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Three dishes to catch at this weekend’s L.A. Times The Taste, a food fest on the Paramount backlot

LA Times The Taste food festival at Paramount Back Lot Los Angeles Summer
Photograph: Courtesy The Taste/Barbara Davidson

If you’ve never wandered a movie studio’s backlot while making your way through some of the best food in the city and spending way too much time in a boozy spritz lounge, then buddy, you’ve never lived the food-fest dream. Fortunately you can rectify these wrongs—or bask in the glow of all these things again—because this weekend, the Los Angeles Times’ The Taste returns.

The annual three-day soirée is back, taking over the Paramount Studios lot with more than 70 vendors handing out unlimited bites and cocktails, beer and wine. The L.A. Times team and some of the city’s top chefs will lead cooking demos and discussion panels on Italian food, wine secrets, Nashville hot chicken, sake, tacos and more, while you make your way through some of the hottest new restaurants in L.A., including Yours Truly, Tacos 1986, Nic’s on Beverly, Employees Only and the freshly revamped Church & State.

Of course, with all of those options, you’re going to need a guide. In addition to some of the city’s biggest and best stalwarts—Burritos La Palma, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, The Bazaar by José Andrés, Chichen Itza and Osteria Mozza among them—you can also bet on some one-night-only collabs, off-menu specials and other must-try spots, which you don’t want to miss. Here’s our guide to point you in the right direction.

Friday (August 30) and Saturday (August 31)

Regional ice cream sundaes at Wanderlust Creamery

There’ll be plenty of savory bites at the fest, but dessert has really caught our eye. One of the best ice cream shops in the city will be scooping and slinging its globally inspired flavors both Friday and Saturday, so if you want to taste your way through cultures, you can hop to three different countries at one booth. If you’re craving a trip to northeastern Spain, head to Wanderlust Creamery for their Catalonian sundae made with Arbequina olive oil ice cream that comes topped with a chocolate shell dotted with baguettes—a nod to a Catalonian after-school snack involving bread topped with chocolate, olive oil and sea salt.

If Italy’s more your vibe, Wanderlust will also be serving a Tuscany-inspired sundae featuring bergamocello ice cream (think: limoncello but made with bergamot oranges) with a lemon verbena granita, and if you’d rather travel to Asia, well, there’s a Singapore sundae for that: an ode to salted-egg kaya toast, this one involves toasted-bread ice cream and thick salted duck-egg kaya jam. If you can’t decide, we can’t blame you; maybe just swing through every so often to try all three.

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Saturday (August 31)

Freedman’s x Genghis Cohen collab

Freedman’s chef Ryan Costanza is turning out some of the best modern Jewish food in L.A., while the 35-year-old Genghis Cohen—a New York-Jewish–style spin on Chinese-American food—is going strong with platters of dependable classics and a new cocktail menu with drinks like mai tais topped by a Manischewitz float. What we’re trying to say is that a Freedmans and Genghis Cohen collab makes a lot of sense, and it’s bound to be mishegas in the best way.

On Saturday the Silver Lake newbie and the Fairfax mainstay team up for pastrami fried rice, which, knowing Freedman’s tender house-made pastrami and Genghis Cohen’s comforting fried rice, makes it a shouldn’t-miss dish.

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Sunday (September 1)

Banh Oui’s shrimp toast

Shrimp toast is having a moment in L.A., but long before some of our city’s flashier, newer takes entered the market, and long before the team at Banh Oui landed a brick-and-mortar restaurant, co-owners Armen Piskoulian and Casey Felton were serving it at pop-ups around town.

One of the duo’s most popular items at residencies like their former stint at Smorgasburg, their shrimp toast is next-level: A meaty, garlicky, house-made shrimp mousse fills in the center of Texas-style toast, then it all gets fried and topped with sesame, squiggles of Kewpie mayo, drizzles of a special Nuoc Cham gel and a light shower of fresh Herbs. This is crunchy, salty, verdant and just slightly funky, and you can’t get it at the Hollywood restaurant—so get it here while you can.

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BONUS: Phillip Frankland Lee’s Sushi Bar pop-up (VIP)

If you’ve been curious about Phillip Frankland Lee’s Encino omakase concept—which, by the way, recently opened an outpost in Montecito—this is a great time to try it without making a res and dropping $125 (though for 17 courses, we think the price is well worth it). The Top Chef’s nuanced, innovative Sushi Bar will be popping up in the VIP area of the Taste on Sunday, recreating a few of the restaurant’s trademark nigiri, which tend to walk the line between traditional and  off-the-rails gourmet. (Russian king crab with puffed quinoa and house-made beet mustard, anyone?)

Lee and the Sushi Bar team popped up at the Taste last year, garnering the longest-line award; this year, now that they’ll be in VIP, expect less of a wait—which means more sushi, faster.

The Taste runs August 30 to September 1, from 7:30 to 10:30pm on the Paramount Pictures Studio backlot at 783 N Van Ness St. Tickets are on sale now. General admission runs $115 per night, while VIP costs $190 each evening.

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