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Food Network-sponsored festival headed to L.A. in 2010?

Tomc2Why can't L.A. host as many food festivals as cities half our size? (We're looking at you, Miami.)

In Florida's most fashionable city this past weekend, foodies mingled with some of the nation's best-known chefs, such as
Tom Colicchio and Tyler Florence, while noshing on high quality fare at the 2009 South Beach Wine & Food festival (sponsored in part by the Food Network). This is on top of the annual Miami Wine Festival, which takes place in April, the Deering Seafood festival in March and Miami Spice in August.

"There’s nothing like it in the world," said Florence via cellphone Friday from his hotel in Miami of the city's largest annual event, South Beach's Wine & Food Festival.  "It is spectacular."

Florence said he was excited to make "Squid ink angel hair pasta for 1,000 people" for a Friday night gathering. "We’re tossing it with a warm uni butter and then shredding bits of pancetta before topping it off with a tablespoon of caviar." Now that doesn't sound too bad, does it?

Open question to Daily Dish readers: why aren't there more similar weekend events with celebrity chefs in Los Angeles? We are the second-biggest city in the country, after all, with stars aplenty based right here (several notable L.A.-based personalities made the trip to Florida, chief among them Jose Andres, who found himself at the center of a bit of controversy after Mario Batali dropped the f-bomb at the fest while introducing him in front of the King of Spain).

Maybe I'm missing something here, but it sure seems as if someone is passing up a great opportunity to tap the foodie market in the greater Los Angeles area. A cursory search online reveals that, aside from restaurant weeks in both L.A. and the O.C., there are very few, if any, annual large-scale foodie events in Los Angeles proper. In August of 2006, apparently something called the "LA Wine and Food Festival" took place, but their website now re-directs to a San Diego-based trade show. And for the record, I'm not forgetting the annual American Food & Wine Festival. Or even either Lobster Fest. I'm simply asking: Shouldn't there be multiple high-end events taking place in the area, given our population, that spotlight all the name chefs in Los Angeles and Orange County?

I'd certainly pay a reasonable fee to try a bunch of different gourmet items from several high-end restaurants in a festival-like atmosphere (the key word, naturally, being reasonable).

Over the weekend we emailed South Beach Food & Wine festival founder Lee Schrager, who said he has been thinking a lot recently about bringing his brainchild out to California.

"The festival will be L.A.-bound, promise," he said.  "I hope to move this show to California in the next few years." But first, a touring version of the fest will hit New York this fall.  No word yet from Schrager if he plans a 2010 SoCal debut, or the year after.   

In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Would you pay to go to a Food Network-sponsored event similar to what took place in South Beach over the weekend?

-- Charlie Amter

Photo of one of the many celebrity chefs at this past weekend's festival in Miami, Tom Colicchio, by Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (11)

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There's another good one coming up on March 12th, the Food Fare held at the Santa Monica Civic as a benefit for Planned Parenthood L.A. Lots of good L.A. chefs will be there, but no out-of-towners.

Really...you couldn't just google a little or look at ELA? While the most notable, by national standards, is Wolfgang Puck and Barbara Lazaroff's AWFF, there are many, many, many large public food events that showcase our stellar culinary talent. There's the Taste of the Nation, which takes place every summer in Culver City. All the city's top chefs tend to participate and it's not ridiculously overpriced.

The James Beard Foundation attempted a very high-end fete last year on Melrose Place. All in all, amazing chefs, great wines and food, but they honored Tom Colicchio, which, as much as I love him and others respect him, was kind of a slap in the face for our fantastic local chefs. But if they come back and really focus on LA, it will be great.

There are a slew of walk-around tastings like the Great Chefs in LA event (for kidney foundation, I think), Savor the Season; the Bonaccorsi one at Wally's is small but top-notch chefs and AMAZING wines; the Concern Foundation one at one of the studio lots (i forget which one); Plate by Plate/Project by Project.

The Pebble Beach food and wine festival (April) is close-ish; closer than SoBe, anyway. The chefs are phenomenal, the offerings fantastic, but it'll cost you. Should be a contender alongside SoBe and Aspen, though.

Registration starts tomorrow (Feb. 24) for Disney's California Food & Wine Festival, which lasts six weeks this year (April 24 to June 7, 2009). There are some really quality events both complimentary (not counting park admission) and for additional fees.

You don't know what you're getting yourselves into!

I'm a Miami local (but native Angeleno). I went to the festival the first couple of years and it was great. The focus was on local chefs and restaurants with a sprinkling of visiting chefs and industry people. There was a a great dinner honoring a chef for their contribution to modern cuisine (Alice Waters, Ferran Adria) which has gotten lost in the shuffle of BubbleQs and Burger Bashes. The festival went downhill after Food Network got involved and started forcing the Rachel Rays and Sandra Lees down our throats. It's turned into a behemoth of a festival that lost its original focus. I'd love for L.A. to take this thing of our hands! But I'm in a charitable mood so I'll just leave you with my suggestion: create an L.A. centric festival and keep it that way and don't let the Food Network get involved!

I love grilled cheese as much as anyone, but this post is about HIGH-END food festivals, which the GCI is not. And for the record, the LA Times covered last year's Grilled Cheese Invitational in the Guide, both in print and online: http://theguide.latimes.com/los-angeles-county/events-and-festivals/grilled-cheese-invitational-event

Los Angeles is already the National home to the Grilled Cheese Invitational, the best damn grilled cheese cooking competition ever!

Why can the LA Times actually do a little "cursory" research to identify and promote the food events that already take place in the city? The GCI has been taking place in LA since 2003.

Will they accept food stamps?

Would people in L.A. go? Yes
Reasonable price? Very necessary; clearly the "American Food & Wine Festival" was not intended for the masses. The starting ticket price is "$1,000 Festival Friends" Hope the Food Network show makes the food and event more accessible.

I'd like me some of them vittles!

I always seem to run out of money when it's time to buy an advance ticket to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. (Darn it!) And now you're telling me the genius who created it wants to move it away from South Florida to Southern California? Hmph!

Would I be willing??? Oh you betcha!!

I cant make it to the slopes of Aspen, the beaches of Miami or the ethnic neighborhoods of New York.

Come to Los Angeles!


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