While attending Alain & Marie LeNôtre’s annual Champagne & Chocolat Scholarship Gala at the Houston Country Club, this human instantly morphed into a semi sorda savvy socialite. Wearing a non designer dress possessing a near peasant price tag of almost $140, this did not cease feelings of fancy to overflow.
Sashay up country club steps to witness Houston high rollers conquering the… check-in table. Having just entered this world we call invited to things, excitement soared while watching wealthy gala goers’ spirits lift & fur coats fluff while picking up stickers for unstoppable bidding ability.
Bidding began as servers circled the room with champagne, as well as hors d’oeuvres, prepared by students from Culinary Institute LeNôtre. Trays included smoked haddock with horseradish & piccadilly on pampernickel toast. Another is salmon gravalax mousse on blinis with dill aspic. Last, but so not least, gulp, is praline of foie-gras & truffle.
Michael Israel created this Marylin Monroe canvas live during a Culinary Symposium, orchestrated by chef Charles Carroll of River Oaks Country Club.
Before ultimate dining room arrival becomes reality, prepare to pass no less than almost 243 tiara toters soaking in the scene.
Speaking of such, honorary chair, Joanne King Herring, is the New York Times best selling author of Charlie Wilson’s War, which was also made into a movie. She hosted a television show for KHOU-TV, as well as founding the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, The Colitis & Ileitis Foundation, Texas Heart Institute, and Noche de las Americas Ball. This mega philanthropist was unable to attend due to an unexpected illness.
King donated a “gastronomic experience” for ten guests to be prepared at the home of the winning bidder by chef Charles Carroll. Let us not forget to mention the autographed book “Diamonds & Diplomacy” which was so graciously given as well.
Students from Culinary Institute LeNôtre busily prepared chocolats & macarons. Ooh la la. Some items were pistachio raspberry tart, chocolate truffles, lemon crème brulee tart, caramel milk chocolate ganache, and Arabica dark & milk coffee ganache.
In addition to a chocolate buffet of glorious proportion, this talented team of cheffing machines spent hours creating centerpieces made entirely of sugar.
From across the room, time stood still as a service industry worker began steadfastly making table four even more fabulous than it was before. Astonished best describes inner feelings of joy while perusing the name plates pleasantly placed upon the table.
Table 4 just so happens to be the best table in the history of all non socialite seating assignments. Name plate positioning informed all as to whom would potentially be their brand new gala table BFF for the evening. After a full blown investigation, it was apparent the person assigned to sit only one seat away from AVH was … Cleverley Stone.
To say Cleverley was excited we were neighbors is the grossest of all gross exaggerations. Her expression upon notification was utter bewilderment. Others at this table we call 4 were the Consul General of France & Madame Frédéric Bontems, as well as Alain & Marie LeNôtre, Michel Emery of Petrossian, and weatherman extraordinaire Frank Billingsley.
Just when conversation odds appeared to be an unobtainable task, all of the sudden… everyone else left. With limited conversation options Cleverley did the unthinkable and asked me to scoot into the chair beside her. Don’t jump to conclusions of acceptance. It was NOT that she wanted to actually speak to me, for this event occurred out of a massive moment of boredom.
Cleverley’s Forced Out Of Complete Boredom Gala Table Conversation Reenactment:
Cleverley: And you are…?
AVH: Hi!! I write for Almost Veggie Houston.
Cleverley: How do you make money if you write for yourself?
AVH: Oh, I don’t make any money. I just write & stuff.
Cleverley: Thinking to herself: Eww. (…as her frown wrinkle begins to wrinkle)
AVH: Gee, um, I have a job, so my life is able to occasionally produce rainbows & sunshine.
Cleverley: (Gazes off into the distance desperately looking for someone possessing a status of… more important)
Suddenly, a saving the day entrance comparable to Superman swooping down to scoop up Lois, was honorary chef of the evening, Philippe Schmit, stopping by for a mini conversation with Cleverley. If this guy isn’t the ladies man there simply isn’t one.
Moving right along…
The person possessing a name plate directly beside AVH just so happens to be the above mentioned… Frank Billingsley. Weather reporters watch out, for Frank is not messing around. His job title for the evening is MC, with a direct duty to somehow convince purses & pockets to fork over dough for the culinary future of many talented Texans.
After an invocation was given by Father Demetrio Tagaropulos, courses commenced. Petrossian caviar filled a spoon with the arrival of the amuse bouche. Michel Emery, Petrossian’s director of sales, donated caviar for this event, as well as the gala kickoff party held at Kris Bistro last month.
A seafood sampler of sorts soon graced our table, with northeastern chilled seafood terrine, citrus fennel slaw, marinated asparagus, and cumber gelee.
For the meat eating gala goers, a duo of braised veal & sous vide Texas quail surely tickled their fancy. This plate of carcass debate arrived with potato Napoleon, broccolini, petite garden vegetables, and the always exciting roasted chipollini onion.
After dinner a parade of chefs made their way from the kitchen to the dance floor. The scholarship recipient soon graced the stage to give a moving speech professing her heartfelt appreciation to the school for helping to fulfill her dreams as a pastry chef. Triple Chef Sniffle.
As the chefs made their exit, a debacle of cancan girls arrived only to patiently wait for the music malfunction to end. This particular cancan show was being performed by students from the High School for the Performing & Visual Arts. Their performance was a complete high kicking bonanza extravaganza. Really.
Alain & Marie LeNôtre continue their quest to make culinary school an option for up & coming chefs throughout Texas. Their passion shines through their commitment for this endowment and the future of Culinary Arts in Houston.