Tuesday, October 12, 2010

GOOD FOOD FOR ALL-A Taste of LA Foodshed-Part Two

A Taste of the Los Angeles Foodshed
Part Two

As you may remember, I was in the midst of telling y’all of my October 6th uplifting experience in an 1870’s cathedral – St. Vibiana’s – now just plain Vibiana’s. A Good Food For All heavenly reception that kicked off California’s Roots of Change (ROC) Network Summit: Healthy Food and Farms. It also served to honor Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s LA Food Policy Task Force committed to bringing affordable, healthful food to all Angelenos. Some of the greatest chefs in LA (and in the country) were volunteering their time and culinary expertise to raise money toward that goal.

When last I left you, I had taken refuge from the white pillars and white marble, the rows of tables and throngs of people...

...and had found a spot in a dark wooden confessional to await the Mayor’s arrival. But, directly across from me was Sal Marino’s Il Grano table and the aroma of Tuscan tomato bread soup drew me out of my clositered refuge.

The enormous room’s side doors were open letting in the night air infused w/ the humidity of the day’s earlier storms, but that didn’t matter. Think of a balmy, slightly humid night at the beach, as you’re feasting on a delicious bowl of soup… The soup lived up to that image.

Nearby was David Myers' Comme Ca, Pizza Ortica table and his smoked pork loin Terraine de Campagnis. I grabbed one. OK, two!  Those were ‘hail Mary’ delicious. Or should I say ‘hail Myers?’

Next up – Melisse chef Josiah Citrin’s grilled Jimenez family farm rack of lamb w/ Schaner Farm zephyr squash, eggplant & basil.

The lamb was cooked perfectly – so pink & tender it melted in your mouth and the accompanying flavors made it divine.

Then more lamb…How could I resist Zach Pollack and Steve Samson’s grilled Niman Ranch lamb ribs w/ celery leaf salsa verde and radishes? My resistance lasted, oh – about three seconds tops.

It was fine wine time and I found some in the pour of a 2007 Wrath pinot noir (dare I say it was the grapes of wrath?) and a 2007 Praxis merlot. Both delicious.

I meandered over to the LA Food Bank table and spoke w/ Jessica, who told me about the good work the Bank is doing by distributing donated produce and food to LA’s missions, shelters and food kitchens... 

…then found the tables of the University of California Cooperation Extension Common Ground Garden Program

and the Community Garden Council – both dedicated to bringing fresh produce to people through community gardens. When I looked at the map, I was impressed to see how many little ‘Gardens of Eden’ there were in Los Angeles and was so taken w/ the achievements of these programs.
I wandered some more through the crowd and ended up at Susan Feniger & Mary Sue Milliken’s Cuidad, Border Grill & Street restaurants’ table. The menu: grilled fish tacos made w/ Alaskan halibut, roasted corn salsa & avocado on homemade corn tortillas w/ ali Amarillo aioli AND potato rajas quesadillas w/ farm grilled potatoes, roasted peppers, Oaxacan string cheese in a homemade flour tortilla w/ chipotle crema & spicy tomato salsa. Wow! This was not Taco Bell.

The Mayor’s speech was still a while away which meant more ‘tasting’ for me… and what could be better than a sumptuous offering from Suzanne Goin of AOC, Lucques & Tavern restaurants. Her manna from heaven was taleggio foccacia w/ Flora Bella Farm’s rapini, leeks & Concord grapes. Cue the choir!

And then there was Dan Mattern of Ammo with his dungeness crab creation on thinly sliced radishes. Who else would think of making a canapé on a sliced radish? Delicious and good for you. If you could serve this kind of food to kids, those golden arches and other fastfood joints would be out of business (well, maybe not – but you get my meaning).

I had one more stop before the Mayor arrived and that was at the Farmer’s Kitchen table...

part of the Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA) organization which is active in the community distributing nutritious food to low income families, promoting info on health, nutrition and agricultural issues and is committed to working w/ the local gov’t and various agencies to stimulate development and creating jobs.

One of the most innovative programs financed by SEE-LA is a program where low income Angelenos who have food stamps can shop at the farmers’ markets. For every $1.00 in stamps they use, the farmer will provide another dollar’s worth of food.

The Farmer’s Kitchen, with Chef Ernie Miller,

also a master gardener and master canner, is a community space that provides job training, cooking lessons and delivers farm fresh food to the area thru innovative programs and has a retail café which sells ‘healthy’ prepared foods using local ingredients bought at the farmer’s market. It also provides lunches to local schools.

How appropriate to find this program and the other community programs participating in this evening’s inspirational event, along w/ the ‘angel’ chefs and farmers who donated their time, talents and food in the former St. Vibiana Cathedral. Saint Vibiana, the patron saint of Los Angeles, is, after all, also known as the patron saint of ‘nobodies’ – those people without influence or power. I think she’d approve… I know she would have loved the food.

When the Mayor arrived he made his way through the crowd, stopping to thank many of the participants.

At the podium, he expressed his desire AND commitment to create a rational food policy in LA to combat our city’s high percentage of childhood obesity and to promote nutrition and sustainable farming in the many fertile areas in and around the city. Los Angeles had tried to start a food policy council a decade or so earlier, but it failed… He feels we can’t fail this time and hopes that this renewed interest by community leaders, local farmers and chefs is a wonderful kick-off to the city’s and state’s goal of ‘good food for all.’ His commitment was deeply felt and inspiring.

As the evening came to a close it was time for one last tasting. Dessert! And what better than a coconut, white creamy ball of sugar-y delight from Cake Monkey. As you can see – the desserts were works of art. And worth the wait!

All in all… good food – good policy – great event.

One final note: There were many more chefs, farms and programs involved with the evening’s event. I wish I could have gotten around to all of them.

But, to all – a sincere thank you.


To learn more about these programs and how you can help, please visit:

Roots Of Change (ROC) visit: http://www.rootsofchange.org/
Good Food For All: http://goodfoodla.org/
Los Angeles Food Bank: www.lafoodbank.org/
LA Community Garden Council: www.lagardencouncil.org/
University of Calif. Cooperative Extension LA County Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources: http://celosangeles.ucdavis.edu/


Josiah Citrin
1104 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Suzanne Goin
11648 San Vincente Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049

Praxis & Wrath Wines

Cake Monkey Bakery

Steve Samson & Zach Pollack

Susan Feniger & Mary Sue Milliken
Border Grill, Cuidad, Street

David Myers

Ammo Café
Dan Mattern
1155 N. Highland
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Il Grano
Sal Marino
11359 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90025


Richard said...

Food for the belly and food for the soul... a great night!

Kathy said...

Ilona! I just caught up on your blog! You did a spectacular job on the food fair! Your descriptions and Richard's photos made my mouth water! Although we couldn't attend, after reading your magnificent descriptions, I almost felt like I was there with you

Shauna said...

"Really lovely blog, Ilona. The pix mingled w/ the info is great!"

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