The 37th annual PPLA Food Fare took place on Thursday, March 3, 2016, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. What started off as a cooking demonstration by Julia Child in 1979 has grown into a huge fundraiser for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, which is celebrating its 50th year of providing health services to the Southland. Divided into a daytime and an evening session, PPLA Food Fare 2016 offered donors and guests the ability sample from dozens of food and drink purveyors and to buy goods from a variety of retail merchants. I attended the evening session as a guest.
The restaurants that participated ran the gamut from casual to upscale, and the food they served was equally diverse. My favorite bites of the night were Hamasaku’s complexly flavored lobster lettuce wrap, Ayara Thai’s uncompromisingly tart and spicy ribeye salad, and Knuckle & Claw’s simply delicious lobster rolls. (Okay, I just said the fare was diverse, but lobster did seem to be popular with both restaurants and guests, with the event’s Restaurateur of the Year honoree Jenny Rush’s Blue Plate Oysterette also serving lobster.)
That the longest line at the event was for Knuckle & Claw was not a surprise. Co-owner Nikki Booth modestly claimed it just meant they were slow in making the lobster rolls at their station—they do toast their buttered rolls right there and assemble the sandwiches in small batches—but that just downplays how delicious they are. But fortunately, most of the food lines were quite short or moved fairly fast. And the layout of the event, intermixing food booths with drink purveyors with retailers, meant that the queues didn’t cause too many traffic jams, even in the large but packed Barker hangar.
This being my first PPLA Food Fare, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had forgotten about the potential controversy surrounding the organization that is Planned Parenthood, so I was momentarily surprised by the protesters outside and the additional security at the event compared to others I’ve attended. But once inside, PPLA Food Fare was as well run as one could hope for its scale. I guess they’ve learned and improved over the past nearly four decades.
Below are some of the other dishes I enjoyed at PPLA Food Fare 2016: