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For years I’ve been reading the Los Angeles Times food section — sometimes for the restaurant reviews and sometimes for the recipes that the staff churns out on a weekly basis. The dishes are all prepared in the newspaper’s test kitchen, a mythical place that I’ve always imagined was run by elves and little hamsters in wheels. Imagine my delight when I was invited last week to a media-comped meal at this hallowed culinary ground. Yes, I was headed to the LA Times test kitchen, and I was just barely less excited than the time I managed to get myself into the Playboy Mansion ten years ago (but that’s a whole other story — spoiler alert: I was in the same room as Gloria Alred, Jesse Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith, and Tiffany. Need I really say more?).

Anyway, the purpose of these test kitchen shenanigans was to provide a preview of the LA Times’ upcoming food event titled The Taste. It’s a multi-day affair this coming Labor Day weekend at Paramount Studios featuring food, wine, and various noteworthy speakers. To give us a taste of The Taste (see what I did there?), we were treated to various bites from a few of the vendors who’ll be at the festival. After the jump, check out some pics of what’s to come…

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The LA Times Test Kitchen. Surprisingly homey and not Top Chef-y.

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My stomach begins to growl as little plates of ceviche appear on the counter.

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A veritable bouquet of sliders, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times test kitchen director Noelle Carter.

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The guys from Dog Haus in Pasadena grill up some Hawaiian rolls. As we Jews say at Passover, DAYENU.

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Ceviche and hot dogs. This is my type of meal.

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Noelle Carter and LA Times Food Editor Russ Parsons welcome us to the kitchen. I can barely focus on anything they’re saying with all the food and aromas overwhelming my sense, but I somehow I do latch onto a few tidbits, such as the fact that they test recipes up to 40 times and respond to nearly every Culinary SOS submitted to the paper. See some of them here.

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Zomg hot dog heaven, courtesy of Dog Haus. The foreground is something of an ode to a reuben with a pastrami hot dog, slaw, and Thousand Island dressing.

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The other hot dog is a spicy red curry something or another. Being that I am very professional, I took no notes, which is unfortunate as my brain turned to static upon hearing the words “red curry.”

*Update: the dog was a Spicy Thai sausage with arugula, diced tomato, crispy onions, spicy basil aioli, avocado.

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Time to take a bite.

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This won’t be easy. Did I mention that the hot dogs were all presented in those grilled Hawaiian rolls. Why is this not the norm? It’s basically the perfect combo.

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Here we go.

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The bliss is already registering on my face.

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And now comes the dawning realization that I’m about to make a mess of myself at the Los Angeles Times.

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But I forge ahead! Btw, photos courtesy of DianaTakesABite

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Once again, I’m feeling joy.

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We have achieved BITE status.

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Things are getting mad real. #turnUP

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I did it.

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And I’m happy.

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Lesson to be learned: these hot dogs are awesome. Why isn’t there a Dog Haus in Hollywood?

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You can’t really see it, but I have Thousand Island dressing all over my nose.

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We definitely can’t overlook Noelle Carter’s sliders. The brisket was smokey, tender, and sweet — nicely counterbalanced by the slaw. I may have taken two home with me

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Clever wrappers.

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The dish I probably ate the most of was this Marlyn fish pâté, topped with sea snail, shrimp and octopus ceviche, courtesy of Coni’Seafood. I’m so glad I honored it with this blurry photo.

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Beverages courtesy of Josh Goldman and Circa. This nifty libation is a Richard Pryor, which features rum and smoked cola.

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And now dessert, courtesy of Crème Caramel LA. Many bread puddings — including a caramelized Chinese pork sausage variety — were had.

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Nutella bread pudding. Tasty, but definitely needing more Nutella.

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Upside down ube pie. This may have been my favorite dessert, especially as it reminded me of the taro pastries I enjoyed in Hawaii last month. Hmm… I should blog about that.

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Here’s that crazy Chinese pork sausage bread pudding. It actually works much better than you’d expect. In fact, my only complaint was that there wasn’t more sausage.

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Buko Pandan Crème Caramel (basically a crème caramel made with young coconut). Wait a second, THIS was my favorite dessert. Or was it the ube. I JUST DON’T KNOW.

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Great colors. And plenty of sexy wiggle.

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Your standard crème caramel. Tasty, but nothing compared to that ube.

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A happy man.

If you’d like to attend The Taste, check out the event information here. I only sampled from a few vendors, and it was more or less THE BEST. I can only imagine how the rest of the event will be…

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