Favorites from LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade 2019

Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken gave us a peek at Socalo, their new Mexican gastropub in Santa Monica. All photos by Elise Thompson for The LA Beat.

The 10th annual L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade Stand raised over $1.2 million for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. The fundraiser is in memory of a little girl named Alex, who started her own lemonade stand to raise money to fight cancer. People were so touched, they started holding bigger and bigger lemonade stands until they grew into the major events we enjoy today. The strolling food event last Saturday at UCLA’s Royce Quad attracted more than 2,500 people. Jay and Liz Scott, Alex’s parents, were in attendance, as were celebrities Eric Benét, Laura Dern and her mother Dianne Ladd, Joe Mantegna, Aisha Taylor, Johnny Knoxville and longtime supporter Jimmy Kimmel.

The serious moneymaker is perennially the live auction, which raised more than $415,000. Highly prized auction experiences included a dinner with Jimmy Kimmel and his wife Molly at their barn in the Hollywood Hills, featuring food prepared by star chefs, a weekend at the 5-star Rosewood Miramar Resort, with a dinner prepared by Michelin-starred chefs Michael Cimarusti and Josiah Citrin. Another big ticket item was a visit with Grammy-winning recording artist Pink while she pours the latest vintages from her local Two Wolves Estate Winery.

For us, the real stars are the 68 chefs who donate their time and turn out delicious food representative of the diversity of L.A. And what would a SoCal event be without Mexican food? Timothy Hollingsworth of Otium at the Broad plated a smoked pork taco with guacamole, salsa and burnt allium, which is an ornamental flowering onion. Yes, we had to look that up. How can you tell a chef is cutting edge if they don’t serve something you’ve never heard of? Petty Cash served a light aguachile, really more like a gazpacho, that was perfect for the warm day.

Nancy Silverton of Chi Spacca (and Mozza, and LaBrea Bakery, etc.) served a fresh and bright ceviche tostada with salsa macha (a salsa made with chiles, garlic and nuts), avocado and pumpkin seeds. Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken gave us a peek at Socalo, their new Mexican gastropub in Santa Monica, with a Vampiro Taco filled with “griddled” cheese, shisito peppers, roasted corn, salsa macha, nopales and chicken chicharron. Salsa Macha seems to be the condiment au courant.

Ray Garcia of Broken Spanish brought the street to the quad with his elote–grilled Brentwood corn with cilantro, butter, serrano mayonnaise and goat cotija cheese. A number of chefs were taking advantage of the last of the summer corn, like Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson of Kismet who served salt and sumac fried corn. John Yao of Kato took us back to the bad old 80s with corn and caviar “bumps” on the side of your wrist that you licked off, like salt before a shot of tequila.

Zack Pollack from Alimento and Cosa Buona mixed it up with a Tuscan barbecued tri tip with a charred tortilla panzanella (Tuscan chopped salad). Steve Samson of Rossoblu and Superfine Pizza was a little more on the traditional Italian side, serving quadratini pasta with zucchini, potato and clams. Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Jon & Vinny’s, Animal, etc., served a simple pasta salad with an unforgettable lemon focaccia. Uri Menashe of Bavel channeled a bit of Africa with Harissa Marinated Prawns.

Some of the best dishes were meaty, like Grilled Skirt Steak served alongside Crispy Wieser Fingerlings and creamless creamed corn from Chef Michael Fiorelli (formerly of Love & Salt) and his brand new team from his upcoming West Hollywood restaurant Olivetta. Adam Perry Lang of APL was slicing up his classic brisket, and Lark served Superior Farm lamb ribs with a medjool date caramel, smoked pistachio, fresno chile yogurt, and marigolds. I used to be wary of lamb, but chefs are geting some high quality meat without the gaminess we used to associate with lamb. The Publican and Avec collaborated on a grilled beef short rib with watermelon, tomato and burnt chili vinagrette. Chefs Suzanne Tracht and Preech Narkthong of Jar served a generous sandwich of roasted tenderloin of pork with pickled vegetables and aioli.

Jeremy Fox of Rustic Canyon created a very instagrammable dish with fig, avocado and smoked trout roe. We also loved the grilled chicken and fries Piri Piri style from Suzanne Goin, Javier Espinoza and Adam Cherney of the Luques Group. 

Some chefs went traditional, like Matt Molina of Everson Royce Bar in Pasadena, who grilled up a burger with prime beef topped with Tillamook cheddar and Dijonaise. Brian Rigsby and Andrea Shirley of Craft pleased us with their Coleman Natural pork with bourbon peaches and pecans, plus a dreamy market berry shortcake with vanilla creme fraiche. Donald Link and Ryan Prewitt of the legendary Herbsaint and Cochon, traveled all the way from New Orleans to grill their special Boudain sausage.

Firehouse Hotel’s Ashley Abodeely went light with an Heirloom tomato salad, burrata, grilled corn and basil. They also mixed a pink cocktails called “Floradora on Holiday” with hibiscus, ginger, lime and rum. It was refreshing and delicious, and the only cocktail I drank all day. Kris Yenbamruong of Night + Market also eschewed meat for his Cold Noodles with chile threads.

Ludo Lefebvre of Trois Mec went outside the box, creating little cubes out of tapioca, Parmesan and passion fruit. They had a lovely texture, but the flavor is a little hard to describe. Neal Fraser served a Chinese shrimp and pig’s ear congee that I loved.

By the time we got to the desserts, I was stuffed. But I did find just enough room for Zoe Nathan’s donut trio from Huckleberry. There is always room for donuts.

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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