Showing posts with label foodbuzz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label foodbuzz. Show all posts

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Foodbuzz 24x24: A New Tradition


Thanksgiving is the best holiday.
A celebration of the autumn bounty and togetherness... It's all so cozy and insular however that it can be easy to forget about those without a home, food, kith and kin.
Looking back on the past year, I am very thankful for the luxuries I've been afforded amongst friends, cooking meals, hosting events, and bringing people together. But there is a point when I have to question what else I could potentially be doing, bigger picture, to share with the community at large, outside of my social group.

Over the summer my friend Katie organized a volunteer "cooking club" one night to prepare a meal for the residents of the Downtown Women's Center in downtown Los Angeles. The DWC is an organization aiding the many needs of homeless women, serving as both a day center offering hot meals, showers, computers, phones, and case management, as well as 71 units of permanent supportive housing. The center has been a fixture in downtown since 1978 when founding director Jill Halverson offered a much needed respite to the man's world of Skid Row - its shelters, pantries and social services accessible only to men. Today, the DWC is nationally recognized as a prototype for programs striving to meet the unique needs of homeless women.

Preparing a meal that would feed 130 homeless and low income women that night was an amazing experience, and ever since I've been wanting to gather a group of my own to come to the center and cook a meal. And what better time than Thanksgiving to give back? Of all the food bloggers and culinarily-astute friends I have I didn't expect recruiting to be an issue.
Because budgets are tight and ingredients to cook for so many women can be costly, I submitted to Foodbuzz 24 x 24 and was so pleased that we were selected for their sponsorship. Now to organize a menu, and shop!


Collard greens. By the case. I suppose there's a first time for everything!


15 pounds of black-eyed peas: check.


(*Flair).


Heaviest cart I've ever pushed! I panicked a little how I'd store the perishables until the next day in my little fridge... Move over beer, I've got 30 pounds of chicken to get in there! (Ah, it's amazing the things you can accomplish with determination and a little elbow grease).


Day of! Katie, the DWC's volunteer coordinator welcomes us to the kitchen, and gives the group a little background about the center.


Hairnets on! Aprons tied! Hands washed!


Kristin The Cuisinerd harnesses her inner cafeteria lady and perfects her hairnet.


Our Menu

Oven-fried Chicken
Sweet Potato Fries
Collard Greens
Black-eyed Peas

We only had two hours in the DWC kitchen to complete our prep work. Clock ticking, I delegated tasks and everyone manned their work stations with good-natured dedication.


Popular lifestyle blogger H.C. of L.A. and O.C. Foodventures shows off his Nutty Professor apron, and mad chicken tender-making knife skills.


Teal tackling the collards, while Christine volunteered for the arduous task of sorting the peas...


Robin, our resident chicken man. Michael opted for sweet potato duty.


Project Collard: Complete.


Cat's laugh could be heard throughout the kitchen, and Alexis came all the way from Iowa to peel yams!


Kristin couldn't believe that 30 bunches of collards and 15 cartons of vegetable stock would fit in her cauldron.


Just like at Spago...


I couldn't have asked for a more enthusiastic, fun, and spirited group. We prepped a meal for 130 women in 2 hours flat, had everything labeled and in the walk-in for the following day's lunch service.
Before we parted, Katie lead us to the front of the building where Made, a new cafe/gift boutique run by the DWC was having a holiday reception. The beautiful space was created to "break the cycle of poverty and chronic unemployment by helping low-income and homeless women discover their talents and develop their skills through job readiness training and product development opportunities." The shop sells gift-ready homemade goods by DWC residents, such as vintage teacup candles, beaded ornaments, repurposed journals, and succulent arrangements. The cafe proudly serves Groundwork Coffee and prepared foods by Tiara Cafe (both also native to downtown). All proceeds go directly back into the DWC for job training and skills-building workshops. It felt SO good to get some early holiday shopping done there versus the Black Friday circuit. Highly recommended!


According to Katie the meal was a hit with the women, receiving rave reviews. While I think our group was confident about creating a good menu, what made me the most proud was how many people (almost everyone, really) thanked and told me how much they couldn't wait to come back and do this again, and soon!


If you want to find out more about organizing your own group or how to get involved as an individual, visit the DWC's volunteer page at http://dwcweb.org/volunteer.htm. And of course, the center has many holiday needs right now as they're giving each woman a personalized gift this season. To learn more about that, visit http://dwcweb.org/holidays/index.htm.
I urge those outside of Los Angeles to find an organization in your community that would benefit from a home-cooked meal. Food is love, fit to be shared.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Foodbuzzed: T-Flo Redux Dinner


Foodbuzz Blogger Fest 2011 left lasting impressions in several forms, but Tyler Florence's "#T-Flo" Twitter trending during his cooking demo at the gala dinner may be the favorite of many attendees. While we waited, hungry for our first course, bloggers giggled at T-Flo's casual chatty demeanor, sensual relationship with his ingredients, and appreciation of steam. He whipped up cider-marinated pork chops, red cabbage, handmade spaetzle and mustard sauce before our eyes in minutes. We could smell it. We couldn't wait. We wanted it. We needed it.


Suffice to say we were not served T-Flo's mouth-watering Eastern European-inspired supper. (We got wedding steak). But that didn't stop Sabrina The Tomato Tart, Andy Windattack and I from trying our hand at his menu the evening Foodbuzz Fest came to a close. And dare I say largely improving it?!


Sabrina is one mad host. She even had enough frilly vintage aprons for everyone!
After our trip to Bi-Rite for all the goods, Mark of [No Recipes] came over to help. He didn't put on his apron though...


First thing's first, we got our Heritage Foods pork chops marinating in a bath of Samuel Smith's organic cider, brown sugar, salt, allspice berries and whole long pepper.


Red cabbage: Check.


Beer break! Sabrina produced a chilled bottle of honey ale from her cellar - perfect with the Bi-Rite pretzel I nabbed for a starter.


Not surprisingly, Andy had a vision for a delicious salad to start the meal of right.


Gorgeous persimmon, pomegranate, and paper-thin radishes bejeweled his citrus-kissed winter salad.


An Alsatian 2010 Domiane Roland Schmitt Sylvaner Grand A Petit Leon was a crisp and supple wine pairing with the salad (and might have been into the entree course, had we not finished the spritely bottle while cooking!)


Handmade spaetzle? Yawn. We decided stinging nettles might amp up this dish. Nettle spaetzle? What sounds cooler than that? Mark volunteered for the dangerous task and helped whip up a killer dough.


Many kitchen tools were tested for spaetzle-making ability, but a simple dough scraper and utility knife won. The technique is what took the most time...


We rendered pancetta fat to lightly fry the fluffy boiled spaetzle in for added crispness and flavor.


We couldn't leave dessert out of our Germanic feast. As the cool autumn air was settling into the bay, warm apple pie was the clear solution. Sabrina was all over it.


Would T-Flo approve of basic apple pie? Perhaps... But we wouldn't. I suggested adding some dimension with crumbles of pork sausage, and naturally cheese came up next. Aged white cheddar, pile it on!


Andy plates while bloggers document. Just another day...


Behold: Our cider-marinated pork chop, pickled red cabbage and fennel kraut, parsnip & sunchoke mashers, fried nettle spaetzle, and creamy yogurt mustard sauce.


We enjoyed the meal with a 2009 Van Volxem Saar Riesling, a delightfully dry fruity German wine, and perfect blind date.


The pie was a delicious brunch-for-dessert disguised treat, gussied up with a scoop of Bi-Rite Maple Walnut ice cream. The table was split in favor of the sausage, but in the end everyone's plate was clean.


Groggy from the long Foodbuzz weekend, hours of cooking, glasses of wine, and hermitage from the cold outside beyond the steamy window, we sat, admiring our tablescape with gratuitous irony sharing laughs. You're right T-Flo, spaetzle is the new black. But what's the new nettle?