Jack P. Hennessy, the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin Le Grand Senechal, had just invoked the blessing: "Send down, O Lord, we humbly pray, your blessings on . . . Les Chevaliers !"
With that, dinner chairman John Hotchkis proclaimed, "Let the dinner begin." After caviar sur blinis chauds and gravlax de Scandinavie with a Dom Ruinart 1981 Champagne, the much-anticipated first course was about to be served, and all eyes of the elegantly white-tied and long-gowned crowd turned to the descending steps of the Venetian-chandeliered Crystal Room of the Beverly Hills Hotel as the trumpets blared "Fanfare d' Elegance" (the Olympic fanfare).
Waiters lined the steps, each carrying a tray of eight stacked silver-covered plates with the \o7 Mousseline de Homard des Cotes du Main\f7 (lobster surrounded by sorrel, fennel and tomato-based sauces in triangle swirls.)
One entire tray tumbled off a waiter's shoulder. Guests burst into laughter. "I didn't know we had cymbals tonight," Hotchkis said as he and co-chairman John Maher and their wives, Joan and Helen, exchanged anxious looks. Within an instant, the hotel's director of food and beverage Maurice Constantin was beside Hotchkis to apologize. Hotchkis ordered his table to be served last in case of a shortage. There were extras, he was assured.
The occasion only added to the humor and joy of a rather unusual international organization of men. Locally they eat and drink divinely (with a special devotion to burgundy wines) once a year in white tie, other times less formally.
In costumed pageantry earlier in the evening Hennessy, the organization's \o7 Grand Chambellan\f7 Jacques Chevignard of France and \o7 les grands officers\f7 Thomas W. Trainer, Hubert F. Laugharn Jr. and John H. Hadley--in their red robes, ribbons and tastevins (wine-tasting cups)--had marched in to fanfare for the elevation of \o7 Chevalier\f7 Robert P. Strub (Santa Anita Racetrack's president) to \o7 Commandeur\f7 .
\o7 Les Candidats\f7 Joseph Horacek III, Donald Keene, Joseph Ryan, William B. Patton Jr., W. Lawson Martin III and William H. Tilley were also inducted in a stage ceremony. Through the evening Laugharn would raise his wine glass and lead the audience in the \o7 Confrerie's \f7 joyous song, "La, La, La."
Then, it would be on to one more course more glorious than the one before, executed by the hotel's executive chef Michel Saragueta and defined in the unique menu that Maher designed with white tie, ribbon and tastevin.
The discussion of the night, however, dwelt upon the nuances of the white wines--Chablis-Grand Cru, Clos des Hospices 1983 \o7 en magnum\f7 , J. Moreau et Fils (served with the lobster) and the Puligny Montrachet Clavoillon 1981 \o7 en magnum\f7 , Domaine Leflaive (served with mushrooms).
For one reason or another, the Gevery-Chambertin Cambottes 1979 Domaine Dujac was served by mistake with the quail course instead of cheeses and salad, and the Echezeaux 1976 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti with the cheeses and salad, instead of the quail, but some declared that to be preferable.
At any rate, a crowd that knows cuisine and wine carried on--Clifford and Bonnie Miller, Henry and Caroline Singleton, John and Norma Bowles, Warner and Carol Henry, Gordon and Mary Crary, Stuart and Mary Davis, Michael and Debby McCarty, Delos and Betty McDonald, Donn and Peggy Miller, Arthur and Julie Pizzinat, James Swinden and Madeleine Martin and E. L. and Ruth Shannon.
HEARTS AND FLOWERS: Valentine sentiments brought out a rash of splendid parties. Joan and Jack Mackey (Merrill Lynch real estate agent) said "Bring your Valentine" for their pretty party at the home of her parents Billie and Roger Converse in Holmby Hills.
Doreen (president of Rastar Productions) and Jim McElvany (Johnson & Higgins executive vice president) said "Be a Love" for a celebration of dinner and dancing at the Bistro.
Carrie and Stuart (YMCA philanthropist and high rise developer) Ketchum held "A Renaissance of Romance" Upstairs at the Bistro.
A big Valentine's cake and toasts from their son Jack clued guests into the fact that the Mackeys' 25th wedding anniversary was a part of the evening. Good friends Joanne and Bob Kendall came from Montecito. Bill and Joan Hadley, Sistie and Bill Stevens and Lloyd and Shirley Aubert were in the Newport Beach group arriving by van. More in the crowd were Maggie Edwards, Joni and Clark Smith, Louise and Steve Griffith and Elizabeth and Thad Up de Graff.
The McElvanys thought it was time for a romantic night when they got a Valentine addressed "To Whom It May Concern." Dancing the night away were Debbi and Terry Lanni, Steve and Jane Ackerman, Carolyn and Chuck Miller, Maude and Dick Ferry (who flew in from Phoenix), Gordon and Liz Anderson, Roger and Joanne Kozberg (new chairman of the California Arts Council), Fred Warren and Barbro Taper, Steve and Lyn Miller and Don and Joanne Albrecht.