The Food Event 2013: The Scene, the Sips, and the City’s Sexiest Chefs

Plus, the inside scoop from this year’s judging panel.

The Food Event, Los Angeles magazine’s marquee celebration of the city’s best eats and drinks, took place yesterday on what can only be described as a glorious afternoon in the Malibu mountains. Amidst winding vineyards, zebras, llamas, ostriches, and wine that flowed like water at Saddlerock Ranch, we watched chefs share their trade secrets, sampled wine from local vinters, and cheered on our favorite bites of the day (Spago’s parfait! Bucato’s buratta!).

Judges Lesley Bargar Suter, Bill Esparza, Evan Kleiman, Lisa Semler, and Dana Goodyear picked Son of a Gun’s Hamachi crudo with galbi vinaigrette as the day’s winning dish. Dine editor Suter said of it, “it’s the kind of thing you look at and just think, ‘oh, I’ve had this a million times before,’ and then you taste it and it blows your mind.”

Out of the 12 dishes he sampled, Esparza, our resident Latin food blogger, hasn”t been able to stop thinking about Sqirl’s Brussels sprouts with chicharron powder, “since when did vegetables taste so damn good?” Kleiman agreed, and added that Bestia’s lamb with purslane and herbs is still on her mind. She’s also looking forward to getting back to Short Cake for their brunettes—a browned butter version of a blondie with pine nuts that the booth served with iced cold-drip coffee. Both our resident cocktail blogger, Caroline on Crack and Kleiman really enjoyed the the Rye and Dill cocktail that Michael’s Santa Monica was pouring next to their booth. “Refreshing, and really interesting,” mused Caroline.

Suter estimates that she tasted a total of 30 dishes and fondly remembers the plates from Sqirl (“I hope I can score that recipe so I can serve it at home this Thanksgiving!”) and Bestia, as well as FIG’s ribs and the Hart & the Hunter’s fritter and sprout salad. In an odd twist and sign of culinary fellowship, team Sotto thought team Hart & the Hunter were “robbed!” of the dish of the year. Nevertheless, chef Kris Tominaga and his H&H event crew were champs about losing—after all, they scored the winning dish last year.

Chefs Walter and Marge Manzke hinted at Republique’s opening date while serving up aguachile ceviche from Petty Cash’s booth. Over in the beer garden area, Stella and Goose Island served up generous pours next to Saddlerock wines. Chefs Zach Pollack (Sotto), Christian Page (Short Order), and Sang Yoon (Father’s Office, Lukshon) made their rounds and got a bit tipsy—it was their day off, after all. Both chefs and attendees appreciated the generous pours of wine. As the last few cars drove out of the lot, the sun set over lazy zebras and one truly adorable baby buffalo. We’re still full and happy, and can’t wait for next year!