Food and Wining in Los Angeles
“The shallow life!” barked the man next to us in the stall of a Downtown Los Angeles Marriott men’s room. He spilled out of the can chuckling like a beast and scrubbing his crotch, where a stain the shape of Napa Valley was oozing.
“Here’s to the shallow life,” he said while rearranging a stray hair from his nearly vacant scalp, before pushing through the double doors and back out to the feeding frenzy of the Los Angeles Wine and Food Festival’s opening night. The wine tasting had attracted a bizarre crowd: the ubiquitous weekend getaway lovers, thirsty to swill and swoon, locked in endless purple-tongued embrace; whole families from god-knows-where, teetering toward dessert trays like they’d never seen carrot cake before; and of course the winery reps, in full force, out to flaunt their varietals, taste the competition’s pinot, or if nothing else, sleep with it.
Now, Hot Knives are professionals, and we were prepared for wine country–we’d come hopped-up on strong weed, with all manner of business cards, recording devices and reporters’ notebooks to note the nuance of every vintage–but this was a different class of tasting we were clearly unprepared for: that of “convention booty.”
Hours before on that Friday afternoon, we’d been trying madly to flee the office, and free ourselves from the juicy-suit snares of our attorney, [redacted].
“Is that a joint? Are you going to smoke that?” she asked as we checked and re-checked our equipment. It was, and we were.
She pulled a lighter from her briefcase and sparked the mean-smelling herb, sitting down in a swivel chair to fuss with her blog and talk about wanting a burrito. We puffed and ran, forgetting most of our supplies.
What had we done? This was no time for amateur slip-ups we lectured ourselves in the car; we were about to come eye-to-eye with the cream of the crop in the food blogging circuit. This was to be a true indictment of L.A. wine culture, in all its snobbery, and who better to send than a couple asshole beer bloggers.
After checking in for our press badges, we blended into the crowd and slipped into the ballroom, which was dotted with table after table of wineries from as near as Santa Barbara, as far as Italy. Some had sent their hungry sales rep lackeys, while a few had merely paid Hollywood eye candy to pour and flirt, in the hopes of luring as many winos to their booth as possible. Smart move, it turned out.
“Is this the right floor,” one of us asked a pair of fake tits as they danced by.
In short time, we found ourselves shouting things like, “Coffee notes!” and “Peach nose with oak and butter finish.”
We guzzled the stuff quickly at first, feeling it in the knees, giggling like hyenas on nitrous oxide, sure that we’d be caught any minute by a thick-skinned security guard detail, who’d take us in back and take turns bludgeoning us with corkscrews for trying to blend in with the paying customers of pedigree taste buds. But it never came.
We hit the cheese table, literally. And after an uncouth display of grabbing for blue cheese-chevre out of turn, it got ugly–one of us was convinced that the fromage girl was lying to him. The French cheese she’d said held real black truffles, had merely extract and things were starting to turn sinister.
At the other end of the hall, what looked like prize-winning porkers in chef’s coats were ladling out some sort of watery-soup to people. They were the “executive chefs” of El Pollo Loco. We shied away, not trusting their weird crew cuts, but heard one wine purveyor say, “It’s great to see who’s behind the menu, real and in-person.”
Jesus fuck. This was more serious than we thought, someone let these horny fucks in and now they were drinking everything in sight in between gulps of chicken and tortilla soup. Where, we wondered, were the real wine freaks? These people seemed like they’d been bussed in from some god-awful, suburban food court. Was there no one there with a refined palate for us to slam?
When we walked by a booth for “chai liquor” we started to lose it.
Next door we pointed to a small perfume-sized bottle with an old cork and asked for a nip from the table’s middle-aged server.
“Oh, this isn’t for tasting. It was a gift from the couple down there,” she said pointing to an old couple at a booth. “It’s a secret reserve port they bottle for friends.”
When we got on our knees, she turned red and started pouring. The dark purple-black elixir smelled of gnarly vines, imported from the old world, processed cobwebs-and-all. This was the ticket, this is what we came for. This was fucking wine.
“Where can we buy more,” we demanded from the grandparents who were grabbing for their bottles as they saw us approaching wild-eyed. It wasn’t for sale, they tried to explain to us. “But we’ll have a bottle of another port tomorrow at the convention,” they said. “Look for us.”
The couple scurried off and other tables slowly followed, until only a few stalwarts were left emptying their own bottles themselves. The bald man we’d seen in the bathroom earlier–“Shallow Life” we’d taken to calling him–was packing up with his young assistant, a brunette in a mini-skirt when we approached for our last taste of the night, some kind of white wine we hadn’t run across.
Did we know what kind of grapes these were he asked? We didn’t. Did we know anything about wine at all? We blushed and sipped uncomfortably, “Shallow Life” had found us out. As we finished the glass, we said we’d see him tomorrow at the conference. “No you won’t,” he said. His assistant was pouring for him.
“I’m going to mow the lawn, spray for crab grass, smoke a joint and drink a half a bottle of tequila. I’d say that’s a day-off.”
More wine, weed and knives at Hot Knives.