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On movie lot, The Taste offers an only-in-L.A. kind of get-together

September 1, 2012 |  8:46 pm

It looked like an urban neighborhood where everyone poured into the street on a sunny Saturday for a block party. The sidewalks were lined with tables of food, and the streets flowing with pedestrians sampling as they passed through.

But this being Los Angeles, it was actually the Paramount movie lot -- and the crowd had come for The Taste, a Los Angeles Times-sponsored festival of food and drink that started Saturday and continues through Labor Day. It is the third time the paper has hosted a dining-related festival, and it is the second year for The Taste.

PHOTOS: The Taste

Saturday's event -- "Field to Fork," which included cooking demonstrations, a lecture on wine tasting and a discussion on the emergence of farmers markets and support for locally grown produce -- was attended by about 2,000 people, according to organizers. Dozens of restaurants and other vendors set up booths lining the fake streets on the studio lot.

Russ Parsons, The Times' food editor, said The Taste was a reflection of the burgeoning food scene in Los Angeles, not just with an increase in fine-dining establishments but more ethnic fare and farmers markets.

"Food is an integral part of the pleasure of life in Southern California," he said. The culture of food in the region, he added, is "just getting bigger and bigger, and deeper and deeper."

Colleen Ancrile and Iliana Quintero, both English teachers at Markham Middle School in Watts, had been at the event for only half an hour but already were overwhelmed with all they had tasted.

"I had the pork belly," Ancrile said. "It was so good. It melted in your mouth, and everything that went with it was perfect."

Quintero's favorite at that point: a peach empanada.

Quintero is known as a notoriously picky eater among her friends, who were surprised she would be willing to try different foods. "If it's something I don't know, I probably won't eat it," she said. "I don't do vegetables. It all depends on what it looks like."

She did try duck. But it was cold, a no-go for her.

They did, however, come away with a recipe for tres leches cake they are looking forward to trying.

Down the street, Celeste Thompson was taking detailed notes, scribbling down the booths she and her friend Lee Lawlor had visited and what they liked best. Among the favorites jotted down: Gazpacho. Vanilla bread pudding. Quail breast. And eggplant sorbet -- "I didn't expect to like that at all," Lawlor said.

What they didn't like: rice pudding and cactus salad -- it was slimy, they said.

The two, who landed tickets from a friend who couldn't attend, enjoyed their day. "What a great way to spend the day -- eating and drinking," Thompson said.


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