Looking Back at The Taste 2016

Presented by the Los Angeles Times, The Taste is one of LA’s premeire food festivals.  Celebrated over five events during Labor Day weekend, The Taste turns the entire Paramount Studios backlot into a culinary block party.  In this review, Michael and Bryan discuss the 2016 event.

Paramount Studios Backlot

Every Labor Day Weekend, The Taste takes over the backlot of Paramount Studios for an series of events focused on the best in cuisine from all over LA.

Like previous years, the Taste was made up of five events:  Opening Night on Friday; Field to Fork and Dinner With a Twist on Saturday; then Sunday Block Party and Flavors of LA on Sunday.  Which events did you attend?

Bryan: I only made it to the Saturday evening event but I made excellent use of my time to see and sample as much as I could. This year I started at the back of the lot and slowly made my way forward.

Michael: I tried to make it to all of them!  I got to both events on Saturday and Flavors of LA on Sunday.  I used a similar approach but started from the front and worked my way to the back.

What were some of your favorite samples from the event?

Bryan: Some of my favorites included the Brussels Sprouts with mint pickled raisin kimchi sake sauce from Firefly; Sweet Potato with Pig Parts with chile de árbol and verjus from Broken Spanish was sweet, spicy and crispy. Komodo made the perfect al pastor as it was extremely crispy. It was combined with jackfruit salsa and chipotle crema as a taco.

Michael: I agree that the Sweet Potato was an awesome sample.  The textures and flavors on that one were great ranging from the sweetness of the potato to the saltiness of the pig parts.  Another great sample (which was much more than a sample) was the Ernesto Burger from Princess Cruises.  There was so much flavor stacked on that little bun from the rib eye and short rib patty to the grilled pork belly to the beer battered jalapeno.  It was my fave for Saturday night.

 Brussel Sprouts with mint pickled raisin kimchi sake sauce from Firefly

Brussels Sprouts with mint pickled raisin kimchi sake sauce from Firefly

Sweet Potato with Pig Parts with chile de árbol and verjus from Broken Spanish

Sweet Potato with Pig Parts with chile de árbol and verjus from Broken Spanish

The Ernesto Burger from Princess Cruises

The Ernesto Burger from Princess Cruises was packed with flavor from top to bottom.

Those sound like some pretty good savory bites.  Did you guys try anything sweet?

Bryan: I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I did enjoy at least one really great dessert on Saturday night. The mojito ice cream from Smitten Ice Cream was rich, creamy and delicious.

Michael: I don’t have too much to comment on in the way of desserts either.  I remember trying a great ice cream that had praline pecans with whisky flavor but I can’t recall which restaurant was serving it.  Maybe I’d already had a few too many liquor samples. Ha!

Mojito Ice Cream

Smitten’s Mojito Ice Cream

Speaking of liquor, what cocktails and beverages did you sample?  Did you attend any of the mixology demonstrations?

Michael:  I could go on and on about the cocktails!  There were so many good ones.  I think I tried each of the six cocktails from Knob Creek bourbon.  And Don Julio had a great margarita with a ginger essence.  There was also a great Japanese whisky from Suntori that had wonderful heat and flavor.  And while it wasn’t a cocktail, I really enjoyed the sample of Pepsi 1893 Ginger Cola;  From the first sip I was already thinking of ways to mix it with bourbons and whiskys.

Bryan: I attended Kris Morningstar and Ryan Wainwright’s (Terrine) combined mixology and cooking demonstration. Wainwright provided an easy to follow demo on making the French 75 cocktail. One of the ingredients was French cider. Morningstar entertained the audience by making chicken liver mousse. He served the finished mousse on crostini; it was almost like eating foie gras!

Michael: I went to the last Mixology Demonstration on Saturday night hosted by Jonathan Gold and Jenn Harris, both from the LA Times.  It was a packed session with Katie Emmerson from Gwen, Nathan Oliver from Wolf and Tobin Shea from Redbird.  Each of them made a cocktail and the audience got to sample them.  I thought it was a great mix of demonstration and sampling because my first thought was if I sat through a session, I would be missing opportunities to sample more items out in the main event.  But in this session I got three samples AND I was able to sit down for a half hour while listening to some pretty knowledgeable mixologists.  It was time well spent indeed.


Suntory Whisky


Knob Creek’s Single Barrel bourbon whiskey was mixed into a variety of cocktails.

Kris Morningstar making chicken liver mousse.

Kris Morningstar making chicken liver mousse.

You guys have been to The Taste a few times.  Did you notice anything new or different about this one?

Bryan: I noticed that the event organizers seem to work on improving the crowd flow each year. In previous years, the lower square and the back of the lot were jammed. This year there were no noticeable aisles that were completely blocked by people in lines.

Michael:  I would have to agree that the crowd flow was great this time around.  I saw two really big changes for 2016 though.  The first was with the areas where the chefs and their crews were serving from.  It looked like each area had been inspected by (and this is a guess) the LA County Public Health Department.  Probably to comply with food safety, each booth also had sneeze guards over their samples.  I wonder if we’ll see more of that at food festivals in LA?  The second big change was the handling of waste.  I bet that events like The Taste catch a lot of flack for how much trash they generate.  For 2016, guests were asked to separate their trash into compostables, landfill items, and recyclables.  There were even staff dedicated to patrolling the waste bins to help guests sort their trash properly.  It might not have been 100%, but it was a big effort.  Way to go for helping to save the planet!  And while I can’t confirm it, I also read that any prepared foods that were left over would be donated to charity.  I thought that was a really classy touch for the organizers and participating restaurants.

Sounds like you guys really had a great time!  Any closing words?

Michael: I think The Taste is a great event; It’s a great way to get the best flavors of Los Angeles in one place.  I can’t think of Labor Day weekend without it!

Bryan:  I agree!  I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.

For more information on The Taste presented by the Los Angeles Times, visit their website at http://events.latimes.com/taste/.


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About the Author

Michael loves grilling, rum, and has a weakness for key lime pie.

2 Responses to “Looking Back at The Taste 2016”

  1. Yes, I ran into the lady from the Health Department. I showed her the big “A” I had written in chalk on the restaurant’s board and she said, “Mine is the only grade that counts.”

  2. I figured as much! 🙂