We read with interest, and growly tummy (always), Charlie Amter's interesting piece on the South Beach Food & Wine Festival. The question was, mainly, why can't LA have something as splashy, as fun, as attractive to stars and the vittles-loving masses, as the South Beach soiree. The Lobster Festival is cited in the article, as is the tony American Food & Wine Festival; both are based in SoCal. But, there isn't one mega, tuck-in-the-napkin-and-sample-away food festival that dominates the Southland scene.
The honcho behind the South Beach spectacular promises to bring his festival to LA in the near term, but until then, there can be remedies. One, let's look to the Lobster Festival, which you practically have to claw -- yes, we did -- your way into, year after year. It's bustling, it's popular, melted-butter-and-bib buffs go berserk over it.
So, the lesson there, we think, is start with a particular cuisine, or centerpoint, and branch outwards. Rather than just throwing a general "food festival" down, look to other regional parties -- Gilroy's Garlic Festival continues to gain the national spotlight year after year -- and build from there. We're thinking the French Dip, thunk up right here in downtown Los Angeles, could be a starting point. How many booths dedicated solely to au jus could there be? We're thinking at least a dozen.
Or, another idea: Pair the food festival with a larger, more established event, like the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, or the African Marketplace & Cultural Faire. Both of those events have good eats, but spinning off a whole food-focused to-do could be very successful. This isn't a new concept -- adding something smaller to something bigger and watching it grow -- but it might be what a nascent, nosh-celebrating fest needs.
More ideas? Date shakes. Wines. Fast food staples (oh so Cali, we think). Make it affordable, and make it easy to consume while strolling. And hold it next to great, cheap parking.