One of the best Oscar parties last Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, had to be the Napa Valley Academy Awards Viewing Party to benefit HIV/AIDS and cancer programs, with 25 Napa Valley chefs serving hors d'oeuvres face to face at Mondavi Vineyards. Margrit Mondavi said a few words at the end of the light-hearted and friendly affair with affable emcee Bob Sarlatte. Mondavi hosted the benefit with a red carpet running through 30-foot high wine barrel tanks, Mondavi pairing the delectibles with wine and featuring a bright 2010 Fume Blanc perfect with seafood, fruit and salads or simply ice-cold on it's own.
The chefs appear in the slideshow and include established and young talent, from recent culinary grad Caitlin Mackey with dry aged striploin to veterans Rick Enos with a shrimp cocktail from Rio Grille; and Gayle Keller's Zero Dark Thirty Black Ops black rice salad with a citrus vinaigrette from All Seasons. Sardine tarts from Grace's Table. Pate from Oenotri. Oysters from Hog Island. Scott Kendall of Carpe Diem Wine Bar brought hoisin glazed pork belly.Chocolate mousse from Sweetie Pie's. It went on and on, an all-evening food fest.
The number of desserts equaled the number of savories and each and every morsel delighted as did the chefs the guests would meet face to face.
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Publicist Tom Fuller, 6'6", told of how the event had come a long way from the days when it started at the depths of the AIDS epidemic. The benefit started on an airport tarmack then moved to the opera house. The Embassy Suites hosted then Sterling Vineyards, then Vintage 1870 in Yountville, then Lincoln Theater and for five years it's been Mondavi. The benefit at the fairgrounds took place at the height of the AIDS epidemic with the Village People and Ru Paul. Although things have changed since then and AIDS is manageable, the benefit also concerns cancer programs.
On that diplomatic note, organizer and food writer for the Napa Register Pierce took a moment to pose with veteran benefit chef Kelly Macdonald of the Wine Train. Macdonald mentioned over his tray of hors d'oeuvres, a wonton piled with tuna from Hawaii with Russian and domestic caviars and a vodka creme fraiche. He had worked in Georgia for the American ambassador four years after the invasion. He also worked for the diplomat in Lithuania after independence.
Macdonald also used figs frozen in cognac and salt for the brioche.
The guests enjoyed each other’s company and Kimberly Thompson, a long-time supernumerary with the San Francisco Opera, ran into another super who has a house in Napa and celebrated with a table of friends.
Drag queen Chandra Lier crawled the red carpet and sashayed in a red sequin sheeth and high platform pumps, showing her tattoo and tiara. Guests seemed to enjoy the camp and posing with her, actually Jay, a hospitality director at another winery.
Two elegant models in evening gowns took a dramatic interlude to pose in the freight elevator.
Tickets to the walk-around part of the event cost $99 each for single admission. The party also included a VIP sit-down dinner with each course prepared by a different chef. Margrit Mondavi shared a table with happy friends Art & Penny Kviter, Jim & Karen O’Neill and Kathy Magner.