Camarones on the grill
Some of LA's best Mexican restaurants came out for the annual event. Here, chefs from Chichen Itza grill up some fresh shrimp and a fiery habeñero salsa.
A hungry crowd
Eaters converged on the beautiful outdoor patio early, causing many vendors to run out of food well before the event's 9 p.m. curtain call.
J. Lohr Winery
Popular wineries like J. Lohr scored prime locations, in between the relaxing fountain area and bustling music stage. The noise level kept the wine conversations to a minimum, but the pours were certainly plentiful.
Green Tortilla Flipping
After a pour or two of wine, the surrounding food vendors began to look all the more appealing. Particularly the table flipping green hand-patted tortillas.
Turkey Tacos from Juan's Restaurante
The tortillas—made from ground cactus—belonged to Juan's Restaurante, and came loaded with thick slices of turkey, a creamy Oaxacan pine nut mole, and a dab of salsa roja.
Turning tlacoyos at La Parrilla
Across the way, more masa turning was underway. This time, the thick, football-shaped pads toasting on the comal were for Oaxacan Tlacoyos.
Carnitas Mini Tostadas from Teresitas
The fried mini tortillas from Teresitas Restaurant in East LA came with a mound of their own shredded pork carnitas and a splash of deep, funky salsa.
Guatemalan Stewed Beef from Tikal
Although its official name escapes us (tell us in the comments if you're familiar!), these little sope-like disks are of Guatemalan descent, and feature a spoonful of stewed and shredded beef, with onions and a dusting of cojita cheese. The accompanying thin green salsa offered a pleasing punch as well.
It wasn't all wine and Mexican food at East LA Meets Napa. Sampler cups of Tributo's blanco, reposado, and añejo tequilas were popular with many snackers.
Chile en Nogada from La Huasteca
Best among Huasteca's plates was the chile en nogada, a grilled pepper stuffed with ground beef and spices, then lashed over with a nutty cream sauce and a few pomegranate seeds. You can find a more upscale version of this savory Mexican dish at the amazing La Casita Mexicana.
Camarones from Chichen Itza
Finally, the grilled shrimp in habañero sauce from Chichen Itza! Perfectly fired, with a warming heat that didn't overwhelm, this was one of the best bites of the entire event.
Mole from Rocio's Mole de los Dioses
The mole from Rocio's is in a healthy competition for the best in all of Los Angeles. Here, the Oaxacan and negro moles, each prepared from scratch using dozens of different peppers, are presented simply on soft strips of fresh tortilla—for these "mole of the gods," nothing else is needed.
Cochinita Pibil and Tamale from Don Chente
With the sunlight fading, Don Chente continued to dish out their tender pork cochinita pibil and individually wrapped tamales, filled with a creamy, chocolate-y mole.
Tamale Verde from El Cholo
The rare green tamales from regional mini-chain El Cholo also made an appearance. Soft and smooth, these seasonal tamales are only sold at certain times throughout the year, usually by the dozen from any El Cholo location.
Fried Potato and Chorizo from Casa Oaxaca
Although the folks behind Casa Oaxaca haven't yet opened their doors in downtown Culver City, they made a strong showing at the festival with fried potato balls that had been stuffed with a salty chorizo.
Madera Five Wine from Cava Aragon 126
Okay, maybe one more glass of wine on the way out. This Madera Five is a rich tempranillo-cabernet blend, grown in the Valle de Guadalupe region of northern Baja, near Ensenada.