As I've been settling back into the LA food scene after my time in Paris, me and my belly have been happily discovering and digesting fabulous food from the latest restaurants (that continue to open no matter what the economy is doing) to new supper clubs and underground dining establishments. So when I stumbled upon event information for a private, members only marketplace called The Secret Fork, I knew I had to go check it out.
The Secret Fork is currently helmed by someone who likes to be referred to as Robin Hood, since the organization's goal is to take from the rich corporations and give to the start-up artisans. "Robin Hood" and friends have helped to create roving food-focused events all around Los Angeles, showcasing the local farmer, baker and popcorn maker who can't compete with the big business of food companies in the area.
The vendors pay a nominal fee to sample and sell their products on site, while consumers donate $5 to cover event logistics, but people aren't turned away for lack of funds. Robin Hood is not getting rich with these events. The mission is more altruistic of bringing the local food community together to experience handcrafted delicacies.
The Secret Fork is members only, but membership can be acquired by signing an extensive release form, though I think they should add some sort of taste test or hot pepper eating contest to further vet the true foodies. The event I went to, sans food contest, was held at a beautiful craftsman home in Venice, complete with a retro chic Air Stream trailer in the yard that doubled as a tea tasting room. Yes, tea tasting room.
Adam Yasmin, aka the Teaometrist's mission it is "to promote self-discovery through Gongfu Tea culture, sourcing organic & wild-harvested teas direct from origin." As Adam describes it, he just creates the space for you to have your own journey, and that pretty accurately depicts what The Secret Fork is all about. It's about putting artisan chefs and local food producers in the same place with the people who care about these things, and voila, the magic happens.
On the top level of the house, there was an artisan coffee maker, Forge, hand roasting, raw green beans. Like many of the vendors at the event, the man who began the company, started making some amazing coffee in his home and that began some home roasting. Word spread, friends flocked, and a business was born.
Susann Edmonds who started Jabberwocky Foods, a wonderful jerk sauce and marinade, has a similar story. Pals couldn't get enough of her fabulous flavors, so Susann worked for months and months creating the perfect sauce, and now she's working just as hard to get people besides her friends to see and buy it. She just cracked the code on getting into the uber popular Hollywood Farmer's Market, so she's off and hopefully running.
Susann also teamed up with another all natural, boutique condiment company called Papa Sauce, to create some dishes to show off all the unique flavors. Chef Mateo was working the grill creating different taco combos like pulled pork and Jabberwocky Jerk, Memphis beef and Papa Sauce, and the sleeper hit of a punchy, vegetarian plantain and beet taco.
For the non-meat eaters, Mother Organica was sampling and selling organic and vegan cookies, quiches, and the most amazing eggless egg salad I've ever tasted. OK, I may not have ever tasted eggless egg salad before, because why remove a perfectly good egg, but after sampling the sweet and savory flavors, I was sold.
Marlene from Savour This Moment, is a chef and caterer who was kickin' out rave-worthy salad dressing for all of her dinner parties until her friends pushed her to start packaging and selling them. She now has a line of sauces (pistachio mint chutney, red pepper romesco, cilantro thai dressing - yum!) that she's trying to sell at farmer's markets and small boutiques across LA.
Then there was the magnanimous Magnus Stefansson who was serving beautiful smoked salmon with a variety of spicy, pickled sauces to promote his Scandinavian restaurant Gravlax, now open in Culver City.
Cake Bar has set out to combine the best of a few worlds. Can't decide between drinking a Guiness or having a brownie. Fear not, you can now drink your Guiness in brownie form. With items like margarita and pina colada cupcakes, it's good to know that you can have your drink and eat it too.
Z Confections was also on hand sampling and selling a line of caramel corn that infused unique seasonings like cayenne, cinnamon, coconut curry and strawberry, but not all together, though they may not be such a bad idea.
To wash things down, there were two young kids selling lemonade, the ultimate local, artisanal product.
For something a little stiffer, the serape wearing boys of Bad Hol Brewing were treating guests to some homemade libations including pale ale, stout and even a zippy jalapeño infused creation. Ole.
The whole event felt like a backyard garden party at a friend's house, assuming you have really talented friends. It was a really friendly bunch of both buyers and sellers with everyone happy to be there, and I don't think it was just because of the jalapeno beer. I also found an air of inspiration in talking these artisans who have been doing something they love and now are trying to turn their passion and talent into a business. I'm a big proponent of supporting the local food scene, and The Secret Fork makes it that much easier and enjoyable. Check their facebook page for the next event.