Each spring, Share Our Strength recruits leading chefs to participate in over 50 Taste of the Nation events across the U.S. and Canada in an effort to eradicate childhood hunger. This year’s main L.A. event took place on June 6, drawing hundreds of roving diners to Culver City’s Media Park. Discover my eight favorite tastes from the day.
Victor Casanova is making refined Italian food at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. At TOTN, he proved that he can also handle simple pleasures by pairing creamy burrata with punchy peperonata and Manni estra virgin olive oil “Toscano.”
Joshua Smith had some big shoes to fill when he replaced Walter Manzke at Church & State. His contribution to TOTN actually fit the weather and the season, unlike so many masses of meat. His socca – savory green chickpea pancakes – appeared with muttabal-like eggplant dip and nearly candied strips of Anaheim chile. Smith played up the key ingredient – green chickpeas – by presenting several branches of the plant on the table.
John Rivera Sedlar typically offers his ethereal, flower-pressed tortillas at food festivals, but they never get old. He always offers a unique twist. At last year’s East LA Meets Napa, he added tangy salsa verde and fresh shrimp. This year, he brought flor de calabaza and creamy “Indian butter.”
Kris Morningstar helms the kitchen at George Abou-Daoud’s dual Hollywood concept. My favorite sweet bite yet from Mercantile turned out to be their homemade “better than oreos.” Indeed they were, with dense, chocolate chip-studded chocolate cookies sandwiching vanilla cream that – unlike the namesake – could never be mistaken for sugar spackle.
Brian Moyers made a splash at TOTN in 2009 with his seared New York strip, and he returned full-force with short rib tortelli “caramelles,” plating the thin-skinned, beef-filled pasta pockets with frothy sweet corn foam, tiny chanterelles, micro chive and a dusting of espelette.
The Hatfields delivered the day’s strongest one-two punch, with Quinn preparing short rib and smoked potatoes. Wife Karen stood at his side and once again proved why she later shared the REDCAT stage with culinary heavyweights like Wolfgang Puck and Joachim Splichal. She plated her creamy cheesecake dome on a crisp shortbread sable with blueberry marmalada featuring orange zest.
The change of pace was certainly welcome after downing a parade of braised meats. Susan Feniger and partner Kajsa Alger made a refreshing Burmese Melon Salad with cantaloupe, watermelon, peanuts, sesame, coconut and more.
Celebrated Cal-Med chef Suzanne Goin made moist olive oil cake with candied nectarines, crushed pistachio aillade and cascading whipped cream, a light dessert that channeled the south of France.
[Photos of Church & State and Rivera dishes by Matthew Kang]