Last Sunday the American Cancer Society held their 30th annual California Spirit benefit at Sony Studios in Culver City. Although the skies were grey, the afternoon’s late sprinkles didn’t chase anyone away. How could they, with endless oysters and MacCallan 18? There was also a large tent with tables so everyone could relax comfortably. Sunflowers and centerpieces made with citrus fruit brightened the unseasonably cloudy day.
Many food events offer endless choices from a dizzying array of restaurants. The CalSpirit event was more carefully curated, with fewer restaurants that were all serving high-end gourmet plates. Seafood was the order of the day, and no one did it more impressively than Bouchon with their extravagant raw bar. Sharing the ice were Island Creek MA Oysters, Penn Cove Mussels, Coromandel NZ Oysters, Sweet Shrimp, White Albacore Tuna, Abalone, and Salmon Caviar in adorable little jars. Chef Thomas Keller entertained the crowd by tossing their signature beach balls and dragging politely hesitant guests towards the bounty of seafood, “Free food! Come and eat it!”
Catch & Release served Bay Scallop Crudo on the half shell, plus their buttery Lobster Roll, which I somehow missed. But the scallop was extraordinary, and eating things out of shells feels so exotic and glamorous. Luckily, Knuckle & Claw was there with their Lobster Rolls, which are made with fresh lobster and mayo on Split Top Rockenwagner Bakery Parker Rolls, and topped with a sprinkle of an Old Bay seasoning. Chefs Chloe Dahl and Chef Nikki Booth and all of the employees of the restaurant are so fun and personable, I often find myself just hanging out at their table.
Tavern took it right over the top with their Thai Inspired Carrot Broth with Coconut Black Rice, Sambal and Diver Scallop. Although the scallop is mentioned last, in the dish it had top billing. The gigantic scallop with curry and sambal was perfection, and the plating was gorgeous. Picca served an equally elaborate Fijiian Ceviche Kokoda with Sea Bass, Shrimp, Sea Urchin Leche de Tigre and Coconut Cream. There was also something on the plate that looked exactly like transparent corn nuts, but they told me I would have to come into the restaurant and they would explain it to me.
Chi-Spacca cooked heartier Porcini Rubbed Short Ribs with Salsa Verde and Scallions. Over at Redbird, Neal Fraser filled the air with the delicious aroma of Grilled Pork Chops. The Apricot Mostardo (fruit preserved with ground mustard seed) and Hazelnuts complimented the pork perfectly. I have always loved the pairing of apricot with pork. Chef de Cuisine Michael Kahikina of Barrel and Ashes presented their Smoked Beef Brisket and Watermelon Salad. Passed plates featured plated from Wolfgang Puck Catering including a rich Corn Anglotti with Truffles and a Pork Cheek with Shirred Egg and Toast.
Lemonade Restaurant Group served a whole host of their popular salads, starting with Moroccan couscous, Washington cherries, and French feta pistachio. Also on the menu was White nectarine, persian cucumber, english pea, watercress, mint, a salad of sesame ginger braised duck rainbow chard, cashew, pineapple, coriander, and finally pickled nopales, jicama, peppers, blue corn tortilla, corn, lime. The couscous was definitely my favorite. There is a Lemonade I frequent, and it is the perfect place to take the office, because there is something for the vegan and the diabetic, the lactose-intolerant and the gluten-free people. They serve countless salads, but my favorite thing there is one of the hot dishes – chicken curry. I always thought it was a big, faceless corporation, but it’s not. It’s all the doing of Chef Alan Jackson, who could not have been more gracious discussing the finer details of the restaurants with me.
Dessert was presented by ICDC (Ice Cream Donuts, Coffee) and featured a Vanilla Cream Cheese Donut, a Salt and Pepper Caramel Mini Donut and a Mayan Chocolate Mini Donut. We drank our dessert in the form of two cocktails created by Julian Cox especially for the event. The Vanilla Cherry Sky was mixed with Greenbar slowhand white whiskey, Greenbar organic tru vanill vodka, Cherry heering & cherry bitters, and Lemon. Welcoming punch was made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Manzanilla Sherry, Fresh Lemon juice and cinnamon. Watch our interview with Julian Cox.
We also enjoyed Bootleggers Brewery’s Rocco Red and Dr Jekyll’s “Beer Attack, an Irish-style red ale. A portion of the proceeds from Dr Jeckyll’s beers go to charities specifically earmarked for each beer, the American Cancer Society being one of them. Some of the wines being poured were Impulsion Trade Wine and Chateau Lestage. Not to mention the generous MacCallan pours. For teetotallers, Art of Tea brewed up a Strawberry Mint Cucumber iced tea and Chamomile Clementine Spritzer, while Aussie Bean showed up with their full-service mobile coffee bar.
It was a gorgeous day full of extravagant treats and fantastic cocktails. We can see why it is billed as “one of Los Angeles’ premier gala events.”