Hollywood, CA. My date, fetching Italian actress Cristina Parovel, had cajoled me into stopping for a quick dinner on our way to the Third Annual Taste Awards at Hollywood’s iconic Egyptian Theatre. As we made our way down the red carpet, I couldn’t help but notice all the gourmet food purveyors setting up their stations for the after-party. Eating anything previously that day was obviously a mistake — not that it was going to stop me from fully pigging my palette later.
The red carpet was packed with celebs from the food media and fashion worlds, including: Food Network's Carrie McCully and Tanya Holland, Bravo’s Fabio Viviani and Nyesha Arrington, Public Television's Joanne Weir and Nathan Lyon, The Sundance Channel’s Krissy and Ludo Lefebvre, and absolutely charming vintage clad cuties, Alie Ward & Georgia Hardstark of the Cooking Channel’s Drinks with Alie and Georgia (btw, watch for their upcoming show, Classy Ladies with Alie and Georgia). And of course, the highly entertaining Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar of Extra Virgin, also on the Cooking Channel.
The ceremony started pretty much on time, and was brisk and entertaining.
Special Honoree Awards were presented to Kung Fu Panda 2 (Outstanding Animation), Debi Mazar (Outstanding Passion), and Ludo “Ludobites” Lefebrve (Cuisine Culture).
Among the television award winners were Travel Channel’s No Reservations for Best Food Travel Series, Zane Lamprey's HDNet series, Drinking Made Easy for Best Drink or Beverage Program, the Cooking Channel's Originals with Emeril for Best New Series, and Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar’s Extra Virgin for Best Home Chef in a Series. Delightful Chantal Boccaccio was awarded Breakout Foodie for Cuisine Culture on PBS, and Best Fashion Show went to Chris March, star of Bravo’s Mad Fashion — his friend -- comic Tony Tripoli -- accepted on his behalf and kept the house laughing with catty comments about the ladies stumbling in their heels, trying to get up and down a steep portable stairway to the podium. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
Web winners included My Drunk Kitchen for Best Comedy Series, Without Borders for Best Food Travel Program, and Style.com for Best Fashion or Design Programs. Average Betty won the Best Critic or Review Series (on TV or web), Raising the Bar with Jamie Boudreau for Best Drink or Beverage Program, and Food Wishes, which was presented by Austin Lau of YouTube, won the award for Best Food Program on the Web, along with a foodie trip to the Republic of Estonia, which host Zane Lamprey joked was the “New Jersey” of Lithuania.
Then, as the fashionable crowd poured outside, came my favorite part of the evening. Myriad stands with beaming chefs and steaming food, fine wine, and spirit purveyors ready and willing to pour. My kind of party!
We grabbed some glasses of R&B Cellars, “People’s Choice Award”-winning 2006 “Blue Note” Cabernet Sauvignon. The young fellow pouring it described the wine as, “…from Napa, aged two-and-a-half years in 100% French oak, then another year-and-a-half in bottle, featuring a blend of flavors with subtle hints of dark cherry chocolate.”
I’d better try another glass to check. Yeah, hints of dark cherry chocolate, definitely!
We edged our way through the throng over to Matt Shoop and, earlier, dinner notwithstanding, I snacked heartily on his gourmet “deli” faire. Matt was kind enough to describe the cuisine:
“I’m Matt Shoop of Shoop’s Delicatessen in Santa Monica and West Hollywood. What we have tonight is wild Scottish smoked salmon on toast points, and also a version of one of our top-selling sandwiches, The Clevelander -- a take-off on a Reuben, in a sense. Hot corned beef, Swiss cheese, our own sauerkraut, done on a sweet foccacia roll. And we also have these assorted German sausages.”
Sweet foccasia, yeah! I had been semi-vegetarian the previous week, even so far as vegan…but hell, that corned beef and those sausages were tasting sooo damned good…
We bumped into comic Tony Tripoli -- head writer for Joan Rivers's Fashion Police -- the funny guy who accepted Chris March’s award for Mad Fashion. I couldn’t help but ask him about some of the comments he made onstage:
“I noticed that a lot of women were having problems with the steps, falling both up and down the stairs. But this one poor lady, I don’t know if she recently had her feet unbound; I don’t know the reason, but there was an issue with the steps, and if you win an award and you send a mouthy homosexual to accept on your behalf, they’re going to comment on the tiny little Asian that can’t maneuver stairs. That’s gonna happen. So I apologize if I offended anyone, but maybe I just brought a moment of levity to the awards.”
Tony had us laughing again, albeit inappropriately, and I agreed to catch Tony’s standup at the Celebration Theatre next month.
Then more tasty food! Comely Mary, from Pink Taco, told us that:
“Tonight we have our spring-filled green salad with jicama, red onions, and a lemon vinaigrette. It’s delicious! We also have our beef and chicken skewers in a paprika marinade.”
Delicious was right! As were “Big Chef” Robin Davis’s (looks like the Chef in South Park) savory shrimp sliders from CBS Foods.
Some more wine, this time Peju Provence Winery’s bloody-hexellent 2006 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon — also a People’s Choice recipient (and 93 points, Wine Enthusiast). Yum! I smacked my lips…layers of cassis, blackberries… a lovely nose of caramelized brown sugar, berries and spices… and YES, just a hint of chocolate cherries! Better have another glass to check. Yup, chocolate cherries!
Then I (literally) bumped into my favorite food couple, Gabriele Corcos and (great actress) Debi Mazar, and asked them to tell us about food, fun, family, Tuscany and (feeling the fine effects of fine wine)…sex! Without missing a beat, Gabriele and Debi shot back:
Gabriele Corcos: Oh, sex comes first. And then there’s food because you get hungry.
Debi Mazar: He inspires me. He’s my dessert.
GC: She’s my muse. She’s my appetizer.
DM: And because we like sex, we ended up having two daughters, who we also have to feed.
GC: But everything is inspired by family life, for the most part. All the recipes that we do on the show are recipes that have been in the family, since I can remember.
DM: He’s referring to his family, because I’m Latvian.
GC: Latvia is the 'Jersey' of Lithuania!
DM: I’m from Riga, but I’m now an Italian citizen, enough to be married to you for 11 years. I have been trained to become a Tuscan wife!
GC: She’s a nice Tuscan ‘farmerette.’ I cannot wait to see her with lingerie. I’ll just throw her into the fields eventually, one day.
DM: You already did, you ass****!
GC: You weren’t wearing lingerie.
DM: I was naked!
At that point, photographers wanted more pictures of Debi, and my friend Cristina and Gabriele started gabbing in rapid Italian. It was getting late, and I ambled over to a stand with lots of pretty tequila bottles
A stately gentleman, Dr. Adolfo Murillo, greeted me and graciously busted out the good stuff — Tequila Alquimia Extra Añejo, aged six years in oak barrels, tasted like a fine cognac. And certified organic! Maybe I had fallen off the veggie wagon that evening, but I sure as hell was not going to drink any non-organic tequila!
Yes, a fine evening, all and all, at the Third Annual Taste Awards. It was nice to see good taste, and those that make things taste good, receive honors and recognition.
We’ll be back next year!