By Brianna Chu
Coming into its fourth year running, Masters of Taste is an exclusive dining event that brings together an incredible array of culinary masters, restaurants, pastry chefs, alcohol specialists, breweries, and mixologists from all over Los Angeles and Los Angeles County. The purpose? To raise money for a deserving cause. One-hundred percent of the proceeds from the event will go to Union Station Homeless Services, a nonprofit organization committed to assisting the homeless and low-income members of our community by offering an array of services, including street outreach, meals, shelter, housing, case management, and career development.
I had the pleasure of sampling what some of the businesses and restaurants that are going to be at the Masters of Taste event have to offer – so let me take you through a dish-by-dish recounting of the media preview!
The appetizers were primarily from Pizza Plant, a vegan pizza food truck. We sampled two different pizzas: the almost contradictory-seeming meat lovers’ pizza and the green goddess pizza. The meat lovers’ pizza was pretty surprising: it looks, smells, and pretty much tastes like your standard meat lovers’! I think if no one had told me beforehand that the pizza was vegan, I wouldn’t have guessed. It’s a pretty darn good stand-in, plus it’s much healthier, so none of the guilt! However, I did think that the green goddess pizza was absolutely delicious. I don’t know, something about the mix of pesto, creamy avocado, crunchy vegetables, thick and nutty quinoa crust really came together so deliciously. Perhaps too healthy for some, but sign me the heck up!
Each of the five courses in the main dinner was paired thoughtfully with a complementary alcohol – I’m not much of a drinker, but I sipped each to try and get the full experience.
First up were chilled cooked shrimp – “coctel de camaron” – with tomatillo, pico de gallo, and tomato cocktail sauce, from Chef Jonathan Aviles of Salazar. The shrimp were succulent, with some snaps of heat from some peppers in there. The Nuestro Soledad Mezcal picked by H.E Greer from Back Bar Project was a bit fiery for my taste, honestly, but I’m not the biggest fan of hard liquor.
The second course was a rich seafood gumbo from Chef Sammy Monsour of Preux & Proper. Prepared with a roux, this gumbo boasted a hearty amount of okra, dried ground sassafras, barley, Louisiana crawfish, black mussels, black shrimp, and Washington lobster. It was rich, bursting with flavor, and each item of seafood was perfectly cooked. Frank Martinez from the San Fernando Brewing Co. paired the gumbo with a O’Melvaney red ale, which I found surprisingly drinkable (as someone who dislikes beers, ales, and lagers) and a very fitting match!
The third course was a seared sea trout from Chef Jon Hung of the Raymond 1886 that I appreciated both for its preparation as well as its portion size – it was probably the most substantially-sized course throughout the entire night. The perfectly moist and flaky sea trout perched atop a bed of lentils and a yuzu brown sauce was topped with hazelnuts, capers, and pickled golden raisins. A complex, innovative dish, each part was in perfect balance with each other: from the rich, earthy lentils to the pops of sweet and sour from the capers and the amazing pickled golden raisins. Pickled raisins are a food I never knew I wanted in my life! The trout was paired with a wonderful, sweet, and happily not dry San Simeon Sauvignon Blanc ‘18 chosen by Russell Shin of San Antonio Winery.
The final savory course was a slice of prime strip loin from the Masters of Taste 2019 host chef, Michael Hung, of Faith & Flower. Accompanied by pea sprouts and a French bordelaise sauce, this succulent morsel was paired with another San Simeon wine, this time a Cabernet Sauvignon ‘15.
For dessert, we enjoyed what was probably one of the best (if not the best) red velvet cupcakes I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating! Everything about this cupcake from Jon Hensley of Lark Cake Shop was perfect: from the moist, incredibly soft cupcake itself, which wasn’t overly sweet, to the cream cheese frosting that actually tasted like cream cheese and had none of that graininess I tend to notice in pre-made frosting. I ate this cupcake in three bites, I’m not ashamed to say. This was the course that I most wished I could get a second of, honestly, and I’m not even that big of a dessert person! The cupcake from heaven was complemented by a four-year aged strawberry brandy chosen by Bryan Chenault of Ventura Spirits, made entirely from local surplus fruit – basically, the rejects, the bruised and ugly fruits that won’t sell in grocery stores. The aroma of strawberries was noticeable, and the brandy itself was quite warming.
Alongside the magnificent red velvet cupcakes, we were treated to some luxurious, handcrafted chocolates from Joe Terpoghossian’s shop, Mignon Chocolates. The first was a matcha green tea truffle, with a center of a white chocolate and matcha ganache with dark chocolate shell. It was surprisingly but delightfully flowery in taste. The second was a dark chocolate and ginger truffle with a pop of salt. The ginger really shined through, and the pop of salt was unexpected but balanced well!
So, given that these dishes were merely a sample of the food to come – are you tempted yet? Buy your tickets before they sell out here (please note that the event is for those of ages 21 and up, as this event does serve alcohol, and thus ride sharing services like Uber or Lyft are highly recommended for attendees): mastersoftastela.com/tickets.
I hope to see y’all there!
Masters of Taste
Pasadena Rose Bowl
1001 Rose Bowl Drive
Pasadena, CA 91103