Your Coachella Alternative: Artisanal LA

A delicious pie from Crust at the December Artisanal LA event

Oh, womp, you’re not going to Coachella this year.  But whoop, that means you’re free to go to Artisanal LA, the eat-and-eat-more locals-only event.  About 100 local artisanal vendors will gather at the Santa Monica Place’s dining deck, including personal favorites Creme Caramel (get the bacon bread pudding) and Crust (Missouri butter pie).  You’ll also get to preview The Market at Santa Monica Place before it opens in a few weeks; The Market, by the by, purports to be our version of the Ferry Building.  If Acme Bread ever decides to head down here, I may never visit the Bay Area again.

And lest you think this is just about buying food, it’s also about learning about food: Lindy & Grundy did a rad cooking demo at the first Artisanal LA; this time, there will be workshops and demos on LA’s burgeoning craft beer scene, how to stake your own urban plot, a demo and tasting with Intelligentsia, and a cocktail demo with mixologist extraordinnaire Matt Biancaniello.  At $10 (pre-sale), this will be possibly as much fun as, and far, far cheaper than, your would-be weekend at Coachella.

Artisanal LA’s Spring Show
Saturday 11am – 8pm; Sunday 11am – 7pm
At the Level 3 Dining Deck at the Santa Monica Place
Each day $10 (pre-sale)/$15 (at the door).  Or, pick up the weekend pass for $18.

AVOID AVOID the Mall: Go to Unique LA and Artisanal LA Instead

My friend Saba loves the purse she picked up at the spring Unique LA event. Loves.

I hope you’ve heard of Unique LA by now.  If not, I hope it’s because you just moved here and are wandering aimlessly about the city, trying to figure out where the soul of the city is beneath the relentless traffic and weird, indecisive weather.  Well, I’ll just tell you: a little bit of it can be found this weekend at Unique LA.  This would be a congregation of over 300 (!!) vendors selling everything from messenger bags to home decor to cupcakes.  Each and every one of these vendors is based here in LA, so the city’s influence is there, somewhere, in their nifty designs.  When you need to break, grab a drink (your ticket gets you free drink, and there will be a host bar) and grub from, among others, The Manila Machine, Flying Pig, and Platine. Or, hang out at an eco workshop or learn how to sew or do something useful at a one of the DIY workshops scheduled throughout the weekend.

Across the street, Artisanal LA pops back up from its very successful autumnal debut: it’s strictly a pop-up this time, so, no, there won’t be any Lord of the Flies moments.  But, there will be over 30 local artisanal food vendors with delicious treats for immediate and future consumption.  The Flying Pie Man falls into the former category; he’s whipping up a special Pork Belly Sukiyaki Pie just for the event.  Nosh on that and pick up something bacon-ized from Cast-Iron Gourmet, for that friend of yours who hopes and prays that the bacon trend never ends.  And that’s just the beginning – the entire list of participants is here.

In keeping with community spirit, a portion of Unique LA’s proceeds from the ticket sales will benefit 826LA, and a portion of Artisanal LA’s proceeds will benefit LAUSD’s Edible Schoolyard Program.  This all works out so that you, an Angeleno, can support your friendly neighborhood businessperson, and together, everyone can help support the local community.  Is your heart warmed yet?  Good.  ‘Tis the season, you know?

Unique LA will be at the penthouse of the California Market Center downtown, 110 E. 9th Street.  Artisanal LA will be across the street at the Cooper Building, 851 Santee St.  Tickets to Unique LA are $10; if you buy pre-sale tickets, you’ll score a little goodie bag.  Whether you buy the tickets in advance or the day-of, your Unique LA wristband will let you into Artisanal LA for $5 instead of $6.  Other option: check out the full details on Artisanal LA’s 2-for-1 offer here.  Both events run from 11am to 6pm Saturday and Sunday.

Highlights from Artisanal LA

Over the weekend, thousands of food-loving Angelenos headed downtown to Artisanal LA, an event that gathered local food vendors and gave us the chance to put teeth in the word “locavore.”  A few vendors freely admitted that, before the event, they harbored doubts about the success of the event, but by mid-day Saturday, those doubtful ships had sailed: the huge turnout, big sales, and piqued interest in their stock completely changed their minds.  For food grazers like me, the ample samples, the chance to meet your neighborhood fill-in-the-blank, and the ability to buy, all in one place, everything from pumpkin pie to pickles to potholders all were more than worth the $10 price of admission.  In the end, everyone was very, very happy and jonesing for the next event.  Highlights from Artisanal LA, which you either missed (womp womp) or experienced (woot woot):

Lindy & Grundy’s Lord of the Flies moment

There are new butchers in town, and we’re not talking paper.  Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura will open their butcher shop, Lindy & Grundy, on Fairfax and Melrose in December.  Their focus will be on sourcing local, organic meats as well as making homemade sausages, roast beef, and pastrami.  As they explained during their butchering demo at Artisanal LA, their ultimate aim is to bring back the “lost art of butchering.”  Indeed, the only thing 20th century about their presentation was their assembly line: with a giant piece of pig on deck, Erika cut; a fellow named Tim twined; and Amelia wrapped.  As if to prove to you that they’re serious about all this, Erika opened the demo by channeling Mary Poppins and pulling out a pig’s head out of a deceptively small bag.  Because you should know where your food comes from.

Cafe de Leche’s pour-over coffee

Speaking of lost arts, Los Angeles is finally becoming a decent town for coffee.  Case in point: Highland Park’s Cafe de Leche, whose table hosted the longest lines of the day.   Why?  Because making good coffee takes time.  The coffeehouse utilizes the pour over method: grounds (here, Portland’s Stumptown beans(!)) are placed in a filter and hot water is poured in a continuous stream for a few minutes.  This is but one method to extract the most flavor out of your coffee.  Now, if we can get more cafes to stay open past 8pm …

Flying Pie Man’s Meat Pie

Yuichiro Sato – aka the Flying Pie Man – was crowned the winner of KCRW’s Second Annual Good Food Pie Contest in September.  And he deserved every ruffle on that blue ribbon.  His savory pie was full of delicious seasoned ground beef, olives, and mashed potatoes.

Santee Culinary Program Students’ Salsa

A few of the students over at the Santee Culinary Arts Program are chefs-in-training.  At Artisanal LA, they explained their program and showed off their homemade salsa.  A great program symbolic of the underlying message of Artisanal LA: we have excellent homegrown artisans here.  We should support them from the ground up.

TRU Vodka’s Liqueurs

This local distiller makes their libations with only certified organic ingredients.  The hibiscus liqueur was the highlight; with 20% alcohol, it packed a smooth punch.  Best news yet: they’re hoping to move to Downtown LA in the near future to bring their green drinks even closer to the heart of the city.  In the meantime, you can find them over at Bar Keeper in Silver Lake.

Chef Ricardo Zarate’s Anticucho Peruvian Salsa

A little smoky, not too spicy but still with kick, the Mo Chica chef’s salsa was delicious.  A drop of the salsa on a piece of rustic bread was offered as a sample, which seemed a bit stingy until you ate it and realized that the salsa was robust enough to carry the entire piece.

Creative tabling

Some of the vendors had great displays, proving that their artisan skills extended far beyond their kitchen table.  If I had these guys as a point of reference back in my college tabling days, maybe I would have convinced more people to vote.  Oh, well, sorry America.

Left to right: Bernod’s organic cotton candy tree; feral honey from bee rescuers Backwards Beekeeper, and bakery Bakelab’s microscope.

Ferrying One’s Way to Artisanal LA This Weekend

Most of the things I miss about the Bay Area has a decent, if not better, substitute here.  For example, when my body addict-aches from lack of Cheeseboard Pizza, I head over to Pizzeria Mozza for something comparable (before the food bloggerati riots, my emphasis is on comparable).  There is, however, a void: snobbery aside, I miss the Ferry Building, or, at least, the idea of the Ferry Building.  You could go there on any given day and pick up jams, fresh bread, and chocolate for your mom, all in one place.  You also could attend the occassional class on sausage or pasta making.  LA does not have anything quite similar; Santa Monica Place promises The Market, a spot where local vendors can show off their fancy gourmet wares … starting in early 2011 (at best).  Artisanal LA, set for October 23rd and 24th at the Cooper Building downtown, will fill the gap nicely.

Organized by Shawna Dawson, one-half of the team that organized Unique LA and the LA Street Food Fest, Artisanal LA promises a food truckload of events: demos (new butchers Lindy & Grundy will show off their knife skills during a “heritage meats and home butchering” demo); workshops (i.e., urban farming); and copious sampling (food and beer and vodka and did I mention beer and vodka?).  In addition, there will be 75 (and counting) local tastemakers offering their locally made food (among others, Homegirl Cafe, Backwards Bee Keepers, and the awesomely named That’s a Nice! Italian foods).

Advance tickets to Artisanal LA are $10 (partial proceeds will benefit the LAUSC Edible School Gardens which, to give credit where it’s due, has Alice Waters to thank).  On the day-of, tickets will be $15 at the door (assuming there is room capacity).  One ticket gets you in the whole weekend, so in case you are so busy eating/shopping/both on Saturday, you’ll have a second chance to have another go at it on Sunday.  I know, whew.