the Taste of Italy website. See you there… because after all, as the Italian saying goes, ‘Chi mangia bene, vive bene‘ (one who eats well, lives well)!

VIDEO: The Taste of Mexico Media Preview Night

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

As summer winds down, one might think that food festivals are also on the decline. Well, that’s not the case here in Los Angeles, and a prime example of that is The Taste of Mexico, taking place on September 27 at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown. Last night, I had the opportunity to attend their media preview night to get the early scoop to share with you!

The festival, celebrating Mexican food, heritage and culture, was founded in 2010 and has grown exponentially over the past four years. For the first time, the food fair is expanding to include a daytime family brunch event in addition to its annual evening of food, drinks and dancing.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Thanks for the torta education, Torta Company!

The Torta Co., part of the Lotería Grill family, served up a variety of tasty tortas, including ones with poblano peppers, Oaxacan cheese, breaded chicken cutlets, sirloin tips, a tuna melt and even a take on the PB & J!

Mezcal and tequila made for a festive evening, but my favorite were the Micheladas were served from Guelaguetza’s famous Miche Mobil. They were made with Montejo beer, a Mexican pale lager that debuted in the U.S. for the first time just a few weeks ago at Dodger Stadium. It was exciting to get a first taste, as it is slowly rolling out here in specific markets.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

An array of colorful dessert samplings from Compañía de Café.

Another favorite of mine was from Yuca’s, which not only had a warm demeanor in serving us, but also had amazing food like the Nuevo Relleno, a Pasilla chile oozing with cheese and chunks of portobello mushroom. I soon after learned that Yuca’s is also a James Beard award-winning restaurant! Well-deserved, for sure.

Candela Taco Bar had a refreshing spinach & pineapple agua fresca, and Artesana Pops’ spinach & pineapple popsicles were another great take on the same fruit-and-veggie power couple.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Mexikosher’s plate was diverse in texture and flavor.

Finally, “Chopped” champion and Season 12 “Top Chef: Boston” contender Katsuji Tanabe of Mexikosher served a big hunk of miso-marinated pastrami with figs, peaches and a habanero sauce. Check him out presenting his dish in the recap video below!

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Get a preview of the variety of Mexican fare you’ll find at Taste of Mexico!

There were many more tasty bites throughout the night, so check out the rest with the family or some friends on 9/27!

 

The 4th Annual Taste of Mexico essentials:

September 27, 2014 at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes

Farmers Market Family Picnic: 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Dinner, Drinks and Dancing: 7 p.m. – 11 p.m.

 ¡Salud!