Tacos! Tacos! Tacos! East LA Meets Napa at Union Station

Last Friday evening the three courtyards of Union Station exploded with a bounty of exciting tastes, both familiar and exotic. The annual "East LA Meets Napa" benefit for Altamed had transformed the space into one huge party,

As usual, we sought out Chef John Rivera Sedlar first. He had gone wild with his tortillas florales, taking them to the brink of intensity by pressing capers and olives into the tortillas and slathering them with a cumin yogurt dressing. Are we to expect a Middle Eastern and Latin fusion restaurant next?

Hugo Molina's Setá, a sort of Asian-Mexican-Streakhouse in Whittier, went upscale with two of the best offerings of the evening. Rich short ribs rested on a bed of an unbelievably smooth polenta and a shrimp dish in a diced tropical fruit salad. Yes, we went back for seconds.

We made sure to check out Homegirl Cafe's offerings. Under the umbrella of Homeboy Industries, the cafe "assists at risk and formerly gang involved youth to become contributing members of our community..." Not only do they offer job training, but provide counseling, tattoo replacement, and other vocational assistance.

The Homegirls are also planting an organic garden after an inspirational visit from Alice Waters. Their goal is to make the cafe completely organic, supplying their own produce, some of which was on display. It's really exciting to see the program branching out. They offered three different tortas, and little appetizers.

Then what to our wondering eyes should appear, but the bright neon colors of - Portos! Was it wrong to eat dessert to soon? Then go ahead and burn me at the stake. Let the fat sizzle. It is worth it. Guava and cheese pastries, two different fruit mousses and mango cake and fruit tartlets and I think I need to lie down.

Then everything just went crazy. There were tacos everywhere. Carnitas, carne asada, huitlacoche, even wild game. Bits of tortilla flew behind me like shells from a machine gun as I devoured taco after taco with no idea what I was even eating anymore. it was sheer taco madness.

Stay tuned for part II: Wine, Women and Song