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National Chefs Converge For LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade Stand

Yesterday’s LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade Stand benefit drew celebrity chefs, mixologists, and wineries from across the country. Unlike similar inaugural events earlier this year (The Taste of Beverly Hills, The Los Angeles Times Food Event), this Goin-Styne-Lentz affair was well organized, well received, and even yielded a pretty penny for its star charity. Oh, and it was delicious fun!

Culver City Studios provided an elegant backdrop for the live bands, local DJs, and speakers. Honorary chairperson Jennifer Garner flashed her smile and dimples at the crowd and introduced master of ceremonies, Jim Belushi. The long, sweet (read: tear-jerker) speech actually silenced the 500+ person crowd.

Alex’s family members and friends told the story of a 4-year old girl with a rare cancer who decided to raise money for her doctors by setting up a lemonade stand. Her first lemonade stand raised a eye-widening $2,000. Though Alex passed away at age 8, her family continues to raise funds for children’s cancer research. And with that, it was off to the races - the auction started with a magnum of wine signed by all the chefs in the house and went for over $5K. Somebody must have invited Daddy Warbucks because other prizes - including a tour of the city’s best dives with Jonathan Gold; a trip to New York City hosted by Jonathan Waxman and others; private dinners for up to a dozen people cooked by one of the star chefs; a New Orleans dream dining vacation - went for up to $35K each!

And then there was the feast: Goin spoke for a bit about how she wanted to hold this event because when she learned about Alex’s Lemonade Stand, she was touched (note to organizers: get Kleenex to sponsor next time) - as a mother, as a lover of children. And, she wanted to bring all of her friends together to share the cause. Score: Goin is friends with talent like David Tanis, Judy Rogers, Nancy Silverton, Susan Spicer and Giada De Laurentiis.

Lady Nancy Silverton brought a crew to help her scoop gelato so she could enjoy her Sunday - there were six or seven flavors to sample, from passionfruit sorbet to mint-chocolate stracciatella to salted caramel. Should we look for a gelato shop opening? At the next booth, a very pregnant (about to pop) Zoe Nathan tossed freshly fried fritters in cinnamon sugar while partner in crime and food Josh Loeb poured rich hot chocolate into mini cups for a take on chocolate con churros. And that would have been enough, but the Goin operation thought to bring Christina Olufson and the Tavern crew. Their patisserie of s’mores, Snickers bars and salted caramel macaroons elicited gasps. Through some miracle, Olufson and crew also managed to procure the sweetest post-summer strawberries. Dangerously, they placed said strawberries near a bowl of whipped cream and brown sugar. Cue adorable children and their chocoholic mothers.

Dessert inclusive, there wasn’t a bad dish on the lot. Paul Kahan, representing Chicago with award-winners Blackbird, avec and the Publican, served up “ham in hay”: a plate of house-made sausages, and roasted, caramelized ham topped with a slaw. Charcuterie was a theme of the night with NoLa’s Cochon serving assorted house sausages and Russell Moore from Oakland’s Camino slinging boudin blanc. The NoLa crew was out in full force, headed up by favorite Susan Spicer (Bayona), who couldn’t dish up grilled rosemary shrimp with artichoke bread pudding fast enough. The Cure’s Neal Bodenheimer had the drink of the night - a wordy name, but in punch form, it was sippable free flowing.

The London’s Tony Keene went modernist where all others served up rustic fare. His caramelized scallops with caper-raisin puree were beautiful. In higher demand than the lovely Jen Garner amongst this foodie crowd, Giada fans flocked to her table and even followed her around the event. De Laurentiis does a good farfalle, especially when it’s topped with crispy proscuitto. It was unclear whether her own branded farfalle made a difference, though the product placement was kind of cute.

Affable as ever, Jonathan Waxman, mum about his forthcoming LA restaurant, honored SoCal by serving vegetables, pure and simple: steamed string beans, lightly battered eggplant, roasted fingerlings, lettuce, cherry tomatoes. Nearby, Chris Bianco brought seasonal antipasto from Pizzerie Bianco. Their deceptively simple plates were a vegetarian’s wet dream: roasted tomatoes, house-made raisin fruit bread, gorgeous grapes, fresh chevre and ricotta, roasted peppers, kale, toasted walnuts. ‘Tis the season.

Cleverly taking advantage of the star power, BookSoup brought stacks of Tanis’, Goin, and Rogers’ classics along with a cash register. Alex Weiser (who may have supplied most of the vegetables on the lot), Providence’s Michael Cimarusti (not on the sponsor roster), and restaurant recruiter Brad Metzger hobnobbed with the locals. And, of course, there was a lemonade stand that served home-made lemonade, sold raffle tickets, and took checks in any amount. The only event to bring so many of the nation’s best chefs to one intimate venue, LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade Stand was quite possibly the food event of the year.
·Alex's Lemonade Stand Food Bonanza: Check Out The Chefs! [~ELA~]
— Daniela Galarza