Sunday, July 12, 2009

East LA Gets Fancy and Meets Napa Valley at Union Station to Benefit AltaMed Health Services

East La Meets Napa
AltaMed Health Services
Union Station
800 N.Alameda St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 624-0171

On Friday July 10th, Latino movers and shakers in the culinary world partnered with Latino wine makers and vintners to host a blow out event assaulting the eyes, ears, taste buds, and livers of ticket holders and media alike with amazing food, beautiful wines, interesting music and high quality people watching all to benefit AltaMed Health Services organization. This is the fourth annual East LA Meets Napa, it was my first and it won't be my last.

Above is the exhaustive list of food and wine providers. I didn't come close to hitting all of them. Even though I walked through the gates at 6:10, the courtyard was packed with people already making merry. Many thanks to Alexia Haidos for making sure many food bloggers were sported entry gratis. My husband and I had a beautiful time and will surely enjoy the Reidel stemware handed out for tasting until someone breaks them. Likely they will last through August.

Due to crowds of people, I was unable to respond to the wine pairings set up with the foods, or make really intelligent choices for myself in terms of pairings. All the tables were pretty crowded when we got there, and moreso as the evening wore on. The review, henceforth, has the liquid commentary at the end, leading with the food.

Above is the AltaMed table. They had a Wheel of Fortune game set up. Spin the wheel, answer a trivia question about the organization and win cute little prizes! Thanks to the media preview at Rivera two weeks ago, I answered them all correct! Woot! I didn't take any prizes though, I didn't think that would be fair.

My first item up for snacking were empanadas from La Monarca Bakery in Huntington Park. Chorizo or chicken, and they were pretty nice. I liked the chorizo one a hair better. But still warm, slightly crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. Lovely little puffs of pasty and meat. Perfect front loading for wine and tequila.

One of my next stops was at the El Portal table for mini quesadillas in corn tortillas. These were simply cheese and some beautiful pepper sauce. They were hot and tasty, and moving quickly like the idiomatic hot cakes.

Back in the days of our courtship, D used to swing by my K-Town apartment building, The DuBarry, between 8 and 8:30 for a 9 PM dinner reservation somewhere. This was prior to classrooms full of 11 year olds at 7:30 am demanding a bright and perky teacher, or 7 AM client meetings 60 miles away from home. Nowadays, senior citizen dining hours tend to suit us better, and they suit food photography better as well. The natural July evening light between 6 and 7:30 makes for easy shot making and happier digestive systems.

The mission of [HOMEBOY] industries is compelling and impressive. From their website:

A distinctive feature of Homeboy Industries is its small businesses, where the most difficult to place individuals are hired in transitional jobs in a safe, supportive environment where they will learn both concrete and soft job skills. Here an individual can build a resume and gain work experience in the Homeboy Bakery, Homegirl Café & Catering, Homeboy Maintenance, Homeboy Merchandise, Homeboy Press and Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery. Proceeds from these businesses help support our services.

The Homegirl Cafe division created an artistically beautiful spread, using a cornucopia of summer fruits and veg to make the point they use seasonal ingredients and offer flavors bursting with California freshness.

They offered bright green salads and chicken tacos with picked onions, cabbage and whatnot. Despite the clear picture here, the crowds would not let me get close enough to wrap my lips around one of these nice little tacos nor get my paws on a salad plata.

Moles La Tia is one of the restaurants that provided offerings at Rivera's media event the week previous. That day they offered the tight little light tasting veggie rolls above and to the left. To the right is a little dumpling not offered that day, but much enjoyed at the Union Station evening. Mole? Well I need some for my veggies too!

Moles La Tia was serving a tender pork with the classic dark mole I often dream of when thinking of the Yucatan & Quintana Roo. Despite the fact it is traditionally Oaxacan, I was introduced to it in Yucatan and eating it always reminds me of that trip so long ago. This one was dark, silky and smokey.

But, by far my favorite tasting mole was that offered over pollo at Cook's Tortas. People I knew were mentioning this all over the courtyard, "Did you taste Cook's Torta's pollo?" Yes, I did!


It isn't much to photograph, but it was great. Teenage Glutster describes it as a, " luscious version of my homestate's toasted, green pumpkin seed based Pipian Verde." Pipian Verde is a green mole made and getting its green color from pumpkin seeds and vegetable broth. This is a much lighter mole, I aim to try making this one at mi casa.

Already big fans of Rivera, a stop by the Rivera stand early was a must prior to them potentially running out food. The cooks were making a fresh batch of tortillas florales, tortillas with fresh flowers cooked into them.

Obviously, pretty as a picture.

Next, spooned generously on top is an avocado salsa.

Followed by a lightly citrus shrimp mixture, ceviche like but the texture of the shrimp seemed cooked not cured. I adore everything about John Sedlar's food, from the plating and presentation to the bright, smokey, interesting but always Mexican flavors.

Phlight won D's heart. Phlight, located in Whittier, also offered food at the media preview at Rivera and being tardy I tasted none. I didn't miss the chance a second time. I wanted to know if it was worth driving out to Whittier for. The answer is a resounding yes.

Above is a shrimp/pineapple/orange juice/cucumber ceviche. D's taste buds did little somersaults of joy in his mouth after snacking at this.

The man working the counter requested that we come back in an hour to try their crepes with ricotta cheese and hibiscus juice, then he second guessed himself and pulled one out from somewhere behind us for us to try. This was beautiful. The hibiscus juice with perfectly light sweetness balanced the creaminess of the ricotta and the thick starch of the crepe. I could have had even a little more sauce. I love the drama of its appearance.

This very cold and very summertime drinkable Sauvignon Blanc was waiting just inside the front gates. I drank this while noshing on La Monarca's empanadas. Perfect crispness with the savory pastry.

We spent some time at the Elements table. By spending time, I mean we returned more than once and even took an order form. The syrah was very nice but the real standout was the Mourvedre.

I love the loteria card-esque labeling of the wines at El Vino. I have a longtime obsession with loteria cards and even have an entire set of Christmas tree ornaments made from mini-loteria cards.

I caved on Rousanne the El Vino people were sampling. I did not like it. The flavors were tart and thin for a Rousanne.

In the press preview, no one mentioned there was going to be tequila at the event, but tequila there was. Metl, a new label. Silver, gold reposado and anejo were being offered. I tasted the silver and anejo both sippable and wonderfully smooth. They also shared Mezcal! Mezal typically goes down a little rough for me, so I passed but D and LAOCFoodie both knocked some back and loved it.

LAOCFoodie has been calling this the "Tequila from the future" in tweets ever since because all bottles were labeled 2012. Still delicious.

We made our escape at 7:30-hot and headed to Cole's for a cold beverage and soothing darkness. After bopping our way around downtown for a couple hours, we eventually ended the evening sitting on the stone wall in the outside courtyard at Edendale with some friends where, sadly, I fell asleep in public.


Kristine G said...

looks like it was a grand time ... LOVE your first photo (sunlight shots like that are so ethereal!) ... you must keep everyone updated with events like this because i want to hit up one soon!

the woolly monkey said...

I also love your photos more & more, my favorite is the last.
And please send pancakes with flowers when you can find some free time.
New rule: There should always be flowers in the food. Yes.

SinoSoul said...

glad you made it in... I was inwardly fuming at everyone of your tweets during the event. No kidding.

Food, she thought. said...

K: Thanks love, someone else commented on the shots I am able to pull off with the G9. However, getting closer to the D90 experience everyday.

Woolly: They were tortillas! If you come to town, I will take you there!

Sinosoul: I felt the heat from your fumes throughout Union Station.

Clementina said...

What a great event! Who says teh Mexican doesn't go with wine--ha!
Homemade corn tortillas with flowers in them? Que bellezas!
"A Little Cup of Mexican Chocolate"