Finding AIDS Delaware’s annual fundraiser (formerly A Day Without Art) on the Riverfront was a bit more difficult than in the past, when the party was held at more familiar locations like the Delaware Art Museum or Brandywine Building. Fortunately the friendly looking couple we frantically approached for directions were William and Tamsey Schuler, who had just dropped off their donation for the auction, a sculptural iron orchid by William, an ornamental blacksmith who pointed us in the right direction.
Once inside the Barclays Bank building on Wilmington’s South West Street, we set our internal GPS (good person searcher) for AIDS Delaware director John Klein, who described the venue choice with one key word: free. Despite the general economic hardship, “We were amazed by the great support of artists, individuals, galleries and stores from across the state,” John told us. “We have about 75 more pieces this year than we received in ’07,” added Charles “Ebbie” Alfree.
In the center of the activity, audible over the bidding buzz, was Tony Williams and the BGD All Stars, whose saucy, smooth jazz served as an irresistible siren, luring guests from food and wine to shop and bid.
And bid they did.
Board chair Bob Martz told us about AIDS Delaware’s plans to open several new HIV testing sites in the state, including one at the UD health center in Newark. Also seen and noted were DuPont Theatre general manager John Gardner and DCCA director Maxine Gaiber, who was decompressing with a rub by Gary Cramer of Soothing Touch Massage. We also spotted actor P.J. Foster having his cards read by tarot master Crystal Shadows. Is there a call from Hollywood in P.J.’s future? We’ll see.
We had the distinct good fortune to meet jovial virologist and gene therapist Phil Cross, a former AIDS Delaware president and current chairman emeritus. “That’s Latin for old,” he chuckled. The youthful Mr. Cross then introduced us to a couple of his good friends: Robbie Freisem of Philadelphia, who had her eye on original works by Dennis Minch and Mary Anderson, and George Meldrum Jr., a policy analyst for Nemours Foundation and longtime AIDS Delaware board member and best friend to the original Gabby herself, the late Sally Rinard.
George became owner of most of her personal possessions, including letters and interviews with such designers and celebrities as Bill Blass, Diana Vreeland and Jacqueline Onassis. George was instrumental in transferring Sally’s collection of designer fashions to UD.
We were thrilled to have met our predecessor’s BFF. It seems the perseverance in finding the party was well worth it.
Page 2: A Master Blast (Meals from the Masters)
Gee, it sure was nice of seven-year Meals from the Masters Kitchen Kabinet volunteer Jane Goldberg to give us a guided once-around of the Chase Center before 1,800 fanatic foodies stormed the sold out Meals on Wheels fundraiser.
Jane graciously led an overview of the 40 participating restaurants and distributors, the main stage and a trio of games sponsored by ING, which sponsored the whole weekend. Thank you, Arkadi Kuhlman.
Governor’s Hall housed hundreds of irresistible auction items and services donated by more than 200 businesses, from A Barefoot Chef to Yoga U. Event volunteer Gretchen Kennedy escorted us to the Cellar Master’s Wine Auction, a new addition to the party that helped raise an additional $80,000 last year. We sampled pours from vintners such as auction co-chairs Sara and Dennis Cakebread’s eponymous Napa Valley label and Garrett and Tatiana Copeland’s Bouchaine.
“Both are great with the Grandma’s Gnocchi” served by Toscana, said Gretchen’s boyfriend Wally Moyer. The gnocchi was prepared by Delebrity chef Dan Butler, who was also the star presenter at the demonstration kitchen in the main hall.
When we caught up with Dan, he was waiting for chef Julio Lazzarini to wrap up his demo. Lazzarini is an alumna of Butler’s Deep Blue. “You raise the youngins, and how do they repay you?” Butler joked. “They steal your time.” Said Julio, “I started late, too.” He had to wait for Delaware native T.J. Delle Donne to finish his demo. T.J. now lives in Rhode Island. “I’m working my way from small to smaller,” he told us.
The food and drink pros were feeling the festivities almost as much as the guests, especially the sexy young women at Standard Distributors, who were splashing Ketel One creations for all takers, mostly guys in suits. Good flirty fun.
Man cannot survive on vodka alone, however, no matter how good. It was time to eat. Some of our faves: scallop ceviche from Ameritage, coriander-seared flatiron steak from Amtrak (yes, Amtrak), lobster and corn fritters from At The Rail, pork loin from C.W. Harborside, sausage gumbo (yumbo) from Harry’s Seafood Grill, maple-glazed salmon from Movable Feast, everything from Pizza by Elizabeths, spicy Texas spring rolls from Six Paupers and a very comforting cassoulet from The Exchange.
Back in the Master’s Cellar, we joined Julianne Cross of Cross Pro promotions for a Ritz cocktail. (Julianne organizes the slinky Supper Club evenings at Butler’s Deep Blue.) We also met the King of Cocktails himself, Mr. Dale DeGroff, who flambéed the orange garnishes on the spot. His new book, “The Essential Cocktail,” looks as tasty as his luxuriant libations. Star auctioneer Bill Bunch lit up the wine auction by issuing a roomwide challenge for every paddle to be raised as an automatic $75 donation to Meals on Wheels. We spied Congressman Mike Castle and wife, Jane, getting in on the fun, as did April Doughty, who has obviously been exercising—and exercising her right to bare arms in a sleeveless black top. April thanked her trainer, adding she was glad he wasn’t there to see her placing an unbeatable bid on the beautiful 2-foot tall cake replica of a Cakebread bottle by Kim Tavoni of Liz Marsden Desserts.
You might think we’d know when enough is enough, but no. We consciously saved tummy space for the chocolate chip cookie tiramisu from Corner Bistro. It appealed to our little Gabby boy side as well as our big Gabby Guy palate. Driven by gluttonous guilt, we joined Cameron Diaz twin Melinda Hamilton, the event’s entertainment director, on the dance floor to burn a calorie or two. The five-piece band she booked, Back 2 Life, was great. Its make-you-dance playlist spanned from the 70s to today. Inspired by amazing vocalists Kurt Manderbach and powerhouse Marci Clontz, dancers packed the floor.
One young man with model good looks and Michael Jacksonesque moves drew quite a circle of admirers. It turns out Mr. Marcus is a waiter-DJ at Café Scalessa’s. You know, neither I nor Melinda had a chance to try Scalessa’s beef tenderloin carpaccio with arugula purée and Parmesan crisp. So ciao for now. We have a carpaccio to order.
Page 3: First State Fashion Plate | The Belles and Beaus of the Balls
The Belles and Beaus of the Balls