When planning an important yet elegant fundraiser, the venue is what sets the stage for a first class affaire. AbilityFirst is a special nonprofit supporting kids with disabilities, so it is fitting that an exceptional venue hosts its 48th annual fundraiser.

The grounds of the Laurabelle A. Robinson Estate in Pasadena; Photo by Kathy Leonardo; Courtesy of ETG

Laurabelle A. Robinson Estate in Pasadena offers a spectacular setting with a glorious view of the Colorado Bridge. Its gardens surrounding the house are lush with fruit trees and exotic flowers.

I have had the pleasure of attending this yearly benefit several times prior to the pandemic. The 2022 event (June 5, 2022) was the first year to be in-person since 2019. Although it is a fundraiser, the food and wine/spirits portion of the event has always been exceptional. However, unlike the typical foodie festival, this event offers a relaxed vibe, with plenty of seating for a limited amount of attendees in a stunning setting.

View from the Laurabelle A. Robinson Estate in Pasadena; Photo courtesy of LAArtParty.com

Let’s talk food and wine…which was served prior to the auction. This year’s event included restaurants, caterers, wine, beer and spirit booths situated throughout the lavish grounds.

Alexander’s Steakhouse served up a magnificent dish made just for the AbilityFirst fundraiser. The Kurobuta Pork Collar with cherries was so tender and scrumptious. I loved the rich brown sauce – the subtle taste of tartness from the cherries was extraordinary. It was perfectly paired with a tasty 2019 Stolpman Vineyards, Sangiovese (oak, dark cherry).

Ryan Goldfarb of Alexander’s Steakhouse; Photos by Richard Bilow; Courtesy of ETG

I enjoyed a corn tamale from El Cholo Pasadena, and other tantalizing dishes provided by Ruth’s Chris, Mi PIace, Raymond 1886, along with a Bodegas Volver ‘Juntos’ Merlot. This delicious Spanish wine, offers hints of vanilla, and dark berries.

Tam O’Shanter had an excellent pork slider, it came with slaw and a choice of hot or not so hot horseradish – I went for the hot, which took the taste to the next level. Gale’s Restaurant dished out some spectacular tastes of chicken ravioli puttanesca, and a corn ravioli. These were both scrumptious. Mama M. Sushi offered a spread of assorted fish – individualized little plates of sashimi along with a new take on Japanese cuisine. The salmon was so tender, it melted in your mouth. 

 The team at Mama M. Sushi; Photos by Richard Bilow; Courtesy of ETG

Additional wines that I enjoyed included: a 2019 Raymond, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, and a 2019 Buena Vista Petite Syrah, (the Deputy), while my photographer declared his love for the Dolce Vida Lime infused tequila. 

There were plenty of options for desert as well. Portos Bakery tempted us with a mixed berry cheese cake mousse, which was fantastic. Assorted cupcakes were presented by Nothing Bundt Cakes. I could not resist the red velvet – it was so moist and delectable.  

After all of our tummies were full, the crowd gathered around the stage for the evening’s program. There were a variety of speakers, along with Congresswoman Judy Chu who presented a certificate of recognition to Chief Development Officer, Lauren Rayner. We were all moved by student Neftali Beltran’s story who attended AbilityFirst College to Career program. 

The crowd gathers for AbilityFirst’s live auction; Photo by Kathy Leonardo; Courtesy of ETG

There were two auctions, a silent one, and a live auction, which was quite exciting – there were lots of bids for some amazing items. The festival producers helped our environment by utilizing the back of the program (that we received when we checked in) to double for our bidding paddle. Here are just a few of many items: All sorts of baskets filled with intriguing products; various types of services were up for grab, along with an Oregon Wine Tour, a Palm Desert Getaway, a Sonoma Wine Country Experience for four, even a Pasadena Police Helicopter ride along. It was a successful evening…the event raised over $215,000 for AbilityFirst.

Lastly l just wanted to stress the importance of this organization. Here is some info – direct from their website: AbilityFirst provides a variety of programs designed to help people with disabilities achieve their full potential throughout their lives. It offers targeted programming to help an individual successfully transition from childhood to adult life; providing employment preparation, training, and experience; building social connections and independence; and offering both their participants and their caregivers an opportunity to refresh and recharge through their recreational activities.

Please visit the website for additional information, and to donate to this organization. Check our sister site – LAArtParty.com to find out about next year’s event. Hope to see you there – https://www.abilityfirst.org

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