The 7th annual LA Loves Alex’s cookout broke a new record in its 7th year. The exciting auctions raised more than $440,000, including a women’s chef dinner with Suzanne Goin, April Bloomfield, Giada De Laurentiis and Sherry Yard.
The sun was shining mightily on Royce Quad last Saturday as more than 100 chefs, mixologists and vintners came together in the spirit of Alexandria “Alex” Scott, a little girl with cancer whose front yard lemonade stand, started when she was only four, grew into a foundation that raised over a million dollars during her lifetime.
There were smiles everywhere as smoke rose from the barbecues, tempting guests from all sides. Each booth was shared by two chefs this year, making for some interesting partners. Some of the chefs collaborated on one dish, and in other places you got two for the price of one! We enjoyed a number of game dishes, including a moist and flavorful Grilled Quail with Meyer Lemon and Shisito Peppers from Andrew Gavalla and Shannon Swindle of Craft.
Josef Centeno of Baco Mercat, Ledlow, etc. turned out a nicely spiced Lamb Riblet and Jicama Salad. Jar’s Suzanne Tracht served perhaps the best lamb dish I have ever eaten — Lamb Ribs in Spicy Tamarind with a Sweet Onion salad. So intensely flavored, with meat falling off of the bone. Bestia’s lamb belly with yogurt, dehydrated orange, pickled green almonds, cherry tomatoes, and mint was a close second.
Chef Nancy Silverton of Mozza created an adorable and exotic roasted baby eggplant with ceci purée, zhug, and za’atar. Michael Voltaggio of Ink also went with Mediterranean flavors with a cucumber and watermelon salad with liquid nitrogen frozen yogurt. Blvd. made a strong showing with an octopus and artichoke caponata. Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Jon & Vinny’s and a bunch of other restaurants served an exciting Freekeh Fritter. Being that Jon and Vinny are champions of stoner food, you might think they are Freakaaaahhhh Fritters. But freekeh, also known as farik is an ancient Arabian food made from green durum wheat that is popular in the Mediterranean (seeing a pattern?).
Chefs Ben Ford of Ford’s Filling Station and Neal Fraser of Redbird were a perfect match, coming up with smoked pork belly, pickled ramp tomato salad, mustard seed mostardo. I loved the delicate chilled spot prawn, Granny Smith apple, smoked crème fraîche, and nasturtium of Lark in Seattle. Chef Frank Stitt of Birmingham’s Highlands Bar & Grill and Bottega also went with shrimp, serving Bayou La Batre pickled shrimp with Alabama buttermilk tzaziki. Timothy Hollingsworth of Otium presented a gorgeous burrata tart with tomato, basil, and onion on lavash.
Love + Salt showed a southern influence with crispy chicken oysters, creamless creamed corn, and pickled watermelon rind. You might wonder if a chicken oyster is anything like a prairie oyster, which would make for a tiny nugget, indeed. But chicken oysters are the dark tender meat in two little hollows of the chicken’s back. It’s a delicacy.
Chef Steve Samson of Sotto folded thousands of Tortellini Robiola to make a tender pasta with soft creamy cheese. I tried Pizzeria Vetri’s food for the first time, and loved their mortadella and ricotta rotolo so much I ate the entire thing, even though it was as big as a cinnamon roll. It’s important to save your appetite when on a marathon tasting like this, but sometimes you just have to go with it. Chef Bruce Kalman of Union and Knead & Co. served my favorite — his peerless meatballs. This time he made meatball sandwiches, which I really liked. I also liked them on polenta. I even like them in a box. I even like them with a fox.
A tamale de calabacitas (little squash) from Ray Garcia of Broken Spanish was unbelievable, with a light airy masa. I must discover the secret to that masa before next Christmas eve. Border Grill’s Chef Susan Feniger went with her specialty –tacos. Baby back rib tacos. Chef and hostess Chef Suzanne Goin served an amazing wood-grilled albacore, lemongrass sambal, baby bok choy and mizuna. And what would an LA benefit be without Pink’s Hot Dogs? They not only donate hot dogs to charities, but and Gloria Pink show up in person to chat with people and pose with Gloria’s trademark sequined hot dog purse.
Chefs Rory Herrmann of Barrel & Ashes and Walter Manzke of a stunning halo halo. The flier only listed coconut, watermelon, passion fruit and raspberry, but there was also a luscious custard and a whimsical topping of Rice Krispies. Chef Sherry Yard who is currently working on menus and design for iPic Theaters treated us to four different kinds of cookies and icy snow cones. Beau Dubois of The Corner Door created the Joe Bird, an unusual tropical drink with Selvary White Rum, lime, pineapple, Campari, kola nut cordial and espresso.
As I was walking away, I overheard them auctioning off a fishing weekend in Santa Barbara with David Lentz and Michael Cimarusti, who run two of the best fish restaurants in LA. The last bid I heard was $20,000.