On a recent Sunday, my pal, Alice, and I were thrilled to finish an exhausting week-end at a wonderful foodie event, the Sweet & Savory Spectacular Benefit. It was put on by C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program,) whose purpose is to work with “public schools across the country to prepare underserved high school students for college and career opportunities in the restaurant and hospitality industry.” Since I’ve watched my young foodie protege, Ronnie Hazel, Jr. prepare for a career in that very business practically since he was born, I know how valuable a program this is!

A sampling of the buzz.  Photo by Karen Salkin.

A sampling of the buzz. Photo by Karen Salkin.

The Spectacular was held at the Art Institute of Los Angeles, (whose restaurant I favorably reviewed on my show several years ago,) and was quite the success.

This benefit featured several rooms and outdoor areas with different happenings, like cooking classes, food demonstrations, a silent auction, and the very popular alcoholic beverage room.

But the highlight, of course, was the sampling of dishes from many local eateries. There were over two dozen participating restaurants, from all different points of the Los Angeles restaurant spectrum, with everything from the freshest fruits and vegetables to oysters courtesy of the most trendy seafood-er of the moment.

It was all overwhelming and oh so delicious! One of the aspects I enjoyed most about it was that the sponsors in the main room served one or two dishes of their savories for the first half of the four-hour event, and then moved on to a dessert or two for the “sweet” portion of the program. I got a kick out of those places doing double-duty on their tastes.

But the second floor was all about the sweets, all day, baby! We finally got up there in time to nab the last two apple crumb cake ice cream pops, straight from a cart!

Here are some of our personal faves:

Out of this machine came the best dessert ever! Photo by Karen Salkin.

Out of this machine came the best dessert ever! Photo by Karen Salkin.

I rarely go nuts about a new dessert, especially something so non-or-low-caloric, but I could have eaten just the chocolate and coconut sort-of shaved ice from Sweet Crush in Brentwood, and been ecstatic. I could not get enough of it. I’m not quite sure exactly what it is, but it’s like a creamy ice that feels like air but tastes like heaven.

Alice had a much different favorite–the caramel donuts from BLD. We had heard everyone raving about them downstairs, and she agreed with them. She said, “OMG! The crazy gooey and yummy warm donuts with a generous caramel drizzle, topped with pecans, were mouth-watering. You have to eat them hot to really experience them. They’re a must-try!”

I didn’t try any because even hearing the d-word makes me very queasy. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but when I first got to LA as a teen-ager, my very first job was at Stan’s Corner Shoppe in Westwood Village; their specialty was the fresh-made donuts that Stan whipped-up right in the window! I was the hot dog girl, because lunch was served on the other side, but the only thing we were allowed to take home was donuts. So needless to say, I can’t even smell them anymore without getting sick.

Okay, back to the Sweet and Savory event. When Alice and I were totally full, and they practically had to roll us out of there, we went back over the whole place, to make sure we hadn’t left anyone out. When we spotted Mediterranean classic, (really, Lebanese,) Open Sesame, we were thinking of having another bite of their uber-generous plates. Most of the other restaurants served just one dish that day, which was totally fine and expected, but these people served us each a plate full of hummus, tabouli, chicken, baba ghannouj, and a few other little touches. We were still craving it , so were going to finish off the day with a second helping, when we noticed their amiable chef, Jefferson Del Rey, being kind enough to offer food to take home to some of the students who had worked the event; he even boxed it for them himself! How kind of him! I’m sure they were thrilled to receive such a bonus!

The most surprising aspect of the day came courtesy of Pink’s Hot Dogs. I’ve long hated those wieners, and can never understand why that place is so popular. (Several people have told me it’s because they’re so cheap.) But, always willing to give more chances than most people deserve, I figured I’d do another taste test at this event, where Pink’s was featuring an attractive presentation. And you know what I discovered? Their hot dogs were indeed good enough tasting; it’s the chili that was throwing me off all these years! So, I’m sorry to have maligned their dogs so much in the past. Now, if ever I need to go there, I can just get them with no chili, and I’ll be fine. Good to know. Really.

Just some of the goodie bag contents.  Photo by Karen Salkin.

Just some of the goodie bag contents. Photo by Karen Salkin.

Another fun perk of the Sweet & Savory Spectacular was that I very happily ran into my old restaurant reviewing colleague, Eric Boardman, there. He’s on the Advisory Board of C-CAP, and very adeptly ran the show. It pays to have a big booming voice when you’re trying to get the attention of a few hundred guests!!!

One of Alice’s favorite parts of the event was the parting goodie bags, (which we were not even expecting,) because she cooks and bakes, and the bags were chock full of kitchen essentials, like fresh chili peppers and lemons, utensils, spices and sauces, and, the best thing to me, a little bag of chocolates!!!

If you’re in Los Angeles and missed this year’s event, be sure to check-out C-CAP’s website below, and see what other fun and education they’re coming up with next. And mark down the date of the 2015 Sweet and Savory Spectacular!

For more info, go to: www.ccapinc.org


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