Last weekend the rain stopped just in time for LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade to brighten up Culver City. The tents were packed with guests enjoying the delicious eats, but there were no long lines at any of the restaurants. Chefs braved the muddy grass and it added to the convivial atmosphere, with people grinning at the silliness as they manuevered their way around puddles.
Pork belly was a popular item, as usual. Grains were a welcome addition, a fad we first noticed at The Taste. One of the most exciting things about Alex’s Lemonade is the attendance by chefs from New Orleans, who mostly brought along sausages, as did many others at this event. There wasn’t too much challenging cuisine, except perhaps an octopus salad, and the fresh uni, which we will be looking at indepth. The only game onsite was Animal’s quail, which was really the only game there needed to be. It was hard not to go back for seconds, but they would recognize me. next time I’m bringing a false moustache.
Perhaps my favorite taste of the entire event was Jones Farm pork belly tartine with preserved quince, Rogue Blue and hazelnuts. The richness of the pork belly cut with the sweet-tartness of the quince, the classic matching of hazelnuts and blue. It’s the kind of thing that shocks your palate with its brilliance. You are stopped dead in your tracks and can only stand stupidly in the way of other guests.
Nancy Silverton and Matt Molina were one of the few tables with a line for their Ribs al forno with apple cider vinegar, fennel and honey. The fennel was similar enought to star anise to give the ribs “from the oven” a slightly Asian feel although the apple cider vinegar and subtly flavored coleslaw were clearly drawing on a Southern theme.
Nancy Silverton was friendly and cheerful, signing cookbooks for her fans.
The Pink family was there, and I LOVE the Pinks! They were serving up full-sized hot dogs, so I filled up a little more than I should have. At these events your appetite is a precious commodity. But Pink’s polish with mustard and grilled onions is worth it!
It is no secret we are enamored with Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook of Animal and Son of a Gun. Their plum char siu-ed grilled quail was tender with a nice balance between smoky and sweet.
Jonathan Waxman’s Raw Vegetable and Blood Orange salad was all about the squash blossom. He said when he saw them in the market they spoke to him. Be careful, though, if you get too close he may nip your nose.
Russell Moore’s wood-oven smoked Lamb Sandwiches were the perfect combination of two of my favorite flavors of the moment — lamb and Indian flavors. I could have eaten these sandwiches all day.
Michael Ciramusti had a friendly smile for everyone as he served up his version of New England Clam Chowda, a clam broth with an entire clam, and Grandma Jo’s Clam Cakes.
Neal Fraser made it a family affair with the most adorable little assembly line ever. The farro salad with arugala, pesto and lemon was delicious with fresh beets and enthusiatically grated Sardo Fiore pecorino.
Cristina Olufson brought Lucques Cookies and Confections. The pecan squares were buttery and divine.
Giada De Laurentiis wasn’t able to make it, but she sent along scrumptuous Italian Zeppole. This kind of food is why she is always making those expressions of pure ecstacy.
April Bloomfield’s Ribolatta was the perfect warm soup for a chilly day. She also very generously provided copies of the recipe, a kindness I hope will catch on.
And of course we had to have some gelato from Nancy Silverton’s sister, Gail, whose Gelato Bar is a local favorite.