Monday, July 27, 2009
In early July, thanks to AltaMed, I received a press pass to attend their Fourth Annual East LA Meets Napa Event. For the past 35 years, the goal of AltaMed Health Services has been to provide quality health care for uninsured minorities and economically disadvantaged communities. Annually, they provide community access to both medical and dental clinics, senior services, youth programs and much more to more than 48,000 families. Ticket sales for this annual event goes toward the support of these AltaMed services. To learn more about what they do and what they offer, please visit their website at www.altamed.org.
As for the East LA Meets Napa, it was a delicious opportunity to sample the Latin cuisine of a variety of Los Angeles-based restaurants as well as wine from Latino-owned or –operated Napa wineries all at the beautiful and historic Union Station.
Next to each food station was a matching wine station, which allowed you to pair your food and wine as you made your way throughout the event. I'm actually not much of a wine drinker, so it was all about the food for me and amazingly enough, I was able to hit at least 18 of the restaurants out of 20+ that were present. The great thing about East LA Meets Napa is that I was able to either sample the food from restaurants that I've heard about, but had yet to visit or from restaurants that I wouldn't have heard of, if it wasn't for this event.
Out of those 18, I had a few favorites, starting with the Short Rib with Chile Negro and Nopales Salad from Teresita's Restaurant. The meat was tender and that chile negro sauce was intensely flavored and when paired with the spicy nopales salad, I felt like my tastebuds were having a party with every bite. I've heard good things about Teresita's and after that dish, it's definitely time for a visit.
Birrieria Chalio wasn't on my radar, but now it definitely is. Their lamb, simply topped with cilantro and onions and sitting in its own juices, was something I could have easily had seconds or even thirds of.
One of the things I appreciated is when a restaurant actually cooked some of their food onsite and that's what Hacienda San Isidro Grill did with their Huitlacoche and Squash Blossom Quesadilla. What was even cooler is that they brought in an ingredient that stayed true to the Latin palate, even if it was something that is still unfamiliar to many non-Latinos. I'm talking specifically about the huitalacoche, which is basically a corn fungus. Kudos to them.
Seta, a Whittier restaurant, was definitely an interesting restaurant to be part of this event. They seemed more fine dining to me than necessarily an "East LA-ish" kind of restaurant, but they had my favorite dish of the entire event. Their Short Rib on Gorgonzola Polenta with a Sage and Cabernet Reduction was simply heavenly.
From Seta, it was a quick hop to La Monarca Bakery where I enjoyed their Chorizo Empanada while their Chicken Empanada was just okay. In both cases, the empanadas were light, flaky and buttery. It was like biting into a delicate pastry.
One of the prettiest dishes of the night came from Rivera Restaurant. They served tortillas with edible flowers pressed inside of the masa and was topped with a very flavorable salsa verde.
Towards the end of the evening, I definitely have to mention the corn flan from La Casita Mexicana. It was beautifully caramelized and had a slight dense texture that I enjoyed, but the addition of the corn kernels really added a nice overall sweetness to this dessert.
My final dish of this food marathon was the Pork with Chile Verde Mole from Cook's Tortas. Simply, I have to say "Wow!" The pork was tender and juicy and that mole sauce was sheer perfection. Now that I think of it, this was my favorite food of the whole event with Seta's Grilled Short Rib sliding into 2nd place.
Overall, AltaMed's Fourth Annual East LA Meets Napa was definitely a fun evening and if you are a lover of Latin cusine and wine, this is one event you should look out for in 2010!
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