When we received the email from Foodbuzz guaranteeing our VIP entry to the Extravaganza for the Senses fundraiser, we were of course excited. Excited may not be the word to quite describe how much we were looking forward to this event. For the last twelve years, the evening has been regarded as one of the city’s most well known food and wine charity fundraisers. The evening’s proceedings would feature samples from some of the area’s top restaurants and wineries. Groove-worthy music provided by none other than DJ Scott Silva, whose residencies at the Downtown Standard and Echo Park’s Short Stop are well known, would set the mood. There was no doubt in our mind that we’d enjoy the event to the fullest. Sponsored by the New Friends of the Saban Free Clinic and The Wine House, all proceeds would go towards the Saban Free Clinic. Originally known as the Los Angeles Free Clinic, the organization continues to advocate and provide affordable healthcare–medical and dental–to those who need it most here in Los Angeles. A very worthy cause indeed.
The 20th Century Fox Studios lot was the location. After a windy drive over the hills of Beverly Glen Boulevard, we strapped on our VIP wristbands, left the car with the valet and made our way to the main area. It was time to survey the goodies on hand. Our passes included four hours of unlimited tasting and entry into the VIP lounge that offered additional samples from Citizen Smith and Ococoa, so with convenient plate and wine glass in hand, we made our way down the length of white tented tables, sniffing the scent of food and wine as we visited the first offerings.
Being part of the VIP crowd meant we had entry at 6:00 pm, whereas everyone else would not be able to enter the area until an hour later. It didn’t occur to us until halfway through the evening that the extra hour was actually a blessing. When there’s that much food and beverage in one place, you need all the time you can get. We started slowly, walking aimlessly from table to table, chatting with the hosts and trying to take pictures of everything. As we stood at the waist high, red table clothed tables designed to rest your plates, we saw the hungry folks gathering behind the ropes counting down the seconds until 7:00 pm. We chomped on our flavorful chicken from Rosti and the sweet and delicious buttternut squash ravioli and crunchy farro from Pomodoro as we sipped on Wyder’s Cider and tossed back a shot of sake. We just want to declare Pomodoro’s ravioli as one of the best we’ve had at a chain restaurant in a while, especially compared to the last sample we had in June. The pasta was perfectly al dente, the filling was naturally sweet, the brown butter sauce was subtle, and the crunch of the amaretti cookies was yet another sweet complement to each bite. Just goes to show you don’t have to go fancy to get good eats.
Food from various restaurants and catering services made up the majority of the tables along the left and right outer rows. Most of the tented tables in the middle were comprised of wineries. In addition to wineries, Skyy Vodka, Rubyy Blood Orange Energy, and Pom Wonderful, Izze, Cloud 9 and Fiji Water were a few of the beverage companies on hand mixing up cocktails and pouring drinks for the thirsty folks. Of course having all of those liquids on hand was a good thing, as one would surely need to be hydrated as they stuffed sample after sample into their mouths. We wanted to taste everything because that’s just the kind of people we are, but when you’re doing all of that mixing, it’s easy to get a fuzzy head. This is an early warning that a few blurry shots are the result of that fact. Please bear with us!
We tried to create a system of grabbing a new plate and a different wine, but that method went out the door once we realized most wineries had at least three wines on their tables. Talk about juggling! We moved in a zig zag pattern from one table to the next, nibbling on snacks, sipping on our pours, swishing the glass with water and trying a new one. There were a few that topped the wine list, and we plan to find them in our own neighborhoods. The two that truly stand out are the Honig Sauvignon Blanc and Laustau’s Sherry. The Spanish Albarino comes in a tight third.
As you can imagine, it’s not as easy as it sounds to eat and drink merrily when there’s so much food around. There comes a point where your waistband says it needs a break! After about an hour and a half of walking about, we made our way to the VIP lounge where there were tables and chairs to your weary feet and heavy belly. Though we were of full stomach, we had to grab one of the plentiful watermelon margaritas and samples from Citizen Smith and Ococoa. That’s right, we just had to. The Ococoa chocolates were deep and rich, perfect for a chocolate lover. On the other hand, Citizen Smith did not impress. They offered a jalapeno macaroni and cheese (bland), tuna tartare (warm and mushy), shrimp ceviche (funky black pepper after taste) and bread pudding (hard to the bite) with crème anglaise. Definitely a let down.
One of the best finds of the evening was Farm Fresh to You. We’d never heard of this company, which is a shame. They deliver fresh produce right to your front door. When we say that the honeydew and strawberries were the best we’d ever had, we’re not lying. They offer a small box to feed 1-2 people for $23.00, but we signed up for a trial delivery on the spot, which gave us both a $20 discount. That’s a box of produce at your door for $3! That can’t be beat folks. It just can’t. We went back to the table at the end of the night, and there were samples of balsamic marinated heirloom tomatoes. So sweet. So good. We couldn’t handle it.
We’ve shared one of the disappointments of the night–Citizen Smith. The second was Rush Street. Just like Citizen Smith, this was another restaurant we’d heard people talk about, but we’d never been there. The samples weren’t so great, which was a shame. Cold sliders and an odd to the taste shrimp ceviche is all we can remember now. They did have a sundried tomato hummus that wasn’t too bad, but it’s hard to mess up hummus. That being said, there were a number of dishes that blew us away. We’ve already raved about Farm Fresh to You’s produce, and Café Was had the best bacon wrapped dates we’ve tasted in a long time. Although we did not get a picture of it, 20th Century Fox Studios had a table of their own that we stumbled across at the end of the night. By then, we were so full. Beyond full. We took one plate of the Coconut Shrimp with Orange Chili Sauce to share. The chef at the table looked at us like we were crazy. One chomp into it, we deduced he was right. We were crazy for sharing. We both went back to get seconds–a plate for each of us! There were also dessert samples from Hansen’s Cakes, a feel good Antioxidant Salad from Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop and cool cucumber soup from Canelé. There were several other tables we didn’t even get a chance to visit, which should give you an idea of the breadth of offerings. One of the favorite treats we walked away with was a sample of dairy free pesto from Maison Le Grand. It was bright, crisp and pure to the tongue. We did take a picture, but it didn’t come out so hot. You will definitely see a recipe coming up that features this pesto.
There were free massages, giveaways, contests and raffles throughout the night. Of course the raffle was an additional effort to raise money for the Saban Free Clinic. People were really supportive and very happy to be there, confirming the fact that people do find it important to help others. Sometimes you think people don’t care, and then you’re surprised once you see that the human bond is stronger than you thought. Funny enough, we were both interviewed by a woman who planned to post the video soon highlighting the evening’s mission and the event as a whole. Whenever someone points a camera three inches from your face, there’s the tendency to freeze or become tongue tied. It’s possible we were victims of the frozen tongue. Hopefully, we won’t look too silly!
Another huge highlight of the evening was the musical selections of DJ Scott Silva. He had a great line up, and it felt like a party all night long. As the sun set and the stars popped up, people started moving more to the beats, shaking their heads to the tunes and letting the euphoria of music and food take over. It may have been all the wine actually, but that’s no matter. It was a great vibe, especially when any Michael Jackson song came on. By night’s end, no one wanted to go home. If the food and wine tables had been cleared out, we’re sure some folks would’ve stayed to keep the party going. And we would’ve been two of those folks!
Right before we left, we stumbled upon three familiar faces from the Food Network. They were doing a cooking demonstration that we missed entirely! What a bummer. Just as they were coming down from the stage, we asked for a quick picture. Look at all those Kool-Aid smiles! By then, it was time to snag the car from valet and head out. Just before leaving, we had someone grab our picture on the red carpet. Maybe we could be the Next Food Network Stars?
The entire evening went by so quickly. We spent hours nibbling, chatting and of course learning more about the Saban Free Clinic and its contributions to citywide inhabitants and the fight for affordable healthcare as a whole. We have to give a big thanks to Foodbuzz as usual for their help, and we want to give three cheers to the Saban Free Clinic for its work well done.
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