LA Wine & Food Festival
Credit: Philip Guerette

All of the Delicious Highlights From This Year’s LA Wine & Food Festival in Santa Monica

Add This New Foodie Fest to Your Bucket List for Next Year

Both Angelenos and out-of-towners gathered in Santa Monica for the inaugural three-day Los Angeles Wine & Food Festival to celebrate LA’s diverse culinary scene with tastings from over 30 chefs, many personally handing out generously-portioned bites. Held at the Santa Monica Pier from March 1-3, in partnership with Frieze Week Los Angeles, culinary headliners, beloved LA restaurants, and exciting wine, beer, and spirits brands were amplified with DJs, art installations, photo ops, and giveaways.

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Proceeds of this foodie-focused event benefited the Artist Plate Project, which provides food, crisis services, housing and other critical aid to people experiencing homelessness and instability. In keeping with Women’s History Month, the festival also highlighted female-owned restaurants in LA, thanks to official partner Regarding Her (RE:Her), a national nonprofit dedicated to accelerating the growth of women entrepreneurs in the food and beverage space.

Here are five reasons we loved attending this gastronomic extravaganza that celebrated LA’s culinary prowess and innovation.

 

🍹The Milagro Margarita Mobile Bar

LA Wine & Food Festival
Credit: Philip Guerette

The bright blue Milagro Tequila van caught everyone’s attention. This mobile bar invited guests to sample Milagro’s 100% agave tequila varietiessilver, reposado and añejoand sip margaritas (some with a spicy kick). Made from 100% blue agave grown in the Jalisco Highlands, Milagro Silver served as the base for the perfect margarita with a balance of lemongrass, black pepper, citrus and pear. On the flip side, Milagro Reposado, which is crafted by letting the ripe blue agave rest in American oak barrels for 2-4 months, tantalized with notes of vanilla, caramel, fresh peach and black pepper. And the eldest of the siblings, Milagro Añejo, is aged in American oak for 12-14 months, making it perfect for sipping, with notes of stone fruit and butterscotch. Milagro fashion pinslike a spiky green and blue agave plantwere a fun souvenir to take home.

 

🍝Italian Eats

LA Wine & Food Festival
Credit: Philip Guerette

Memorable Italian bites were abundant at the Los Angeles Wine & Food Festival, including cacio e pepe pizza from Pizzana, thanks to Chef Daniele Uditi, who draws on his culinary upbringing in Naples, Italy to bring this distinct Neo-Neapolitan pizza home to LA. The spicy rigatoni alla vodka also stole the show, as this handmade pasta with Chef Jackson Kalb’s signature Jemma x Ospi vodka sauce can be found at his many restaurants in LA: Jame, Ospi, Jemma Hollywood, Jemma di Mare and Jemma Pizzeria.

At another station, stuffed cannolis with seafood mousse brought back fond memories of my travels to Sicily, while other attendees couldn’t get enough of Elephante’s delicious grand meatballs. Chef Jeff Mauro from Mauro Provisions drew lines for his huge, sweet and hot-dipped Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches with sweet peppers and craft giardiniera on Turano rolls.

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🦞Abundant Seafood Selections

Credit: Philip Guerette

Among many, a fan-favorite seafood bite was a rich creamy crab dip with a toasted baguette crisp, presented by headliner Chef Ben Ford, known for pioneering the gastropub concept with Ford’s Filling Station.

Gourmands took deep pleasure in devouring Massachusetts Bay scallops presented in the shells by Saltie Girl with a dollop of caviar and by Holbox with orange roe. Tuna felt like a theme, freshly prepared in various ways—from smoked tuna tostadas to Sweetfin’s poke bowls to STK’s tuna tartare tacos with a soy honey emulsion.

Other standouts included cashew curry prawns with pickled lotus root and papaya from Little Sister; Filipino ceviche with snapper, calamansi and coconut cream from Spoon & Pork; and black al pastor octopus tacos marinated in recado negro (burned spices, cacao and chiles) from Evil Cooks.

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💡Out-of-the-Box Sips and Bites

LA Wine & Food Festival
Credit: Philip Guerette

The most unique flavor combo at this three-day foodie fest came from culinary connoisseur Adam Richman, who meshed pulled pork egg rolls with sweet and spicy peanut dipping sauce. He described them as “all the goodness of a great pulled pork barbecue sandwich but in the crispy, familiar unexpected package of an eggroll.”

People lost their minds over the cheeseburger en croute from Chef Aaron Lopez of beloved burger spot LOVE HOUR, filled with grilled onions, sealed in a puff pastry, speared with Vidalia onion, pepper and pickle and doused with Love Sauce. LA newcomer Bread Head wowed with ham and butter sandwiches, enhanced with a tomato soup dip, and Korean restaurant Chimmelier dished out housemade potato chips glazed in honey butter sauce.

Kō Hana excited with Hawaiian agricole rum distilled from native Hawaiian sugarcane, featuring incredibly delicious lilikoi daiquiri and pineapple daiquiri medleys! UNA flower-infused vodka was another amazing discovery. 

 

🍰Sweet Treats + Dessert Delights

No festival would be complete without a tasty sweet treat! An area of fanciful displays lit up an entire section of dessert options at the Los Angeles Wine & Food Festival that didn’t disappoint. Bake Some Noise was rolling out warm chocolate chip cookie mounds with a crisp exterior and warm gooey interior as their station glowed purple with hanging old school records and a neon sign that read, ‘Started from the oven, now we’re here.’ East Side Cheesecakes satisfied every sweet tooth with their in-house cultured cream cheese and a variety of cheesecake flavors in gold tins with fun names like My Red Velvet Valentine, The Ex New Yorker, Lady Banana Belle, and The Triple Chocolate Love Affair. We couldn’t get enough of Vietnamese coffee with salted egg foam from Little Sister, which felt like dessert alone.

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Melisa Curtin is a Connecticut girl madly in love with California. She is an L.A.-based travel and food writer who has documented her adventures for over 10 years. Her work has appeared in Lonely Planet, USA Today10Best, LA Weekly, Fodor’s, AAA, many SoCal print publications, and more. Melissa’s passion for globetrotting and learning about other cultures was fueled after traveling around the world on Semester at Sea and teaching in England on a Fulbright. Melissa is always on the hunt for the best local bites and destinations with few tourists. Get to know the Best of L.A. by checking out her website LaLaScoop.com or follow her on @lalascoop. Now as a travel advisor with Fora, she books clients on cruises, family vacations, and hotel stays with mega perks. She splits her time between Malibu and Palm Springs with her husband and her ever-growing collection of plants and travel decor.
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