Taste of Santa Monica 2008

by janet on September 21st, 2008

Foie Gras, bitches!

I can’t believe it’s been a year since Taste of Santa Monica!  I was reminded by Daniel that it was time again to go and fill my gullet with 40 tastings for $40.  Except Daniel, being the financial-ey one, realized that there are student tickets available for $20.  Accountant magic.  Oh, and of course, the WINE GARDEN!  All-you-can-drink goodness/death in the sun for $15.

Another thing I couldn’t believe – TOSM was happening on the Santa Monica Pier, IMMEDIATELY next to the LA BBQ Festival!  Foodie heaven, though quite gratuitous!  Of course, we never made it over there, but it got terrible reviews (NO BEER GARDEN?!?) so I’m not sad.

Tinx was waylaid by mono (I hope I don’t get it from all the making out I have been doing with her) so we took Vic.  If you don’t know Vic, he is, upon first viewing, extremely badass looking in a LBC gangsta way.  But then, he looks at you with these big brown eyes and an adorable giggle and you look down and your pants are on the ground because he has charmed them off of you.  So, naturally, Vic used his charms to (a) get in without a student ID at the student price, and (b) get into the Wine Garden under my roomie’s name [very obviously female and non-Asian].  

We made a beeline to the Wine Garden first, of course, since they ran out of wine last year.  Nothing like starting a long day in the sun by drinking on an empty stomach.  We got a dinky plastic cup, but then noticed people sporting these Riedel-esque plastic wine glasses.



 “I MUST HAVE ONE!” I yelled a little too loudly [I was tipsy after promptly downing three tastings already].  Some random people said, “Oh, go over to that table there and they’ll give you one.” “WHERE?” “That table with the dude with the loud shirt – that huge Silverback dude.”  So I did, and as soon as I got up to the table the Silverback said, “First of all, give me that lame cup and take one of these.”  <3.  I wish I had the presence of mind to write down which winery was offering this lovely glass, but I didn’t.  You can’t see it, but there is a cute dimple in the side of the glass for your thumb to hang out in.  This came in very handy later when I needed some help with my clumsy drunk paws.



First, we hit up Wokcano.  Wait, that’s a lie.  We first hit up Barney’s Beanery, but they were out of food for 15 minutes.  So we decided to wait 15 minutes (which turned into 2 hours) and instead start out at Wokcano.  Maybe it’s just primacy/recency (a psychological phenomenon whereby you remember/like the things that come first [primacy] or last [recency] so it’s good in, like, beauty pageants to be first or last) but this was my favorite thing of the ENTIRE festival.  It’s spicy tuna and avocado, served on a bona fide DORITO!!!!  A fucking Dorito!  I stole Daniel’s serving when I was done with mine (you can’t get seconds until you visit all 40 restaurants – laaaaame).


I THINK this bruschetta was from Il Fornaio (text from Daniel confirms it was).  They also served a salad with calamari on top, which I loved (but was unable to take a passable photo of) as it was ultra tentacly.  I really appreciated the restaurants where they served more than one thingie.  I think they served a third option on top of the bruschetta and squid, but I have forgotten (or did I even notice in my tipsy haze??) what that was.


Doritos and bruschetta and salad are all fine and well, but I needed some SUBSTANCE.  Right next door was El Cholo (where I would end up later, in fact, for some killer margareets) who was serving an ENTIRE GREEN CORN TAMALE per person!  The GCT go away soon (I think they are only around until October) so definitely go and get them now.  They are so sweet you will swear that they have table sugar in them (and they probably do, now that I’m thinking of it).



Angelato Cafe was next, offering both blueberry and Bailey’s gelato.  Huge lines here all day, probably because it was hot.  They also gave out 10% off coupons which was nice, and how can you not smile when you have a teeny tiny ice cream cone in your fings?  I took a tiny lick-lick of both flavors and dumped them (not so into sweets, particularly back-to-back with the tamale) but they were good I guess.



HOOTERS!  Why do boys love wings so much?  The two boys were all over this shit so I gave them the rest of mine after I ate one.  The concept of “pacing” is lost on them.  As I was eating, I got a text from my friend that read “good call on the 5 glasses of wine before food…i’d suggest a visit to the hooters booth now.”  HOW DID HE KNOW?!?! 


i Cugini was my favorite last year, and this year they went straight for Janet’s heartstrings by offering black mussels.  Not so good when cold, but I appreciated the briney taste.  They also served a pasta, also cold.  It was fine – neither as good as what they offered last year.  Regression to the mean, perhaps? (A statistics phenomenon by which most things tend to get drawn to the mean, i.e., become less extreme, over time. The reason why a basketball player who has an amazing game will probably not be as amazing in the next game.  Seems to happen a lot with restaurants – a place that freaking rules one day will be average the next time you go.)


Which restaurant was it that offered DUCK?  I think it was Ocean & Vine from the Loews.  Duck can be chewy, but this was NOT.  It was, in fact, perfect in every way.  I think it was a tiny dollop of quince paste on top.  Superb!  This lit a fire under our asses to get to all the restaurants so we could get seconds.

Duck is a pretty baller ingredient to serve at this festival, I thought.  But even MORE baller was Bon Melange Catering, which offered fucking foie gras!  Speaking of tiny dollops, you can see at the picture at top that it was a miniscule amount (served over pineapple), but I still loved it.  Props to them for raising their stock without even being a real resto.



Mariasol offered taquitos and chimichangas.  I couldn’t even think about chimichangas without wanting to die, so I stuck with the taquitos.  They weren’t fresh-fried, of course, but I really appreciated the all-you-can-slap-on guacamole and cotija.  My loyalty to you readers made me prioritize prettiness over guac-hogging, unfortunately.  I hope you appreciate it.


Now where was this from?  What the fuck IS it, even?  Fail.


Moving on…This was from the Ma ‘Kai Lounge and they get a blue ribbon for presentation.  It was a slice of spicy yellowtail with some spicy fried onion strings on top, all balanced upon a chopsticks-skewer.  Very lovely and another one where I stole Daniel’s.


Stefano’s New York Pizza was offering three different types of pizzas.  Their placement, at least in terms of our particular TOSM route, was terrible.  Who wants to eat pizza after hours of stuffing your face?  And such huge slices!  I couldn’t handle it.  I of course ate it, but I did so very reluctantly like a kid, chewing with my mouth open really big.


Then the evil TOSM gods busted out their trump card – The Victorian‘s awful offering of fucking BISCUITS AND GRAVY WITH CHEEEEEEEESE!  I mean, it was delicious objectively, but when you feel like barfing you don’t want to eat something that looks like barf, particularly with barfy chunks in it (sausage).


Oh yeah!  Barney’s Beanery!  We forgot all about it and swerved back there at the end.  Of course their offering was chili, and I remember noting that the description I had of it last year was exactly right and still applied this year – watery in a pleasant way.

Then, a trip back to the Wine Garden.  At that point, it seemed easier to give in to Vic’s prodding than to try and resist.  With any luck, the wine would be gone by then anyhow?

But that was not to be, and in fact there was plenty of wine left…if you liked heavy heavy reds.  Vic placed a mandatory 5-tasting quota so I steeled my will and did it (though Daniel and I did manage to toss out half of one glass while Vic’s back was turned).


By the end of the day, a lot of the restaurants had run out of food (even Mahatma Rice, WTF??) but they STILL hadn’t given away their KitchenAids!!!  They looked so adorable glinting in the sun.  None of us could hang around any longer, though, so I had to console myself with the free giveaway by the entrance…


…Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce mousepads.  Score.

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