A week-long happy hour promotion for THE TASTE is ongoing through August 25 at participating restaurants.

On Wednesday, August 17, members of the press and participants from last year’s Taste of Beverly Hills gathered poolside at the Montage Beverly Hills for “Sunset Hour,” sipping cocktails by the pool, savoring hors d’oeuvres and mingling with chefs, in anticipation for this year’s premiere culinary event in L.A., THE TASTE, scheduled to take place over four days in three locations – Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Downtown.

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Montage Rooftop Pool (credit: Liz Laing)

At the Montage, guests enjoyed cocktails featuring ABSOLUT® ORIENT APPLE and complimentary small bites from the Montage culinary team. Mini-desserts were featured by Scarpetta Executive Pastry Chef Richard Ruskell, winner of Food Network’s “Last Cake Standing” and participant in this year’s THE TASTE. His artistic creations – fruit tarts, lemon bars, strawberry cheesecake, macaroons and German chocolate cake – were sweet endings for all to enjoy.

Chefs in attendance included Roy Choi of Kogi, Joseph Gillard of Napa Valley Grille, Richard Ruskell from Scarpetta, Ricardo Zarate of Mo Chica, Jason Neroni of Osteria La Buca, Gianfranco Minuz of Locando del Lago and Tim Goodell of 25 Degrees and Public Kitchen and Bar at the Roosevelt. Food Network stars Aida Mollenkamp and “cupcake queen” Candace Nelson also stopped by the event.

This year the Los Angeles Times is joining forces with Food & Wine’s THE TASTE in creating an unparalleled gastronomic experience, combining their respective food festivals into one celebration with nine signature events over Labor Day weekend, bringing together some of the top chefs and culinary talent in the country. L.A.’s dynamic and versatile dining scene will be showcased in a variety of ways, from cooking and mixology demonstrations, to panel discussions and, of course, plenty of food and wine tastings. Celebrity guests and top music artists will also be on hand along with appearances by Giada De Laurentiis, Scott Conant, Art Smith, Ludo Lefebvre, Michael Voltaggio, Claire Robinson, Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos.

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(credit: Liz Laing)

This unprecedented food event is expected to attract more than 20,000 guests throughout the four days, September 2-5, 2011. Each venue offers different programs and participating chefs and restaurants. Tickets are sold for both individual events and packages. A portion of ticket sales will benefit the following charities: Beverly Hills Education Foundation, LA Conservancy, Collins College of Hospitality Management – Cal Poly Pomona, Share Our Strength and Los Angeles Times Family Fund.

CBSLA.com visitors receive a 20% discount on tickets and packages. Click here and enter discount code: Gourmet
On Saturday afternoon, enjoy tastings at “Secrets from the Kitchen & Cellar,” where top culinary stars including Michael Voltaggio of Ink, Scott Conant of Scarpetta, Claire Robinson, of Food Network’s 5 Ingredient Fix and Food Network Star winner, Aarti Sequeira will be churning out their best dishes, accompanied by excellent vintages and spirits.
Speaking of drinks… Check-out Taco Tequila Tryst on Saturday night at Paramount Studios. Host Roy Choi, the godfather of the food truck movement, and L.A.’s best taco artists bring their A-game to create one-of-a-kind tacos, served with the perfect pairing – tequila. A perfect event for the taco connoisseur.

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Chef Roy Choi (credit: Eric Shin)

After putting Korean tacos on the map with his Kogi trucks, Choi put his culinary talent to work on solid ground with Chego, A-Frame and the Alibi Room. His creativity and talent were nationally recognized when Food & Wine honored him as “Best New Chef” in 2010.

When asked him how he manages to juggle all of his businesses, Choi answered with a relaxed attitude. “It all works out spiritually.” There isn’t any room for self-doubt here. In regards to starting Kogi, he said, “We believed in something so much, we made it happen. We weren’t afraid of ridicule. We put ourselves out there and went for it.” Choi certainly is inspiring and makes success look easy, though he works very hard at, usually putting in 14-hour work days and visiting his properties as much as he can.
On Labor Day, one of the most celebrated stars in the culinary world, Giada De Laurentiis, will host the biggest and most anticipated picnic and BBQ of the year in Beverly Hills, Picnic in the Hills with cooking demonstrations from Melissa d’Arabian (Food Network’s Ten Dollar Dinners), Aida Mollenkamp, (Cooking Channel’s Foodcrafters), Debi Mazar and her husband Gabriele Corcos, (Cooking Channel’s Extra Virgin) and Candace Nelson (Sprinkles Cupcakes). Family fun and kid-focused events will take place throughout the afternoon.

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Chef Candace Nelson (credit: Wagstaff)

Candace Nelson, the founder and pastry chef of Sprinkles Cupcakes (the world’s first cupcake bakery), will be sharing her all-natural recipe for Sprinkles Strawberry cupcakes using fresh, juicy strawberries pureed into both the cake and frosting at Picnic in the Hills . Candace says, “It’s the quintessential taste of summer, and we could all use one last taste before summer leaves us for good this year!”

When asked what she likes best about being a judge on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, Candace said it is an honor to be considered an authority on cupcakes and loves tasting all the creative combinations the contestants bake up. However, her favorite part about being part of Cupcake Wars is meeting the kids who have been inspired by the show and begin baking their own creations at home. So, bring the kids to The Picnic and inspire them.

If you’d like to get a head start in celebrating, check-out participating TASTE restaurants across Los Angeles who are welcoming diners to “Check In to THE TASTE” and take advantage of a special TASTE ticket promotion through August 25, 2011. Guests who “check-in” (via Foursquare or Facebook Places) to one or more participating restaurants* during their regular happy hours August 17-25th and post “I’m checking in to THE TASTE Happy Hour” in the optional message box will receive a 20% discount on tickets for THE TASTE. Proof of check-in is required (screenshots of users’ Foursquare history pages or Facebook profile pages displaying the check-in are accepted) and must be sent to taste@wagstaffworldwide.com by 12 a.m. on August 26, 2011. Eligible participants will receive a promotional code via email, which can be applied online at http://lattast.eventbrite.com and must be redeemed before 12 a.m. on September 2, 2011. Participating restaurants include Scarpetta, Delphine, BOA Steakhouse, Sushi Roku, Napa Valley Grille, Lexington Social House, Public Kitchen & Bar, M Street Kitchen, Stella Rossa Pizza Bar, Street, STK, Corkbar, Palate Food + Wine, Wood & Vine, RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen, Moko, Joe’s Restaurant, Akasha and more. A full list is available at Facebook.com/TheTasteLA, in the “Notes” section.

For more information about THE TASTE: www.latimes.com/THETASTE, Facebook.com/LATimesEvents and Twitter: @LATimesEvents.

-Liz Laing


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