Food Coma Aftermath: Plate by Plate

Dig Lounge would like to welcome writer Lien Ta to the site. Her work has appeared in everything from E! Online to Glamour to UrbanDaddy LA (plus, her two blogs, Taking Notes and FAQ-LA). Her new challenge is surviving an externship in the kitchen at Lucques. Follow her on Twitter @FAQ_LA

I arrive at the Plate by Plate event taking place at the California Science Center with an appetite (just slightly stuffed with sausage and pancakes from the Salt’s Cure soft opening). The first booth to greet guests is Jitlada, and naturally, there’s a swarm of well-clad animals around Jazz’s curry.

So, I march on toward the back, reaching signage that reads: BALLS. This is Nguyen Tran’s doing, of course, and he’s dishing out Starry Kitchen’s infamous crispy tofu balls. Because I am not the owner of a big important camera, I can’t help but take a Hipstamatic print:

Starry Kitchen

To the left of SK is Mo-Chica — what! No Seco de Cordova lamb shank for each of us?! — and chef Ricardo Zarate is serving up kind-of-amazing beef hearts on skewers. I put one in my mouth. I’m excited by it.

Mo-Chica's Beef Hearts

The soft-spoken Zarate is a big deal, always, but especially of late. He is the mastermind behind Test Kitchen LA, wherein talented chefs/mixologists pop into his nondescript Pico Boulevard space and “test” menus. After Red Medicine’s Jordan Kahn wraps up his stint this week, expect Zarate himself to whip up a little Peruvian variety a night here and there.

Me and Chef Z — we chatted. He equated Test Kitchen LA as “just something to do” while he orchestrates his next big venture. I suspect it might have something to do with the current Wabi Sabi spot on Abbot Kinney …

OK, power rankings. The top five snacks I snacked on:

Panna Cotta in Watermelon Soup -- Fraiche

5. Panna Cotta in Watermelon Soup — Fraiche
So, so velvety. And a little pool of agua fresca. And handsome/pretty cooks in red bandanas. As if we were at Fraiche right now!

Char Siu Pork Croissant -- Jar

4. Char Siu Pork Croissant — Jar
How does Chef Suzanne Tracht keep her eternal tan up? And her SoCal-tousseled bob JUST right? And why is her char siu meat this good? And please, anything in a croissant. Regarding her upcoming LAX eatery, Suzanne said, “It’s coming along.”

Green Curry Chicken, Mitaki Vegetable With Tofu, Crying Tiger Beef

3. Green Curry Chicken, Mitaki Vegetable With Tofu, Crying Tiger Beef — Jitlada
A few weeks ago, I ate at Jitlada for the first time — it was a revelation, truly. Everyone is sweating — the food’s got that much kick. This Thai medley was tame, spice-wise (Chef Jazz didn’t want to scare the benefactors). First, a little green curry was ladled into a bowl, then it was topped with the mango stuff and the crying tiger meat. I text-sent this image, and jealousy ensued.

Pomegranate-Glazed Duck Meatball, Parsnip Puree and Orange Essence -- Charlie Palmer

2. Pomegranate-Glazed Duck Meatball, Parsnip Puree and Orange Essence — Charlie Palmer
Palmer is the guy with the careful mustache in that one Top Chef episode. He’s got a Costa Mesa spot in the Bloomingdale’s of South Coast Plaza — and the man can make a meatball. Might I add there was foam.

Crispy Tofu Ball -- Starry Kitchen

1. Crispy Tofu Ball — Starry Kitchen
I’m a carnivore, through and through, but balls, was this good. It’s easily the best thing I’ve eaten out of Starry Kitchen, and I’m happy to report it was my favorite snack at this year’s Plate by Plate.

Plate by Plate is a tasting benefit, and this particular night, it honors the Health Justice Network, a leader in advocating quality health services and eliminating health disparities among the Asian and Pacific Islander population. Other participants included: Bistro LQ, The Blvd, Cafe Pinot, Craft, The Foundry, Hot Stuff Cafe, Jamaica’s Cakes, La Cachette, La Grande Orange, Maison Akira, Musha, Nobu, One World, Plush Puffs, Roy’s, Susina Bakery, Thompson, Wokcano and Yogurtland.

Author:Matt Mitchell

A lover of everything LA has to offer, Matt created Dig Lounge to tell his friends about all the fun things to do in the city. Matt has worked in the dot com world since 1996, including some of the top online entertainment companies and digital marketing firms. He currently works as a Digital Producer.

5 Responses to “Food Coma Aftermath: Plate by Plate”

  1. August 23, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    Great recap! I loved those balls….they were my favorite!

  2. August 23, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

    I wouldn’t necessarily call Zarate the “mastermind” behind Test Kitchen, though he certainly is involved. The concept is really the brainchild of Bill Chait and Brian Saltsburg.

  3. August 24, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    Truth — Zarate is to Test Kitchen as Bayless is to Red O. Mastermind on the side, if you will. Thanks for the comment/clarification, Kevin!

  4. September 16, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    Jazz of Jitlada was not present at PbP. But Chef Tui indeed was. Jazz was (and still is) in Southern Thailand.

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