Out-of-town chefs included Susur Lee, Giada De Laurentiis, Andrew Zimmern, Bryan Voltaggio, Paul Prudhomme, Guy Fieri and Michael Chiarello. L.A. brought out quite a few A-listers of its own, including Gino Angelini, Jeremy Berlin, Roy Choi, Josiah Citrin, Celestino Drago, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, Ilan Hall, Walter Manzke, Joe Miller, Matt Molina, David Myers, Mark Peel, Akasha Richmond, John Sedlar, Kerry Simon, Joachim Splichal, Michael Voltaggio, Sang Yoon and Ricardo Zarate, to name a few -- all held in the warm embrace of Wolfgang Puck, who hosted lunches and dinners at his various properties and generally presided over the weekend like a kindly Austrian uncle. Taken together, such an impressive group served to remind that, if you're hungry in Los Angeles, these are very good times indeed.
It was a very good weekend for wine, too. Many of California's best wineries plied their liquid wares alongside the food offerings, or were poured by a top-notch flight of American sommeliers that was, in its way, just as star-studded as the chef lineup, with heavies like Rajat Parr, Gillian Balance, Christie Dufault, DLynn Proctor, Eugenio Jardim, Seth Kunin, Eric Railsback, Sabato Sagaria, Lars Ryssdal, Rob Renteria and Andrea Immer Robinson, joining local talent like Eduardo Bolanos, Dana Farner, Staci Miller, Mark Mendoza, Drew Langley, Kathryn Weil, Chris Lavin, Bonnie Graves and Dan Fredman.
Myself, I had the privilege to serve on three wine panels: the first, a majestic vertical of cabernets going back to 1991 from the grand Napa property Harlan Estate; the second, a suite of cool-climate chardonnays and pinot noir from the venerable Sonoma County producer William Kistler.
The third, however, was the sort that every wine lover should try at least once -- a blind tasting of sparkling wines from all over the world, Sekts and Moscatos poured alongside Proseccos and Cavas, Cremants and Champagne toe-to-toe with American sparkling wines, 10 wines that revealed the sparkling-wine category to be more diverse and robust than ever. The surprise of the flight? A bracing, vintage blanc des blancs from Marlborough New Zealand producer Huia, as racy and mineral as most Champagnes and, at $30, a fraction of the price.