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Food

Nothing Sour Here: Inaugural L.A. Loves Alex's Lemonade Event a Sweet Success

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The sun was out and beaming down over the lawn of the Culver Studios Sunday afternoon, and actress Jennifer Garner told the guests of the first-ever L.A. Loves Alex's Lemonade event that she was sure Alex herself had arranged for the beautiful day.

Garner was the honorary chair of the event, which brought together epicureans and cocktail, beer, and wine enthusiasts, for an afternoon of eating and mingling to benefit Alex's Lemonade Stand, a national organization that raises money to cure childhood cancers. Celebrated chefs, mixologists, wineries, and restaurants from around the country were set up in booths around the perimeter of the grassy area in the shadow of one of the famous buildings used in the classic film Gone With the Wind.

Local chefs made a brilliant showing in both the savory and sweets sections. At Neal Fraser's (Grace, BLD) table, the chef's wife, Amy, passed out plates of their "Whole Pig in a Box," while their pig-tailed daughter helped out in the booth alongside her look-alike American Girl doll in a matching mini chef's jacket. "How is this plate a 'pig in a box'?" we asked Mrs. Fraser. She pointed us to her husband, stoking the charcoal atop a box that held the aforementioned pig. The plate was a tender piece of pork with a savory brussel sprout and mustard potatoes.

A surprisingly delightful bite came from Chef Tony Keene of the London West Hollywood, whose pillow-soft caramelized scallop rested on a puddle of caper-raisin puree. Though local as a resident, but known nationally for her Food Network show, Giada De Laurentiis handed out plates of her "Pasta Ponza," between posing for picture after picture with adoring fans eager to say hello to the charming culinary star.

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Visiting chefs like Paul Kahan (The Publican, Chicago), Judy Rodgers (Zuni Cafe, San Francisco) and Chris Bianco (Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix) shone with their "Ham in Hay," Mini burgers, and antipasto plates, respectively. A bit of a letdown was Chez Panisse and their raw veggies with spices offering; though seasonal produce, and citrus, were the flavor stars of the day, this seemed like a bit too minimal for such an esteemed restaurant.

Desserts were the clear turf of Los Angeles talent. Host Chef Suzanne Goin's Tavern and Luques had a stunning dessert table piled high with Salted Caramel macarons I'm still thinking about, a decadent S'more bite, and hearty chocolate chip cookie, among other goodies. Zoe Nathan of Huckleberry served piping hot, fluffy, cinammon and sugar dusted beignets with miniature cups of hot chocolate for dipping, and Nancy Silverton of Osteria Mozza was scooping up divine gelato. Well, Silverton wasn't scooping, though she did say hello, and ask us which flavor we'd picked. It was the Meyer Lemon, perfect for the unexpectedly warm day, the lemon-y theme of the event, and to cleanse the palate.

For imbibers, the scene was rife with opportunities to sip, from tables of wines, to pulls of Craftsman brews (I could have spent the day draining cups of their Fireworks Saison) in the VIP section, and citrus cocktail concoctions, including a few bright sips from hosts Goin and David Lentz's Hungry Cat.

Though I had to skedaddle before the big auction (a day of eating with "the" J. Gold, among the many drool-inspiring foodie prizes), it was clear from the sunny skies, the tantalizing bites, the sizable crowd, the Goldilocks-ish "just right" amount of food booths and drink options, and the coltish pre-teen girls and energetic younger kids in their adorable lemon-yellow event tshirts smiling as they volunteered their afternoon for the cause, that L.A. didn't just like Alex's Lemonade, they truly love it, as the name suggests.