Food & Wine

December 2011

L.A.'s Best Wrap Party

by Kristin Donnelly
photographs by Jonny Valiant

Gifts in hand, Los Angeles’s A-list tastemakers get together to swap presents and stories over a fantastic meal.
Anyone who has ever been invited to a Yankee Swap holiday party (also known as a White Elephant) is aware that each guest has to bring a silly gift to exchange—the goofier the better.
Arguments often break out over who gets to keep the few good things in the mix, while the night’s biggest losers inevitably leave with an ice-cube tray shaped like a set of dentures or a book about how to test their cat’s personality. But when the co-owners of the eco-minded Los Angeles design firm Com- mune hosted a holiday party, asking people to bring gifts, no one squabbled over who got what. That’s because the guests were L.A.’s hottest tastemakers in food, wine and style, and the gifts they brought were useful, beautiful things that anyone would have been happy to take home.
Chef Jeff Cerciello of L.A.’s new Farmshop restau- rant not only brought a gift (peach jam from Brent- wood, California’s incredible Frog Hollow Farm), but he also did the cooking, preparing not one, but two roasts: a bone-in leg of lamb slathered in fiery harissa (recipe, p. 227) and a brined, fennel-rubbed pork loin (recipe, p. 229). While Commune’s Roman Alonso set the table in the Spanish-style courtyard (it is L.A., after all, which means alfresco parties even in Decem- ber), Cerciello prepared platters of gorgeous dishes to pass around family-style. For example, he made lowly parsnips glamorous by roasting them with dates until everything caramelized, then served them with a sumac-spiked yogurt (recipes, p. 229).
Valerie Gordon of Valerie Confections was tasked with bringing dessert. “It’s the time of year for excess,” she says, so she prepared two choices. She pulled her spectacular brandy semifreddo out of the freezer, shook it out of its Bundt-like kugelhopf mold, and served it with winter fruits poached in spiced red wine (recipes, p. 230). Then she glazed her vanilla cake with a dripping caramel sauce (recipes, p. 232). Although the party was almost free of the usual Yan- kee Swap silliness, Gordon couldn’t help adding a bit of extravagance to her gift, decorating the box— which held tea from her new line and her impeccable chocolate-dipped petits fours—with peacock feath- ers. “Little is more spectacular than a spray of pea- cock feathers,” she says.

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