The most memorable event of the weekend was Friday night's Asian Market, hosted by Andrew Zimmern and Eater L.A., which took place on a red carpet-lined section of street just outside Staples Center. Chefs including WP24's Sally Camacho, Nobu's Jorge Mijangos and television host Ming Tsai offered up spicy, sweet and savory Asian bites. Roy Choi stopped by with the Kogi truck, slinging short-rib tacos to eager fans, while David Myers of Comme Ca served up chili crab wontons filled with a fiery red sauce. The bite of the night, though, was probably David LeFevre's cold green tea soba with house-made dashi broth and pickled lotus root -- the perfect respite from the sweltering heat that lingered into the evening.
The rest of the weekend brought two Lexus-sponsored Grand Tastings, housed in large white tents downtown, which -- thanks to intermittent air conditioning -- became miniature greenhouses in the summer sun. We even spied one chef trying to cool off in front of a massive fan with his kitchen whites puffing out like the Michelin man. The roster played out like a Top Chef reunion: Brian Malarkey served lobster rolls, The Gorbals chef Ilan Hall whipped up a bizarre, bacon-infused snow cone and Antonia Lofaso signed cookbooks. Celestino Drago and Wolfgang Puck both busted out the truffles (the former summer white truffles, the latter black winter truffles) for some decadent pastas.
Needless to say, with the temperatures rising, the Champagne bottles were a-poppin' -- thankfully Delta Airlines passed out red wine glass lanyards that allowed folks to keep their glasses upright even after those holding them started to swerve.
And yes, there were chef after-parties, too -- lively and hard-drinking affairs that raged into the wee hours at downtown's WaterMarke Tower. We can't give you all the sordid details, but let's just say that a cocktail-fueled dance circle of L.A. chefs provided some surprisingly gnarly dance moves.
So what was the verdict on the ambitious, four-day extravaganza? A measured thumbs up, for the most part. Fortunately, the event's much-hyped debut last year gave way to another decadent showing, indicating that L.A. Food & Wine will continue to be one of the top food festivals in the city for years to come. The most interesting lesson was that festivalgoers seem to enjoy the culinary specificity of certain events -- namely the highly thematic Asian Market. And as attendees become more knowledgeable about food in general, the celebrity chef factor becomes less important than what those chefs are serving -- and why.