With the nits and everyone else otherwise occupied, I strapped on the bad-ass birthday camera, got my coffee, and high-tailed it up to Santa Monica for the Second Artisanal L.A. food event, held on the third floor of the new Santa Monica Place.
The universe grinned at me the whole way: no traffic AND a parking spot opening just for me in the parking structure next door. You can’t count on either occurrence these days.
Artisanal L.A. is a weekend-long event showcasing the city’s finest local, sustainable and handmade edibles. The show in October had about 40 vendors, this one had nearly 90. And judging from the vibe – people were having fun, excited yet focused, the DJ was hittin’ it perfect - it’s only going to get bigger.
Everyone there was friendly and welcoming, and the samples flowed freely. Faves are hard to qualify because it was all good, but tastes that stood out were the chocolate truffle from L’Artisan du Chocolat, the roasted garlic and sour cream smashies at Bangers & Smashed, and David’s Unforgettable balsamic vinaigrette, which was indeed so good I forgot that $5 is a lot to spend on a bottle of salad dressing and brought some home with me.
But it was a single sea salt caramel from L’Artisan du Chocolat that stopped me in my tracks (conveniently in front of one of several over-sized fans being used to cool the place) where I stood and simply…basked, eyes closed, wind in my hair. Several people asked me what I could possibly be eating, and where could they find it? One guy actually applauded. “THAT’s what I’m talkin’ about…”
Other highlights: One silver-haired gent bought two plates of fancy pasta and asked three total strangers to join him in tasting it, which we did, and found out that we shared the names of his three kids; Julie Ann, Matt and Michelle. In another, a butcher asked if I wanted to sample some of his charcuterie, on the sly, since he wasn’t supposed to be slicing samples. “Nobody will see,” he told me as he cut a large thin slice of delicious, salty prosciutto and handed it to me. See what I mean about vibe? It was all about the food and the hedonism of it all.
One takeaway I had (apart from that it’s very easy to fill up on samples), was that bacon is the new black. So many vendors there had some variation on the bacon theme. There were bacon chocolate chip cookies from Long Beach’s own Shortnin’ Bread, bacon bread pudding from Creme Caramel L.A., the list goes on.
Bacon is so big now that all of our California health dogma has, thankfully, finally, left the building. And we have unabashed offerings like this, from the Cast Iron Gourmet:
Because, and let’s be honest, bacon fat makes everything taste better. Cast Iron Gourmet owner/chef, the effervescent Rashida Purifoy, knows that better than anyone. You could hardly get near her booth for the crowds.
Of course there were many maple-bacon cupcakes. But there’s been a lot of talk about pies being the new cupcake. Apparently L.A. foodies have listened….
But back to the cupcakes. The show was decidedly sweet-heavy, and who cares. Not me. Not when there are such miracles as margarita cupcakes to be tried.
Or these little beauties, from Cookie Casa Bakery: (which, in case you were wondering, put me right back into a closed-eye food happiness stupor…)
I had to digest. So I turned my attention to the food-related swag on display. For example: Fashion for Foodies? We got your foodie fashion right here. Or Flavour Gallery does. A bit rich, price-wise, for me. But if I were the sort buying $50 balsamic vinegar and $300 Dutch ovens, what’s a $30 t-shirt? Especially if it’s cute?
The only potters I saw at the event – Ken and Eri Sugimoto, had the good stuff. (I say this as someone who’s collected a lot of art pottery over the years.) Seems to me there’s a place for many more kitchen-related gifts at this show.
Aprons, of course, made a big appearance.
And skin care products, like this coffee scrub from Exfolatte:
But these gift bags from the ladies at Saucy Sacks really hit the mark. Their sound bite? “Serve your sauce with some sauce.” Here HERE!
I was about done. I couldn’t eat another cupcake or crunch another bacon-flavored anything. But as kismet would have it, what would I run into next to the exit but the booth featuring the alcohol — all organic and lovingly hand-made in the City of Angels. Oh I knew there was a reason I loved my home town …
Alas: no bacon-flavored liqueur…
The clock on the wall said nearly 4 p.m. I’d been roaming the aisles of Artisanal LA for three hours and hadn’t noticed. One more stop, back across the hall to where Intelligentsia was giving away free iced coffee (so fresh and well-brewed even I didn’t need sugar or milk – a first), and I was off.
Notes for next year: Travel lean and mean and don’t try to lug a bag, a purse AND a camera. Utilize pockets. Insist that a worthy foodie friend accompany. And fast for 24 hours beforehand.
Can’t wait for the next one.