The LA Food & Wine Festival – Why You Should Go

Posted by Glenn Gritzner on August 19, 2014

Hello Enthusiasts –

This post isn’t going to tell you about a new place, or encourage you to go searching out an obscure find.  In fact, this post is going to tell you more about something you may already know about.  But just because you know about it doesn’t mean you know enough about it.  I’m going to try to fix that.

This weekend is the Fourth Annual Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival.  Put on by the same folks who started the now-legendary Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival and, much more importantly to us Angelenos, also the folks who begat Faith & Flower (if, for some reason, you don’t know how I feel about F & F, click here), LAFW is, quite simply, the premier food and wine event in Los Angeles.  And this is in a town that has no shortage of food and wine events.  So, needless to say, I think you should go.  Before we go any farther, for those of you who need no more than my recommendation to be intrigued, go to www.lafw.com for more info and tickets.

But why, you ask?  And especially at those prices – no, it ain’t cheap.  But for those of you who think it’s pricey, you need a lesson in cost vs. value.  It’s not what you pay, it’s what you get for your money.  And on that front, LAFW doesn’t just deliver, it overdelivers.  Here’s how:

1) The chefs are actually there.  You don’t go up to a booth with some chef’s name on it and have a sous chef handing you a dish with maybe – MAYBE – the actual chef lurking somewhere in the back, if he or she is even there at all.  At LAFW, the chefs are likely the ones finishing your dish off and handing it to you.  And, often, telling a funny story or agreeing to take a selfie with you (but don’t push it).

2) The chefs actually go to events that aren’t theirs.  At many festivals, the chefs parachute in for their event, shake a few hands, and are immediately whisked off to wherever.  At LAFW, I’ve seen chefs like John Sedlar of Rivera or Wolfgang Puck just wandering around, sampling, taking it all in.  There’s no better indicator of a culinary event’s legitimacy than chefs hanging around on their own time.

3) Paper and plastic?  I don’t think so.  Where most events give you a plastic plate and cup to walk around with, and/or serve food out of paper cones and the like, LAFW does it right.  The larger events may have some of that, but you are more likely to be walking around with a good quality wine glass, and be served food on not just real plates but custom dishes, much like you would in a fine dining restaurant.  They are trying to create a luxury dining atmosphere within a festival and, to a very large extent, they succeed. It’s all just first class.

4) The swag.  Here is just a sampling of items I’ve been given at LAFW or PBFW events, or mailed after the fact:  actual copper Moscow Mule mugs, two hardback full size cookbooks, fresh seasonal homegrown herbs and garnishes, and more wine than I know what to do with.  The point is that the take home stuff is sometimes worth the price of admission on its own.

5) The unexpected.  These events offer all sorts of unexpected surprises.  In one instance, Michael Symon stripped off his embroidered chef’s whites and handed them to us (though that was the byproduct of a fight between him and Mrs. Enthusiast – don’t ask).  I’ve been asked on stage to help participate (though my cocktail lost the competition – womp womp).  We saw famed Master Chef Hubert Keller DJ a set at an after party – like, full on DJing with his own turntables and everything.  I found myself bidding on dinner at Alinea in Chicago with Grant Achatz at one event (you can Google all that if you don’t know why that’s awesome – short version:  Alinea was named the 7th best restaurant in the world.  The friggin’ world), where Chef Achatz asked for my personal email.  And lest you think my Amateur Enthusiast credentials had something to do with all that, I promise that we were just participants like anyone else.  The point is that you just don’t know what you might end up doing or seeing … which is always a good thing, in my book.

Finally, people frequently ask me what they “should” do.  Obviously, it depends on your budget, but my suggestion would be to do at least one of the “Grand Tastings”, because that’s where you get a little bit of everything and everyone.  And then pick one or two of the smaller tastings or showcases, where you’ll get more up close and personal, and probably go home with a couple goodies.  But heck, just look through the options and sign up for whatever looks interesting – you won’t be disappointed.

So.  You depend on me to tell you about cool things.  This is one of the coolest.  www.lafw.com.  You won’t regret it.

Happy travels.