Tuesday, Nov. 19, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
THE INDUCTION dinner, at Portofino restaurant in the Desert Inn, for new members of the Las Vegas Chaine, was in the best tradition of the venerable gourmet society.
For this special occasion DI Executive Chef Arnauld Briand had elicited assistance from a battery of chef friends, in addition to his own talented crew: Portofino Chef Olivier DuBreuil, Executive Sous Chef Mark Sherline, Monte Carlo Chef Francois Meulien, Executive Pastry Chef David Gaillard and Sous Chef Phill Bonano. New York-New York chefs Paul Savoy, Damien McEvoy and Michael Parker, Palace Station Executive Chef Daniel Pfeiffer and Stratosphere Chef Michael Goroge joined them.
A splendid variety of hors d' oeuvre highlighted the reception: seared shrimp served from a heated marble slab, Maryland crab salad, baby lamb chops Provencal, oxtail empanadas with avocado vinaigrette, rolled tuna and yellow radish and a remarkable sea urchin custard. At a separate station chefs offered hand-sliced roasted Columbia River sturgeon, gravlax, pastrami salmon, beet-cured salmon, Peking duck with Mandarin crepes, steak Tartar, sevruga caviar and potato pancakes. With the hors d' oeuvre: Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label Brut champagne.
The induction service was conducted by Thomas Buckley, Chaine Regional Chambellan from Ojai, Calif. This witty, charming gentlemen directed the ritual in record time. Now entitled to wear the ribbon of membership are: Paul Pusateri, Gamal Aziz, Steven Geddes, Paul Gordon, Gwendolyn Dougall, Sean Dougall, Bret Dougall, Andrew Blumen, Bill Hiers, Louis Silvestri, R. Shawn Ellis, Frank Rigley, Ted Ross, Adam Carmer, Richard Gordan, Leonard W. Carpi and Carol Lubritz. Also inducted were members who transferred from other chapters: Erich Steinboch, David Hoenmeyer and Brian Menzel.
Now came a challenge for the culinary team.
Could dinner surpass the collection of epicurean delights that had already sated appetites? Yes, yes, yes.
Artfully arranged on a plate came a demitasse of rich tomato consomme, a small wedge of terrine of young leeks drizzled with pistachio oil, and thin slices of truffled brioche. The Ockfener Bockstein Reisling, Spatlese, Dr. Fischer enjoyed with it was a fine companion. Striped bass in a potato crust on a pool of Grand Marnier ginger essence was paired with Gewurztraminer Hengtz, Zind-Humbrecht; toasted ravioli with fresh sage and chestnut filling in a Chardonnay emulsion was a savory sensation -- with it, Chablis Les Clos, W. Fevre. Pheasant with cabbage, wild mushroom fricassee, dried cherries and port sauce was a lusty, satisfying dish both simple and complex and was a fine match for the Corton Bressandes, E. Cornu. French mesclun salad with the taste of freshly picked wild greens was imported by Briand for the dinner. The 1991 Ferrari Carano Reserve wine, served with the pheasant and salad, is a superb, heady blend of Cabernet, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Bailli Larry Ruvo secured the hard-to-find vintage.
Dinner ended with an individual warm chocolate cake, a tiny scoop of cinnamon ice cream atop a barely cooked apple slice, delectable petits fours and snifters of Grand Marnier. Service, under maitre 'd Henry Grzyb and Bernie Juban was impeccable.
A departing gift of Grande Marnier from Philippe Chenu, president of Grand Marnier U.S.A., was the frosting on the gateau.
Among members and guests who attended were: Camille Ruvo, Ann Buckley, Sharon and Paul Carelli, Sylvia Hart, Tim Dougall, Cleo and Harley Harmon, Colette and Sidney Saltz, Jewell Brooks, Sally and Paul Houdayer, Drs. Parvin and Theodore Jacobs, Bonnie and Frank Schreck, Tola and Marcia Chin, JoAnn Prujan and Sandy and Roger Peltyn.
Friday night, Gail Buy again opened her Ryan Gallery for the benefit of the Las Vegas Chapter of The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
The gallery was packed with supporters of the worthy organization. They had come not only in support of the cause, but to learn the winners of the "We Love" essay contest created by entrepreneur David Cohen in honor of his mother, Martha Cohen. Little did we suspect that David had more than the essay contest on his mind.
After comments by outgoing chapter president Susan Strang, the auction of art work and the introduction of new chapter president Joan Heffner, board member Anne Nix introduced David and his mother. Judges for the contest were Ellen Laura, Karen Winckler and Nancy Gott.
The subject of the essay, "describe why it's better to be a woman than a man in Las Vegas," may sound a tad chauvinistic, but Cohen assured the guests he has never been, nor is he now, a male chauvinist (later, he proved it with an endearing surprize performance). Making the awards was Martha Cohen who had come from her home in Calgary, Canada. First-place winner ($1,000) was Betty Beuehler, second place ($400) went to Kathleen McClaren and third ($300) to Gerri McKernen. The first-prize essay will appear in Nevada Woman magazine.
David then guided his constant companion, Nancy Starkey, to the center of the room, and on bended knee declared his eternal love in a speech that proposed marriage and melted every female heart in the room. Nancy didn't hesitate. The answer, of course, was yes. As if by magic, a gorgeous ring appeared and was slipped on her finger. Champagne then flowed in celebration. Delighting in every romantic moment were Martha Cohen, aunt and uncle Alyse and Bill Schwartz, aunt Phyllis Helfand from Calgary and the guests, including Kimberly England, Claire and Sam Prezant, Van Heffner, Bea Levinson, Roslyn Smolen, Linda Ernst and Loretta St. John.
As a final tribute, Nancy and David presented a check for $25,000 to the chapter.
True love and good deeds -- there's nothing better.