Every now and then the Capital City’s social swirl can make you feel like you’re running in circles. The fact that I was recently partying at both the old and new Governor’s Mansions one evening didn’t help matters.
‘Masquerade at the Mansion’
One of my favorite events each fall is the Foundation for Historical Louisiana’s Old Governor’s Mansion Gala. With a theme of “Masquerade at the Mansion,” this year’s event Oct. 11 celebrated Louisiana’s Spanish heritage. Marvelous, mysterious masks were part of most everyone’s ensemble, even those not in costume, although dressing to fit the theme for this historical party has become part of the fun.
Taking home the prize for the best costumes as determined by judge “Padre” Gene McCann were Liz D’Antone and Jack Laws. Gene and wife Rochelle have earned the title of gala chairmen emeritus. Chairing the 14th annual gala were Melanie and Brad Way.
As the several hundred guests meandered through the mansion, they sampled the wares of some of the city’s best restaurants and caterers, sipped some rather tasty libations, shopped a rather tempting silent auction and took a spin on the Rose Garden dance floor to the sounds of Stormy. I enjoyed my visits with Gracella Simmons, Leo Honeycutt and daughter Danielle, Dianne O’Connor, Emily and John Wilbert, Rita Jackson, Angela deGravelles and Executive Director Carolyn Bennett. I also enjoyed getting to meet New Orleanian Carlos Monge, who shared how excited he was about the daily NOLA version of The Advocate, and Sandra Stokes and Virginia Kay, an Australian in Louisiana to shoot a movie. She said she likes it so much she just might stay.
Before heading to the Old Governor’s Mansion I was at the “new” Governor’s Mansion for the Legacy Donor Foundation’s Soul Revival. Honorary chairman for the event was state Rep. Stephen “Steve” Pugh, of Ponchatoula, who received a kidney from son Christopher in July 2011. Proceeds from the evening benefit the foundation’s education and awareness programs which encourage people to register as organ, eye and tissue donors.
Culinary offerings were provided by Chef KD; music was provided by Better Than Nobody. Committee members included Leslie Brennan, Marjorie McKeithen, Bruce Pinsonat, Mary and Miles Pollard, Wendy Lipsey Shiroda, Ann Trousdale and David Voelker.
Before my mansion forays, I was partying with Capital Area United Way at the North Boulevard Town Square as it kicked off its 2012 campaign with the 25th annual Jambalaya Jam, which raised a whopping $60,000. Normally I like hanging out at this way-too-much-fun street party as the various teams (46 this year) competing for best jambalaya bragging rights talk some good-natured trash (My Advocate co-workers are among them.).
This year that honor went to St. Elizabeth Hospital. Second place went to the team from Turner Industries at Syngenta, and third place went to the team from Champion Technologies. Dow Chemical Co. took home the People’s Choice Award, and the fact that Dow was the premier sponsor of the event had nothing to do with it; tasters voted via the free “Jambalaya Jam” iPhone app, developed by New Aperio. The gang from Performance Contractors got the nod for best appetizers for their pork tenderloin medallions from their fellow competitors.
Of course it wouldn’t be a street party without some music for dancing. Filling that bill were After 8, The Allison Collins Band and Nashville recording artist Jana Kramer.
‘Seats for Seizures’
Price LeBlanc Lexus was the setting for the third annual “Seats for Seizures” gala benefiting the Epilepsy Foundation of Louisiana Oct. 14. This year’s event honored Dr. Carolyn Baker.
In addition to a rather tempting silent auction, there was a raffle of tickets to the LSU vs. Alabama football game complete with parking pass. Emcee for the evening was WBRZ-TV news anchor Rosa Flores.
Just as I was about to leave, I ran into four of the neatest women from New Orleans — Barbara Ferguson, Betty Avery, and Jan and Jackie Sullivan. We briefly discussed The Advocate’s new adventure in the Big Easy … they’re most excited about it, as are we. I’m looking forward to crossing paths with them again.
Providing food and beverages for the gala were Abigail’s Catering, Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, Baton Rouge Coca-Cola, Bet-R-Store, Café Phoenicia, City Café, Cou-Yon’s Bar-B-Q Port Allen, Crescent Crown Distributing, Drusilla Seafood & Catering, Firefly Vodka, Jason’s Deli, Kleinpeter Farms Dairy, Mestizo’s Louisiana Mexican Restaurant, Portobello’s Grill, Renaissance Hotel, Ruffino’s Italian Restaurant, Sno’s Seafood & Steakhouse, Sullivan’s Steakhouse and The Heavenly Donut.
‘Pink on the Plaza’
Next up was Woman’s Hospital’s “Pink on the Plaza” event celebrating the 14th annual Woman’s Victory Open golf tournament. The Hilton Capitol Center’s Riverview Ballroom was awash in a sea of pink as supporters of the all-women golf tournament ponied up for an evening of fun, food and some lively bidding in an auction conducted by WBRZ weather guru Pat Shingleton. Before the auction began, LSU Women’s Basketball coach Nikki Caldwell, who was this year’s honorary chairwoman of the Woman’s Victory Open, addressed the several hundred guests.
That list included buddies Tonya Dixon, Janet Ketchem, Melissa Parmalee, Karen and Bill Profita, Gail Gaiennie, and Hank and Laurie Saurage. And, while they were working the event, it was good to see two of my favorite restaurateurs — Kevin Kimball, TJ Ribs, and Ruffin Rodrigue, Ruffino’s Italian Restaurant.
Joining them in serving up some yummy goodies were chef Eric Sibley with Blend Wine Bar, Greystone Country Club, Hilton Capitol Center, Jasmine’s on the Bayou, L’Auberge Casino, Louisiana Perfect Pit Catering, Mansurs/French Market Bistro, Ninfa’s Mexican Restaurant, Sammy’s Grill, Sweet Sentiments Bakeshop, The Little Village, Walk-On’s and Woman’s Hospital.
Francine Groves chaired “Pink on the Plaza”; Beverly Choppin chaired the golf tournament, which took place the following day at the Country Club of Louisiana. Other committee chairwomen and sub-chairwomen included Carol Guerin, Barbara Schwartzenburg, Nona Brouillette, Kathleen Garrison, Anise Valure, Sue Sheets, Stephanie Pennington, Gail Gaiennie, Carla Jumonville, Dovie Brady and Vickie Theriot.
‘Meanwhile, Back at...’
My week of party hopping actually got underway with an Oct. 9 book-signing at Mestizo’s for what I have to confess has been quite the journey. Little did I know little more than a year ago when Peggy Sweeney McDonald asked me to share a food story for her “Meanwhile, Back at Café du Monde…” monologue show that my tale, “It’s Got Green Stuff,” would end up in a beautiful coffee table sorta cookbook.
I say sorta because while every story is about food not every story has a recipe. There are, however, some delicious looking ones from folks like chefs Don Bergeron, Jim Uridales, Matt Murphy, Leah Chase and Alan Ehrich; restaurateur Ruffin Rodrigue; and food blogger Jay Ducote. And, of course, there’s Peggy’s title story, which will have you rolling.
Anyway, the majority of the Baton Rouge contingent of contributors were on hand for the big event. That was another plus of this experience; the wonderful new friends made as we all shared our food stories. One was sadly missing, the late Bert Fife, whose smiling face graces the dedication page.
Look for “Meanwhile, Back at Café du Monde…” and Peggy at Hollydays Wednesday through Saturday. You might even catch some of us contributors there for an extra autograph or two.
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