Monday, June 4, 2018

Where to Be Merry: Foods, Cars & Libations @ The Flavor of LA Festival, Studio City

Last year, I went to my very first food festival, and I have to say, I enjoyed the experience so much, that I’m now hooked on attending food festivals. I mean, a place where I can indulge in sooo many different nibbles and libations, all at once?! Count me in!

So when I received the invite to the second annual Flavor of LA on Sunday, May 20 in Studio City, I was delighted to find out what it was all about. Held on the CBS Studio Center backlot, the festival features 50+ local restaurants providing bite-size samples to attendees and dozens of automobiles from The Television Motion Picture Car Club (TMPCC) on display to ogle over.

I’m not into cars like that, but I must admit, I was floored by what I saw. Owned by TMPCC members — people who work in or are somehow affiliated with the entertainment industry — these vehicles are some of the baddest, most widely coveted from around the world. There were vehicles from the early 1900s, manufactured across the pond, and featured in hit television shows / movies such as Seinfeld, Will & Grace and even the ‘60’s hit show Gilligan’s Island.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the cars on display: 

Check out the cast-autographed dashboard of this 2008 Ford Mustang GT500KR, which starred as the "Knight Industries Three Thousand" in the television series Knight Rider... 

and this 1951 Ford Model A 5-Window Coupe...

and, a beautiful blue Viper with suicide doors!

But, automobiles weren’t the only highlight of the afternoon.

Food and libations flowed freely for four hours. Many of the 50+ restaurants were local to the San Fernando Valley, in neighborhoods like Studio City, Tarzana and Woodland Hills. From pastries to desserts, and cuisines representing so many different countries, there was literally something for everyone, and a wide variety of options. As equally important, portions were plentiful and lines were pretty much non-existent. Plus, there’s nothing quite like sitting on the veranda of a set house on the backlot to soak in sunshine while leisurely dining!

All in all, the caliber of participating vendors was exceptional and below are six vendors in particular that piqued my interest the most: 

Best tasting bites: Casa Vega, the household Mexican restaurant located on Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, gets a nod for having some of the best tasting bites up for grabs — its mini sweet corn tamale with crema. It had just the right balance of sweetness and masa stuffed with a savory chicken / cheese blend. 

Most unique & creative: Oi Asian Fusion presented its version of a taco, which included seared pork belly topped with sriracha, cilantro and pickled red onions, all rolled into a jicama taco shell. Definitely a lot of bold textures and rich flavors. 

Best healthy option: I was hesitant to try Sun Café’s Sweet Kale Shake — something about the green color and kale as an ingredient didn’t sound quite enticing to me as part of a dessert-like beverage. But, the shake was actually subtly sweet and very refreshing to sip, providing a nice energy boost for the afternoon. A pleasant surprise indeed. In addition to kale, the shake had bananas, cashews and agave.

Tastiest dessert: Selecting the tastiest dessert was very, very tough, because there were so many fantastic contenders, from Cake Bash Studio & Bakery’s incredible looking desserts to Wanderlust Creamery’s vegan ice cream. But in the end, I tip my hat off to the goodies from Carol’s Cheesecake —including its namesake, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate rice crispy squares and decadent brownies. Bonus points for having its setup right next to these massive, scrumptious sandwiches from Uncle Paulie’s Deli, where Carol’s Cheesecake NYC actually shares the same Beverly Grove storefront as the deli. 

Best overall: Hands, down, Tuning Fork’s Bacon Mac N' Chz Pops wins as best overall because it literally had the entire package: the aesthetic, ingredients and taste. Any time you smoosh together bacon and mac’n’cheese, and then decide to fry it to a gold brown, crispy coating, well, that’s a winner by me. 

Most courageous cocktail: While most of the beverage vendors were serving lightweight options like wine and beer, Midnight Moon Moonshine brought in the big boys with samples of its fruit flavored moonshine mixed with Ginger Ale. Sweet and potent!

Make sure to mark Flavor of LA on your calendars when it rolls around once again next year. 

See you there soon! 

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