The bleu, blanc et rouge (blue, white and red) of the French tricolor dominated the décor of “Picnic in Paris” when the French American Chamber of Commerce-Gulf Coast hosted its 15th annual Summer Wine Festival in The Shops at Canal Place; “A White Rose Evening: Celebrating 20 Years of Service” bannered the gallivanting for the Pontchartrain Chapter of The Links Inc. in the Hyatt Regency’s Celestin Ballroom; and, with a slew of significant chromatics, Imperial Woods Gourmet Club named its 2014 Closing Party, “Best of the Fests.” Rhonda and Chris Simmons were the at-home hosts in their Harahan residence for the culinary caper. The group’s 2013-14 theme was “Real Men Wear Aprons,” because the leadership roles and party planning were turned over to the male members.

‘Picnic’ Play

A much-anticipated event for which wine lovers and Francophiles alike gather from across the region shortly before all the Bastille Day activities, the FACC-GC Summer Wine Festival hailed a certain Crescent City joie de vivre with good food, pleasures of the grape, auction items, prizes, and entertainment. Headliners included FACC-GC board President Eric Belin and various board members; honorary gala Co-Chairmen Jean-Claude Brunet, consul general of France, and Muriel, as well as Greg Lambousy, and Todd Woodruff; auction Chairwoman Marie Kaposchyn and committee members Muriel Brunet, Edna Greenbaum, Jean Cranmer (attending with husband Bob Rue), and Christine Greenebaum; sponsorship Co-Chairmen David Buquoi (with Sally) and Earl Dyck; volunteer coordination Chairwoman Lisa Sherman of the Sisung Group; and FACC-GC executive director Loretta Krasnow.

Bidding at the silent auction’s three tables started at 7 p.m. when the party opened at Canal Place and closed two and a half hours later. (Among the top donors were Sig Greenebaum, Cox, and Warren Montgomery.) In between, guests danced, mingled, signed up for membership in the host organization, tasted specialties from two dozen local restaurants and food stations (going back for seconds!), sipped an array of wines and absinthe, and applauded Amy Kirk and costumed representatives from the Jeanne d’Arc Parade. They also thanked sponsors Air Liquide, Cox, Dorignac’s Wine & Spirits, Sodexho, and The Shops at Canal Place. Yet another merci targeted the generous volunteers.

To make “Picnic” an inside event, the decorations committee got to work, realizing the theme via tables topped with French blue linens (with complementing yellows and greens) and mini picnic-basket centerpieces containing pots of daisies. Next to them were bottles of wine.

Reveling in all this estival excitement that amassed hundreds were the above mentioned, along with FACC-GC Chairman Henry Battle with spouse Cheryl, Camille Charvet of Ye Olde Bake Shoppe, Leslie Ehret, Tom and Debbie Cronin, Daniel and Linda Castoriano with son Ben, Chet and Mary Gelpi, Ted Selogie, Jacqueline Simon, Mara Pineda, the Fred Holleys, and Sally Duplantier, who sported bleu, blanc et rouge in her outfit. Joining Sally were daughter Jeanne Duplantier and daughter and son-in-law Louise and Tim Cragin with their daughter, Alison.

Still others were Aurelie Champvert and her family, David Villarrubia of the Degas House, Nick and Nancy Matulich and daughter and son-in-law Dominique and Julien Meyer, Bonnie Broel, Jeanne and Jean-Pierre Charlebois, Carla Adams of The Shops at Canal Place, Butch Steadman of Dorignac’s, and making a chatting group of four, Diane and Peter Labouisse and Ginger Gould and David Speights. Also noted were Ben Johnson of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce and spouse Barbara.

Two musical ensembles added further liveliness. Stationed in one area was Louis Michot and the Vermillionaires, whose jaunty sounds attracted dozens, and elsewhere, the Norbert Slama Trio enticed twosomes to the dance floor. One couple even got applause after they paired for “La Vie en Rose.” Mais, oui!

Links Levity

To hail 20 years of both friendship and service, the Pontchartrain Chapter of The Links Inc. partied at the Hyatt Regency. WDSU news anchor Camille Wentworth launched the program as mistress of ceremonies. Next up were chaplain Janet Duncan Barnes (with Shelton) for the meditation, chapter President Sarah Moody-Thomas (with Vernon) for the greetings, and Southern Area director and respective 20th anniversary Chairwoman and “co” Eneid A. Francis and Regina H. Bartholomew (with spouse Jimmie Woods) for the occasion and proclamations. Gina Brown and Anutha Level made the musical mark for dancing.

During dinner, jazz violinist Shaun Ward entertained for the guests who were seated at tables centered, in keeping with the theme, with white roses and accents of green. A highlight of the evening was the presentation of the chapter’s history, which included recognition of members both past and present. An over-the-years slideshow of photos delighted the crowd, which expressed gratitude to presenting sponsor Liberty Bank; diamond sponsors First NBC and Crescent Guardian Inc.; and platinum sponsor The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco Free Living.

Reveling in all the memories and present-day merriment as 20th anniversary committee members were immediate past chapter President Hattie Broussard with Terrel, respective recording and corresponding secretaries Claudia Clark and Shaniece Bickham with Lloyd and Ralph, Anita Dabon, Yvonne Mitchell-Grubb, Belva Pichon with Walter, Rhoda Timpton, Valerie Sholes, Denise Wallace, and Jinx Broussard with Robert. Adding to the who’s who were Carolyn Lewis, Centrell Alfred-Ewell, Brenda Webster-Evans, Geri Broussard Baloney with Carl, Lynn Bernal-Green with Dwight, Diana E. Bajoie, Voris Vigee, and about 180 others, who made “20” their tribute.

The Fests’ ‘Best’

Creole, Italian, Greek, French Quarter, Crab, Okra, French Market, Strawberry, and Blueberry were among the many that had “Fest” following their names at the Imperial Woods Gourmet Club’s 2014 final feast, which touted Louisiana festivals. Club members were supposed to research a recipe from their assigned festival and dinner course that could be eaten as “finger, fork or spoon” food. No knives, please! And, in the Gourmet (as the club is called) tradition, recipes were to be shared.

Even the dress was cheerfully designated. The ladies were to sport festival attire, while the men had assigned clothing. A special feature of the evening was the costume contest. To set it up, all the wives wrote descriptions of their husbands, such as career, favorite pastimes, hobbies and one other characteristic that was not generally known. The descriptions were put in envelopes and distributed randomly to the men, who took the clothing cue and dressed accordingly. Then the women at the party voted, laureling Patrick Gleeson who came as Lloyd Riedling. “It was a fun twist and there were several great costumes,” commented a party principal.

Gourmet notables enjoying Planter’s Punch and various wine selections included the host couple, Chris and Rhonda Simmons, who recently completed their new weekend home, which was built on their family’s land on Avery Island; and, with spouse Michel, club Chairman Kevin Boudreaux, who had just helped a nephew re-locate to Fayetteville, North Carolina, for a promotion and new position as captain in the U.S. Army.

And, Harahan Mayor Provino “Vinny” Mosca (solo since Karen was visiting family), Kelly and Kim Hasney, Louie and Melinda Jackson (with happy talk about their new pup, Gracie), the above Patrick Gleeson with Jennifer, Don and Patty Gremillion, spouses/newcomers to New Orleans Phil Gunn and Jeanne Turner, Beau and Trudy Barrett, Joey and Enola Richard, David and Dottie Haydel, Bill Berg with wife Helene Cerise, Glenn and Darleen Landry, Robert and Liz Bordelon, Lloyd Riedling and spouse Cheryl Klepko, and Daphne Gambino.

Adding ambiance were the decorations, starting with candlelit lanterns leading the way to the front door, which was enhanced with a daisy wreath. In the dining room, a line was draped across the front windows to hold various styles of straw hats, which, “Thank you, Sirs!”, went home with the ladies as mementos of a glorious meal.