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Tacos, Tamales, and More: Our Favorite Bites from the East LA Meets Napa Charity Food Festival

[Photographs: Paul Bartunek]

Most Mexican food events in Los Angeles are, frankly, inelegant affairs. Yes, you'll find some of the city's best tacos, endless piles of tamales or any number of Oaxacan specialties. But they're almost always served in a parking lot, under a few pop up tents, or dotted across a patchy lawn somewhere. East LA Meets Napa is different. It's classy.

But don't think for a second that it doesn't offer some of the city's best moles, cocteles, stewed meats and other finger-licking grub. This is, after all, still a Mexican food festival.

The annual wine and food charity event is held at downtown's historic Union Station, in the meandering pathways and tiled corridors that run along the transit point's western edge. There are fountains, a small open air plaza for music and lots of space to nibble on food, sip wine, and generally enjoy a temperate summer night.

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The serving table at La Huasteca

The pricey fĂȘte—tickets start at $200 and rise quickly—draws all manner of politicians, celebrities, and serious food hounds, dressed in their best and raising money for AltaMed, a community-focused health care organization that provides core services in traditionally underserved parts of Southern California.

All in all, more than 60 vendors converged on the beautiful outdoor space on Friday night, from California wine bigwigs like J. Lohr and Chateau de Vie to Ensenada vintners like Hacienda La Lomita. LA's many-varied Mexican food experiences were well represented, with grilled shrimp from Chichen Itza, the heavenly mole from Rocio's Mole de los Dioses, sweet treats from Carnitas Uruapan and signature dishes from longtime locals like El Cholo and Manuel's El Tepayec.

See our favorite bites from this year's East LA Meets Napa event »

About the author: Farley Elliott is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. He writes about strip mall food for LA Weekly and covers the LA beer scene for KCET.

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