East LA, Meet Napa. Napa, Meet East LA.

Five years ago, the foods of East Los Angeles met the Latino/a-owned wineries of Napa Valley.  The rendez-vous was pre-arranged by AltaMed, which, when it is not playing matchmaker, is a network of community clinics and health care providers that provide services to those in underserved areas.  After the initial encounter, the two have met every year for the last four years as part of AltaMed’s East LA Meets Napa fundraiser event.  This year’s reunion at Union Station was the biggest yet.  A total of about 60 restaurants/eateries and wineries set up booths alongside each other in the train station’s two courtyards; for $150 per ticket, the monied and the hungry sampled as much as their tummy and blood alcohol level could take.

This is the map of the festivities.  As you can see, it was huge.

I started off with dessert from Porto’s. Not sure why – there were plenty of non-dessert dishes that looked and smelled delicious. But, I walked into the courtyard, saw the sign for Porto’s, and my stomach urged me to go to there.

Porto’s offering at the event included these pastry puffs to your left.  Not just any ol’ puffs, though – no, these were filled with seasoned ground beef.  There is something about meat desserts that gives you enough sweet and savory to last you the rest of the day.  Also on hand were mousses and cakes and their famed gauva and cheese turnovers.

The Cuban bakery currently has two locations; a third will be opening up in Downey soon.  This means even more locations to pick up everything from a cake (one of the best in town, bar none) to a deceptively simple pastries and treats.

Nearly every stand had someone making fresh tortillas.  For example, from Teresita:

A higher-end take on the tortilla – Indian spiced – came from Rivera.  First, they start off as little dough balls:

Then they are flattened, stacked, and cooked carefully one by one:

The final result:

It seemed as if everyone had some version of tacos, so I was pretty grateful to try some non-taco items.  Home Girl Cafe, for example, had sandwich sliders and tostadas; Seta (hailing from Whittier) offered delicious braised short-ribs which won most of our hearts as the best offering of the night.

Steve Arroyo – he of Cobras y Matadors and Church and State fame – was on hand, grilling up some meat and previewing his newest venture, Escuela.

Wine-wise – well, I am not very wise about wine.  I did, however, enjoy the reds from Mi Sueno.  The El Llano blend in particular melded perfectly with the smokiness of Escuela’s duck tacos.

A mariachi band – of course – entertained the winers and diners, but it was this lone trumpeter that I liked the best:

Sure, everyone knows that tacos and Coronas are fantastic together, but who knew that the tacos sneak off with Pinot every year?  An affair to remember, to be sure – next year, same time, same place.  We’ll be waiting.