The Pacific Food and Beverage Museum has been a wandering attraction since 2013, offering culinary talks, mixology seminars and curated dinners across SoCal.
Its mission is to reflect the diverse culinary culture of the Southland and beyond. Encouraging Californians to live a little with their palette.
Philip Dobard is president of the Pacific Food and Beverage Museum, which opened its permanent gallery over the weekend in San Pedro, just a few blocks from the port of Los Angeles. It's a place to see and experience the way people used to eat and drink, like the museum’s previous talk on coffee history in SoCal, or its Victorian-era menu collection. Turtle soup anyone?
Dobard: San Pedro has a rich cultural history, a rich culinary history. Waves of Italian immigrants, Croatian immigrants, Japanese immigrants, you name it. They have come through Los Angeles, and many of them, for generations, through San Pedro.
And those newcomers may have enjoyed mountains of meatballs, sips of sake or goulash, both today and when they arrived. Keeping those roots alive is what the museum is all about.
The Pacific Food and Beverage Museum is part of the National Food and Beverage Foundation or NatFAB, for short. That’s a nonprofit dedicated to the understanding of food and its related culture. Dobard is also the foundation’s vice president.
"Los Angeles is a handful of global cities where you can experience virtually any ethnic cuisine, that you can experience both unadulterated and hybridized," Dobard said.
There’s regional cuisine too. Get a taste next month with a cooking workshop on the artichoke. That’s California’s state vegetable, in case you didn’t know.
To wash it down, the Museum of the American Cocktail will also make an L.A. appearance at the San Pedro museum with swizzle sticks, cocktail napkins and other cocktail memorabilia dating back as far as the 18th century.
For the Victorian exhibit, one restaurant memento has a drawing of a woman with “Ladies Day,” written at the top. During the late 19th century, dining events for women were reserved for special occasions, according to the museum’s director, Tracy Mitchell.
Mitchell: It was not typical for a woman to dine out in a fine restaurant. Most of that was done by men and they were busy networking and smoking cigars. But it really wasn’t until the 1920s when women regularly appeared in restaurants.
Now, of course, women are commonplace and not just in the dining room. And both male and female chefs tend to love ink, which is the subject of the Shakers, Knives and Irons exhibit from photographer, Romney Caruso. Making its appearance at the Pacific Food and Beverage Museum, the exhibit shows off the tattoos of people who work in New Orleans' kitchens and bars.
One of Dobard's favorites is a photo of Top Chef alum, Isaac Toups.
In the photo, Toups stands with his bare back to the camera, donning a large alligator tattoo, and opening two doors to a cloud of steam.
"For all we know, he might be smoking alligator." Dobard said.
The photos won’t stop with New Orleans. L.A. chefs and bartenders are next and will be displayed as part of an upcoming museum exhibit.
Even for those who don’t consider themselves “foodies,” Dobard hopes the gallery will help visitors think outside the box when it comes to food culture."We want to provoke them to think more deeply and more critically, not just about what they eat and drink, but what we as a people consume in order live, not just to live but to flourish."