Saturday, June 20, 2015

Charity Auction Dinner

When faced with an Auction theme "An Evening in Paris" to benefit a local church/school, I thought, "What if my friend Chef Dave Cruz came down from Napa (California) to cook dinner?" Called up another friend, who has a great house for entertaining, and asked if she'd like to co-host a dinner with me. Neither of us knew the full extent of what we were getting ourselves into. It was a lot of work, but worth it.
Photo: François Mori/AP Photo
Part of the fun, and issue, was the theme for the dinner: Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon. My wedding china is based on the Loire Valley, which is considered France's valley of kings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Palace of Versailles isn't too far away, so Marie's Petit Trianon was an ideal theme for the dinner in mind. Queen casual.

The co-host and I mixed and mingled our china, silverware and glass sets. Each of six courses had their own setting. This caused hundreds of pieces that needed washing, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend going this route again. Instead, rent the place settings, go with fewer courses or hire help.
First course: crudités vegetables with 'green goddess' dressing. Also, an Asian-dressed watermelon and shrimp appetizer were served in the bar area with the co-host's grandmother's china. Two French Champagnes were served: Henriot Rose Champagne along with H. Goutorbe Rose Champagne. The guests liked the fruitier H. Goutorbe better. 
The second course was served at the table. Chef prepared a beet, leek, frisée and hazelnut salad. Edible flowers were gathered from the co-host's garden. This was paired with a mixed drink the co-host's husband devised that we called "Cheers to 1774," the year Marie Antoinette was gifted Le Petit Trianon by her husband.
Third course was sea bass wrapped in a French Prosciutto-style ham on top of yellow corn and red pepper. This was paired with a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley: Comte LaFond 2013 Sancerre. My favorite food and wine pairing of the evening, the balance and acid of the wine complimented the sea bass so nicely.
Our entree for the evening was Rib Eye beef, with potatoes, asparagus and mushrooms. Coupled with a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley: Domaine Grosbois Chinon 2011 Gabare. The beef melted in one's mouth, the chef was magic.
For the cheese course we served the co-host's 2009 Chateau Rieussec Sauternes with Roquefort, and a triple creme cheese called Pierre Robert Rouzaire. While shopping for the cheese, we were told that it's becoming increasingly difficult to acquire French cheese in the US. I loved this food and wine pairing, but most guests were becoming quite full. The antique Canton Famille Rose porcelain plates from china added to the luxury of the evening.
I made a lemon basil palate cleanser from lemons and basil from the co-host's garden.
Finally, the sixth course of dessert was strawberries, crunch and coconut ice cream. The co-host made chocolate truffles, which the guests thoroughly enjoyed. We served percolated coffee or Tea Forte to the 10 guests and 5 hosts. The chef, who'd been working from 8:00am to 10:00pm (plus 2 hours of driving on both ends), gave a few words; then we drove the sated guests home with "Queen's Honey" soap and a breakfast bread to enjoy the next morning, Father's Day. We succeeded in doing a modern version of a dinner Marie Antoinette would have at her private Petit Trianon.
Napkins that matched the wedding china were made on a sewing machine 
especially for the occasion. Wrapped soap became place cards.