The LAFF event at the Rose Bowl wasn’t just a foodie wonderland, it was also a contest! Judges included Susan Feniger, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Chef Walter Manzke, Jesse Williams, Rene Lynch of the LA Times, and blogger Bill Esparza. I saw some of the judges picking around station to station, and others collecting big boxes of food to take back to the judge’s table.
Susan was doing double duty, with a booth for Border Grill. But she is always happy to smile for me. I must have more pictures of her now than some people have of their grandchildren.
Best Nouveau – Sedthee Thai’s Pork Sparerib
Sedhee had at least three offerings – when I hit their table they were serving up noodles in a delicious peanut sauce, some with shrimp, or sans meat. They definitely went all out with the decorations, beautiful serving ware, and delicious food. Big thumbs up!
Runner Up – Manila Machine’s Pork Adobo
I have to admit that I thought the pork belly adobo and stunningly greaseless lumpia were my top bites. I hope my sister-in-law doesn’t read this, but they were the best lumpia I have ever eaten.
Best Old School – Chef Robert Dahni’s Explosive Thai Bites
Sadly, I missed out on these. Sometimes you just can’t eat everything.
Runner Up – Tamales Elena
This was a delicious surprise, since I always hear about these tamales at the Tamale Festival in El Indio (But it’s too damn hot in Indio to actually go there, even if they do have camel races). Elena’s tamale did not have a filling; it was like a sweet corn tamale with a light strawberry flavor. The texture was light and fluffy with no trace of grittiness.
The Sweet Tooth – Munchie Machine’s PB&J S’Mores
There was a point in the day when I was trying to rush out by sneaking behind the booths. I was handed one of their veggie sandwiches out the back of the booth, and it was delicious. Next time on the S’mores.
Runners Up – Scoops Westside & Vintage Longboards
Again, I missed Scoops. I did hang out a little bit with the Longboards guys as they celebrated selling out their whole inventory. The chocolate-covered ice cream on popsicle sticks did look amazing.
Best in Show – Mariscos Jalisco’s Shrimp Tacos
These old-school deep-fried tacos were delicious. It was the only thing that made me eat two. I think the shrmp inside were breaded and deep-fried before being sealed in a tortilla like an empenada and deep-fried. They were then topped with salsa and avocado slices at the perfect stage of ripeness.
Best Original Showmanship – Starry Kitchen’s Crispy Tofu Balls
This category was added at the last minute especially for Nguyen Tran from Starry Kitchen. He told me his house is even listed on Yelp!
The People’s Choice Award goes to…Starry Kitchen & Mariscos Jalisco!
So the judges weren’t far off the people’s palates. But I have a few more favorites of my own to talk about next time…