Gala Auction Winners of “Maestro Chef” Enjoy Gourmet Feasts

We all know what Jeffrey Thomas can do in a concert hall, but did you know that he’s equally skilled in the kitchen? One of the Live Auction items at last September’s “Sparkle” Gala was “Maestro Chef: Dinner for Four.” The item was so popular that the offer was extended to two top bidders. Customized menus were developed by our ABS Artistic Director especially for the guests, and the dinners were hosted by Elizabeth Wilson & Dennis Bonney in their exquisite home on the border of San Francisco’s Presidio. Both evenings featured delicious food, paired wines, and endlessly fascinating conversations.​

But if Jeffrey Thomas is the “Maestro” chef, ABS’s Artistic Administrator and principal contrabass player Steven Lehning is truly the “Master” chef. Just as his Herculean musical efforts in the ABS office are the backbone to every ABS musical program, so were his formidable culinary skills the core of the meal preparations.

Dennis Bonney - Elizabeth Wilson - Liz McCrum - Kaneez Munjee - Chris McCrum - Hugh Davies (not pictured: Steven Lehning, photographer)

Dennis Bonney – Elizabeth Wilson – Liz McCrum – Kaneez Munjee – Chris McCrum – Hugh Davies (not pictured: Steven Lehning, photographer)

For the first evening—which took place on the weekend of the Bay Area’s tremendous January downpours—the auction winners Hugh Davies & Kaneez Munjee of San Rafael invited ABS friends Chris McCrum & Liz Velarde to join them for a menu that began with champagne, delicate asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and dusted with lemon zest, and baby tomatoes filled with a shrimp cream with just a dash of horseradish. A chestnut soup with Madeira and truffle oil followed, paired with Amontillado sherry. The salad course was a doubleheader: shaved fennel, grapefruit, and mint, splashed with a light citrus dressing was served alongside a frisée salad with slivered kumquats tossed with vinaigrette. The wine pairing was a Rosé from Château de L’Aumerade in Côtes de Provence. For the main course, Boeuf Bourguignon took the center stage, served with baby potatoes roasted with rosemary & parmesan, and haricots verts with toasted almonds. The wine, a 2012 Reserve Cabernet, was from Stonetree Cellars, the private vineyards of Paul & Sandy Ogden. Finally, a spectacular Pavlova, prepared by our hostess, Elizabeth Wilson, capped off the unforgettable evening.

Irene & Bob Belknap - Ben & Meagan Becker - Steven Lehning - Elizabeth Wilson (not pictured: Jeffrey Thomas, photographer)

Irene & Bob Belknap – Ben & Meagan Becker – Steven Lehning – Elizabeth Wilson (not pictured: Jeffrey Thomas, photographer)

For the second offering of the Gala Auction item—on the weekend just before ABS’s “Bach Cantatas” performances—the winners were Ben & Meagan Becker of Mill Valley, who invited Robert & Irene Belknap as their guests. Following champagne and hors d’oeuvres, an appetizer of baked mushrooms filled with a blend of chèvre, olives, and herbs was followed by a “duet” of chilled soups: the first was a creamy avocado blend with hints of lemon and garlic, and the second was a fennel-based vichyssoise, both served with a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region. The main course was a beautifully presented salmon en croûte, served with multi-colored baby carrots and spring green beans sautéed with caramelized shallots, and baby potatoes roasted with garlic and rosemary. Oak Knoll’s Napa Valley Chardonnay completed the course. And, luckily for all at the table, Elizabeth again prepared her now legendary Pavlova for dessert.​

ABS thanks Hugh, Kaneez, Ben, and Meagan for their support at our Gala. And we are very grateful to Elizabeth and Dennis for opening up their beautiful home for two evenings of ABS fun. Additional “Maestro Chef” dinners might be offered at our next—and fifteenth!—Annual Gala Auction, Concert, & Dinner on September 23, 2017, at the James Leary Flood Mansion in San Francisco, benefiting the American Bach Soloists Academy. For more information, visit the Sparkle Gala web site at americanbach.org/gala.

Sparkle 2017