Water the Matter Was

“A Captain’s Dinner on the SS France” was the beckoning for “Versailles of the Atlantic,” the title given to the annual gala of the Alliance Francaise de la Nouvelle-Orleans. Held at the J W Marriott, the bash included a patron reception in the Ile de France Foyer with champagne and hors d’oeuvres; the wine reception in the same site; the Captain’s Dinner, conventionally scheduled for 8 p.m., in the Ile de France Ballroom with a gourmet French dinner prepared by chef Rene Bajeux and a performance by the local vocal trio, Bon Operatif!; and the dancing with swing music by The Victory Six. All the while, guests, who donned cocktail or nautical attire, placed their bids for the choice enticements of the silent and live auctions, and crossed their fingers for luck with the raffle.

They were duly (French) fortified by the courses in the Captain’s Dinner that commenced with Caribbean lobster bisque with ginger and dark rum cream, organic chicken breast and a chocolate and Grand Marnier cream puff.

Captaining the “Atlantic” ado as the evening’s honorary notable was Consul General of France at New Orleans Gregor Trumel, who was accompanied by spouse Ingrid; Aurelie Champvert, executive director of the French Cultural and Language Center that’s been in the Crescent City since 1984; and committee members Jane Apffel, Cissy Rowley, Marianne Burns, Terry Voorhies, Shauna Storey Grissett, board President Norma E. Grace, Dessa Rutter Giffin, Julia Walker, Givonna Joseph, Jennie Westerman Diemont, Katrina Greer and Michael Harold, board vice president.

Within the party’s bustle, bonhomie prevailed, piloted by the many activities scheduled for the evening. Gratitude went the way of Air Liquide, Christine and Price LeBlanc, First NBC Bank, Norma Grace and Bob Sternhell, Dr. Michael Boucree and Ivan Griffin, and Cedric and Julia Walker, a past president as were a few others. More extensions of “merci” were to the festive fore.

“Everyone Aboard” was an additional exhortation during the course of the evening when the nautical motif made for a sail that was ever so socially smooth. Fun, too!

Chef Bytes

The 31st annual Chef Soiree presented by Chevron to benefit the Youth Service Bureau of Washington and St. Tammany parishes made eating and greeting a fine fusion. Almost 100 of the north shore’s top restaurants and beverage purveyors presented a variety of signature dishes for the guests to sample in Covington’s Bogue Falaya Park. Record crowds were noted.

Along with the menus was the music. Benny Grunch and the Bunch, Gypsy River, Louisiana Spice, Voodoo Funk and Soul Co. with special guest Cajun fiddler and singer Amanda Shaw, and The Wagners (for the 31st straight year) gave the Bogue a decided beat.

To get the Soiree started, dramatic pyrotechnic special effects (courtesy of David and Suzanne Spear of AFX Pro) made their mark at the gate-opening festivities. Then came the 610 Stompers and their “ordinary men, extraordinary moves” renown to lead the traditional parade that meandered into the white-tented park area.

Notable mentions were made of Banner Ford & The Banner Drives Foundation Youth Service Bureau board member Tina Flick and spouse Rick, who donated a 2015 Ford Mustang for the raffle (won by Charles Carney of Bogalusa); Suzanne King’s 2015 poster; honoree Matt Cole, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of New Orleans, a veteran of the north shore restaurant business, and of the Marine Corps; and the late Judge Andy Clayton James Jr., to whom CS 2015 was dedicated.

Headliners who moved about the volunteer-designed decorations with life-size “Children” and “Chefs” cut-outs included YSB stalwarts Leo Rolhlinger and spouse Lisa (who served as the CS chaircouple), Jim Rather with Nicole, Bobbie Calandro with Frank, Gus Kuntz with Jane, and Kevin Morse with Diane. Also, Judges Martin E. Coady and William J. Burris; poster artist Suzanne King; Mayor Mike Cooper of Covington; Mayor Donald Viller e of Mandeville; and sponsors Raymond Hall with Helen, Donna Roebke with Gary, Peter Cavignac, Mallery Mele with Tammy, Jerry Braswell with Wanda, Barry Ellis with Nancy, and Chip Turner with dad David.

Night-into-day was a pronounced motif with “Hi-Lite” inflatables, air stars, and sky trackers for eye-popping excitement. More visual thrills occurred at CS’s close when the grand finale of fireworks wowed the crowds.

Film Foundation

“One for the books” or for the eye was the apt description of the New Orleans Film Society’s silver salute. It unfolded with all sorts of attractions at the Garden District home of Sara and Paul Costello, where plans encompassed a dance floor over the swimming pool, a laser light show courtesy of the Solomon Group, and unique auction goodies. A party principal billed them as “one-of-a-kind Hollywood South items.”

Patrons gathered for the first hour and then “general admission” gallivanters filled the premises for the remaining three. The hosting Costellos and spouses Alexa Georges and Jerry Armatis were the honorary gala chaircouples; Sayde Finkel, Nan and Britt Galloway, and Weezie Porter were the chairing quartet; and Toni Bachmann, Seth Bloom, Skipper Bond, Pam Dongieux, Sarah Martzoff, Sarah Paradis, Michele Reynoir, and Rob Wolfarth mastheaded the gala committee.

Then there was the food excitement cooked up by a slew of top toques, custom cocktails and dance numbers to New Orleans’ DJ duo Baby girl.

Every starry event has a particular cynosure and he came in the name of Academy Award-winner Matthew McConaughey, who was joined by wife Camila Alves. A Crescent Cityphile, the acclaimed actor received the Film Society’s 2015 Celluloid Hero award at the bash. “Yes, it is the Big Easy,” he read from a prepared script in which he lauded “the great engineering feat” of the front porch and the power and influence of Mother Nature. He raised a glass at the end of his much-applauded words as a toast.

Spring Fling

The New Orleans Lakefront Airport’s Terminal rallied hosts of party-goers who arrived as patrons or main event-ers (or both) for Mount Carmel Academy’s annual Spring Fling. The promise, certainly a delivered one, of delicious food, live musical entertainment and auction action riveted the “Fling” flock.

Included were Glen and Marilyn Smith, Clay and Lynn Plaisance, John and Tracy Fisk, Joey and Kathleen Davenporft, Dan and Wilma Nuss, Frank and Suzy Donaldson, Jeff and Stacey Hammant Wickersham, Kyle and Lynn Rotolo Strander, Brian and Maria Mantia Naccari, Kevin and Cheryl Alleman Montelepre and lots more for whom “Fling” took social flight.