Tasteful fundraiser fills Rose Bowl bellies to benefit Union Station

Hannah Gonzales/Courier Frank Carpenter, a foodie, enjoys a bite of food at the Masters of Taste food and beverage festival on Sunday, April 3, 2016 at the Pasadena Rose Bowl.

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Filling the field of the Rose Bowl Stadium on Sunday, thousands gathered for the inaugural Masters of Taste food and beverage festival, and not just to fill their bellies. The festival raised funds for the Union Station Homeless Services (USHS) in Pasadena in their largest effort to date. 100 percent of the proceeds are to go directly to the nonprofit.

 

@MastersofTaste w/ Monique #unionstatiohomelessservices #food

A photo posted by Lorrie Gonzales (@lorriegonzales) on

 


 


The event featured over 40 restaurants and and 13 beverage vendors. Master chefs and mixologists crafted savory and sweet bites and mixed uniquely inspired cocktails and healthy juices for the event.

 

Amanda Green, event director for the inaugural event, has been with the nonprofit through previous annual gala fundraisers, such as their Mother’s Day event last year. The goal this year was to exceed the $500,000 that such efforts have garnered and reach as much as $600,000.

 

Rob Levy, owner of The Raymond 1886 restaurant in Pasadena and USHS board member said of the Masters of Taste gastronomic event, “We thought this would be a perfect tie-in with Union Station.”

 

“Leslie, my wife, and I brainstormed and came up with the idea of a food festival, and then we thought about the Rose Bowl and what a great venue this would be,” Levy said.

 

Levy brought the idea to the board of USHS. And after having several galas previously, they “bought into it in a big way, the idea of doing something different.

 

“A gala is only as big as the room you are in. And this is a pretty big room!,” Levy said.

 

 

The Raymond 1886’s chef Tim Guiltinan served up three sets of tacos for the day, with a new one each hour. The duck taco with a “fois-camolé” topping, and matching cocktail “The 1886 Saladito” with lime, honey, passilla chili infused mescal and chili salt, were served as the final set.



Ramon Leon, restaurant liaison for Wolfgang Puck for events such as the Academy Awards, came to support the cause and his friends whose own restaurants donated food, their craft, and cocktails.

 

“The food is so delicious. The drinks are so great,” said Leon about the Raymond 1886. “And Nighthawk, their sweet potato pancake with fried chicken on top. If you have not been there you need to go!”

 

The fare provided by Nighthawk was matched with a “cereal milk” cocktail served in a milk bottle.

 

Sasha Reyes of Whittier danced on the field while enjoying a Kikori Whiskey blood orange whiskey sour.

 

“Good food, good people, good atmosphere!” Reyes said. “It’s just a really cool atmosphere here to be on the football field.”

 

 

Chef Angel Flores of Del Frisco’s Grille, a graduate of the Cordon Bleu culinary school of Pasadena, featured Ahi Tuna Tacos with his house guacamole and spicy mayo and paired it with a “VIP Cocktail” which was made with a clementine-infused vodka soaked in and pressed from a fresh pineapple.   Chef Matt Bata of Alexander’s Steak House introduced his “fois-strami” taco, a fois gras and pastrami spiced beef tartare topped on a on a rye crêpe with “miso remoulade,” where the delicate caraway flavor of the crêpe complimented the taco.


The Wax Paper Company brought the “Audie Cornish,” which is just one of their sandwiches that are all named in honor of National Public Radio journalists.

 

 

The event was designed to appeal to a much “younger, hipper demographic” of foodies.   Master chef items included chef Calogero Drago of Celestino’s mushroom and asparagus ravioli with a truffle sauce, chef Eduardo Pineda of Sangers, Joe’s Vegetarian Ceviche with wasabi avocado, pickled fennel, fiddlehead ferns, cherry tomatoes and fresh peas, and Redbird’s chef Neal Fraser’s fresh Ricotta Gnudi pasta with “Guanchale,” or Roman bacon.


 

 



Fraser said his dish was made with parmesan cheese, eggs, semolina flour and “a big handful of love.”

 

“That’s the most important part,” said a customer who enjoyed the freshly laid out pasta.

 

“Yep, it doesn’t taste good without it!” Fraser said.

 

 

 

 


Food for a good cause. #MastersofTaste A photo posted by Lorrie Gonzales (@lorriegonzales) on

 



Some of the “Masters of Sweets,” the dessert providers at the event, included The Butter Cake Shoppe, Choctál single origin ice cream, and Helados Pops vegan ice cream.

 

Helados Pops featured exotic ice cream flavors like guava, cashew fruit, which is made from both the fruit and the nut, and lucuma, a fruit found in Peru, Chile and the Philippines.

 

“It has a buttery, nutty taste to it. People say they taste papaya in it,” said Damon Pratt, serving up the refreshing lucuma ice cream.

 


 


 



Over 300 sponsors donated $1,500 or above. These sponsors and VIP tickets holders were given access an hour early, where they were provided dedicated cocktails and massage lounges, fruit platters, and access to special cocktails like the Celery Cocktail provided by Alexander’s Steak House.

 

Prior to the event, Green said she looked forward to tasting local microbrewers like Iron Triangle, Indie Brewing in Boyle Heights and Golden Road in Glendale. The goal number of 2,000 attendees was nearly reached by the day’s end.

 

“We are having a lot of fun! It is a perfect day. We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather,” Levy said. “The fact that we are doing something good for Union Station is an awesome bonus.”

 

 



For more information visit Union Station Homeless Services at www. unionstationhs.org.

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