When a friend asked how my weekend in Beverly Hills was going, I equated it to something of an unknown. “It’s like reaching a destination you’ve only read about,” I explained, remembering a similar feeling when I caught my first view of the Sydney Opera House. “You’ve seen it in magazines and movies, but you never believe it actually exists until you’re there.”
With my Southern California naïveté thinly veiled, I smiled with goofy tourist glee when I caught sight of the recognizable Hollywood sign nestled in the dusty hills as my flight descended into LAX in the early afternoon. Hours later, beneath palm trees and the bright lights of the plush Beverly Hilton, visions of a young Julia Roberts and dapper Richard Gere played in my head as I stepped onto the red carpet at Thursday evening’s opening event at the Taste of Beverly Hills. In a celebration of the famous city, and its even more famous zip code, the 9.02.10 bash (on a calendar date that only comes once in a lifetime) kicked off with a bevy of local celebrities, from the Kardashian family to the current cast of 90210, and continued well into the evening with master of ceremonies Larry King and Mayor Jimmy Delshad leading the festivities.
As the event began, I took my spot amid the sea of pushy, cranky L.A. photographers, who easily took a rest on their laurels, abandoning their posts, each time one of the weekend’s featured chefs made their way down the carpet. While educating my fellow shutterbugs on the real stars of the festival, I was able to snap the arrival of the newly betrothed Art Smith, Texas chef Tim Love (with his lovely wife Emilie), and last season’s Top Chef winner, and L.A. favorite, Michael Voltaggio. You get the celebs, I’ll get the chefs, I reasoned with one photographer who was gracious enough to help me wrangle a few shots from behind the cameras and cords.
Once the red carpet chaos died down, and guests had made their way through the festival doors, there was much food and wine to be had on the comfortable summer evening. Wineries and spirits vendors were stationed throughout the large white canopies while Food & Wine favorite, Stella Artois, took center stage with a proper beer garden between tents. Restaurants were lined along the spacious venue, with some of the area’s best hotels and eateries offering up the evening bites. Chefs from the Peninsula Beverly Hills, the Beverly Hilton, The Farm, Bouchon, The Bazaar, Spago, Greenleaf Gourmet, Momed and numerous others were all present, serving everything from salads to pasta, foie gras to cheesecake. With tasting event normally heavy with meat and starch items, I was thrilled to see so many greens! Only in Los Angeles, a fellow guest noted.
The evening continued on with a brief montage to host Larry King, who announced his retirement this year, and singer Natasha Bedingfield taking the main stage before a celebratory fireworks display brought the kickoff night to a close.
*Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender