I have been a fierce advocate for the "Planned Parenthood" non-profit organization for as long as I can remember. The many, many women in my life have conditioned me to the realization that women should run the world, since we men have screwed it up enough. My active participation in PP began some 34 years ago, in 1979, when I was invited to attend a demonstration by Chef Julia Childs at the opening of the Los Angeles' Planned Parenthood office. (I think she roasted a chicken, and was as funny as hell.) I began contributing to the cause and doing what I could to publicize it. The early Julia exhibition evolved into an annual food event-fundraiser to celebrate the delicious culinary traditions and experiences of Los Angeles. Chef Joe Miller was honored as "Chef of the Year"for his charitable endeavors.
"Food Fair" has become a feast for the eyes, ears and taste buds, and this year's event on Thursday had over 150 of the city's best chefs, restaurant, food trucks, caterers, wineries, florists and vendors participating. My lovely niece, Cindy Winebaum, has become very active in the organization, which incites me to even more active participation. Food Fair is is organized and staffed each year by the PPLA Guild, a group of nearly 200 women who provide financial and volunteer support for the organization's wonderful programs. Cindy tells me that the Guild has raised over $8 million for Planned Parenthood here. BBQ and sliders from the Boneyard Bistro in the Valley.
Before I get into the details of the fabulous food and wines served at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium last night, it is incumbent upon me to tell you just a bit of what the local PP organization accomplished this past year. We all know of the bitter, awful fight being waged by those pro-life and Republican legislators to eviscerate the organization, a fight which must be rebutted as fiercely as we can. (They have introduced over 2,000 pieces of anti-women's health legislation since 2010.) The President of the Planned Parenthood Los Angeles Guild, Marcy Bergen Pine, tell me that they provided health care - including life-saving cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and treatment, and health counseling - to over 138,000 people last year! They are the leading provider of reproductive health services, education and advocacy. She said they reduced patient wait times in all 19 of their health centers to 15 minutes, with or without an appointment. They provided nearly 250,000 patient visits to people throughout the city, becoming the 3rd largest PP affiliate in the country. They helped pass proactive women's health legislation to improve women's access to birth control in California. Another active task is to modernize the way sex education is taught in Los Angeles schools..."We are finding creative ways-both in the classroom and online - to reach teenagers and their parents with medically-accurate sexual health information." Wilshire Chef Nyesha Arrington has been a favorite of mine for several years.
All of this takes money, which is why we all bought tickets and attended their fabulous Food Fair again this year. I was delighted to see that my old friend, Joe Miller, was honored as Chef of the Year. Joe has been chef/owner of Joe's Restaurant on Abbot Kinney Drive in Venice since 1991 and the newer Bar Pintxo on Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica, and no one is more charitable than this quiet, self-effacing man. The Squid Pasta he served out of huge paella pan was piquantly delicious. So many old friends among the chefs and vendors, as well as a large contingent of Huffington readers who congratulated me on the posting that day of the "Hinoki & the Bird" review. I was delighted to see my dear young friend Andre Ulloa had departed his family's Yamashiro for a new gig as G.M. with Jenny Rush Morton at her Blue Plate Taco next to the Santa Monica Pier, with the news she was looking at a location in the heart of Beverly Hills. Congratulated Chef Kris Morningstar of Ray's, that superb little enclave in the Museum courtyard in mid-Wilshire, on his 2nd anniversary. Rodger Reiss, whom I have known since his early Seagram liquor days, was sampling his Tequila Revolution and a new vodka using Alaskan spring water. Have to do a more proper sampling of that. Tanino Drago served up one of my favorite bites...a cup of rich, aromatic mushroom soup. Asked him if it had cream (sure tasted that way) and he said no, it was a special cheese which gave it that unique richness. My favorite dish of the night....you won't believe this. A young fellow who owns a restaurant called Mexikosher (8832W. Pico Blvd, (310) 371-0900) which I had just mentioned in my "Jaywalking in LA." column as a place I must review, gave me a bowl of Birrria, lamb and beef in a thick broth spiked with three chilies which had been braised for 15 hours. Like the best chili I had ever tasted. Went back for seconds. Will be there next week. Gino Angelini's lovely wife served up my passion, his incredible Lasagna, and she told me that he is ready for my review of RivaBella, where the old Hamburger Hamlet once was. I hugged one of my favorite up-and-coming chefs, Nyesha Arrington, who has taken over and remade the kitchen at Wilshire. She told me of her learning curve on the business of running a restaurant. The girls from AOC were dishing up a sweet, and told them I had dinner there this week and was preparing the review. Boneyard Bistro on Ventura Blvd in the valley served me a dish of juicy BBQ. The chef at Church & State was shucking oysters from Baja California, very salty. Broke my savory strides for a dish of cappuccino ice cream with fudge sauce from Dandy Don, my buddy from the Special Olympics board. Dandy Don puts a cherry atop my cappuccino ice cream sundae.
I embraced the 'don' of the Drago clan, Celestino, and got the correct email for him. Had a seaweed crab roll from Hamasaku, the sushi bar on Santa Monica which I will nevr visit (like ink) because of the guy who owns it. Greeted West Hooker's chef at Locanda del Lago and congratulated him on his nose-to-tail dinners, with venison this week. Hugged Alain Girard and his wonderful baker wife and arranged to again visit Maison Giraud in the Palisades. Had a spicy chicken wing from Rick Royce, the BBQ catering guy, and reminisced about the deep-fried turkey he had once cooked for me on Thanksgiving, Didn't drink any wine, since I am deeply loyal to my Laetitia and Justin friends who were not present. Ended the evening, as always, with a visit to Richard, Gloria and Beverly Pink's hot dog stand near the exit. Hobbled to my car eating a big, juicy hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut. Drove home and was up all night....but it was worth it for such a good cause. Can't wait for next year.
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