Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Saban Free Clinic: Extravaganza for the Senses - One of my Fav Events in LA

The Saban Free Clinic's annual fundraising event, Extravaganza for the Senses, is one of my favorite food events in LA.  Maybe because it's a fun night out in a setting that's 'glamourous' as it's a studio in Hollywood, making you feel like you have behind-the-scenes access, while small and intimate enough that you don't feel like you're getting swept up in the wave generated by some marketing machine in overdrive.  Maybe because organizers are fantastic in providing entertainment (DJs, photo booths, fortune tellers, henna artists, massages...) as well as the AYCE and AYCD. Definitely because you get delicious bites of some amazing food from some of the top restaurants in LA - and you get to be selfish in your indulgence and magnanimous at the same time - with 100% of proceeds from the event going to a great cause: providing healthcare and social services to those who cannot afford it.

Last year I was a volunteer, and event organizers were kind in letting us wander and enjoy the event after we had finished our shifts!  This year organizers very generously provided a media pass - and they let me have VIP access too, I was superexcited to check out what the VIP lounge had to offer!
The event is basically set up along a main 'street' at the Sunset Gower Studios, with tables on either side offering all kinds of deliciousness for foodies and wine lovers alike.  I'm really not a big wine drinker but it must have been heaven for those who are: there were tables of freely flowing vino as far as the eye could see, and they poured all night.  I mainly flitted between restaurant tables - one of the first that drew my eye was Soleto, a newly opened "trattoria an pizza bar downtown" that I still need to try.  As it was a hot and humid summer evening, they wisely brought cold foods - and a lovely spread of it!  Salads in shot glasses: sauteed shrimp, salumi and olive, and salmon potato, and samplers of tiramisu and strawberry shortcake - all delicious.
Last year one of the most popular booths was Chaya, and I made sure to hit it early this time before they ran out.  LOVED the mojito-infused compressed watermelon, served in refreshing bite-sized cubes on a pick - the perfect summer treat. 

Chaya's other offering was just as great - shrimp ceviche with yuzu.  Love the beautiful colors and hit of crisp, bittersweet citrus for an Asian twist.

Another cold serve item I was impressed with, was the cucumber dill gazpacho from Upstairs 2.  It was like the Goldilocks of gazpacho - not too thick, not too weak - just right.  And super refreshing. 

Upstairs 2 also served a duck confit with wild mushroom ragu and baked polenta.

A restaurant I was pleasantly surprised to see was D'Cache, a cute little hidden gem of a Mediterranean place in Toluca Lake.  It's one of those places that transport you, and make you feel like you're on vacation for a hour or two or three.  And the food is pretty good as well!  At this event they brought red wine braised short rib empanadas - I loved the rich, flavorful filling and the presentation on these.

Their second bite was a cucumber round stuffed with salmon ceviche.  I loved the flavors and textures of the stuffing!

Aside from food there is also a silent auction and select booths offering different accessories - bags, scarfs, jewelry.  I truly madly deeply wanted these paper thin gold filigree, subtly crystal studded earrings - but unfortunately they were over $100 and out of my price range.  So back to coverage of the food it was...
The brightly colored, whimsical yet elegant displays at the Sweets & Treats Inc. booth caught my eye.  They were offering vanilla cake pops with a sugar coating that reminded me of gumdrops, in really fun colors.  These were more pretty than tasty though...

Quickly running out of stomach space, I knew I had to hit one more super popular booth that also ran out last year:  Jar.  With their dynamic duo of chocolate or butterscotch budino.  So smooth, creamy and delicious.  Wish I had room for 10 more of these.

Saving the mythical VIP lounge for almost last - I happily made my first stop there at the cocktail counter.  They were serving this PAMA cocktail, a version of the mint julep using the pomegranate liquer and I think bourbon or whiskey (can't remember which...oops, yeah I had a good time).  It was a bit strong for me but I loved the gorgeous presentation with the huge leaves of mint!
There are also two food stations within the lounge, one of which was AOC!  You could watch chefs cook up pork belly and serve them hot off the grill with ricotta and a juicy slice of peach.
Bliss Spa sponsored massage, facial and nail stations at the event too!  Some of these were offered outside, but within the VIP lounge the line was shorter and I was able to slide in one of each!  They did a quick color change on my nails (and I discovered I love Essie ChinChilly, a mocha color tinged with purple), gave me an oxygen mini-facial (kind of cool with this little plastic gadget blowing a mist onto your eye areas to hydrate it), and a 10-minute massage.  Genius idea to have this at the event...
One of the cool things about this event too is that everyone is here for a good cause, so people tend to be just really nice overall, it's less of a 'scene' though it vibe is very high energy and fun. Towards the end of the night people kind of let loose on the impromptu dance area by the DJ outside the VIP lounge and vendors start giving away bottles they didn't end up finishing etc. or trading others for food they missed while working - so great to see the bonding and comraderie that happens among vendors as well as total strangers connected by food for the body and soul.
Thanks for another wonderful experience and caring for those who are in need.  Looking forward to the next one!


Extravaganza for the Senses
Saturday July 21, 2012 7-10pm (VIP early entry at 6pm)
Sunset Gower Studios
1438 N. Gower Street, Hollywood, CA 90028
Event Website: thesabanfreeclinic.org

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.


  1. Sounds like an awesome event. Will have to check it out next year.

  2. Thanks for reading! Definitely a fun night out and all for a great cause too :)

  3. so this is all the food I missed.



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