The LA Zoo Gives Us a Preview of the Beastly Ball

Chef Gerardo Ochoa and Alma Corona of El Cholo (All photos by Elise Thompson for The LA Beat)

Chef Gerardo Ochoa and Alma Corona of El Cholo (All photos by Elise Thompson for The LA Beat)

The Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA) will be hosting its 46th annual “Beastly Ball” on Saturday, June 11, 2016, at 6 pm. This year’s honorees are wildlife supporters/long-time GLAZA donors Patricia and Stanley Silver and actor/environmentalist Ed Begley, Jr., who will receive the Tom Mankiewicz Leadership Award.

The Beastly Ball is one of the most fun fundraisers in LA. You stroll along the zoo’s winding paths, seeing a variety of animals as you sip cocktails and bites specially prepared by some of LA’s top mixologists and chefs. Guests get into the spirit wearing safari attire and animal prints. Zoo handlers wander through the event with some of the zoo’s smaller and friendlier occupants — usually a bird, a snake, and if you are lucky, a baby monkey. There is a silent auction and a live auction. And these are not run-of-the-mill auction prizes. We are talking about serious bucket list adventures, like a ride in the Goodyear Blimp or playing one-on-one with your favorite basketball player.*

At the press preview yesterday we were able to sample treats from the Ball. Actress Carolyn Hennesy from “True Blood” read the menu aloud, adding some funny off-the-cuff remarks. She even did a Jersey accent when describing Jersey Mike’s sandwiches. The Federal Bar wowed with a black pepper crusted ahi tuna served on crispy toast topped with avocado, sweet pepper relish and cilantro crème. I will admit to going back for seconds. One of the photographers confessed that she had never tried El Cholo’s famous green corn tamale. I told her that you aren’t really an Angeleno until you have eaten one.

Antonio’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant served bruschetta and mini meatballs accompanied by a meatball hippo. You would not expect the gorgeous fresh-from-the-farm salad that Hard Rock Café busted out. With rainbow carrots, cranberries, and corn in a barely-there vinaigrette, it reminded me of my grandpa’s garden.

Celestino Drago was the only chef there I knew, and he made sure to fill me with his orange zest cannoli. But I found a little room for Canele’s ricotta cake topped with whipped cream and espresso and a slice of zebra cake from Buttermilk House Catering. There was a tie in the category of presentation. Sparkling Treatz made gorgeous purple and turquoise sparkling cake pops shaped like peacocks on jeweled handles, as well as cookie stacks topped with huge icing morning glories. But Yummy Cupcakes was inspired when they invented a “fossil dig” mirroring the one in the new Dinosaur exhibit. A box with crushed graham cracker crumbs hid truffle bones. Guests put on plastic gloves and dig for their treats with little tools. Adorable, and sure to inspire many a birthday party to come.

*These auction items are from past events. I cannot guarantee there will be a blimp ride on the block this year. But if there is, I make an excellent blimp companion.

The event and auction raises more than $1 million annually for animal conservation and education. Tickets to the Beastly Ball are $1,000 per person, with individual and corporate sponsorship opportunities at higher levels also available. For tickets and information, call (323) 644-4753. Maybe at the higher levels the shuttle is a blimp.*

*A total fabrication on my part.

Elise Thompson

About Elise Thompson

Born and raised in the great city of Los Angeles, this food, culture and music-loving punk rock angeleno wants to turn you on to all that is funky, delicious and weird in the city. While Elise holds down the fort, her adventurous alter ego Kiki Maraschino is known to roam the country in search of catfish.
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