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Special Entertaining Issue | Cover Story

The New Block Parties

With Food in Hand, These West Hollywood Neighbors Go From Loft to Loft to Put a Modern Spin on the Retro Potluck

November 09, 2003|Barbara Thornburg

They work in the design and entertainment fields, are single (mostly), childless, in their late 20s and early 30s, and they are polished practitioners of the latest wrinkle in the nouveau-urban lifestyle--the potluck.

If you just had a suburban tract flashback, this is not your parents' potluck. Rather these communal dinners are staged in industrial-style loft complexes that have sprung up across L.A., where young professionals are lured by generous living spaces as well as proximity to shops, restaurants, museums and galleries.

Take the Lofts at Melrose Place, a 12-unit compound overlooking Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. The flowing, multi-tasking rooms, with their modern, open kitchens, are perfect for the updated "block" parties. "During the day, my loft is my office," says Kenneth Brown, an interior designer who is getting his own TV show next year. "But in a flash, I can set it up as a cocktail lounge for 150." How many suburban homeowners can say that?

Just about anything--from a TV special to a homeowners meeting to carving pumpkins for Halloween--has prompted a potluck. "We have an open-door policy here," advertising executive David Wood says. "People just stop by and pretty soon there's a party going on."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 12, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 1 inches; 54 words Type of Material: Correction
Jell-O recipe -- The recipe for the Rainbow Jell-O Salad that appeared in the Special Entertaining Issue of the Los Angeles Times Magazine ("The New Block Parties," Nov. 9) incorrectly called for 1/4 package of cherry, grape, lime, peach and orange Jell-O. The recipe should have called for one 4-serving package of each flavor.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday November 30, 2003 Home Edition Los Angeles Times Magazine Part I Page 6 Lat Magazine Desk 1 inches; 46 words Type of Material: Correction
The recipe for Rainbow Jell-O Salad that accompanied the article "The New Block Parties" in the Special Entertaining Issue (Nov. 9) incorrectly called for 1/4 package of cherry, grape, lime, peach and orange Jell-O. The recipe should have called for 1 4-serving package of each flavor.

These impromptu soirees can mean some creative food-gathering. Actor Joshua Buxbaum heads across the street for Sweet Lady Jane's killer Oreo Cheesecake--"even if I didn't' make it I'm the hit of the party," he says. He also on occasion picks up the New York-style chicken Parmiggiano pizza at Damiano's Mr. Pizza on Fairfax Avenue. When there's time to cook, real estate agent Marissa Faith swears by her secret hot artichoke dip, while Brown cooks up his Louisiana mama's green bean casserole.

In the spirit of the season, the denizens of Melrose Place hosted a holiday potluck in four courses in four different lofts. The menu: retro comfort food with a 21st century update. Think Lipton Onion Soup dip--only made with creme fraiche, yogurt, caramelized Maui onions and served with homemade potato chips.

While the food goes beyond the Tupperware-and-tinfoil fare of potlucks past, it's still all about chipping in. "We're all so busy, it takes the responsibility off one person and everyone shares in the fun," Faith says. "It's also a great conversation starter . . . everyone talks about what they brought, whether they made it or bought it," Brown says. "And if it's good, you get a recipe."

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retro hors d'oeuvres

Actor Joshua Buxbaum and deejay Darren Foldes let the Jungle Lounge look of their loft inspire the first stop of the evening, for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. A camouflage-print tablecloth and jungle-appropriate accessories complement the patio setting, encircled by bamboo. The hors d'oeuvres--mini corn dogs, chutney cheese balls and homemade potato chips and dip--arrive in an array of containers that blend right in: woven green boxes, baskets, bamboo trays and plates in a medley of khaki hues. Small bowls, vases and trays add an exotic orange accent against an assortment of tropical leaves on the table and in bamboo vases. The three-olive Jungle martinis and Key Lime cocktails are color coordinated to the theme, while '59 Martin Denny "Quiet Village" music sets the mood.

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polychrome salads

The primary colors and modern furnishings in the loft of advertising executive David Wood and florist Curtis Bennett make a sort of Rainbow Room that's a far cry from the New England Colonial that Wood grew up in. Upholstered dining chairs in a bold palette of colors circle the dining table, while brightly hued ottomans offer additional seating. The second course--an array of salads--includes a 10-layer psychedelic Jell-O concoction, a spinach-strawberry salad and a spicy coleslaw, all served on festive Bauer and Fiesta ware plates. A blue runner on the table and red, yellow and azure napkins, along with yellow Gerber daisies in red bowls, add to the colorful scene.

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classic comfort food

An elegant black-and-white backdrop provides contrast for the down-home entrees at real estate agent Marissa Faith's Mid-century loft. White platters show off the traditional dishes of macaroni and cheese, taco pie and chicken breasts stuffed with chiles and cheese. A black-and-white floral runner along a long white table is stacked with white dishes. White napkins tied with black velvet ribbon and black napkins tied with white echo the palette. Tall glass vases hold white amaryllis and curly willow. As for seating, white beanbag chairs that recall the '60s offer comfy perches.

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sweetly modern

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