Tuesday, July 21, 2009

From the web...

Extravaganza for the Senses
Sunday, July 19, 2009 23:48

Posted By Pauline in category Event, WestsideI realize I have been rather quiet here on lafb of late. To make up for that, here’s a big post with a whole lot of food mentions. Yesterday, I went to the 20th Century Fox Studios Lot for the 12th Annual Extravaganza for the Senses. For those who might not be aware of this event, various restaurants, wineries, and beverage companies come together to help raise money for The Saban Free Clinic. Before I go into details about food, I just want to say that there are approximately 2.7 million people in the U.S. without health insurance. As someone who was part of the 2.7 million not too long ago, I can not stress enough how important free clinics are. Times are very tough right now, but if you are able to help out, please consider either donating to or volunteering for The Saban Free Clinic. Now onto the food.

So which restaurants were there? There were too many restaurants there to list, so I’ll just name a few - The Foundry on Melrose, Upstairs 2, Breadbar, Bombay Cafe, Pomodoro, Chaya Venice, Mr. Cecil’s California Ribs, and Buddha’s Belly. I made every effort to sample from every restaurant, but some ran out of food before I got to them. Nevertheless, I will write a little about some of my favorites. First up - Bon Melange Catering. This one surprised me. They were serving little corn cakes, which I have to admit I was a little dismissive of. After just one bite, however, I found it to be a delightful appetizer. It was sweet and refreshing. I found out later that there was some “special” bacon in there. I asked what was so special about the bacon and discovered that they actually made the bacon that was used in the corn cake.

The next one that made the favorites list was Pace in the Canyon. When I approached the table, I knew I’d be sticking around for a while. The chefs were promising that mussels were about to be served. While I waited, I tried their lasagna and some chicken with vegetables and kale, both of which were good though unremarkable. Then came the mussels. I have been a very harsh critic when it comes to seafood of late. I recently returned from a Hawaiian vacation where I ate amazing seafood daily, and I have not been easily satisfied with just any seafood since I’ve been home. Pace in the Canyon did a fantastic job with the mussels. The mussels were cooked to just the right texture, and the white wine, shallots, and herbs added to the flavor extremely well. If it weren’t for the fact that there were so many other restaurants’ food I wanted to try, I probably would have fought off all the visitors for the entire bowl you see in the photo. Instead, I ate my 3 mussels happily before looking for other dishes to make my favorites list.

I could not decide on a true winner for the night. It came down to be a toss up between Lawry’s Catering and Ivan Kane’s Cafe Wa s. Any true carnivore must have had Lawry’s famous prime rib at some point. By the time I got to their table, there were only 4 plates left and the bone. I quickly grabbed one of the final plates and devoured the prime rib, which was absolutely delicious and ever so flavorful. About 10 minutes later, I saw that Lawry’s Catering was clearing out and noticed a guy (a guest) gnawing the bone. The surprise for me - Cafe Wa s. I was disappointed to find out that they ran out of the duck confit canape and their signature Kennebec potato chips. Nevertheless, I still got to try the bacon-wrapped date stuffed with Roquefort and the organic pot roast. I’ve had the former before at other restaurants, but they weren’t nearly as good as this one. Others tend to overcook the bacon to the point where it becomes too dry and brittle. This was not the case with Cafe Wa s. I loved the various tastes in that one bite. I got the sweetness of the date, the saltiness of the bacon, and the richness of the Roquefort. The pot roast was a little on the dry side, but I still enjoyed it, particularly how the tender the meat was. The friend who accompanied me to this event thought the pot roast was lacking in flavor, but I felt that the sauce that was served with the pot roast more than made up for that.

Honorable Mentions:
Corn Maiden - If you’ve been to a Farmer’s Market, you probably have seen Corn Maiden there. They have really excellent tamales. They had four different ones at the event: blue corn, pork, steak, and BBQ chicken. I really thought the BBQ chicken would be a disaster, but I was surprised to find that was my favorite of the four. There wasn’t an overdose of the BBQ sauce, but you could definitely taste its presence. Adding corn kernels was also a nice touch. The shredded pork tamales was a close second place.
20th Century Fox Catering - They served really large shrimp that was just gently deep fried and served with the option of one of four sauces. I chose the orange chili, which was not spicy at all, but a pleasant citrus taste that complemented the shrimp. The shrimp was quite plump, and I can’t help but wonder how celebrities can stay so skinny when studios’ caterers make food this good.
Breadbar - I did my best to avoid food that would fill me up, but I couldn’t resist picking up a sampler plate at Breadbar. I really recommend the Wall Street. These are little almond mini muffins. (They are the little balls in the container next to the giant loaves of bread in the photo on the left.) All carb haters could find a little room to eat these without guilt.
Hansen’s Cakes - I used to drive on Fairfax all the time and stare at Hansen’s Cakes’ display window as I wait for traffic to move. I finally got to taste their cake last night. I never knew plain cake could melt in your mouth until I took a bite of their cake. I’m usually not big on frosting either, but their frosting was so good, too! It was creamy and rich while not overly sweet. I headed over to MILK in the hopes of getting some ice cream only to find that they gave out the last serving right before I got there. Someone from Hansen’s Cakes had just shown up there and had some mini red velvet cupcakes and gave me one to console me in my disappointment. While I would have loved to have MILK’s ice cream, the mini red velvet cupcake with the cream cheese frosting really did make me feel better.

Miscellaneous: I should also mention that there were non-eating and drinking activities. There was a silent auction as well as cooking demonstrations by the final 3 contestants for The Next Food Network Star. I won’t say anything more than that, as I’m sure there will be people who watch the show and will be upset with me for posting who the final 3 are if they don’t already know. I missed the first finalist but caught the other two. It’s really interesting to see them in action. No judges were around - at least I didn’t see them.

By Pauline (see more of her posts).

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