Turning the Tables: 5 Questions for Betty Hallock on THE TASTE

The L.A. Times brings back its multi-day food affair this month.

Image courtesy of the L.A. Times

The L.A. Times is bringing its food event, THE TASTE, back to Paramount Pictures Studios in just a few short weeks. The event kicks off on August 30 with a tequila tasting and runs through Labor Day weekend. There’s a panel discussion and event each afternoon and evening. In addition to highlighting some of L.A.’s most notorious chefs—Michael Voltaggio, Sang Yoon, Michael Cimarusti, and Nancy Silverton are all leading demos and discussions—the Times’ editorial staff will be hosting.

To get a bit of feel for what to expect, we went to L.A. Times deputy food editor Betty Hallock. Occasionally Hallock asks chefs in L.A. five questions: something about what they’re working on right now, or what they’ve just picked up at the farmers’ market. Here, we’ve turned the tables and asked Hallock five questions about THE TASTE.

You’re hosting the Cocktail Confidential session at THE TASTE on Sunday, September 1 with Jessica Gelt. How do you personally feel about the craft cocktail movement? I think I accidentally stumbled onto the beginning of “the craft cocktail movement” while I was a student at NYU. Our favorite watering hole was Angel’s Share, a tiny second-floor bar connected to an izakaya in the East Village. Until then (which was pre-Milk & Honey) I’d never had a cocktail prepared with the level of care and precision executed by the Japanese bartenders there, and it was mesmerizing. Now, that’s the kind of attention we’ve come to expect in cocktail service. But, even though I’ve since had even better-tasting cocktails, I still sometimes feel nostalgic for the time I spent at Angel’s Share.
You’ve had a great day or an awful day: what drink do you want? For an awful day, bourbon. I grew up pouring bourbon for my dad after he got off work, so bourbon has always signaled de-stressing. Neat, on the rocks, with soda, in an Old Fashioned – bourbon is probably my go-to spirit. For a great day, it’s hard not to want to incorporate bubbles. Any Champagne cocktail. But also, the classic daiquiri – that’s my happy drink.
Matthew Biancaniello is going to do a demo with you and Gelt on stage. How do you feel about your cocktail making skills? The demos at The Taste will be led by the professionals! Matthew Biancaniello is endlessly creative. I’m sure you’ve seen his mise-en-place at the bars where he makes drinks — so much wild fruit and so many herbs. It’ll be exciting to have him show us exactly how to make one of his cocktails. And his won’t be the only demo: Christiaan Rollich of AOC, Lucques and Tavern, Brady Weise of 1886 at the Raymond, and Serena Herrick of Allumette also will be making drinks.
What do you think are some new trends in cocktails in L.A.? Even restaurants without liquor licenses are making excellent cocktails with wines, including sparkling wines, and aperitif wines such as Cocchi Americano. (Cocchi Americano and other chinati seem to have exploded, right?) They’re pretty delicious and light. And maybe more mixing of spirits – using spirits as modifiers rather than focusing on a single one as the main ingredient.
Do you have a favorite neighborhood bar? What/where is it? I live downtown, so I’m lucky that there are so many bars and a lot of them are my favorites. Cole’s Red Car Bar and the Varnish, Cana Rum Bar, and the bar at the O Hotel are a few of them.

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