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

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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!

Top Picks For An Epic Foodie Weekend

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Summer is still in full swing, with tastings and fun activities to suit everyone’s palates, from the fancy foodie to the laid-back luncher. This weekend alone happens to be gastronomically pleasing beyond belief!

Here are my picks for where to go and what to taste this weekend, from L.A. to the O.C.:

L.A. Food & Wine – The premiere foodie event– or actually, a series of events over four days… starting tonight! Renowned chefs from all over L.A. and the nation will convene to give us mouthwatering bites exploding with innovation and flavor through unique events such as Iron Chef Morimoto’s Asian Night Market, and Graham Elliot & Fabio Viviani’s Ultimate Bites of L.A. soiree. (Side note: I’m a big fan of Fabio Viviani since his Top Chef days, and he’s such a sweetheart each time I’ve met him, too. He even gave a shoutout to Tanaya’s Table last year! Who else is a Fabio Viviani fan??)

This is a can’t-miss shindig in the heart of downtown, if you’re willing to invest (quite) a bit more to get pampered at a luxe food event. I will say from the past few years covering L.A. Food & Wine that the experience you get is unparalleled, and you will have a memorable time!

Thes past posts here may help to show you the evolution of the event since 2011 (I was working & living in Hong Kong the summer 0f 2012 — the only way you can keep me away from this event is to send me to another country!):

L.A. Weekly Pancake Breakfast – I’m quite excited for this one, since brunch is my all-time favorite meal. Curated by KCRW’s Evan Kleiman, top restaurants around Los Angeles will serve their unique renditions of a classic brunch. Plus, there will be mimosas and more. Yum!

K-Town Night Market OC Block Party – Held at Angel Stadium in Orange County. Music and masses of people, plus traditional and Asian-inspired food will be served. With SIX (yes, six!) consecutive food events to cover over the course of these next four days, I’m still bummed I’ll be missing this one!

If you’re missing them but wish you weren’t, I will be covering a good portion of these, and will take you with me through the videos, photos and stories to come! It’ll be like you were right there with me, minus the calories ;).

BONUS: L.A. Times’ The Taste is the very next weekend, so pace yourselves, people! It’s yet another series of food events you don’t want to miss, right in L.A. From “Field to Fork” to “Sunday Brunch,” there are a ton of good eats that await! Get your tickets while you can, and prime your tastebuds for some serious fun ahead.