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The Taste of Beverly Hills: 90210 Reasons to Celebrate

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Last night the stars of Beverly Hills from the culinary world and entertainment aligned at the kick-off event for the four-day Taste of Beverly Hills, presented by Food & Wine. In a tented, tabled, sparkly-lit epicurean village erected adjacent to the Beverly Hilton, the first of a series of mega-watt food-focused events set the tone for the inaugural festival and honored the community in which it's set.

It was, of course, "90210" day, and while there was nary a Spelling in sight, the party showcased the restaurants of Beverly Hills, featured a live appearance by Mayor Jimmy Delshad, city key-holder Larry King, the Kardashians, cast of the CW series 90210, and a performance by Natasha Bedingfield capped off with fireworks.

Inside the two food tents were a host of tables laden with generous portions of bites and sips. LG-sponsored sets hovered above to display the restaurant name and dishes being served up--a genius way to use technology and the space effectively. Guests eager to eat their admission price worth of miniature sandwiches, cups of salad, slices of cake and oh-so-much more elbowed their way hungrily through the crowd, who represented the quirky charm of 90210 through a pastiche of style. From lap dogs to fur cape-lets, to fabric flower-ed hats and beyond, it was almost as fun to drink in with your eyes as it was to ogle the eats.

Though my fellow intrepid party-venturers refilled their wine glasses at multiple tables, I stuck with the Bombay Sapphire Gin table, who were mixing up Ginger Mint and Raspberry Mint cocktails, perfect for a late summer's evening.

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While many restaurants opted to showcase their calling-card tastes, like Neiman Marcus' undeniably fabulous giant chocolate chip cookie, others went with the vibrant colors and flavors of the season, like the sweet, soothing compressed melon salad of Bouchon--which paired well with their omnipresent bouncing beach balls. Dueling shortrib and mashed potato dishes from The Grill on the Alley and, two tables down, The Farm of Beverly Hills, were rich, supple bites that teased the palate with the warm comfort of the impending fall season. No matter the season, Terroni's terrific al dente pasta is always a welcome forkful!

For spectacle, few made the splash that The Blvd. did, thanks to their "how did they find that giant pan?" booth prepped Squid Ink "paella." Though Wolfgang Puck was spotted smiling for camera after camera, his Spago chef handed over a really delightful tuna tartar cone, while pink-jacketed pastry chef Sherry Yard kept the cookie tray stocked. But the desert table at which to linger was, hands-down, The Bazaar, thanks to the confections like Earl Grey chocolates, mini white chocolate bars studded with spicy pink peppercorns, whimsical candied orange and chocolate "sticks," with their smiling staff, including Patisserie goddess Waylynn Lucas.

Though our feet and our appetite petered out as Natasha Bedingfield took the stage, we stopped long enough to grab a coffee for the road thanks to Intelligentsia, and drove off into the night, the sounds of the festivities reverberating from the nearby walls of 90210's shops.

The Taste of Beverly Hills continues tonight, and with Saturday and Sunday day and evening events. [Schedule] [Tickets]