Best Eats This Week: Los Angeles Coffee Festival, Yucatecan cuisine and a pizza buffet

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Latte art, Los Angeles Coffee Festival

LOS ANGELES AND BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — We have a high energy edition of Best Eats This Week thanks to all the caffeine we consumed during the Los Angeles Coffee Festival.

Additionally, a staffer went all out in a lunchtime trip to a pizza buffet. He finished his shift, barely.

Los Angeles Coffee Festival, Nov. 8-10, Magic Box @ The Reef, 1933 S. Broadway, Los Angeles

Anyone uncertain as to whether they were at the right location for last weekend’s celebration of coffee in Los Angeles immediately banished such doubts upon approaching the entrance and encountering the heady aroma of coffee beans.

The smell perfumed the entire venue, seemingly capable of jolting a person into a greater state of alertness all by itself. Much how a campfire leaves a smoky odor clinging to clothes, I had the impression I trailed the earthy, nutty scent of a cup of joe the rest of the day.

For me, at least, it’s a pleasant fragrance, bringing to mind lazy mornings with a book open on my lap or talking with a friend at a coffee shop.

Latte made on a FAEMA machine.

Despite the aroma’s reminder of relaxing occasions, the Los Angeles Coffee Festival — held last weekend — was no time to meander. I made a beeline to the first vendor I saw.

At each station, baristas asked your preferred coffee drink then prepared espressos, cappucinos, lattes, machiattos, cortados or whatever other variation was requested. One vendor, at additional cost, made alcoholic “coffee cocktails.” That line never seemed to diminish.

I tried an espresso with such an intensely fruity aftertaste I only made it halfway through the cup. A latte with whole milk created on a FAEMA espresso machine proved far more enjoyable.

Afterward, I checked online prices for a FAEMA. I guess I could order one, but I’d have to live in the box it was shipped in to afford it.

The “Sinfully Vegas” coffee from Kate’s Coffee.

Kate’s Koffee offered three flavors. I chose “Sinfully Vegas,” a chocolate, vanilla and caramel blend topped with whipped cream and raw sugar. It lived up to its name, excessive yet perfect in small doses.

Seattle-based Slayer Espresso gave out drinks made on one of their high-end machines. Its website touts the appliance’s “pre-brew wetting stage” and “patented flow rate control.” I won’t claim to understand what that means, but the coffee was great.

The drink samples were the centerpiece of the event, but far from the only attraction.

Groups gathered to watch latte art demonstrations where baristas showed off their ability to create foam swans, hearts and other designs. On the other side of the floor, “Coffee Masters” competitions featured matches where 16 baristas were tested in a variety of skills.

One bout involved identifying a coffee’s origins by taste, another the ability to deliver an order of 10 espresso-based drinks in nine minutes or less and be judged on technical ability, cleanliness and time.

The festival also had burgers, tacos and salads on sale, but I opted for something more filling to help offset the extreme amount of caffeine I’d consumed.

About a mile from the venue, housed in the bustling Mercado La Paloma, Chichen Itza restaurant prepares arguably the best Yucatecan cuisine in the city.

Cochinita pibil, Chichen Itza restaurant

Its signature dish is cochinita pibil, marinated pork slow-roasted in banana leaves and served with rice and beans. The pork practically falls aparts when touched with a fork.

Longaniza asada, Chichen Itza restaurant

The other item I ordered, longaniza asada, is four links of pork and beef chorizo accompanied by shredded cabbage, sliced avocado, pickled onions and corn tortillas.

The chorizo is superb, salty and chewy and not overly funky. Throw it and the other items in a tortilla and you have an exemplary taco, the avocado’s creaminess offsetting the sausage’s saltiness, the pickles and cabbage providing some crunch.

Add a few drops of the tableside habanero salsa. Be warned: A few drops is all you need.

Plates filled with chicken, pizza and more at the Slice of Italy lunch buffet.

Buffet at Slice of Italy, 2543 F St., Bakersfield

A trip to a buffet is something Assistant News Director Jesse Cash does not take lightly. He’s there to get his money’s worth.

To that end, Cash filled and consumed a total of four plates during a lunch break. Fortified with fried chicken, pizza, wings and salad, he returned to work.

Somehow, he managed to finish his shift without passing out.

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