Malibu Seen

IN GOOD TASTE

The back lot at Universal Studios was bustling with activity at this year’s American Food and Wine Festival. Fresh produce was brought in by the bushel, sauces and marinades were mixed up by the gallon and prime cuts of beef were seasoned just so.

The place was filled with familiar faces, many from host Wolfgang Puck’s world famous restaurants. But there were some new and very notable names in the crowd. French Laundry fans were all abuzz because celebrated Michelin chef Thomas Keller was in the crowd.

“This is why I’m here,” the chef said, handing me a festive yellow and red Bouchon beach ball. “It’s all about November.”

Keller was referring to the upcoming opening of his Parisian style brasserie in Beverly Hills. In addition to beach gear, the faithful were treated to small bites of his top quality shellfish, getting a taste of things to come.

You could graze your way from the left bank to the islands with a stop at Spago Maui where they dished out inspired Hawaiian fare, or visit with the gastronomic gurus who had flown in from Napa.

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Redd’s Richard Reddington had foodies lining up for his melt-in-you-mouth pork belly topped by colorful peppers and squash nestled on a bed of sweet apple puree spiked with soy caramel sauce. Things were smoking over at Cut where Ari Rosensen sliced up the best cuts in town. Food Network geeks were in hog heaven asking for autographs and having their pictures taken with their favorite TV chefs. Patina’s Joachim Splichal had it down pat__-plate, pose, plate. Joachim’s fans not only snagged a snap with one of L.A.’s most celebrated chefs, they were also rewarded with a serving of foie gras and mango ravioli paired with a light-as-air corn mousse.

Other superstars at this gourmet gala included Mozza’s Nancy Silverton, Campanille’s Mark Peel, Nobu’s Nobu Matsuhisa as well as the top of the line tastemakers from Puck’s Spago. Some took to the dance floor between bites. Others walked it off winding their way up and down the backlot’s cobblestone streets, checking out various cityscapes or poking around the props department. A look at props is almost an event in itself with phone booths, deco panthers, Greek goddesses, antique columns, cannon balls, newspaper stands, sinks, street lights and rickshaws by the score.

Food and Wine’s main man Wolf raced around with special food deliveries for friends while Barbara Lazaroff served up soundbites for the local media. The silent auction had wine lovers hopping with dozens of high-end vintages and one-of-a-kind commemorative bottles to choose from. The delicious do is now in its 27th year. It’s raised more than $15 million for Meals on Wheels and remains one of the city’s most loved and best attended events.

Despite tough economic times or perhaps because of them, everyone likes to eat, drink and be merry. They are also supporting a worthy cause with every bite, and there’s nothing sweeter than that.

Got a hot happening or cool event? Send the 411 to kimdevore@malibutimes.com.

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