Sunday, March 15, 2009

Foodie Fun and Shopping at the 2009 PPLA Food Fare

Last Thursday, March 12, I was able to get a press pass to attend the 2009 Planned Parenthood Los Angeles Guild Food Fare, a once-a-year event that helps raise funds for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, which provides vital health care and education services for over 58,000 people. This is actually the 29th year that the Food Fare has been held and it began in 1979 with a cooking demonstration by Julia Childs.

The Food Fare is broken up into two sessions, an afternoon and evening one. The afternoon session is a combination of a shopping bazaar and food and drink (mostly coffee) purveyors. Attendees were able to purchase anything from food to jewelry to purses to a variety of other gift items, with either a portion or 100% of the proceeds going to support Planned Parenthood, at the same time noshing away on various culinary offerings.

The evening session has more of a party atmosphere with more restaurants in attendance and local wineries uncorking their wares to help create a festive evening. For both the afternoon and the evening, guests can also participate in their fabulous Silent Auction featuring vacation packages, entertainment and sporting event tickets, gift certificates and much more.

My press pass took me into the afternoon session and it was definitely a nice way to spend a few hours and thankfully, I didn't eat breakfast because I was able to sample small bites from at least 18 of the food stands that were present, without feeling like I had to be rolled out the door afterwards.

Before I talk about the food, I have to mention the first thing that caught my eye, as I was walking through the entrance, was a woman carving an intricate pattern out of a honeydew melon. That woman turned out to be Sophie Saowapa Albright who teaches Thai fruit and vegetable carving classes at the Wat Thai Temple as well as provides those carvings for special events and occasions. She had some samples on her tables that I thought were absolutely beautiful.

Another foodie demonstration going on that day was cake decorating from Sweet and Organic Desserts while a chef from Acadie Handcrafted French Crepes was not only demonstrating how to make two different kinds of crepes, one with nutella and one with spinach and cheese, but you also got to eat the "fruits" of his labor. I thoroughly enjoyed my spinach and cheese buckwheat crepe to the last bite.

There were also other savory dishes that kept good company with the spinach and cheese crepe. I love mushrooms, so the Porcini Mushroom Lasagne from Drago really hit the spot. I liked the firmness of the pasta and the generous mushroom portion.

El Cholo's Chicken Chimichanga was simply all about deep fried goodness. Nothing fancy, but sometimes something straight forward that's topped with shredded cheese and a dash of hot sauce is all that's needed.

The Duck Potsticker from Monsoon Cafe was quite good with a duck meat that was nicely seasoned and topped with a miso sauce and orange glaze for a bit of sweetness.

Gonpachi also embraced the deep fried side with shrimp paste stuffed inside deep fried won ton strips. Initially, it took a little maneuvering to eat, but a few crunchy bites later, it was gone from my plate.

Time to get into the sweet stuff and I can't think of a better transition than Corn Maiden's sweet corn tamale topped with a chipotle sauce. Sweet and savory for a nice duet of flavors.

Interestingly enough, although I enjoyed sampling the various savory dishes, the real hits for me were the desserts. Although I enjoy the sweet stuff, if I had a choice between potato chips and a cupcake, the potato chips would generally win. Of the sweets, my favorite foodie find of the day was the Red Velvet Cake by Chef Melissa Sanders, dipped in Belgian Chocolate from The Essential Chocolate Collection. Oh my, oh my. The cake was really moist and dipping that in chocolate was sheer genius.

Clementine's fresh and creamy banana pudding came a very close second. I could have easily eaten more servings in a snap, but did manage to keep my self-control.

Then there was the awesome pink grapefruit gelato from the Gelato Bar. It had a great balance of tart and sweet with every lick.

Overall, it was a fun event and even better, it's for a worthy cause. I'd say it's a win-win for all and hopefully, it's an event that you'll keep an eye out for 2010!

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WeezerMonkey said...

How fun! Lucky you and your press pass! I miss those days!

H. C. said...

Sounds like a great event, though I am not sure why they didn't plan for this on a weekend -- where it would've drawn a bigger crowd and more money (from tix sales and auction bids).

pleasurepalate said...

WM: It's nice getting a little per every once in awhile.

H.C.: I didn't think about it at the time, but you're right, a weekend would have drawn much more people.