LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade Recap
I attended the L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade event earlier this month. I was pretty excited to see so many different chefs from around the country presenting that day. We were gathered to raise money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a charity benefiting kids with childhood cancer.
There were over 1000 people in attendance and $400,000 was raised (a $100,000 more than last year). There were many great auction prizes. The dinner with great women chefs raised $61,000 alone. The great men chefs’ dinner raised $20,000. I also thought the in-flight cooking by Suzanne Goin on Singapore Airlines to Tokyo was a great raffle prize. It raised $20,000.
When I first got there, everyone told me to head to the second tent where Sotto was for the pork belly. Chefs Steve and Zach were doing their crispy pork belly porchetto with myrtle and quince mostarda.
Sotto’s roast pork has been a favorite at the last few food festivals including The Taste. I was near the booth towards the end when a dancing lady came up and said that was her pork belly dance. That her people knew all about the glory of pork. Then she looked at me and said my people knew about the greatness of pork as well. It’s true, my grandmother was a pork butcher.
Next door, Chef Stephen Stryjewski of Conchon and Butcher in New Orleans brought pickled shrimp and catfish with herbs on grit crackers along with jalepeno and smoked boudin sausages. I enjoyed the sausages.
After some a couple of bites of tasty pork, I headed over to Osteria‘s booth for a gin and chartreuse cocktail. There was also simple syrup and lemon. A tad too sweet for my liking but a refreshing cocktail after porky goodness.
Around the corner was the Varnish booth. They were doing a couple of drinks including punch but the main attraction may have been Eric Alperin cutting ice.
While the Highland Park and Cherry Herring was possibly the strongest drink (after the straight Scotch), I stuck to the punch.
Although I was recently in Seattle, I didn’t have a chance to check out Lark. I was glad to see Chef Jonathan Sundstrom bring a pork belly tartine with quince and hazelnuts.
I was beginning to believe this side of the tent was the pork belly corner until I had Neal Fraser‘s wonderful farro salad. I hope he reopens Grace soon but I guess I can always go to BLD for more of his cooking.
Chef Danny Elmaleh of sbe Restaurant Group brought the best plating to the festival. The plate of carefully placed cured meat, artichokes, olives, burrata cheese and a little paper bag containing piping hot bread was amazing.
Over at the Globe booth with Chef Joseph Manzare, they were serving robata skewers of chicken and short ribs.
By coincidence, I had just tried Brugal rum for the first time the evening before at Aidan Demarest’s new bar, Neat in Glendale. Our bartender Joe had recommended I try the Brugal 1888 if I found it. And I did, along with Black Grouse, Macallan 12 and Highland Park 18. Later I also tasted the Black Grouse since I love Famous Grouse Scotch.
Both were fantastic and really can’t be compared to each other. Brugal 1888 was so caramel-y, so smooth. And the Black Grouse is aged in the Brugal barrels which gives it a hint of the sweetness. For those who like peaty Scotches, the Black Grouse is a good choice.
The last savory bite I had in this tent was from Animal. I vowed I’d come back for the desserts. Everyone raved about this quail as one of the favorite bites of the day. It was so juicy!
Neil Patrick Harris was one of the celebrity hosts that day. Throughout the festival, I inquired if anyone had seen him. One told me to look for the big group of people not eating and I would have found him at the center. Ha! As it was, I managed to snap a photo as he was walking about.
I was probably most excited to see chefs Paul Kahan and Brian Huston from The Publican in Chicago at the event. Chef Paul also has Blackbird, Avec and Big Star but I wasn’t able to visit them on my last trip. The Publican, however, I hold in a special place in my heart for you see, they are a shrine to pork. I was glad to see they brought pork belly (it has been a rather pork-tastic day). It was a nice twist with the Indian yogurt raita.
Chef Maria Hines from Tilth in Seattle made a bold choice by bringing a smoked corned beef salad with crispy shallots and fingerling potatoes.
I had skipped Jonathan Waxman’s booth because he had a raw vegetable and blood orange salad I love veggies but at food festivals, there are certain things I just don’t eat. Need more pork! I spotted Chef April Bloomfield from the Spotted Pig in New York and thought surely she had something swiney. Actually, she brought a warming savory stew, the ribolita. I saw “rib” and thought it was meat based. I was a bit amazed it was so tasty but entirely vegetarian. As the recipe card says, it’s thick, creamy and delicious!”
Perhaps I should rethink this non-veg strategy for food fests.
Next booth over was the Mozza booth where smiling Kate Green helped Chef Nancy Silverton in a pretty lemon-printed dress hand out their tasty tidbit.
At the Hungry Cat’s booth, they brought an amazing seafood display. By the time I made it over there, it was nearing the end of the festival and they insisted I take as much as I wanted. I took a couple of oysters, clams and peel and eat shrimp.
The other booth didn’t have all the cocktails, I found some over at the Hungry Cat’s booth. They had two different ones; a white dog whiskey with fig and another with tequila.
I really am enjoying how cocktails are proliferating at food festivals that have been generally dominated by wine tastings. Not that I minded the wine. We can all live together in boozy harmony. Perhaps craft beer next year?
I was getting to my breaking point but Savory Hunter insisted I try the wood oven smoked lamb sandwiches from Camino. I readily agreed since I actually wanted to visit Camino the last time I was in San Francisco but I never made it out to Oakland.
At Susan Spicer’s Bayona booth, we had the shrimp with curried cauliflower, yogurt and coriander. You really know the end of a food festival when they start doubling the portions. Really enjoyed the curried cauliflower.
The other favorite bite of the fest was Chef Michael Cimarusti’s clam chowder with Grandma Jo’s clam cakes. It reminded me I really need to get to Providence again. I love that restaurant.
Everyone was raving about the charred octopus salad from Chef Anthony Keene at Gordon Ramsay at the London Hotel in West Hollywood. It was served with celery hearts, marbled potatoes and anchovy vinaigrette.
My final bite was at Quince‘s booth. I loved the sausage! It was so juicy and later there was a rumor they were giving away the extra sausage but alas, I didn’t make it back in time to get some to take home. I suppose visiting chefs have to make sure all their food is given out as they can’t take it back to their restaurants.
I’d love to go to Quince again the next time I’m in San Francisco but there are so many restaurants and so little time…
What a great event, great cause and I’m definitely looking forward to next year.
Check out more photos on my flickr set.