I ate, I drank, I conquered Foodie Con!
This past weekend I indulged in a slice of foodie heaven. Foodie Con is a trade show at The Reef in downtown Los Angeles. For two days, foodies visit with some of their favorite vendors and connect with new ones, while sampling tasty bites and sips from up and down the west coast.
When I first heard about this event, I knew it was not to be missed. Even better, Goldstar was offering discounted tickets! For $20 (plus processing fees) I purchased a VIP pass for Saturday. The VIP pass included admission to the event, plus access to all food and alcohol samples and entrance to a VIP lounge. There were general admission tickets available for $15 and then an alcohol only pass for $7 which didn’t make any sense to me. Unless of course the VIP tickets sold out. I was very glad I purchased when I did. On the day of the event, Goldstar reminded me to print my tickets which were now going for $40 presale of $50 at the door. Yikes!
The VIP ticket also granted you early bird access for thirty minutes before the event opened to the public at 11am. I arrived at 10:45 and actually found street parking. Hooray. Which means I only paid $4 in parking instead of the $20 on-site parking fee. I entered The Reef where they checked our ids for the 21+ over wristbands. A quick trip up to the second floor where the exhibition hall was spread out. It was very spacious and sparsely attended at this hour.
Where to start…
The first thing I noticed were the variety of healthy food vendors. Delicious and guilt-free! Perfect. Plus lots of Kombucha stands. Seriously I think I counted three down the first two aisles. The Kite Hill booth called out to me with tiny cucumber rounds topped with almond ‘cream-cheese.’ Now most non-dairy cheese is obviously not cheese. But this version had a silky texture and distinctly cheesy taste. They also had a ricotta for sampling. But the cream cheese was by far my favorite.
My husband mentioned that it was now after 11am and the crowds would soon be entering so maybe we should hit up some of the alcohol vendors, since it was a small area and would fill up quick. Smart thinking. We began at the cold Sake table. Something light to start the day, after all it wasn’t even noon yet. SakeOne offered Oregon craft sakes along with imported varieties. I had previously tasted g., one of their more popular selections so I opted to start with some of their unfiltered sakes.
The Murai Family Nigori Genshu was spicy with a soft mouth feel and creamy texture. My other favorite was the Momokawa Diamond. I’ve seen Momokawa at BevMo before and was anxious to try it. It definitely lives up to its name. Bright, clean and crisp. The other fun variety I tried was Junmai by Kibo. First off, they come in these adorable picnic ready pop cans. They are dry and dangerously easy to drink. What I loved most was the brand ambassadors at this table weren’t just here to pour samples. They loved their product and wanted to help educate you about their different Sakes. I learned all about polish, and how that number is the percentage of grain that is polished away before creating the Sake. Fascinating.
With my new found knowledge, that I’m sure will help me sound smart (and pretentious) at parties, I moved on to the next table. It is now beer o’clock. Angel City Brewery is an arts district darling. Offering public brewery tours and tastings. Today they were pouring an IPA and a Saaz Berry. What I found most interesting in speaking with the brewery rep was they sponsor themed events during the week. A video game contest, storytellers with two truths and a lie, a beer & paint night along with a few others. The next beer booth I tried was Lagunitas and their Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale. Luckily the brew went down much smoother than the name itself.
After all these alcoholic goodies it was time to sample some more food. The convention floor was laid out in aisles, with the alcohol sampling in the back corner in between the food court and the silent disco. On my way up one of the aisles I spotted cartoon pancakes. Seriously. Get Caked offers pancake art in any design you can imagine. It was cool to watch the chefs create edible art with colored batter in squeeze bottles.
Next I found some old favorites offering new tastes.
- I love Chef’s Cut jerky. I am well acquainted with their turkey jerky and buffalo chicken jerky. But this time I got the opportunity to taste their Honey BBQ chicken flavor and original recipe beef.
- Late July’s organic corn chips are to die for. I love their Sea Salt and Lime. But today I have a new favorite. Bacon Habanero! Now lots of people will be scared off by the word habanero alone. But I swear, they are not that hot. I think the Jalapeno Lime chips are spicier. The Bacon Habanero has a subtle smoky spice that builds.
Foodie Con wasn’t just about eating and drinking. There were plenty of non-edible items to explore. There was an array of demos and lectures to attend throughout the day. As well as non-edible crafts to purchase. Nerdy Novelty Designs offers handmade oven mitts in fun nerdy prints. Everything from Star Wars to Game of Thrones. Dr. Who to Lord of the Rings. Along with lots of fun cat prints, and colorful food fabrics.
There was also a large selection of cookbooks and food science books to peruse or purchase. I even found a special book made just for me titled, butter.
A big trend I noticed was protein bars. There were multiple vendors offering healthy protein packed treats. My favorite was by D-Pro, Delicious Proteins. These protein packed mini meals can be eaten warm or cold. You could serve their Sweet Potato Pie bar at any temperature and it would still be delicious. Nutty Banana Blueberry was a close second. Since I don’t like chocolate…(I know, I’m weird) it’s difficult for me to find tasty protein bars that aren’t slathered in chocolatey grossness.
All this healthy eating made me very thirsty. Back to the alcohol sampling room! Ah vodka, my dear old friend. Precis Vodka is a Swedish vodka utilizing old distilling traditions and modern techniques. They claim, ‘offering up a vodka so clean it requires no filtration.’ I highly enjoyed it. They also offered an Aquavit. A Scandinavian tradition with which I am very familiar. An herbaceous spirit with hints of caraway, rye or dill. This one was very caraway forward. I’ve had better. In keeping with the vodka theme, I headed over to the Lava Bloody Mary table. Now, I’m picky about my bloodies.
They must be a balance of tangy, spicy and full of fresh tomato flavor. This one did not disappoint. Made in CA with no preservatives or HFC. When I asked the brand ambassador what the spice rub was on the rim. She laughed and said, her boss told her a bunch of times but she forgot. I think it was a simple paprika/cayenne pepper & salt rim. The bloodies did come with my favorite Tito’s vodka along with celery, an olive, pepperoncini and a lime wedge. Guests could enter a contest to win a Tito’s and Lava gift crate. Done! I also picked up a coupon for $1 off my next purchase of San Marzano Bloody Mary Mix. I was so pleased to find that almost all the tables offered coupons along with their samples. This way when I go home, I have a physical reminder of what I enjoyed along with an incentive to purchase my next serving.
Next to the Lava booth was the Absinthia booth. Organic absinthe made in Oakland. They owner herself, was there to pour. I love that about small companies. They can be super hands-on at these events. First she poured us a taste neat. It was elegant but intense. Then she added just a tiny splash of cool water. They absinthe turned from crystal clear to a milky color. The taste was tamed but still flavorful. I prefer to drink my absinthe this way. She recommended putting an ice cube in and slowly letting it melt so you can gradually enjoy the spirit both ways.
The convention was getting packed by this point in the afternoon. But I didn’t have to wait too long for samples and all the booths were prepped and ready for crowds. I hope there are enough leftovers for the Sunday attendees. At the head of one aisle I found Eliot’s Adult Nut Butters. No, not adult as in adult beverage. This was not a spiked nut butter. But instead adult flavors. No JIF at this table. They offer peanut, almond and cashew butters in flavors ranging from Garam Masala to Chocolate Chili, Harissa, and Espresso Nib. But my absolute favorite was the Spicy Thai Peanut Butter. Oh baby!
This peanut butter is begging me to make Satay with it. The citrus notes of Kefir Lime are bright and playful against the sweet (but not too sweet) thickness of the peanuts. Only $8 a jar? Yes please. This one was coming home with me. I also found another salty snack that captured my heart. If Cheetos were made of chickpeas, you would get Hippeas, organic chickpea puffs. These crispy addictive delights come in vegan white cheddar, pepper, sriracha and my personal fave hickory.
I was developing a great strategy in my attempt to see, eat and sip everything Foodie Con had to offer. Eat a few bites, drink a few samples, back to the floor, pick a new aisle and try more food, then back to the alcohol area to quench my thirst. It worked out great. Most people just went up and down the aisles in a row following the crowd. No thanks.
I stopped at the Ventura Spirits booth, which honestly I am going to gloss right over. I did not enjoy any of their samples. Okay the Wilder Gin was good. But I think I only felt that way because everything else I tasted was just meh, or downright bad. But hey, everyone’s palette is different. Next up was White Claw Hard Seltzer. Think La Croix mixed with a wine cooler. They were light, refreshing and at only 100 calories and 5% alcohol they are perfect for a summer day when you want a light beverage that isn’t a beer. Of all the wine vendors on display there was only one I was completely unfamiliar with, King Frosch. Hand crafted, German estate wines with some of the lowest sulfites and allergen levels around. No wine headache? Sign me up.
After waiting in a short line, our sommelier asked us what we like before we began the tasting. Dry, sweet, red, white? With our preferences noted, he began to take us through a list of wines. I’m glad he curated the list because there were a few that I never would try on my own. I’ve always been led to believe that Riesling is a sweet wine. But this Dry Riesling knocked my socks off. He also poured a sparkling Chardonnay. Another wine I’m not usually a fan of, but this one was crisp and not at all oaky or buttery. It was bright and flavorful. After tasting a dozen or so wines, we opted to buy a half case filled with two bottles of our three favorites to be delivered to our home in a few weeks time.
At this point I feel like I’ve seen almost everything. We make our way through one last aisle before heading to the VIP lounge. On our way we stop at Mary’s free range chicken booth. Once again I was blown away at the knowledge the booth attendant shared with us regarding the breeding, hatching and processing of their product. The biggest selling point is that all their products (chicken, duck and turkeys) are air-chilled as opposed to water chilled. Which means their meat is individually cooled in an air chill system. Instead of cooling down in a communal bath of chlorinated ice water. With this method the chickens not only absorb some of the liquid, they also soak up whatever is around them. She explained it to us like this. “As if everyone at the convention got into a bath with each other.” Ewww. Enough said. She also gave us a flyer and told us where to purchase their products. Most of the vendors had a store locator link on their brochures and business cards. Obviously Whole Foods was a big one, along with some major grocery store and beverage depot chains. But I was happiest to hear that many of these products were, our would soon be available at Sprouts! I love Sprouts. If you have never shopped at one before, think Whole Foods quality meets quaint Trader Joe’s neighborhood style grocer with better parking.
We entered the VIP lounge and were greeted with a gift bag. This one was packed with some of the goodies we sampled on the main floor along with a few products only available here.
A bar was setup serving more Bloody Mary’s and Precis had a tasting table offering different flavors of their vodka. There was a photo booth and a large inflatable Pegasus dominating the back of the room. There was also plenty of space to sit and rest your feet. Or take a short food coma break. Tucked into the corner was Boozy Creamery. Ice Cream + Booze = Yum! They had three flavors on offer, Tipsy Tiramisu, Hard Horchata and Frozen Butterscotch Rum. I opted for the Rum. My husband had the Horchata. The Horchata was a soft serve, mine more of a traditional hard ice cream. Both were utterly delightful.
I loved Foodie Con. I still can’t believe that for basically $20 a person I was able to taste and experience so much. I made a few purchases and discovered new favorites I can’t wait to pick up at my local grocer. I highly recommend checking out Foodie Con the next time it comes to town.
Check out my Instagram story for more pics!