The Tasty Awards Swag Rundown

Stuart Reb Donald at the TASTYsThe glamor of a Hollywood red carpet event is nice but it’s fleeting.  Before long it’s reduced to a handful of youtube clips, out of focus photographs and vodka-blurred memories.  But not everything at these galas has such a short shelf life.  There’s always the swag.

Not familiar with the term swag?  Here’s one definition from the Urban Dictionary, “Relating to the trade show convention industry, where exhibitors hand out ‘free stuff’ to visitors. Most of the time these items are purely promotional materials, and are fairly worthless. ie. pencils, mugs, and mouse pads.”  The swag at the TASTYs was pretty fly.

One of the freebies included amazing toffee from The Toffee Box.  These luxurious candies Chocolateare sure to be the crack of the culinary world.  Their toffee is made with only the finest, all natural ingredients with no added preservatives and is hand crafted in small batches with fresh sweet cream butter, premium chocolates, California almonds and walnuts. This gourmet toffee can be enjoyed in four delectable flavors using rich, dark chocolate and creamy, white chocolate.  I tried the white chocolate toffee and was subjected to an instant taste-gasm.

At the table adjacent to The Toffee Box was a group of mixologists from Vya – a vermouth aperitif.  They were generous with samples of their self-named cocktail the Vya which helped get the juices flowing for the party atmosphere.  Here’s the recipe to try your own Vya:


  • 2 oz. Dry Vya
  • 1 oz. Sweet Vya
  • Ice
  • Orange peel


  1. Shake the dry and sweet Vya with ice and served garnished with the orange peel.

On the non-adult beverage side was new bottled water geared at the growing popularity of the pH miracle diet.  It was a mineral water called Qure 9.5+ and it bills itself as a “natural alkaline water.”  How did it taste?  Well, it’s water it didn’t really have a taste but there was a definite minerally (New Punk Dog WinesWord!) tinge at the end.  It sufficiently quenched my thirst.

But who goes to a party for the water?  We go for the hooch and thankfully Punk Dog Wines were Johnny on the spot with some tasty new vino.  I enjoyed a glass of the Fog Hill, Red Blend, North Coast.  A pleasant blended red rooted in Merlot.  It was a good fruity wine with just enough tannins to take it seriously.  Punk Dog prides themselves in bucking the trend by making unconventional blends, creating fabulous wines.

Another sweet treat was the assortment of chocolate by Pure DarkPure Pure DarkDark is an insanely intense chocolate experience.  This amazing chocolate was offered in 60%, 70% and 80% cocoa concentrations (milk chocolate is for sissies) and are presented in slabs that exhibit their notation that chocolate should come from the earth and not be overly processed.  They are studded with fruits, nuts and toasted chocolate nibs.  I gave a sample to my neighbor and a few minutes later I got a text message that read, “This chocolate is the bomb!”

But there was also a little savory going on as Ngugyen and Thi Tran where there with a sampling of their unique and spicy Asian fusion cuisine.  They began their LA eatery Starry Kitchen as an illegal restaurant in the city’s exciting food underground.  That original Starry Kitchen was in the back of their North Hollywood apartment but today they do legitimate business from 350 S. Grand Ave.  Their stir-fry was terrific with hints of Malaysia and Thailand coalescing in a slightly sweet, very spicy dish.  I could have eaten my weight it in.  They rotate the menu weekly and once something comes off it’s like to be a few months before it comes back.

Wines and aperitifs are nice but sometimes you just have to have the hard stuff.  Thankfully VÄD, an ultra-premium vodka, was on hand with plenty of bottles of the their sensational elixir.  I took mine with tonic and a twist of lime so that I could truly grasp the essence of VÄD.  What I tasted was a vodka easily on the same level with Gray Goose or Ketal One and probably better.  Towards the end of the night they began giving away whole bottles and I was on my way to nab one when I got sidetracked by a beautiful lady.  Life is a series of trade offs.  I did get to quiz VÄD’s VP of Business Imbibe MagazineDevelopment Brad Willis about the grain they distilled to make their spirit and he said they use winter wheat exclusively.  Ah you gotta love that attention to detail.

That’s not all of the swag – there were gift cards for, WineTime, the first gourmet nutrition bar with Resveratrol (it was delicious), a complimentary issue of Imbibe Magazine (expect a pitch soon) and lots of other nifty freebies.  In LA they just give stuff away.

buck the trend by making unconventional blends, creating fabulous wines.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less
Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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