Apparently, Los Angeles foodies are a tenacious bunch. Not even a huge line of 15,000 runners snaking their way through downtown L.A. for the Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon could keep this crowd from showing up to Artisanal LA on its second day, Sunday, Oct. 24.
Despite the more-than-inconvenient road blocks, uncharacteristic (even for L.A.!) traffic and the ridiculous detours that were more like road trips than an alternate route, plenty of attendees showed up to enjoy this inaugural celebration of the wide array of local boutique food, drink and crafts.
Lucky for them, this festival was worth every wrong turn and frustrating detour they might have encountered on their way.
Held in the penthouse floor of the historic Cooper Building, the venue boasted a great look out into the city, and the venue served as an introspective guide into its eclectic nature.
The brilliance of this festival was without a doubt its overwhelming sense of creativity and innovation. From the fantastic artwork displayed on the event’s programs to the outfits and booths of the vendors, the innovation and originality was refreshing, to say the least.
Take, for example, the folks over at Lemon Bird Handmade Jams, who combined the flavors of cinnamon and white wine with preserved peaches for a smooth, tangy jam that is unlike any jam experience I’ve had to date. Or I Heart Pies’ executive pastry chef Emily Cofrancesco’s idea to emulate the flavors of a peanut-butter cup s’more in a pie. Talk about the best of both worlds.
|Lemon Bird Handmade Jams|
Even the more well-known flavors at the festival had an original flair. Morning Glory Confections, as headed by Max Lesser, featured peanut brittle redone as Thai curry and peanut brittle. The flavors of the lime, coconut, ginger and lemongrass played off each other in a delightful pop against the tongue. Immediately, it becomes clear the brittle is a sweet version of a savory Thai red or panang curry.
Bacon queen and chef/owner of Cast Iron Gourmet, Rashida Purifoy tells the story of her hit creation, Couch Mix, saying that one day she had a friend over who playfully suggested she pair a salty trail mix with some candied bacon she had on hand. “We decided to call it ‘couch mix,’ because we knew we weren’t going anywhere,” she says. And so the ingenious creation, combining the sweet flavors of candied peppered bacon along with a nutty trail mix with dried cranberries, was born.
For a flavorful play on childhood faves, Spun City featured a jalapeno cotton candy. With a lot of sweet and a bit of an edge, the cotton candy proved to be quite the sensation, although this writer would suggest infusing some vanilla bean to add another dimension of flavor. In the same vein, Plush Puffs had a caramel swirl marshmallow that was to die for. When toasted over a flame, the flavors swirl around in your mouth... Just thinking about these babies makes my mouth water.
|Spun City's jalapeno cotton candy|
When the people of Miss Fruitfly, an arts-and-crafts vendor specializing in kitschy tea towels, didn’t know how to display their products, they built life-sized cardboard stoves out of boxes. The stoves even had burners and a dish drying rack on top. Oh yeah, and the towels were more than adorable, too. I bought two.
The chocolate collection was astounding. The multitude of presenters included Brentwood’s Compartes, known for its elaborate and beautiful stenciled designs and Ococoa, featuring some of the most fanciful butter cup combinations imaginable. Ococoa’s most notable flavor combination is the Sunflower Honey cup, which is a dark chocolate cup full of sunflower seed butter and honey. Nutty, bittersweet, with the slight essence of sunflower seeds. ’Nuff said.
And then there were the endless array of olive oils, sauces and marinades. I happily enjoyed a tasting flight hosted by The Olive Press’ Matthew Gaffney (pictured), who walked attendees through a range of olive oils from delicate to robust intensity. The best, and perhaps my favorite of the group, was the company’s Master Blend, which had a rich buttery feel. The moles from San Angel Mole were rich and bold, and unlike most moles the Los Angeles public is familiar with. The black mole featured deep flavors such as dark chocolate and nuts. And then there was the balsamic barbecue sauce over at David’s Unforgettables—it was perhaps the first balsamic barbecue sauce I’ve ever heard of, and it was exquisite.
|The Olive Press' Matthew Gafney|
As we feasted on so many foods unique to this great city, we also stood together in support of the LAUSD School Gardens Programs. Part of the proceeds from the event were donated to this educational program, focused on teaching L.A. youth about community, sustainability and healthy living. Several representatives of the program were holding their own in a green-filled display happily handing out free seedlings of thyme, penny royal and more. Green policy director Mud Baron’s excitement for the program was contagious as he explained its mission to teach kids about healthy, flavorful foods and the importance of locally grown organic produce.
There are rumors of another Artisanal LA event in the future, and because of its dedication to fostering appreciation for local products, our youth, community and cultural appreciation, it’s easy for us to wish the event to grace us again soon.
Just preferably let it be on a day that doesn’t feature a massive marathon impeding the route.
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