Great Taste – Menu Planning for the 2018 “Places, Please!” Gala

Beth Fhaner
 | Jul 30, 2018

Carla Furuno, Talya Nevo-Hacohen and Robyn Moss at the gala tasting.


Cuisine Committee co-chair Ashleigh Aitken shows off hors d'oeuvres options.


Carla Furuno, Deirdre Kelly and Robyn Moss with Director of Catering Erika Patenaude


Executive Chef Paul Gregory

Work on SCR’s 2018 Gala (“Places, Please!” Sept. 15), the theatre’s annual fundraiser, is well underway. As part of their work, members of the Gala’s Cuisine Committee gathered at The Westin South Coast Plaza for one of the most important tasks of planning for the Gala—menu planning. Of course, this "job" involves tasting an array of savory dishes and signature cocktails. A tough job, but someone has to do it, right?

Gala Chair Bill Schenker, along with Cuisine Committee co-chairs Ashleigh Aitken and Deirdre Kelly and committee members Carla Furuno and Robyn Moss, tasted suggested menu items—from drink specials to hors d’oeuvres, from soups and salads to main courses. And, of course, desserts, too! Executive Chef Paul Gregory prepared a feast of appetizing dishes and the committee then had the incredibly difficult decision of selecting a winning dish for each category.

The committee began by sampling a variety of hors d’oeuvres options, which included everything from a vegan gazpacho soup shooter to seared ahi tuna bites on wontons to lamb chops with a mint jelly dipping sauce and much more. When making a final decision on a dish, the committee takes several factors into account including taste, presentation, whether the appetizer can be eaten in one or two bites, and if vegan and gluten-free options are also available. Ultimately, it was decided that the hors d’oeuvres will consist of two vegan options and two non-vegan options.

Following the hors d’oeuvres selection, the committee moved on to determining the menu’s first course. Various soup and salad options were presented to the committee such as a butternut squash soup option that was served with roasted pecans and a cream of mushroom soup that featured a plated crostini with goat cheese, microgreens and cherry tomatoes. Salad options included a grilled Caesar salad with a parmesan crisp, a butter lettuce wedge with citrus vinaigrette and a beet caprese salad. Once again, the committee kept in mind taste, presentation, portion size and other factors when making their final selection.

Numerous, mouthwatering entrée options included a peppercorn crusted beef tenderloin with Harveys Bristol Cream sauce, halibut with an olive tapenade, beef tenderloin with a truffle sauce, salmon with an olive tapenade, sea bass with a shitake mushroom sauce, short ribs, rosemary-skewered shrimp, mushroom risotto and a vegan, gluten-free option of pasta with almond pesto, spinach and vegan parmesan. Ultimately, the committee opted to go with a delectable and satisfying dish, keeping in mind that the entrée shouldn’t be too large or overwhelming.

Once the entrée option was finalized, it was time for everyone’s favorite task—selecting a scrumptious dessert. Chef Paul brought out chocolate shells and various flavored mousses, so the committee could mix and match and create the dessert they wanted. Other sweet treats presented to the committee included a cheesecake option and a chocolate ganache option, as well as a crème brulee and a flourless chocolate cake. The committee eventually selected a few decadent desserts guaranteed to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. And finally, the last decision to be made involved a signature cocktail tasting. The mixologists at the Westin concocted three different colorful cocktail options—all of which are vodka-based using Tito’s Handmade Vodka, the official vodka sponsor of SCR's 2018 Gala. The committee then narrowed down the choices to select a creative and refreshing drink for partygoers.

With a tantalizing menu of culinary creations and libations, not to mention dancing and theatre festivities, the 2018 “Places, Please!” Gala is set to be a spectacular evening, indeed.

Learn more about the 2018 Gala “Places, Please!”