Monday, November 30, 2009

Petrojvik Blasting Company at Bar 107

Last night, I saw the Petrojvik Blasting Company play at Bar 107. I was just downtown, but I was also kind of in Williamsburg, and for that matter, kind of in Serbia, too.

Last Sunday, I went to the Hollywood Farmer's Market. As I approached the end of the line, where it dissipates into a Calpirg solicitor, a guy peddling pesto out of a squeeze bag, and a few random stragglers, I heard the sound of horns. The source: a tiny klezmer band, singing and blowing their horns for whoever might pass by. Picture young beastie-boyish faces, suspenders, vests, and cropped trousers; the accordionist peering over his instrument to sing the harmony to the trombonist's earnest melody, as the French horn player simultaneously used his heel to pedal a bass drum behind him. Love.

These guys are the Petrojvic Blasting Company. I bought their album right there for five bucks, and eventually stalked them to Bar 107, the weirdest reddest downtown dive. Did not disappoint.

Klezmer is a secret pleasure of mine -- it's the hoydel-doydelest musical genre of all (and in fact may be the source of 'hoydel doydel' itself), so in the extremely rare cases that it becomes hip(ster), it makes me happy. The Blasting Company -- now 8 strong (including two hornblowing women, but minus the banjo that was there at the farmers market) -- got all the downtown goyishe ladies dancing with their sultry oompa stylings.

The accordionist showed some serious chops, the trombonist continued to belt out unintelligible but endearing words in vaguely-Eastern-European-sounding languages, and they all just put on a good show.

and downtown was all asparkle

(also, they are going to play at the bake sale this year. i just decided. they don't know yet. but they will.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Share Our Strength Conference of Leaders

welcome to Washington, DC

Last weekend has been so packed with thought provoking moments. Because of the success of No Cookie Left Behind, our own Great American Bake Sale, I was invited to attend the annual conference of Share Our Strength, a far-reaching non-profit dedicated to systematically ending childhood hunger in the United States by 2015. In two days, I heard from philanthropic visionaries, Belgian beer ambassadors, urban garden champions, huge-hearted corporate execs, Food Network personalities, like-minded Angelenos, chefs young and old. I picked collard greens in rural Maryland, was brought to tears on more than one occasion, put a sweet smiling face to a bake-sale name I'd been emailing with all year, ate and drank, then ate and drank some more, and rocked out to the awesome Urban Nation Hip-Hop Choir. Wow, how to break it down...

i love them

Let's do some bullet points, shall we?

The Organization
- Before the conference, I knew SOS was on the childhood hunger front, but only had nebulous details. People, this organization is amazing, and combats childhood hunger on quite literally every front.

fearless leader Billy Shore

- Lobbying: When it comes to government, hungry kids are a voiceless, invisible group. Billy Shore, who founded SOS twenty-five years ago with his sister Debbie, and who's a serious motivational guru, writer of 3 books, and crazy intellectual -- quoting Ulysses and Elie Wiesel in one breath -- is a lobbyist for hungry kids. He educates state governments on federal funds they can be getting, drives them to action on programs to fight childhood hunger.
- Educational Programming: The Operation Frontline program educates people with low income on how to prepare healthful meals on a limited budget -- everything from budgeting and shopping, to cooking and nutrition -- then send students home with a bag of groceries and a battery of recipes so they can recreate the meals for their families. This is the 'teach him how to fish' branch of SOS. I love it. (And we have it right here in LA.)
- They work with existing local organizations, getting them what they need to move forward. A simple example: Hungry kids depend on school breakfast and lunch. But sometimes, kids that take the bus to school don't get there in time for breakfast. SOS suggests serving breakfast in the early part of class. A school counters back that they don't have the janitorial staff required for this. That's where SOS comes in. They bridge all the little tiny gaps that without SOS would be insurmountable hurdles.
- They work with schools, non-profits, faith-based programs, food banks, urban gardens, basically anyone who has something to offer -- they will bring them together.

from a talk on urban gardens...amazing stuff

- Access: The nation has a series of 'food deserts' -- areas so impoverished that supermarkets and farmers markets do not go there, as there's no money in it for them. SOS works with local programs that bring fresh produce into corner stores and bodegas, and supports urban gardens so these communities can grow their own food.

a generous 'taste' of three beers

- Funds: Of course they raise tons of money. They have awesome programs like the bake sale, Taste of the Nation, Great American Dine Out, and more, and they have partnerships with major players like Food Network, Cisco, Corner Bakery, Stella Artois, Domino Sugar... (and many MANY more).

All in all, it was a pretty amazing weekend, with inspiration, information, and fun at every corner. It's not every weekend that a Belgian beer tasting (complete with chocolatey waffel, mini-beer float (honey ice cream and Hoegaarden, for the keeping score at home), and mmmm, Leffe) is followed by a Top-Chef-esque dining challenge where I get to taste it all, capped off with the VP of PR for the Food Network buying me a drink at Eric Ripert's bistro. I firmly believe, despite mathematical intuition telling me otherwise, that a weekend of eating and drinking -- when coupled with talking, learning, thinking, and serving, of course -- can end childhood hunger.

the bake sale crew!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Gwyneth Hearts Treat Street, and other Bake Sale Bites

Dude, bake sales are blowing up.

First, Gwyneth Paltrow, in her weekly how-to-have-a-beautiful-life newsletter Goop (I know. It's like Gwyneth meets Martha. Sometimes silly and over-the-top and way too un-self-aware, and sometimes totally in line with the things I love and feel strongly about. Like Gjelina.), features Treat Street, an awesome neighborhood bake sale that crops up in various corners of Silver Lake to stuff our faces with delicious sweets and good vibes. One of the girls behind Treat Street is Crystal Meers, the editor of DailyCandy LA. Crystal has supported our own No Cookie Left Behind bake sale as long as we've had it -- featuring it in DailyCandy and baking giant piles of cookies for us. Miss Gwyneth is smitten with Crystal and her TNT cookies, and frankly, I can't blame her.

No Cookie Left Behind was nominated for an award! Well, technically, I was nominated for one of Share Our Strength's community leader awards -- but seriously it's about the bake sale. This was so completely unexpected and wonderful, but I'm thrilled that people are recognizing what an amazing thing we created with our bake sale. Guys, did you know that of over 7600 Great American Bake Sales that were held this year, No Cookie Left Behind was number nine in funds raised?! So proud. I'm off to Washington DC tonight for Share Our Strength's Conference of Leaders. I can't imagine the bake sale inspiration that awaits me!

And finally, EAT MY BLOG. A handful of LA bloggers are hosting yet another bake sale, this time to benefit our own Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. This one will take place on Saturday, December 5, 10am - 4pm, at Zeke's Smokehouse in West Hollywood. It's "an opportunity for the blogging community to give back to those in need,” and you know I like that. Get all the deets at gastronomyblog!