Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Saban Free Clinic - Extravaganza for the Senses Feeds Body and Soul

With all the 'Carmageddon' warnings for the masses to keep their vehicles off the streets last weekend, most of Los Angeles heeded the doomsday style appeals - making it Autopia for those of us senseless daring enough to venture out.

There was lots going on in the city that weekend, and I was not going to miss out just because of the possibility of traffic (disclaimer: yes, it might have been easier for me to say as I live in the Valley and can either detour via more eastern routes to get down to Hollywood / mid-city or park & ride the Metro down). 

The first event I was glad to be able to make it to, was Extravaganza for the Senses, a food and wine focused event benefitting The Saban Free Clinic, which has been providing free health care to the Los Angeles community since 1967.  Forty mid to high end restaurants and dozens of wineries gathered at the Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood for the event, to the tune of $100 for General Admission and $225 for VIP early entry, valet parking and access to the exclusive VIP Lounge. 

I attended not as guest, but contributed as a volunteer working with a friend I'd made at another event - and this turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of the year for me all around.  I got to see behind-the-scenes, of strangers coming togehter for a good cause, pouring their efforts wherever it's needed to get the venue set up, whether it's manual labor (like transporting 10 pound bags of ice down the backlot in golf carts!) directing traffic or putting plates and glasses together to hand to guests.  I also loved seeing the comraderie between vendors as they came together on a Saturday night to offer their wares, generously donated to the cause - some even shared their supplies with others who had forgotten service items.

The event itself was aptly named - a true extravaganza for every sense: delicious eats from Street's Burmese Melon Salad to Michael's Gazpacho with burrata to The Sky Room's Maine Lobster Roll, to Pizza Antica's Pork Cheek and Pork Belly with Sweet Creamed Corn, to Jar's signature Chocolate Pudding  - it was a visual and savory/sweet feast.  Wine purveyors from Jeio to Far Niente were on hand to pour samples of their wines.  'Mystics' let guests get in touch with their playful/spiritual side, with quick readings set up just outside of the VIP lounge, while a henna station appealed to guests to get in touch of their artistic side with ornate (and temporary) tattoo designs. Burke Williams was on hand to provide complimentary massages.  Polite in Public provided a fun photo booth with LA backdrop for those who wanted to commemorate the occasion.  All to a fun soundtrack for the evening emanating from the DJ booth that spanned the 80's to date, with such classics from Rob Base "Joy and Pain" that take those of us who, shall I just say, are older than the millenial generation, back to carefree school days. (VIPs were also treated to exclusive offerings in the lounge like Veev cocktails)

There was also a silent auction with everything from travel packages to bottles of wine donated by vendors. 

After our volunteer shift ended, event organizers were kind enough to release us to enjoy the event as guests (after of course changing out of our volunteer tees).  It was so much fun hanging out with new friends we'd made, sampling the food we'd been eyeing all night, interspersing that with wine and cocktails, checking out the Gilt City cart for fresh spun cotton candy, to getting our henna tattoos and souvenir photo. One of the best things that added to the success of the event was of course the guests - for the most part they all seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves, and even when it would get a bit cramped with people trying to get through to stalls for food/wine - most people were nice, courteous, relaxed and there to have a good time (which you can't unfortunately always say of all events!)

All in all, a great event that I will personally look forward to making an annual outing.  New friendships were forged as everyone pulled together to make the event a success, all ultimately to give back to the community. It was a moving display of selflessless, that served as such a positive counterpoint to all the negativity of a car-centric city that had been made irate by the 'threat' of individual inconvenience that weekend.  Next year, Carmageddon The Sequel or not (I say bring it on, this year's Carmageddon was the best ever for those of us willing to risk getting behind the wheel) - I most definitely will consider this an event not to be missed.

Extravaganza for the Senses
Saturday July 16 7-10pm (VIP early entry at 6pm)

Sunset Gower Studios
1438 N. Gower Street, Hollywood, CA 90028
Event Website:

Your 'donation' is tax deductible:
For those who attended / are planning to attend next year: Know that not only does the price of admission goes towards a good cause - health care for those who cannot afford it - it's also tax deductible for you. According to the event site: The price you pay over and above the fair market value of the ticket is a charitable contribution and is tax-deductable to the fullest extent of the law. See site for more details.

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