Last night I attended the opening night of the second annual Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival (LAFW) thanks to my good friend Mike Freed. Mike and his partners have some of the top hotels in the world including Post Ranch Inn and Cavallo Point and lucky for me, he had an extra VIP ticket.
The marquee event was titled Giada’s Festa Italiana and it took place outside at L.A. Live and the Nokia Plaza. LAFW is supposedly the largest food and wine festival in the world with over 25,000 people expecting to attend this weekend. Last year, the inaugural event had more than 15,000 attendees.
It’s a huge fundraiser for St. Vincent Meals on Wheels. Since 1977, St Vincent Meals on Wheels has delivered life-saving meals and warm greetings to homebound and hungry seniors and disabled or seriously ill adults across Los Angeles. They deliver to over 3,000 clients a day, serving anyone in need regardless of age, race, illness, disability, religion or ability to pay. Last year’s event raised $400,000.
The event was very well run except for the start; there was a long line for “VIP” ticket holders. VIP tickets cost $250 a piece ($55 more than the regular tickets) and enable guests to get into the event 30 minutes before the general public. Although the line moved fairly fast, they could have used a couple more workers to help put on wristbands.
There were a 140 booths featuring 40 popular restaurants locally and globally, as well as 100 wineries. Some had lines but they moved fast except for the one to meet celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis (but not to eat her food).
The first booth we hit was Post Ranch Inn’s to support Mike’s head chef John Cox who was dishing out oysters on the half shell with caviar at his creative ice bar. I then tried practically everything from Anthony Carron’s sausage and pepper pizza to Hedy Goldsmith’s Nutella banana panini with bacon, toffee + espresso nibs.
Highlights for me, besides hanging out with my buddy Mike, was spending time backstage with the event organizers, mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Giada De Laurentiis, running into Deltalina at the Delta tent and trying all the creative food like Joe’s kettle corn with lobster and bacon at the after party.
Tickets are still available for a few of the many events, which will be held throughout the weekend and all over Los Angeles. One of them is Travel Channel host Andrew Zimmern’s cooking demonstration at the JW Marriott on Saturday for $50.