Malibu Seen

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Gourmets and gourmands gathered at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium to savor the flavor as Planned Parenthood Los Angeles threw its annual fundraising food fling. The place was at its festive best, decked out in shades of emerald green, ivory and black. The floral arrangements were impressive with loads of calla lilies, apple blossoms and anthuriums.

To set the stage, carving queen Sophie Albright was slicing up a storm, turning sweet potatoes into colorful koi fish, making lotus flowers out of green papaya and transforming your average orange squash into intricate chrysanthemum bouquets.

The smell of sweet treats filled the air as Melissa Sanders rolled out crowd-pleasing platters of flourless chocolate cake. “Our secret is the chocolate we use,” she said. “I can’t tell you what it is but it’s not Nestlé or Hershey’s.” Just across the way, Bluebird Café’s Chris Marble was slathering pastel icing on a selection of oversized vanilla cupcakes. Over the years, the food fair has become a cherished tradition.

“We’ve been coming here forever,” said Sandi Zimmer, who was pouring a selection of fine wines. “A lot of our customers are here. It’s great fun and a real local event.”

Chefs were busy swapping recipes and talking shop as they decorated their stations with a cornucopia of cabbages, artichokes, asparagus, peppers and eggplant. Colleen Cox was dishing out tangy barbeque from the Blenders Restaurant in Kansas City. The eatery is no more, but the famous sauce survives. “It’s an old family recipe and what really makes it is the celery salt,” Cox explained. “The restaurant was around for more than 50 years and has fans from around the world.”

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The lines were long at Pink’s Hotdogs, which brought foot-long franks for the occasion. Even L.A.’s top chefs were seen waiting around for a chili cheese that was sure to please.

Joe Miller brought a selection of tapas from his hot new Santa Monica eatery, Bar Pintxo. His favorites these days include peppers stuffed with marinated veggies and fennel, and endive cups with walnuts, blue cheese and anchovies. He was inspired to open a tapas bar after a trip to Barcelona and it wasn’t long before Pintxo was born. “The place turned out great,” the celebrated chef raved to Malibu Seen. “It’s really unique and there’s no place like it.”

L.A.’s trendiest restaurants and catering companies had a taste for every palate. Duck Duck Mousse had a delish couscous and Moroccan chicken stew. Bombay Café cooked up savory samosas and beef curry. El Cholo broke out its famous corn tamales. Ocean Ave Seafood offered shellfish on ice along with tangy ceviche, while AOC featured spicy shrimp in orange glaze. They were sampling soup at Organic to Go, which ladled out fire-roasted tomato bisque and Santa Fe chicken chowder. Drago was a hit with his ravioli with truffle sauce and Literati sliced up gravlax with blood oranges, beets and avocados.

In keeping with tradition, the Profit and Loss Dixieland Jazz Band was on hand playing favorites while a team of psychics, magicians and tarot card readers kept the team entertained.

At the silent auction, they bid on bottles of Dom Perignon, vintage jewelry and great getaways. Between bites and bids, you could eye other goods up for sale.

In addition to classy cookware, vendors broke out fancy French table linens, beautiful Tashen books, custom-made handbags and flashy tie-dyed tees. For gourmets with a green thumb, there was even a selection of spectacular orchids.

The food faire began in 1979 with a cooking demonstration by Julia Child and has grown into an eating extravaganza featuring more than 150 restaurants, caterers, wineries florist and entertainers. The proceeds go to Planned Parenthood’s health and education programs.

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