A Flavorful Community

Culver City is bursting with flavors. While Akasha and City Tavern continue to be Downtown Culver City institutions, new hot spots, such as The Wallace, are also attracting foodies and locals alike. West on Washington, the Alibi Room continues to be a stronghold with their drinks and unique bar food, while A-Frame gets re-conceptualized. And in the middle of West Washington Boulevard and Downtown, there is an occasional gathering of food entrepreneurs and restaurant hopefuls.

I recently attended the World Foodie Fair held at LA Spice Cafe on Sepulveda Boulevard. The gathering was a pop-up: eight food entrepreneurs who want to kickstart their dream offer a sample of their food to determine if their food is good enough. Cost to sample is minimal: $1 for one tasting ticket, most samples cost three tickets. I sampled four of the eight stations: Pablo Chang, Cheeky Styley, Mexicain, and Opium Chocolate. Attendees also received a bonus ticket to sample Craft Meatball.

Craft Meatball is possibly the best meatball I have ever had; it was meaty and flavorful without the flavor overwhelming the meat. The roasted meatball was topped with cream Roquefort sauce. Cheeky Styley’s beef cheek cream puff was made with traditional French Choux pastry filled with tender Bordelaise braised beef cheeks and blue cheese potato mash then topped with horseradish cream and grated parmesan; it was also delicious. The description was true– it really melted in my mouth. And Pablo Chang did a great job fusing the flavors with his Asian barbecue pork belly with slaw and wasabi mayo. As to be expected, my sweet tooth required something post eating anything savory. I tried Opium Chocolate’s macaron with a surprise flavor. It was good, but I couldn’t identify the flavor: sweet with a slightly sweet/sour after taste. But the talk of the night was Mexicain’s French-inspired churros with sea salt dulce de leche. From the time I checked in at the door, I was urged by everyone I encountered to make sure I save three tickets for the churro station. They were right. I should have saved six.

At the end of the evening, attendees were asked to vote for their favorite. Food entrepreneurs who received the most votes got invited to the next World Foodie Fair along with a new set of entrepreneurs. After five minutes, two sheets, and checking and unchecking my vote, I finally decided on one and submitted the sheet before I could change my mind again.

Besides the food, what I appreciated about World Foodie Fair was the community effort. Husband and wife team Steve and Leanne Schwartz, who owns the building and operates LA Spice Cafe, respectively, not only opened up the space– including the kitchen– to the food entrepreneurs, but were also present and supportive throughout the event. World Foodie Fair organizers also explained that, prior to exhibiting samples at the event, food entrepreneurs met with a World Foodie Fair chef for feedback on the flavor and presentation.

With already exciting restaurants that align Washington Boulevard from the east to the west, coupled with a community supportive and nurturing of food entrepreneurs, Culver City will continue to be an exciting food destination.

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Humble Pie

Forgiveness is rewarding. And humbling. If you give people a chance to correct their mistake, they might surprise you two-fold.

Today, on Thanksgiving Day, I rushed to Coco’s to pick up the banana cream pie that I ordered for a party. I called yesterday afternoon, well before the 5 pm pre-order deadline. When I arrived, there was a long line that went into the outside sidewalks for pre-order and regular pick up. Employees were trying to sort out pre-paid, pre-order but not paid, etc. It was just chaos. And then I overheard that they were out of banana cream pie. I was still in the middle of the line and got a little nervous. Long story short, they were out of banana cream pies and they could not find my order.

I was livid. I was craving banana cream pie and I wanted to bring it to the party.

One of the employees said she would get the manager but I was just pissed. I left, drove away.

Then I realized that it’s Thanksgiving and where the heck was I going to find another decent pie? Also, looking for another place would just create work for me. I decided that I would go back, speak to the manager, and my “demand” would be to just get a pie and pay right away, instead of stand in the long line.

I walked up, asked to speak to the manager (I’m calm by now), and waited a couple of minutes. I explained the situation and she gave me my pie options. I told her I would just get one pecan. She gave me the bag and I walked up to the register and took out a $20 bill. She would not take it, sincerely apologized, and explained that it was chaotic and that she hoped I had a better day. She gave me two pies. She was genuinely nice– calming.

I was humbled. When I was driving away, I thought about writing a Yelp review and vowing never to eat there again. Even though my original intent of driving back was out of desperation and selfishness, I would like to think that there was a part of me that wanted to give Coco’s a chance to correct their mistake. Oftentimes, we end relationships with people and businesses without giving them a chance to respond. We forget that there were factors that played into the situations and that they were people, too. Businesses were also made up of people with feelings and were fallible.

So on this day of Thanksgiving, I am adding the manager of Coco’s Culver City on my list of people for whom I am thankful.