Where to begin? The Baton Rouge Epicurean Society’s two-day Fête Rouge celebration of food and wine just keeps getting better. The cherry on top was this year’s “Dining By Design” gastronomic treat benefiting the Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center.

Fête Rouge

Jay Campbell, president/CEO of Associated Grocers, was the man of the hour at the eighth annual Grace “Mama” Marino Lifetime Achievement Dinner. Several hundred of the community’s who’s who, including a contingent of local priests, filled L’Auberge Casino & Hotel’s ballroom for the gala event. In an especially touching moment, Campbell thanked Mama in her native Italian. The smile on her face, and that of son Gino Marino, who was standing next to her, said it all.

None other than Mayor Kip Holden served as master of ceremonies for the evening, which also shinned the spotlight on the first recipients of BRES’s debut Service Industry Award, presented by BRES Vice President Kevin Kimball. They included Alvin “Butch” Smith, Gino’s Restaurant; Dennis Dodge, the Little Village; Dee Satterly and David Leroy Kent, Mansurs on the Boulevard; George Brown, Ruth’s Chris; and the late Lela LaFleur, who worked at Ruth’s Chris for 32 years before joining the staff at Juban’s.

As one would expect, the food at the dinner was amazing. The local chefs manning the kitchen use the opportunity to strut their stuff. This year’s menu was a nod to Campbell’s Lebanese heritage and included Tahini Rubbed Roasted Black Grouper by chef Jeremy Langlois with Houmas House Plantation and Chile and Coriander Braised Lamb Shank by L’Auberge chef Drew England. The evening’s appetizers were by chef David Dickensauge of Bin 77 Bistro & Bar, the salad course by chef Eric Arceneaux of the City Club, the soup by chef Kelley McCann of Galatoire’s Bistro and dessert by chef Don Bergeron. Each course was accompanied by a carefully selected wine.

Fête taste

We returned to L’Auberge the following night for the grand tasting of more than 200 wines and the delectable culinary creations of some of the city’s best restaurants and caterers all vying for bragging rights. A special group of wine lovers ponied up extra for Fête du Vin which allowed them to sample elite wines in a keepsake Reidel wine glass in L’Auberge’s VIP lounge.

The chefs and wines were set up at tables boasting the names of the various programs benefiting from the two-day event: ProStart, Girls on the Run, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 4-H Power of Youth, Boys & Girls Club, LSU School of Nutrition, SmartBodies and the John Folse Culinary Institute.

Before everything got underway, BRES held its annual media wine tasting. Teammates John Ballance, head of The Advocate’s photo department, and Art de la Torre, head of classified advertising, and I sampled a flight of 14 Cabernets. Our coach was Kenny Lacour, of Dakota Restaurant in Covington. It’s a blind tasting so I can’t say which Cabs we had, but the winners were: Cabernet Sauvignon I: 2012 JaM Cellars, North Coast USA, gold; 2011 Forefront, California, silver; 2012 Michael David “Freakshow,” Lodi, bronze; and Cabernet Sauvignon II: 2011 John Anthony, Napa, gold; 2011 Markham, Napa, silver; and 2009 Alexander Valley Vineyards “Cyrus,” bronze.

The complete list of winning wines is available at theadvocate.com/columnists/pambordelon/.

‘Dining By Design’

I had a day’s rest from gastronomic overload before heading to the Crowne Plaza for “Dining By Design.” Celebrity chefs joining chef John Folse, organizer of the event, in the kitchen included Charles Carroll, River Oaks Country Club in Houston; Pierre Sauvaget, Los Angeles Tennis Club; Seth Shipley, the Gasparilla Inn & Club in Boca Grande, Florida; Jared Van Camp, Nellcôte in Chicago; Michel Cornu, Boisset Family Estates in Napa, California; Peter Timmins, The Everglades Club, Palm Beach, Florida; Chris Motto, Mansurs on the Boulevard; and Peter Sclafani, Ruffino’s Restaurant.

Each chef’s table was magnificently decorated with local designers interpretation of the “Heavenly Kingdom.” They included landscape architect Eduardo Jenkins, Jake’s on the Avenue, Cole’s Florist, Peregrin’s Florist & Decorative Services, Red Door Interiors, Interior Design Associates, Harb’s Oasis, Bee’s Wedding & Event Designs, Nancy Zito Interiors, Designs by Milissa,Whole Foods Market, Alexander’s Highland Market and A Cottage Path.

Typically Sister Maria Dulce, founder of the Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center, and the stories shared by those she has healed are the stars of the evening. However, I think they may have been upstaged by the Three Waiters. During the beginning of the dinner, they seemed just part of the Crowne Plaza’s staff, then all of a sudden they burst into arias made famous by the Three Tenors and brought down the house. You can catch their finale online at http://theadvocate.com/columnists/pambordelon. Their performance put everyone in a jovial mood for the live auction handled by Folse with help from Ruffin Rodrigue, Jay and Debi Grymes, and Karen and Bill Profita. Together with the generosity of dinner patrons, they raised over $35,000 for Sister’s healing ministry.

Follow Pam on Twitter @pamspartyline. Items for Pam’s Party Line must be received by 9 a.m. the Monday preceding the run date. High-resolution digital photos should be emailed to pbordelon@theadvocate.com. Hard copy photos should be dropped off at or mailed to The Advocate, 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70821. Events will run no later than four weeks after they have taken place. The date, place of the event and a contact name and daytime phone number must be included. Photos will be used at the discretion of The Advocate.

View all Pam's Party Line: 'Delightful dining' photos here.