What’s better than a bunch of talented chefs serving up really good food, all in one place? The fact that they’re doing it in the zoo, of course! Don’t tell me you didn’t see that coming. It’s obvious, isn’t it?
After covering the zoo for years, through its Living Amphibians, Invertebrates and Reptiles (LAIR) habitat opening, and its Zoo after-hours event, I can truly say that each experience there has been wonderful.
This Saturday, the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association is holding their 4th annual Beastly Ball. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek (and taste) last weekend to share with you all, as the otters chirped in the background of the media day and food preview, held in the new Rainforest of the Americas.
The Beastly Ball is a fundraiser, described as “One of the Best Parties in Los Angeles” by KCBS/KCAL TV News. Each year, it features a unique opportunity to explore the L.A. Zoo after-hours. Attendees get to meet some animals up close, and even chat with the keepers. On top of that, there is dancing, live entertainment and a bountiful spread served up by some of L.A.’s most iconic restaurants.
Here’s what we tasted at the sneak peek:
Celestino Ristorante chef and owner Calogero Drago served a creamy, aromatic and perfectly cooked plate of Raviolini alla Quattro Stagione con Mascarpone e Salvia (Multi-Colored Raviolini Stuffed with Mixed Vegetables and a Mascarpone Sage Sauce), “inspired by the Los Angeles Zoo’s mandrill with its vibrant facial colors.”
Sam’s by the Beach chef and owner Sam Elias and assistant chef Kenji served a refreshing Purée of California Cantaloupe with Fennel, Green Apple, Cucumber and Fresh Mint, “inspired by the Los Angeles Zoo’s Botanical Gardens,” and a savory Wild Mushroom Soufflé with a rich Roasted Roma Tomato Coulis Sauce, “inspired by the Zoo’s orangutans.”
Maison Akira chef and owner Akira Hirose and Li Diep served a creamy-crunchy Homemade Duck Pâté with Cristillon Toast, and a flavorful Chilled Somen in Dashi “inspired by the birds at the Los Angeles Zoo.” (Not sure if this was the most politically correct source of inspiration… but the somen noodles were really good.)
El Coyote chef Jesus Nanez served steaming hot and sweet Green Corn Tamales, “inspired by the Los Angeles Zoo’s emerald tree boa.”
Taix chef Hugues Quintard served a bright Watermelon and Baby Tomato Confit Gazpacho with Tiny Croutons and Mint, “inspired by the Los Angeles Zoo’s Mexican slider turtle.”
El Cholo Los Angeles chef Gerardo Ochoa served creamy Crab and Cream Cheese Mexican “Snake Heads,” “inspired by the snakes at the Los Angeles Zoo.”
The Federal Bar chef James Markham served crispy Mac and Cheese Pops” inspired by the Los Angeles Zoo’s otters,” and fresh Watermelon, Lomo and Balsamic “Anaconda Bites” “inspired by the Zoo’s lizards.”
Canelé chef Corina Weibel served a light Canelé Dande-Lion Salad with bitter notes, “inspired by the Los Angeles Zoo’s new lions.”
Jersey Mike’s Kassie Simmons and Caroline Simmons served up hearty subs and created Hammy the Hippo, a.k.a. the Jersey Shore Favorite sandwich, “inspired by the Los Angeles Zoo’s two hippopotamuses.”
Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood chef Khaled Masrouga served a creamy, tangy Cheesecake with Oreo Cookie Pieces, “inspired by the Los Angeles Zoo’s zebras.”
Glorious Gourmet & Garnish Café owner Jocelyn Hanson served a citrusy, chocolaty Golden Lion Tamarin Cake, “inspired by the cotton-top tamarins in the L.A. Zoo’s Rainforest of the Americas.”
Yummy Cupcakes’ senior pastry chef Ambar Cortez and pastry chef Lanie Clodfelter-Farrell served sweet, colorful Coral Snake Cupcake Truffles and Cupcake Parfaits, “inspired by the Los Angeles Zoo’s Coral Snake and the new Rainforest of the Americas exhibit.”
Did you know that the L.A. Zoo is an international leader in the preservation of endangered species? While roaming the zoo, we spoke with a docent near the Indian elephants who passionately explained to us the process of rescuing and rehabilitating animals who could no longer survive in the wild. He explained how zoos make trades with other zoos for animals depending on where they would thrive best.
Each year, the Beastly Ball hosts nearly 1,000 attendees, and raises over $1 million for the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Amazing, right? The event is this Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 6 p.m. at the L.A. Zoo. You can find more information over at lazoo.org.
This year, the Beastly Ball will also celebrate the 50th anniversary of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List was created to assess and monitor species at the global level, to highlight their risk of extinction, and to promote their conservation.
Among those in attendance on media day were: Connie Morgan, President of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA); Richard Lichtenstein, Co-Chairman of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association; Carolyn Hennessy, actress/animal rescue advocate/GLAZA supporter (“True Blood,” “Cougar Town,” “General Hospital”); Denise M. Verret, Deputy Director of the Los Angeles Zoo; Tom LaBonge, Los Angeles City Councilmember of the 4th District.
Even if we can’t all afford to attend the Beastly Ball (tickets are $1000 per person!), let’s do our part in helping spread the word about supporting our amazing zoo!