September in Los Angeles means an endless array of food festivals; there’s The Taste [with LA Times], multiple lobsterfests, and fests devoted to single food items (Fried Chicken fest, ramenfest), and I haven’t even counted food-focused events such as L.A. County Fair & LA Greek Fest.
And it only seems fitting that the months closed with L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade, which the fest of foodfests taking place in Culver Studios.
The price tag is on a hefty side ($175 person) but 1) proceeds go to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a very worthwhile charity dedicated to pediatric cancer research and 2) this is one of few L.A. events that draws out-of-town culinary talents. And those two reasons were enough to draw out more than 1,700 folks to this year’s event.
This being my first time at L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade, I was astounded by the number of non-L.A. eateries represented, including San Francisco’s SPQR, New York’s Barbuto, Portland’s Lincoln, Phoenix’s Pizzeria Bianco and Chicago’s Publican. It’s like getting a slice of U.S.’s finest all in one place.
Of course, with David Lentz, Suzanne Goin & Caroline Styne at the helm, local restaurants made a strong showing too here (it is *L.A.* Loves Alex’s Lemonade, afterall.) Some of the hot & new joints serving on site include Connie & Ted’s, Trois Mec, Mozza, Street, Animal and Huckleberry. And obviously, The Hungry Cat & Lucques.
There are the numerous libations offered. Obviously, there is lemonade, but there were a good number of beers, spirits, cocktails and wines (which got its own pavilion) freely poured at the event.
Last but not least, star-gazing! A considerable number of celebrities in the food & entertainment worlds attended this event, including Giada de Laurentiis, Ludo Lefebvre, Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger, Duff Goldman, Neil Patrick Harris, Jimmy Kimmel, Emily VanCamp & Joshua Bowman.
While I was mildly starstruck, the bigger draw for me was definitely the food & drinks that were served up. With so many tasty options, it was hard to trim this list, but here are my definite favorites:
Pizzeria Bianco’s “Rosa” pizza, a delectable white pie with rosemary, red onions and pistachios baked in a wood-fired oven – every bit as aromatic and delicious as I remembered when I had it in Phoenix two years ago.
The Hungry Cat’s seafood platter with Maryland rock crab – a delicious plate of freshly-shucked bivalves, sweet crabmeat and potent uni-tequila shooter, and very much worth the mess I made while eating it.
Lincoln’s spicy crab fritter with cucumber-tomato salad – I loved the mix of hot & cool, and this dish was perfect for the summer-ish weather that weekend.
Barbuto’s gnocchi with tomatoes and corn – Simple but elegant with fluffy grilled dumplings paired against sweet corn and tangy tomatoes. Also very appropriate for the weather.
SPQR’s corn panna cotta with smoked mushroom & black truffles – I’m not usually a huge fan of non-dessert panna cottas, but this one has enough of a sweet element from the corn to balance out its savoriness. The truffle’s aromatics doesn’t hurt either.
Vosges’ chocolate station – I’m a huge fan of this luxury chocolatier, and they were doing some creative pairings at the booth here, such as pairing their caramels with a shot of Belgian beers, fiery truffles with a slice of chorizo, and a debut of their upcoming Super Dark bars.
Allimant Laugner’s Cremant d’Alsace Rosé – In tune with my “fizz means fun!” rule, this sparkling rosé has a nice tang & pleasant berry aroma, and was great to drink on its own (esp. for a warm-hot afternoon) or when paired with seafoody & vegetable dishes (of which there were many at this event.)
But the best news of all is hearing that this year’s event is a successful one, having raised over $530,000 in ticket sales, auctions and raffles and contributing to $1.5 million raised throughout its four year run. Here’s hoping for a bigger & better event next year.