Palate Pleasures

James Beard is a stellar name in the culinary world and for New Orleans, a city that loves to eat and vice versa, the national epicurean tour that bears his name provided a welcome fit. The James Beard Foundation’s Taste America: Local Flavor from Coast to Coast, which celebrates America’s culinary diversity, held forth with gusto at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. It was billed “A Night of Culinary Stars” and formatted as “an exclusive dining event” to benefit the James Beard Foundation. A portion of the proceeds benefited the Taste America Scholarship Fund.

Teamed to co-chair the Lucullan bash were McIlhenny Company President and CEO Tony Simmons with wife, Jeannie; McIlhenny Co. Chairman/James Beard Foundation trustee Christian “Christy” Brown, with Kia, who reigned as Rex, king of Carnival, on Feb. 17; and from Dickie Brennan and Co., Dickie Brennan and his sister, Lauren Brennan Brower. James Beard award-winning chefs Tory McPhail, Ryan Prewitt, Stephen Stryjewski, Alon Shaya and Sue Zemanick provided tastings during the reception.

Afterward, the 275 guests sat for an extraordinary dinner prepared by more James Beard-award winnings chefs: host Eric Damidot, of the Hyatt Regency; Donald Link, of Herbsaint; April Bloomfield, of New York’s The Spotted Pig; and Jeremy Fogg, of Emeril’s Restaurant.

A special moment occurred when foundation President Susan Ungaro paid tribute to the late chef Paul Prudhomme.

Among those reveling in the repast (and the earlier Tabasco Mash Tasting) were Hyatt Regency New Orleans general manager Michael Smith, Marna and Frank Brigtsen, Bill Hammack and Janice Parmelee, Clark and Barbara McIlhenny Fitz-Hugh, Cameron and J. Stephen Perry, Emery and Kristian Sonnier, Patrick Singley, Scott Hutcheson, Dottie Brennan, Ralph Brennan, Charlee Williamson, Helen and Kim Butcher, Perry and Karen Eastman, Frog and Terry White, Ashley Bright, Lally Brennan, Gretchen and Joel Dondis, Mia and Justin Devillier, Jeremy Cooker, Pixie and Jimmy Reiss, Leo Basile, Zeid Amari, Doug Meffert, Fred Holley, Gene Bourg, and Bethany and Eric Paulsen.

One of the bright lights in this evening of sidereal pleasures was the auction conducted by master of ceremonies Mark Romig. Chief among the enticements was “Dine out for a Year,” which included gift certificates to 52 restaurants. For the musical menu, the NOCCA Jazz Quartet provided instrumental ingredients.

After the feasting fact, scores, including Christy Brown, delighted in the success of the event at which the food was deemed “spectacular.” Remarked Christy, “James Beard’s Taste America series reached a new high in New Orleans, a city famous for culinary excellence. Seven of our city’s award-winning chefs proved that our reputation is well earned.”

A tout to the toques!

Shining Stars

Junior Achievement gave a salute to a younger crowd in the form of its Rising Stars fun fundraiser that had JA Biz Town on Orleans Avenue as its venue. In 2003, JA instituted the City Stars Soiree to recognize individuals, age 40 and under, “who have demonstrated strong entrepreneurial skills with high moral and ethical values.”

All hail the 2015 laureates! They were Brandon Berger, The Berger Company; Erin Romney-Cazes, Romney Pilates; Becker Hall, Hogs for the Cause; Deirdre Hooper and Sarah Jackson, Audubon Dermatology; and Bivian “Sonny” Lee III, Son of a Saint.

Bryan Scofield and Chad Berg were bannered on the program as the respective Soiree chairman and “co.” The listing continued with Robby Moss, sponsorship chairman; Suzi O’Brien, auction chairwoman; and Planning Committee members Suzanne Alford, Kyle Brechtel, Katy Casbarian, Karen Chauvin, Arnel Cosey, Diedra Dias, G. Perry Eastman IV, Valerie Moscano, Brett Patron, Denyse Schomaker, and Sandy Villere III. A number of those names are repeated on the 41-person JA board of governors. Most were in attendance.

As the 350 guests entered the party premises, they were wowed by all the lighting effects created by the Solomon Group, such as up-lighting and stars reflected on the dance floor and throughout JA Biz Town, a kid’s city. Mirrored glass stars were set along with silver votive candles on the tables. The appetite was duly sated with the catering of more than 25 local restaurants. Particular favorites were turtle soup, beef tips, shrimp and grits, and seared yellowfin tuna.

Auction action was energetic and party palpable. There were 80 silent auction items including a two-night stay at Stewart Steelwood Lodges and a ride in the Orpheus parade. In addition, the Prize Pull had 180 items and Ramsey’s Diamond Jewelers donated a “Drop of Life” pendant.

Among those noted were Joy and Boysie Bollinger, Brittany Brees, Louellen and Darryl Berger, state Rep. Helena Moreno and Chris Meeks, Tamica Lee and Barry Smith, Vincent Giardina, Clark and Laura Todd, and hundreds more.

To get the groove going, The Wiseguys did the musical honors. And for performance excitement, who better than the 610 Stompers! They were led by Brett Patron, a 2014 Rising Star.

St. Bernard de Clairvaux

On a recent Saturday, the Convent and Investiture of The Priory of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, took place at Christ Anglican Catholic Church in Metairie followed by a celebratory dinner at Andrea’s Restaurant. The ceremony was presided by Deputy Grand Prior for Region V Thomas Marshall, who hails from Missouri, and Prior Bernard L. Baisier. Two new members were invested: Gerald Page Brent and the Rev. Canon Alford Hollister, who were accompanied by their wives, Sandra and Debra. An emulation of the chivalric and charity traditions of the original Knights Templar defines the mission and activity of the Order.

Villere’s Florist designed and prepared the centerpieces for the gala banquet at Andrea’s using red and white roses with baby’s breath. Meal choices were available for each of the main courses, central of which was either trout amandine or rib-eye steak. During the course of the formalities, Thomas Marshall, retired sergeant major, commented on the good works of the order. The final words were from Bernard Baisier (joined by Georgia, Priory secretary) regarding the charitable works of the Priory.

Further notables — all of whom have titles within the Order, such as chevalier or chevaleresse — were Russ and Susan DeMarcay Copping, Ray R. and Cheryl A. Egan, the Right Rev. Herbert J. May, Samuel Carriere, Michael and Debbie Carriere, Dr. Joseph “Joe” and Gloria Darlak, and Priory Treasurer Robert P. Gargoni, retired colonel, and his guest, Larissa Khoutorova.

And, Missouri-resident Marilyn Geery, Patricia P. Marse and Warren, Henry A. McEnery and Libba, Angelle Z. Palmere, Heath E. Plescia, Edward Runci (retired colonel), Michael Schenk and Laura, banquet organizer Dr. Alan Sheen and Joan, Ann S. Toohey, Roger F. Villere Jr. and Donna, and Beth Zeringue with Reggie.

As noted by a principal of the Order, “We are the modern Knights Templar, an ecumenical Christian and chivalric charitable order.”

Around and About

Paulette and Frank Stewart opened their home for a soiree, Un Refuge de l’Orage III (Shelter from the Storm). The event, which included cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, casual chic dress, music by Hot Mess and attendance by members of the 37-person committee and others was dedicated to the memory of Beverly Lore, founder of the Angels of ARNO (Animal Rescue New Orleans), the beneficiary.

Erica and James Reiss and Marley and Michael LeBourgeois chaired “Wine Dine and Design,” a tablescape luncheon, presented by St. Charles Avenue Magazine and parent company Renaissance Publishing.

Held at the Audubon Tea Room and to benefit Operation Homefront, each table setting was an extravagant and photogenic work of art. Wow!