If you're a fan of the legendary cookbook writer Paula Wolfert - and if you aren't already, you should be - then you have somewhere to be on Sunday, April 27, when Wolfert will be in town for an event that's part feast, part fundraiser.
Wolfert, the five-time James Beard Award-winning author of many extraordinary cookbooks, including The Cooking of Southwest France, Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco and groundbreaking books on Mediterranean cooking, was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. True to character, Wolfert has responded to her diagnosis with the same kind of tenacity and zeal that she's brought to her lifetime of culinary explorations, becoming a leading spokesperson for Alzheimer's. If you've ever cooked your way through her myriad versions of cassoulet, you'll appreciate the profound dedication that Wolfert is now bringing to her new project.
A stellar group of local chefs will be on hand for the Mediterranean feast - including Nancy Silverton, Mary Sue Milliken, Susan Feniger, Evan Kleiman, Robbie Richter, Matt Molina and Bruce Kalman - and will be preparing an astonishing menu of dishes inspired by Wolfert's many cookbooks: a whole lamb roast, duck with green olives, porchetta, bisteeya, paella, Berber skillet bread, bouillabaisse, rabbit with preserved pears and ginger, brik, Berber couscous and much more.
Wolfert, who has lived in Sonoma for many years, will be there to help us all eat lovely things and to give a talk that will include stories from her truly amazing life. (See: hanging out in Tangier with William S. Burroughs and Paul Bowles.)
"I've never been afraid to challenge myself to try new things and continue to learn," wrote Wolfert recently in an email in which she included this photo of her as a girl in 1943 with her grandmother in the family's victory garden. "During the second world war, my grandmother used to say, 'we can't win unless we fight.'
"As an activist, I realize that it's impossible to do much alone; as an advocate, I need to find what I can do in this fight. I want to help bring awareness. I want to help raise money for research. And I want to work with people who are more or less at the same stage as I am - not only because it makes me feel useful. It actually makes me excited to be alive."
The Mediterreanean feast will be held on Sunday, April 27, from noon to 4 p.m. at Sarkis Vartanian's Daily Dose cafe in downtown Los Angeles. Organized by chefs Farid Zadi and Susan Park with the support of Wolfert and the Alzheimer's Association, all proceeds will benefit the Alzheimer's Association. The event will include a silent auction of some pretty cool stuff (Mario Batali-signed cookbooks, a cooking class at Suvir Suran's forthcoming San Francisco restaurant, a French butchery class from Zadi, a walking and eating tour of Rome from Elizabeth Minchilli), as well as a tagine cooking demo and tastings from over 30 dishes.
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General admission for the feast is $75 and includes food but not drinks. VIP tickets are $125 and include free valet parking, a goodie bag with spices and ancient grains, complimentary drink and sit-down service with waitstaff. Tickets are available online at mediterraneanfeast.tumblr.com.
For more information about the event, contact Susan Park at Mediterraneanfeast@gmail.com; for more information about the California Southland Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, visit www.alz.org/socal or call toll-free: (800) 272-3900.