Red and White Out
Not even an impending snowstorm could keep fans of the Delaware Theatre Company away from the delicious pairings of gourmet foods and wines during its annual Wine Feast and Auction at the Hotel du Pont. Witness DTC board member Cindy Wilkinson, just back from warm Boca Raton, Florida, who was determined to make her appointed rounds. First stop: the A.R. Morris Jewelers auction in the du Barry room. Next, nibbles at the Domaine Hudson and Union City Grille food stations. Then it was off to The Grand Opera House to catch the Neville Brothers concert. Go, Cindy, go, in your Michael Kors little black dress and—what snow?—black boots.
Two steps into the Gold Ballroom we met with the well-dressed twosome, Eric and JoJami Tyler, also just back from Florida. Next stop: Aspen. “Do you ski?” we asked. They answered, in unison, “Not too well, but we’ve got the clothes.” JoJami also has the accessories. We asked where she found her alluring Stella & Dot tri-strand necklace of amber gemstones and cocoa pearls, as well as her open-toed, leopard-print stillettos, also Stella & Dot. Both are from the new Ashley Austin in Kennett. Mrs. Tyler is one to always have her fashion resources at the ready. Eric provided a tastemaker tip of his own: “Try the gumbo.” At the Eclipse Bistro table, chef Mark Dagette passed out hot and peppery samples of his New Orleans-style stew.
Several restaurants served hearty, winter fare. Domaine Hudson’s Meg Hudson introduced us to her new executive chef, Abde Dahrouch, as we sampled the delightful roasted butternut squash soup. Meg told us that Domaine’s new menu will include new French, Mediterranean and Moroccan influences.
A table or two down, the lovely Miss Mia Malloy of the James Street Tavern in Newport kindly offered a cool, palate-cleansing sample of the Chateau Ste. Michelle Horse Heaven Sauvignon Blanc. The wine owes its freshness to “aging 70 percent of the time in stainless—like me when I spend too much time in my kitchen,” Mia joked. Will stainless be to this decade what avocado was to the ’70s? Only 70 percent of the time will tell.
We met Aleine Porterfield and Ryan Browning, who declared themselves “just friends,” at the Caffé Gelato stop presided over by handsome owner Ryan German. Ryan helped his chef by donning big blue rubber gloves and an acrylic face shield to demonstrate gelato making. How dangerous can ice cream be, you might ask? We’re not sure, but the liquid nitrogen and smoke drew quite a crowd—or maybe it was the chocolate and pistachios.
Lauren Barrette and Bill Dowling, first-timers at the wine feast, both loved the scallops from Brandywine Prime and the taste du bouef from the Hotel du Pont. Bill works with Matt Urban of Mobius New Media, who we just missed as he left to photograph the Neville Brothers.
Running to, not from, the snow was Vicky Pettinaro Martelli, just back from Whistler, which you know as the site of the 2010 Olympic skiing and snowboarding events. The report: “Tons of powder and fab Cat skiing.” Vicky came back for this event and to wrap up preparations for the grand opening of the Clubhouse at Greenville Place, a gym, poll and party place, in mid-March. We can vouch that Vicky is an authority on all three.
For a liquid dessert, we had to try the Desiree chocolate wine Union City Grille owner Matthew Curtis was decanting decadently.
At the top of the ballroom’s massive marble stairs we met a fun-loving group that included Sharon Biddle, Karen Dale Poore and her husband, Dan Nestor, who KP introduced as “the former governor.” All admitted to having “tasted” more than a few of the vintages. The “governor’s” friends and designated driver (the one with the plow truck), their luggage cart loaded with six cases of wine, and about 590 other guests and volunteers all got in, had fun, and got out safely with several minutes to spare before a state of emergency was issued by the governor (the real one), thanks in no small part to DTC Wine Feasts and Auction’s pretty PR pro Amy Watson Bish and her frequent visits to Weather.com.
Page 2: Opera is for Lovers
Opera is for Lovers
Aficionados of love and opera—specifically OperaDelaware—gathered at the Hotel du Pont the night before Valentine’s Day for Viva L’amore, Viva Opera, as this year’s Delaware Opera Ball was called, to show their support, passion and, yes, love for the art.
We were greeted by the sensual tones of harpist Hannah Eagleson. “We love being at the registration table, within earshot of her entire repertoire,” said OperaDelaware production manager Sara Tantillo. In the lobby, we chatted with executive director Carin Brastow and artistic director Leland Kimball about which of the world’s operas best exemplified the evening’s theme. “La Boheme” was the answer from both. “It proves that love endures all, much like OperaDelaware,” said Carin. For Leland, “It’s because they find beauty and joy in each other, without money.” That’s when event co-chairs David and Laurie Nicoli applauded Carin and Leland’s ability to not only sustain OperaDelaware, but also to make it thrive at a time when four other regional companies have gone bankrupt.
How? Creative thinking, such as renting out rehearsal halls and bartering for set designs, as well as getting young people hooked on opera, the Nicolis explained. “OperaDelaware and the arts are a critical part of a healthy community,” said David, vice president for corporate affairs at AstraZeneca, a supporter. “Nourishing the soul is as important as nourishing the body.” Laurie echoed the evening’s theme of amore with a more personal message: “I fell in love with David when I fell in love with opera.”
Throughout the evening, OperaDelaware chorus members in full costume would perform spontaneous arias. We ID’d diva Andrea Arena, with date Dan Callahan, a ballroom dancing instructor, by her hot pink silk charmeuse siren number. Andrea has performed in five OperaDelaware productions and plans to audition for the role of Flora in “La Traviata” this fall.
We had the good fortune of speaking with the event’s lovely chairwoman, Theda Blackwelder, who was radiant in a winter white ensemble with a heart-shaped cocktail bag. Theda attended with her handsome son Michael Blackwelder, who thanked his mother for introducing him to opera via an OperaDelaware performance of “Fidellio” when he was 17. Theda, a former president of the Delaware Opera Guild, loves “Madame Butterfly.” “It touches my soul, as it does, I believe, people of all ages.” Ciao for now.