I must have done something right, because I got invited to a secret event downtown last Saturday.
Actually, okay, I didn’t do anything. My friend Marilyn, who works for LA Canvas, got the invitation and I tagged along as her plus-one. But no matter—it was a semi-private market situated at an undisclosed area very, very east of downtown Los Angeles, and I was privileged enough to have scored a ticket to it.
And now, I’m sharing it with you so it’s no longer that much of a secret. The event is called The Secret Fork and it’s actually just a smaller-scale, more exclusive Artisanal LA. Basically, a bunch of local artisanal food vendors gather together in one area to showcase and sell their wonderful products, but it’s members-only.
This year’s Secret Fork was based in an artistic house way east of downtown in the Produce District on Long Beach Avenue.
How quaint it is! Turns out that venue is also a secret underground restaurant called Ktchen105 that dishes an excellent brunch. The building is tiled with fading pale bricks embraced by a blanket of vines.
There was also a little garden or patio.
I totally want to be back for that brunch. But back to The Secret Fork. The drinks station was the first thing you saw when you walked in.
There was a coffee roasting station…
…and a “cocktail” bar where the bartender crushed fresh berries and jam with seltzer water for a virgin cocktail. Cool stuff.
But what’s cooler were that because it was such an intimate gathering, I didn’t feel squeezed or shoved around at all. I got all the time and space I desired to browse around slowly and really get to know the vendors.
The first place we stopped by was at Lisa & Mo’s station.
It’s a gluten-free baking business owned by an adorable trio who just launched this business about a year ago. Of course, there were many bumps along the road to this day, but not because of their product. Lisa & Mo bakes completely gluten-free baked goods that are legitimately GOOD—and not just “good for gluten-free” kind of good.
Their products are made mainly of almond flour, legumes, vegetables and fruits but without the pasty, dense gumminess that some gluten-free products get. I was so excited to taste their stuff after hearing Marilyn’s high praise for their cupcakes.
And check this out:
Avocado cupcake with chocolate, cinnamon and nuts! Look how Grinchy-green it is~ Perfect for Christmas. It was perfectly moist and fluffy.
Other than their most popular avocado cupcake is their beet chocolate cupcake with goat cheese filling:
That’s one of the top sellers, and for good reason. Somehow the beets seem to really draw out the intensity of the chocolate. And look at that goat cheese filling!
You can tell they used real fresh beets from the way the beets in the cake stained the cheese pink. So pretty.
This is Lisa, the “brains” of Lisa & Mo. She’s the one who creates all the recipes, mixing new ingredients and flavor profiles. She’s got two handsome grown-up sons who are also very active in the foodie scene.
This is Mo (short for Molly). She’s the joints of Lisa & Mo, handling all the smart business aspect of the company so that everything runs smoothly and efficiently.
And then there’s Tony, who is the hands of Lisa & Mo. Uh, I only got a close-up shot of his hand holding up a yam and cranberry cupcake. He’s the designated pastry chef who actually bakes all the delicious stuff—so much talent in those hands. And of course, all three of them are pumping with passion, forming the heartbeat of Lisa & Mo.
They are such a sweet bunch. We talked for about half an hour, and they let me sample all their displayed products. They were selling out quick to no surprise. Their stuff is delicious! You can really taste the freshness and quality in their baked goods.
Their brownie bites are made of black beans. I got to try a whole fleur de sel caramel brownie bite.
Just look at how luscious it is! I think you can just tell by that picture it tasted amazing.
Apparently Lisa & Mo is working on some more savory baked good items, and they’ll begin delivery services starting January 2012. More cheese and bacon were guaranteed. I can hardly wait, and Marilyn and I will probably plan a trip to their kitchen at Pasadena.
Okay. On to the other vendors. All of them were creative and super passionate about their work. I was definitely drawn to Devils on Horseback, a bacon and date spread created by Michaele Musel.
She spread a good chunk onto a gorgonzola cracker. The stuff was like a gooey yet crunchy paste; sweet, salty and full of curious and wonderful flavors. Totally ingenious.
We also came across Brothel, a homemade from scratch soup business:
Get it? Broth-el as in soup broth. I thought that was quite clever. It’s made by a cool lady, Tawni Marie Lucero. She had some vegan options, too, and gave us samples of both the meat and vegan options.
Another new local business I came across was Fruit+Flour, a sweet little baking company that started out at Sarah William’s Echo Park kitchen.
She’s this bubbly blonde young woman who started out just baking phenomenal pies each month for family and friends and then somehow, through humble word-of-mouth, it grew into a legit business. How sweet is that? Sarah’s pies are all simple yet full of home-style goodness with a touch of aesthesis.
Outside in the garden, we chatted up native Angeleno Chef Michael Fox and his partner, both donning hipster hats.
Chef Fox is the master driver of The Fox Pizza Bus, a bright yellow bus-turned-mobile pizzeria complete with an Italian-imported wood-burning oven to toast up perfect disks of dough topped with local and sustainable ingredients.
He’s also a private chef and caterer and sells homemade products such as smoked sea salt…
Smoked Apple Chutney for some kick-ass bread pudding…
And pre-made pizza base, Whiskey walnut spread, Whiskey caramel and wood-fired honey roasted peanuts.
Awesome stuff. That honey roasted peanuts look and sound dangerously addictive.
We then browsed on to Gleeka, a Greek pastry company by Stephanie Ziemer:
Stephanie is half-Greek on her mother’s side, and all her pastries are homemade from scratch with locally-sourced ingredients. I had bites of her baklava (the Greek kind is with walnuts) and biscotti and they were both fantastic.
And then there was this obviously white, Irish guy selling mole. His name is Tim McCarthy and he is the co-founder of San Angel Mole.
Mr. McCarthy joked that he usually brought his Mexican wife, Florence Guerrero McCarthy, for authenticity, but all I had to do was taste his moles and know they were damn tasty.
Tim assured me that all the mole they sell are taste-tested for authenticity and brilliant flavors by his wife. Apparently mole is gaining popularity in Los Angeles. Just a few years ago, people had to ask what the heck a “mole” was (pronouncing it like that mammal, instead of “mo-lay”). But that day, all his mole was sold out. Just like that.
All of the vendors at The Secret Fork were likeable and colorful characters, but The Naughty Tamale took the cake.
He’s a highly entertaining personality. I’m kicking myself, however, because I didn’t get his name. But he told me that he learned all his cooking abilities from his grandmother. He jazzes out Gaga notes on his piano in his Silver Lake apartment, and his neighbor tunes in with his saxophone.
He’s got some really acute artistic eye though; he showed us all the photos he took on his iPhone, sending me on a fit of iPhone nostalgia. He was just so fascinating and full of life that I told him he should have been in drama. And he responded by swinging his hand onto his hip and exclaiming, “Honey, I am drama!” He’s just so awesome! Hopefully I get to see him again.
There were definitely more vendors than the ones I highlighted on this post. I wish I can give all of them the recognition they deserve, but I have a feeling I’ll see most of them in some other event again.
I’ve only lived in Los Angeles for three years. I’m hardly a bone fide Angeleno, but there is seriously no better way to feel like I’m part of the community than to listen to local small business people talk so passionately about their lives in Los Angeles and how they got invested into their products.
Question of the Day: If you were to have a small local and sustainable business…what do you think you would sell?