Barker Hangar | 3021 Airport Ave., #203 | Santa Monica, CA 90405 | pplafoodfare.com
By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
Photos by RICH SCHMITT | Staff Photographer
The acronym “PPLAFF” may stand for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles Food Fare, but this year, the “PP” might as well have stood for “Pacific Palisades.”
There was much neighborhood pride and representation at the annual fundraiser (emphasis on “fun”), which counted two Palisadians—Elisa Marks and Cindy Scheinman—among the co-chairs of the event.
PPLAFF was top-lined by this year’s Food Fare Restaurateur of the Year honoree, Jennifer Rush Morton.
She’s the owner of the Blue Plate Oysterette eateries, including the flagship restaurant at 14th and Montana in Santa Monica, the spacious Ocean Avenue spot and the new one that opened last year in the Fairfax District.
“I’m so excited to be involved with Planned Parenthood,” Morton told the Palisadian-Post hours before her speech at the event, which attracted thousands of attendees on Thursday, March 3.
She added that Food Fare transcends other types of benefits because “you’re on the move, it’s energetic and a lot of fun.”
Rabbi Nick Renner, Cantor Chayim Frenkel and Rabbi Amy Bernstein of Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Synagogue were there to root on Morton, a member of the Sunset Boulevard congregation for some 15 years and counting.
Morton was happy to have the support, deeming KI “inclusive and fun. It’s the most welcoming community, whether you’re a member or not.”
Food Fare’s esteemed culinary community this year includes the participation of a clutch of LA’s epicurean rock stars: Celestino Drago, Brooke Williamson, Mary Sue Milliken, Joe Miller and Susan Feniger.
Returning this year: the Palisades’ own Chef Alain Giraud, owner of Maison Giraud on Swarthmore Avenue.
For this writer, 2016 marked the second consecutive year attending the event, a combination food emporium and clothing bazaar, replete with bargains on rare fabrics and sun hats.
Every year, Food Fare is bifurcated into an afternoon session and an evening session.
As I attended the latter last year at Santa Monica Airport (a day made memorable by actor Harrison Ford’s downed Cessna in nearby Mar Vista), I wanted to experience the day session.
It may lack some of the high-voltage energy and additional vendors of the night show, but it showcases more clothing vendors for shoppers.
One of the clothiers was Catherine Giraud, owner of the Palisades’ Lavender Blue, which is also located on Swarthmore.
Catherine appeared on the floor with daughter Camille working their booth as Catherine’s husband, Chef Giraud, was poised to serve morsels at his eatery’s booth that evening.
“It’s very important that we’re supporting Planned Parenthood, more than ever today,” Catherine said.
Camille noted how crucial the organization is as “the second largest provider of healthcare in the U.S.”
The Girauds have been PPLAFF participants for 17 years.
Morton has been on hand for the event for 15 years.
At this year’s benefit, Morton oversaw a row of booths offering an array of Blue Plate specialties that—no joke—stood out as the best plates in the house.
Those scrumptious lobster sandwiches from last year’s show made their much welcome return, also joined by the braised beef short rib tacos, which were generous, hearty and mouthwateringly flavorful with threaded texture like pulled pork.
There were also a winter salad and shrimp on beds of lettuce, all delicious. Guests washed it down with refreshing (and popular) blueberry vodka drinks too irresistible to stop at just one.
Also offering tasty seafood: The Albright’s owner Vincent Zangari and General Manager Brandon Green.
They served samplings of fresh ceviche and Ahi tuna poke from the Popeye-themed seafood spot on the Santa Monica Pier.
Zangari added that this summer, he plans to open a companion restaurant in San Pedro called Pappy’s. It will be named after Popeye’s dad Poopdeck Pappy, in keeping with the cartoon property’s theme.
Food truck Poke2Go also offered generous cups of large chunks of its spicy Ahi poke.
Food Fare offered many memorable culinary moments, from the excellent grilled cheese with maple bacon at Westside Tavern’s booth to the duck salad from Michael McCarty’s prestigious Santa Monica mainstay Michael’s and taboo-tasty Sloppy Joe sliders from Century City’s Clementine.
Alma Corona, manager of the original El Cholo in Koreatown, represented the 1923-established Mexican café with chile relleno.
One of the event’s greatest treats: pulled pork sliders by Chef Duke Gervais, formerly at Santa Monica’s Pizzeria Antica, and now partnered with owner David King (of Mozza Osteria).
Their Haitian/Southern-inspired enterprise Baldoria opens downtown in late April.
The Bay Area’s Weaver’s Coffee and Tea offered quality organic brew. Culver City’s Smile Frozen Goods and Jennifer Pennifer Bakes (opening in Palms next month) delivered on dessert, with strawberry limeade popsicles and strawberry cheesecake, respectively.
When all was said and devoured, Planned Parenthood LA topped last year’s $850,000 haul. Based on the afternoon affair, there’s no doubt that the evening portion packed a high-energy charge.
However, with quality vendors such as these, to loosely reference a Francois Truffaut movie, trading “day for night” was never so delightful.