It's one of the hottest tickets in town: Each summer, Santa Monica food blogger Erika Kerekes — she writes In Erika's Kitchen — throws open the doors to her home for what has become known as Trufflepalooza.
As the name implies, it's a multi-course feast where musky, earthy summer truffles are the star of each and every bite. Los Angeles' food blogging community is invited, but if you show up, know this: Don't be surprised when Kerekes puts you to work in the kitchen. This is a home chef who doesn't aim for the veneer of perfection.
"I'm not one of those manic party hostess people," she says. "The point of a party is to have fun."
It is, in short, a truffle-fueled mob scene. Among the 16-or-so finger-foods on tap this year: filet mignon bites served on French bread slathered with homemade truffle butter and accented with truffle salt and freshly shaved truffles, as well as duck confit tucked into homemade crepes and accented with … you get the idea. For dessert, Kerekes is planning a silky vanilla pudding drizzled with a truffle-infused honey.
Those friends — and most of the people in attendance at Saturday night's party — come from Los Angeles' food blogging community, a community that Kerekes has helped organize. (Kerekes co-founded Food Bloggers L.A., a networking group open to all area food bloggers.)
She started her food blog back in 2008 as an online résumé of sorts. The blog, and the platform it gave her in social media circles, helped her prove that she wasn't a "dinosaur" after several years spent at home raising her two boys. It also helped her reenter the workforce as a product manager who travels nationwide several days a month.
Kerekes has been planning tonight's party for months, enlisting help and recipe suggestions from friends and fellow bloggers, many of whom make up Food Blogger Los Angeles. But this might be the most astonishing part of the party: She jam-packs much of the party cooking into two days.
One big mystery: How many people will show up this year? Kerekes does not have a precise head count. The first year, about 40 friends and family attended the party, which was thrown together at the last minute after Kerekes unexpectedly ended up with a most unusual gift: a pound of Italian black summer truffle that she was able to purchase at cost. It set her back about $100. (Pricey, yes, but summer truffles are a pittance compared with the more heavily prized varieties that can literally cost thousands of dollars per pound.)
"They just smelled so good. I thought, 'I can't keep this to myself; I'm having a party.'"
It was such a hit that Kerekes decided to do it again the following year, and 75 people showed up. Last year, the crowd had swelled to 110 people, and she served 16 dishes. The party costs several hundred dollars, but there's one critical cost that she will not bear: A purveyor donates the truffles in exchange for the plug he'll get on her blog.
Kerekes is absolutely unfazed that she has no idea how many people will show up for the fourth annual Trufflepalooza.
"The 'worst' thing that could happen is that 200 people would show up at my house, and that would make me happy," she said. "If everyone gets just a few little tastes, I'm happy."