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ANN CONWAY

Recipes for Success : Menus Play a Major Role in Charity Fund-Raisers

September 06, 1993|ANN CONWAY

Chef Hans Loschl isn't sweating the grilled scallops with tomato confit , the field salad with Champagne vinaigrette or the veal medallions with black pepper cider sauce he will whip up for South Coast Repertory's 30th anniversary gala at the Westin South Coast Plaza on Sept. 18.

But the "meringue trio" dessert has him shaking in his toque.

It's a complicated concoction--1,500 wisps of meringue created in a trio of shapes, then filled with three ingredients.

"The scariest part is making sure the meringues don't melt," says Loschl, who cooked at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco before coming to Costa Mesa 10 months ago. "We'll make them a week in advance, store them in a dry place and fill them at the last minute--when we're setting up the main course."

Each of the 520 desserts will feature a lemon portion, a scoop of double-chocolate ice cream and a handful of fresh berries. The fillings will be presented in meringues that have been piped into the shapes (circle, triangle, rectangle) inspired by SCR's anniversary logo.

Much ado about nothing? Think again. When the price tag is $350 per person, party-goers expect food value, creativity and tops in taste and presentation, says Barbara Glabman, cuisine co-chairwoman with Olivia Johnson of the "Thirtieth Dimension" gala.

Take the main course--medallions of veal on apple compote. "Even though chicken is very popular and many people like it," Glabman says, "it doesn't have the perceived value that rack of lamb, medallions of veal or swordfish has." People want their money's worth.

When Johnson and Glabman met with Loschl to finalize the menu, their primary concern was that the fare be hearty and healthy.

"Men want something they can chew, something that fills them up and satisfies them," Johnson says. "Women can take three bites and be happy. We wanted something that could satisfy at both levels.

"Veal filled the bill. But we didn't want a rich meat sauce. People are so health-conscious. So we went for a light sauce with herbal flavoring. When we tasted it, we found it tart and sweet. Our taste buds jumped. We thought: 'This is it!' "

A hit dessert is especially important, Glabman says, "because if anything goes awry with the meal, it's the last thing to linger in people's minds."

Another consideration: tuxedos and formal frocks. "When you're all dressed up, you want food that's easy to eat and not drippy," Johnson says. "We thought about serving veal chops. But they can be so big that they're clumsy. Plus, they're not as predictable when it comes to tenderness and doneness."

For Loschl, the most important course is the first--the grilled scallops dished up with tomato confit and fava beans. "It will set the tone for the entire meal," he says.

*

When the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana stages its annual La Fiesta gala on Saturday, party guests will dine on Peruvian-inspired food that celebrates the museum's new "Peru Before the Inca" exhibit.

"We wanted food in keeping with our gala theme, 'Inca Festival of the Sun,' " says catering chairwoman Donna Karlen. "But we also wanted to allow our chef, John Sharpe, some creativity when he put it together. So we decided to go for courses that included ingredients that were indigenous to Peru. Some of the items are not exact Peruvian dishes."

Food courses include vegetable empanadas , spiced crab on plantain chips, escabeche of duck with sweet corn relish, marinated swordfish and the classic Peruvian dessert, mazamorra morada .

Karlen and the chef thought a scoop of coconut ice cream would be a cool complement to the mazamorra morada , a dish that combines dried and boiled purple corn with a variety of fruit.

But not after Bowers' staff member Teresa Inga--a Peruvian--heard about it.

"She told us they didn't go together at all , " Karlen says, "that they were never served together."

Says Inga: "Coconut ice cream has nothing to do with mazamorra . Mazamorra is made from the corn that comes from our Sierras. In Peru, we serve things that come from our jungle, Sierra and coastal zones separately. You don't mix things that come from the Sierras with something from a Western culture."

Karlen was grateful for the input. "We didn't want one of our Peruvian dignitaries saying, 'What are the North Americans doing with our menus?'

"When you're planning a menu for hundreds, there's a lot to think about."

Amen.

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