“Twenty-thousand!” a man yelled from his seat, “And I won’t go any higher—unless you peer-pressure me a little bit.” The crowd erupted in laughs, cheers, and applause, most people clapping one hand against any part of their body that wasn’t clutching a canapé or wine glass. It was just the first item of the live auction: a 20-person, all-inclusive, whole-pig barbecue at Weiser Farms in Pennyslvania complete with an all-star cooking staff.
That was just the tip of the iceberg. Overall, this year’s L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade event raised more than $1-million for childhood cancer research, exceeding last year’s number by about thirty percent. More than 2,000 guests and a slew of celebrities showed up, and—though philanthropy was definitely a motivator—none of it would have been possible without the chefs, vintners, and mixologists putting their best efforts on display. These were our top six bites from the event.
Adam Perry Lang’s Smoked Beef Ribs
His official dish was a smoked beef rib slider, but, at any guest’s request, he would casually hack off a fatty bit of meat directly from the bone and flip it with his cleaver right onto their plate. No barbecue sauce needed for this intensely smoky, perfectly seasoned bit of animal flesh. He may not currently have a restaurant of his own, but whenever Adam Perry Lang decides to show up, he reminds us that he is still a preeminent force to be reckoned with in the world of live-fire cooking.
Marc Vetri’s New England-Style Grilled Octopus Roll
Lobster rolls were poke before poke was poke. At some point, thanks to countless food trucks slinging identically mediocre copies of the same thing, L.A. reached its saturation point of barely dressed crustacean meat in cakey white bread. But, leave it to a chef from Philly to come in, reinvent the wheel, and restore our faith in the seafood roll. He combined tender charred octopus with mayonnaise, herbs, and various crunchy bits before throwing it all in a split piece of well-griddled white bread.
Nancy Silverton’s Lamb Chop “Scottadito” with Mint, Yogurt, and Fregola
Nancy Silverton knows her way around Mediterranean ingredients like it’s her job. Because, you know, it is. She had to duck cameras and boom mics while she turned-and-burned lamb chops on the grill before handing them off to her sous to be finished with lemon zest, yogurt, and fresh mint. The Italian descriptor “scottadito” literally translates to “scorched fingers”—implying the lamb chops are so delicious, you would intentionally cause yourself immeasurable pain rather than put them down. That’s not a bad way to put it.
Tyler Malek’s Waffles with Cheesecake Ice Cream, Rosé Lemon Curd, and Candied Rhubarb
The PDX-based ice cream shop has been gracing L.A. with its outlandish flavors and hipster vibes for the better part of a year now, and lines still haven’t died down. Well, Alex’s Lemonade patrons got to skip all the waiting on Saturday and get their fix right away. The candied rhubarb was like a vegetable-based Sour Patch Kid, and Salt & Straw proved once and for all that we should all, indeed, be soaking breakfast pastries in wine.
Ben Ford’s Veal Tartare with Smoked Tonnato Sauce
Ben Ford of Ford’s Filling Station pulled off this bite-sized play on the classic Piedmontese dish vitello tonnato—a combination of chilled veal and a mayonnaise and tuna-based sauce generally reserved for Christmas. But, what better occasion to pull this dish out of his hat than a charity benefitting childhood cancer research? Plus, after stoking the flames all night at the Wolfgang Puck barbecue two nights before, he was probably excited to get out of the heat and make a raw dish.
Michael Voltaggio’s Tomato Slushie With Avocado Whipped Cream
OK. So. This should likely be included in a separate “best beverages” roundup—but, given the presence of tomato and avocado, we’re chalking this one up as a salad. It was bordering on 90 degrees of pure gray haziness, and the heat from pizza ovens and open grills and smokers was getting overwhelming, Luckily, a few chefs played to the weather. And the tomato slushie made a surprising amount of sense, too. It was spicy, sweet, perfectly balanced with salt and acid, and, above all, incredibly drinkable.