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LA Food & Wine Festival: Decadence at a Price

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Last night’s red carpet premiere of the first Los Angeles Food & Wine festival at L.A. Live proved to be a star-studded affair, with vintners and top chefs from TV—and brick and mortar restaurants—either working the festival or sampling each other’s wares.

We spied the Food Network's Giada De Laurentiis and her husband Todd Thompson, Wolfgang Puck (too many restaurants to name), Susan Feniger (Street), Marcel Vigneron (Top Chef) and celebs like Randy Jackson and Eric Stonestreet from Modern Family walking around, mixing with the common folk (or maybe that's the "uncommon" folk who could afford to pay the $250 for early access tickets).

Behind the stands, chefs and their teams were prepping their dishes for the hungry foodies in attendance. We tasted many bites from some of the country's best known kitchen gods: Michael Cimarusti (Providence), Hubert Keller (Fleur de Lys), David Myers (Comme Ça), Lydia Shire (Town Stove & Spirits) and countless others.

What did we like? Actually, we found a spicy dumpling from Wolfgang Puck’s WP24 and a handcrafted sea salt/peanut butter/caramel chocolate from Compartes Chocolatier in Brentwood were really tasty. And kudos to Shire's team for seeing a long line at her stand and passing out lobster popovers while people waited.

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And what was the most far out thing on the walk? Hands down that goes to Graham Elliot’s foie gras lollipops. It was a ball of foie gras on a stick covered in Pop Rocks. (We passed on that one, but mainly because of the foie gras not the Pop Rocks.)

The number of wineries was incredible, with what seemed like hundreds in attendance. Some of our favorite pours came from Bonny Doon, Gruet, Duckhorn, Joseph Phelps and Demetria. And there were so many we couldn’t taste because, well, we had to get home somehow. We only wish they had rinses around for our glasses around because really, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot don't mix.

The four-day fest continues through Oct. 16 with the main festival—the Lexus Grand Tasting—happening on L.A. Live’s Event Deck from 12-3 pm on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $195.

And though it's a little confusing, the festival isn't just relegated to L.A. Live. There are dozens of other LAFW events happening throughout the LA area, including Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Downtown LA. Lunches, seminars, dinners, cooking demos, after-hours parties and marquis (aka really pricey) events are scheduled throughout the weekend. Tickets for each event are sold separately and the cost varies widely.

So if you have a few bills burning holes in your pocket, and you want to treat your taste buds to a gluttonous experience, then LA Food & Wine is a must-do for you this weekend.