East LA Meets Napa 2015

AltaMed’s wonderful East LA Meets Napa fundraiser event celebrated its 10th anniversary on Friday evening, and once again, I was lucky enough to be invited.

Established over 40 years ago, AltaMed is Southern California’s leading non-profit health care system delivering integrated primary care services, senior care programs and health and human services for the entire family.

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The theme of the event is to showcase Southern California’s best Mexican restaurants, and the best Latino-owned wineries. It’s an inspired combination, and everyone put their best foot forward. Once again, the event sold out early, as I’m sure it will next year, judging by the happy faces of the attendees.

As in the past, the event was held at Union Station. When I first heard about it, I imagined we would be dodging commuters who were headed for the trains, but the airy courtyard of this historic building provides for a free flow of guests trying out the interesting foods and wines, as well as those who came to dance to the live salsa band.

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Each of the participating restaurants brought one or two of their signature dishes. Especially memorable was the Cochinita Pibil from Doña Rosa, served on one of the most perfect tortillas I’ve eaten this year (for the record, I’ve eaten a lot of great tortillas this year.) Rocio’s Mexican Kitchen offered something daring (and delicious) by combining a Paella (the classic Spanish dish) with her distinctive Mole Poblano. Chichén Itzá, served their Yucatan special Panuchos, King Taco served, yes, tacos, and El Cholo once again brought their spectacular green corn tamales. Casa Oaxaca had people laughing about their grasshopper salsa… until they tasted the delicious flavor.

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There were wonderful wines from Alex Sotelo Cellars, Delgadillo Cellars and Trujillo Wines. It was a temptation to visit LLamas Family Wines, San Antonio Winery, Ceja Vineyards and others, but I can only cover a certain amount of ground in one evening. I have those to look forward to in the future.

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Once again, the event was flawlessly organized, and it was a very enjoyable evening. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it. My list of must-visit restaurants has grown (in fact, I’ve already visited one since Friday evening) and I’ll be sure to share my experiences in the coming months.

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East LA Meets Napa 2014

AltaMed held its 9th annual East LA Meets Napa fundraiser last Friday evening, and I was lucky enough to be invited.

Established over 40 years ago, AltaMed is Southern California’s leading non-profit health care system delivering integrated primary care services, senior care programs and health and human services for the entire family.

The theme of the event is to showcase Southern California’s best Mexican restaurants, and the best Latino-owned wineries. It’s an inspired combination, and everyone put their best foot forward. News is getting out, and the event was sold out early, as I’m sure it will be next year, judging by the happy faces of the attendees.

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The location couldn’t have been more perfect… or more unexpected. We’ve all been to Union Station, but everyone is so focused on catching a train that very few people notice the lovely outdoor courtyards of this historic building. It provided a free flow that allowed us to listen to the great live music, meet new friends and sample delicious food and wines.

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Each of the participating restaurants brought one or two of their signature dishes. Especially memorable were the chiles en nogada from La Huasteca, flautas de jamaica from Casa Oaxaca and the panuchos from Chichén Itzá. I was also delighted with dishes from La Parilla, Rivera Restaurant, Rocio’s Moles de los Dioses and several others. I even tried eating grasshopper for the first time… it was served in a salsa, so I could concentrate on the delicious flavor, and not the little beasts themselves.

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There were wonderful wines from Alex Sotelo Cellars, Gustavo Wines and Trujillo Wines. It was a temptation to visit Nevarez Vineyard, Luis Ochoa Family Vineyards, Delgadillo Cellars and others, but there was only one of me, and it was only one evening. I’ll be looking out for their wines in the future.

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The event was perfectly organized, and was a big success in all aspects. I was very fortunate to be a part of it. I have a list of restaurants that will keep me busy for months, and I’m already looking forward to next year.

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YXTA – Gringas al Pastor

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I’ve passed by YXTA a number of times, but never had the opportunity to try it. I was curious, though, for two reasons. First, how in heck do you pronounce YXTA? Well, you do pronounce the X, so it sounds like “eeks-ta.” Second, what is an attractive, upscale-looking restaurant doing in that dreary stretch of downtown Los Angeles, surrounded by warehouses, distributors and factories? The answer to that is now a moot point, because YXTA is worth a trip, no matter where it’s located.

I was invited to a preview of AltaMed’s annual fund-raiser East L.A. Meets Napa, and we made a stop at YXTA for their wonderful tacos, and a sampling of Trujillo wines. The US vs Belgium World Cup game was playing on the TVs as we arrived, which fit perfectly with the casual restaurant/bar atmosphere, and added to the fun mood of the outing. Needless to say, we didn’t stay long enough to see the disappointing outcome of the game.

I’ve seen Gringas on menus in Mexico, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen them this side of the border. As we all know, a gringa in Latin America is an American, or english-speaking woman. In food parlance, though, it is a special type of taco. Wikipedia says the name may come from the dark spots on the grilled tortilla that resemble the freckles on a gringa’s skin.

The gringas at YXTA were beautifully roasted marinated pork (pastor), served on a flour tortilla with lots of gooey melted cheese, onions, cilantro, chile de arbol salsa and avocado salsa. The treatment was sort of like a quesadilla, but it packed a flavor punch way beyond any quesadilla I’ve ever been served – and that includes the Olympic Mercado where all the street vendors appear on Saturdays, not that far from YXTA.

I’m looking forward to seeing what YXTA is serving at the July 18 East L.A. Meets Napa main event. I’ll be delighted if they go with the Gringas, but whatever they decide, I know I’ll be a happy guy.

Here’s the website: http://yxta.net/

Chichén Itzá – Panuchos

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About 10 years ago, I did a double-take when I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about Chichén Itzá’s tacos de venado. How could a Yucatán style restaurant be more authentic if it served deer tacos? I don’t think they’re on the menu any more (they were wonderful, by the way), but I’ve been back many times since, to explore the consistently delicious regional cooking.

This afternoon, I was invited to a preview of AltaMed’s signature fund-raising event East L.A. Meets Napa. Owner Gilberto Cetina gave us a tour of the Mercado where the restaurant is located, and presented some of the highlights of the menu, as well as some interesting stories about Yucatán cuisine. I learned, for example, that Queso de Bola is actually Edam cheese that was introduced to the region by Dutch, uh… Pirates of the Caribbean.

The highlights today were the Panuchos. Unlike many Yucatán dishes, panuchos do not date back to the Mayans, but are a more recent, although still traditional concoction. The foundation is a tortilla that has been infused with a black bean puree, then fried. The topping is shredded turkey (!), pickled onion, lettuce, avocado and tomato. My fork didn’t offer much support, so I picked up my panucho (with Gilbero’s approval), folded it like a taco, and went to town.

Was it kind of like a taco? Well, yeah.. but it was more substantial and richer than most tacos. Earthy and satisfying in every way.

The great news is that Gilberto plans to serve Panuchos at the July 18 East L.A.Meets Napa main event. I’ll be first in line.

The address is: 3655 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90007
Telephone: (213)741-1075

El Cholo – Los Angeles – Green Corn Tamales with Mole Poblano

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It’s been a long time since I’ve been to El Cholo, which has been a fixture in Los Angeles since 1923. I recently posted an article in which El Cholo was cited as being the first LA restaurant to serve a burrito – that’s the kind of history they bring to the table. They have branches around town, but the location I always think of is the original on Western Avenue south of Olympic.

El Cholo was a participant in the wonderful fund-raising event for AltaMed, held in the courtyard of Union Station, so I was able to reacquaint myself. Each of the restaurants that came to the event selected a featured item, and El Cholo chose to serve Green Corn Tamales with a delicious Mole Poblano. The tamales were made with a rich, soft masa, and were sweetened and textured with whole kernels of corn, and a secret (to me) ingredient that gave them a creamy, almost cheesy finish. The mole poblano, with its sweet/smoky/spicy flavor was the perfect accompaniment.

I’m sure I’ll be going to El Cholo in the near future to see what else is on the menu.

Here’s the website: http://www.elcholo.com/

East LA Meets Napa – July 19

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I’m really looking forward to this event on Friday – at Union Station, of all places! A long list of great Mexican restaurants and Latino-owned wineries will be there, and I’ll have the opportunity to try all their wonderful specialties.

The photos are a selection of Moles from La Huasteca, and quesadillas from Lotería Grill. Both restaurants will be represented on Friday. Here are their websites:

http://lahuasteca.com/

http://loteriagrill.com/

Here’s the website for the event, with the list of restaurants and wineries, with a description of Alta Med, the beneficiary of the fund-raising:

http://www.altamed.org/eastlameetsnapa

East LA Meets Napa – Los Angeles – July 19, 2013

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Here’s an event that sounds great! Restaurants from East Los Angeles joining with Latino-owned wineries for a very worthwhile fund-raiser. I really want to be there. Check the website to see all the great restaurants and wineries that will be participating. The photo is from one of the participating restaurants, but I’m not telling which one – yet!

Friday, July 19, 2013
6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Union Station
800 North Alameda Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Purchase Tickets Today!

AltaMed’s premier food and wine tasting fundraising event, East LA Meets Napa, is in its 8th year. The event takes place outdoors on a warm summer evening in a unique aesthetic venue, the Union Station & Metropolitan Water District courtyards. The perfect setting for the 1,500 guests who enjoy trekking their way past their favorite food and wine stations. Latino owners, chefs, and representatives from 30 restaurants and 30 wineries showcase their wonderful food and wines. This event includes a VIP pre-event reception, a brief program, live entertainment, dancing, all the food you can eat, all the wine you can drink, and a surprise or two! Top sponsors enjoy the comfort of their very own private VIP reception areas.

With 1,500 guests in attendance, East LA Meets Napa is AltaMed’s highest attended annual fundraising event. Invitees will include the AltaMed Senior Management Team, Host Committee co-chairs and committee members, elected officials, sponsors, and friends of AltaMed.

This year’s event, appropriately named East LA Meets Napa & Beyond, will take us on a wine tasting journey stretching from the famed Napa Valley, through various California wine regions and beyond. An exploration of California wines showcasing and honoring the roots of so many Latino vintners and families.

http://www.altamed.org/eastlameetsnapa