Lately, I’ve been steering clear of food festivals. As much as I love to gorge, I don’t have the patience for marathon line standing or the competitive streak required to elbow my way to a fresh tray of sliders, fried balls, mini grilled cheese, etc. etc. In short, I don’t have the “in-it-to-win-it” spirit you need for a successful food festivaling.
However, I made an exception for this year’s East LA Meets Napa event, which was held last Friday at Union Station. I’ve always wanted to go, so when I got an invite, I couldn’t resist. Thankfully, this AltaMed fundraiser wasn’t your average food festival–no long lines, no pushing, and no food shortages. Just lots of great LA Mexican food (though not all East LA restaurants by any means) and wine from Latino-owned vineyards in California.
One of my first bites of the night was a sweet green corn tamale with cheese (I want to say aged cheddar) and mole. I was a little surprised with how much I enjoyed this dish. I’m usually pretty ambivalent about El Cholo–I love the fact that it’s a historical LA restaurant, but they’re food never really wowed me. This tamale was ridiculously moist, though, and it ended way too soon. I guess it’s pretty famous, but nobody told me.
Loteria Grill’s spread was a good as you’d imagine. They served a spoonful of scallops in crudo, seasoned with lime juice and chile serrano along with a mini sope of chicken with mole verde with a perfect grittiness. Both went well with their sweet pineapple and prickling pear agua fresca.
My favorite dish of the night was definitely from Rivera: savory corn flan topped with buttery black quinoia. The smoothness of the flan worked amazingly well with the coarseness of the grain.
Porto’s was there, too. Though not Mexican, of course, the Cuban bakery was one of the biggest hits of the night with their famous cheese rolls and guava strudel. I was particularly enamored with their “Rasberry Gold Rush” and passion fruit cream desserts–both were light as air and the perfect last bites of the night.
First row (left to right):
Pork carnitas and nopales tacos from Teresita’s, a Zacatecas-style restaurant in East LA.
Pulled pork open-faced tortas from Setá in Uptown Whittier.
Marinated steak tartare and mango ceviche tostadas from Cacao Mexicatessan in Eagle Rock.