Celebrating the JOFFREY

Times Staff Writer

Joffrey, Joffrey, Joffrey. The Southland was filled with Joffrey brunches, lunches, dinners and suppers for several weekends in March. Bang, bang, bang, one after the other--45 in all.

The events helped call attention to the ballet company’s 30th anniversary and to the kickoff of the season, with performances scheduled from April 30 to May 18 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center of Los Angeles County.

It was a great fund-raising idea, actually. Having prominent Joffrey Ballet supporters and famous restaurants hosting theme dinners would whet anyone’s appetite.

There were, for example: a “let’s do it over again New Year’s Eve dinner” for 100 at Chasen’s; an art tour and dinner hosted by Michael McCarty at Michael’s; an Argentine tango dinner at the Touch Club hosted by Patricia Kennedy; a dinner featuring rare gems and fine food at the Bistro Garden Galleria; lunch and thoroughbred racing for 16 at Santa Anita Racetrack hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Otis Booth Jr.; a Venetian bal masque at L’Orangerie; an Arabian feast, a Chinese banquet and first-run film at the home of Harriet and Armand Deutsch; a cooking class taught and hosted by chefs Joachim B. Splichal of Max Au Triangle and Laurent Quenioux of Seventh Street Bistro; a whale-watching brunch on a yacht with guests Ambassador and Mrs. John Gavin; a wine-country lunch in the Santa Inez Valley ranch owned by Doug Cramer; a tribute to Nijinsky, whose choreography for Igor Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps” will be reconstructed for an upcoming Joffrey Ballet performance.


This year’s spectacular dinners are a follow-up to last year’s innovative celebrations.

Which is how Clara Burgess, wife of financier William Burgess, came to host a dinner in her mountainside desert home in Palm Springs this year.

“We had such a good time last year I promised last year’s dinner chairman, Ruth Shannon, I would host a dinner in ’86,” she said.

Clara Burgess’ dedication to the arts as one of the first founders of the Music Center (she is also deeply involved in several other music and dance guilds in Palm Springs, such as the Ballet Guild of the Dessert, Palm Springs Friends of the Philharmonic and Palm Springs Opera Guild) brought to her Joffrey dinner party a cordiality often absent in fund-raising events. The Burgess’ glass house nestled among huge granite boulders surrounded by waterfalls above the shimmering lights of Palm Springs and majestic mountains could not have been a more spectacular setting.


The 13 guests who signed up for “Dinner in the Desert” included friends of the Joffrey, some traveling from as far as Seattle to attend. The guests were Luta and Judson Swearingen, Curtis Kent, Ann Miller and Russell Carpenter, Louise Russell and Jack Lund, Ruth and John Clayburgh, Carol Wright, Betty and Richard Keatinge and Mrs. William Burch.

An avid cook in her own right, Clara Burgess decided that this time she would have local caterer John Laslo, a relatively new talent in Palm Springs, do the main meal and supplement his menu with her own Spoon Bread Souffle. “We seldom have caterers. I almost always cook myself when we entertain,” said Burgess, who entertains twice a month. Burgess’ dinners are usually limited to 10 guests. “That’s all I can accommodate easily indoors--or we’ll eat outside around the fire.”

“Around the fire” means that guests dine under the light of the moon and the glow of the fire pit in the center of a carved circle of granite upon which the guests sit. “It was our first living room before the house went up,” Bill explained.

Around the huge circular glass table indoors, a round-table conversation inevitably takes place after dinner, over coffee and dessert. Intimate and informative. Buzzing here and there is hushed by the ring of the bronze bell by Burgess, who acts as the moderator. “We’ve made a practice of round-table conversations for 30 years, since living in Pasadena when CalTech professors were often our guests. I’d get angry with people making petty conversation when important people had something to say,” Burgess explained.

Burgess’ menus are generally simple and to the point--barbecued lamb, rice, tossed salad and a vegetable souffle based on spoonbread batter, which also doubles as the meal’s carbohydrate serving. Husband Bill cooks the butterflied lamb in the outdoor fire pit fitted with a movable grill. “It’s easy to manage that way,” Clara Burgess said. Dessert? “Our favorite dessert is to use chocolate fondue to dip fresh banana, apple, pineapple and strawberries.”

This time, however, the menu selected by Burgess and Laslo included three different tenderloins--beef, lamb and pork--served with three different sauces, which were spooned onto the meats as they were served buffet style, a novel--and welcome--change from standard company roast beef.

A mint-rosemary sauce was served with lamb, bearnaise was served with beef, and an Apple-Raisin Coulis went with the pork tenderloin. Coulis or cullis is the French term for sauce or a puree based on meat, fish or game, which, traditionally, is used as sauce, sometimes as a pureed soup. The coulis can be prepared ahead, leaving only the meat to pan-cook at the last moment.

The meats were served with a colorful array of baby vegetables--carrots, squash and Chinese pea pods. All steamed.


A word about ordering the tenderloins. Beef and pork tenderloins are widely available. Pork tenderloins now come vacuum-packed (usually two to a package) in most major supermarkets. You’ll have to ask your butcher to cut the loin from a rack of lamb. A small, 1-pound rack, for instance, will yield a trimmed loin about eight inches long, weighing 10 ounces. The larger the rack the larger the loin. Save the carved ribs and freeze them until ready to barbecue or make a soup for another meal.

Laslo, owner/chef of California Catering Co., a Los Angeles/Palm Springs-based operation, studied at La Varenne and Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and with Michel Guerard in the south of France. He ran a cooking school and catering company in San Francisco before moving to Palm Springs. His approach is modern, innovative and filled with pleasant surprises.

A tray of hors d’oeuvres, for instance, included tiny endive leaves filled at the base with ceviche, and cream-cheese-wrapped olive balls coated with poppy seeds, which when halved are decorative as well as good to eat.

Cold Cream of Avocado Soup was served in its own shell with dabs of caviar and watercress leaves on top and bacon-wrapped bread sticks on the side. The soup, made with club soda to protect it against oxidation, requires no cooking. The bread sticks, by the way, make ideal appetizers to go with drinks, as well.

A salad of poached pears, fanned onto a plate with bibb lettuce, sprinkled with Gorgonzola cheese and dressed with a light walnut vinaigrette, was served as the last course before dessert. Use the basic ingredients and create your own salad using any fruit, such as canned or poached pears, apricots, peaches or apples with a vinaigrette of walnut oil and white wine vinegar (half of each is good) and a sprinkling of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese.

Lemon Souffle Tart is actually a lemon curd souffle. A light and airy springtime dessert. DINNER IN THE DESERT

Endive With Ceviche

Cream Cheese Poppy Seed-Stuffed Olives


Bacon-Cheese Sticks

Cold Cream of Avocado Soup

Tenderloins With Three Sauces

Steamed Baby Carrots

Steamed Baby Pattypan Squash

Steamed Chinese Pea Pods

Clara Burgess’ Spoon Bread

Poached Pear Fans With Bibb

Lettuce, Citrus and Gorgonzola Cheese


24 very small endive leaves

1/4 pound fresh scallops, coarsely chopped

Juice of 1 lime

2 green onions, chopped

1/2 small tomato, seeded and chopped

1 teaspoon minced cilantro

1 teaspoon minced fresh basil leaf

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt, pepper

Arrange endive leaves on tray or platter. Chill. Marinate chopped scallops in lime juice 1 hour. Drain lime juice and add green onions, tomato, cilantro, basil, olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well. Marinate 1 hour longer. Place about 1 heaping teaspoon ceviche on base of each endive leaf. Makes 24 appetizers. CREAM CHEESE POPPY SEED-STUFFED OLIVES

24 extra large pimiento-stuffed green olives

1 1/2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

6 tablespoons whole poppy seeds

Drain and dry olives on paper towel. Wrap 1 tablespoon cream cheese around each olive, completely covering olive. Shape into ball by rolling between palms of hands. Roll each cream-cheese-coated olive in poppy seeds, covering with seeds completely. Chill 2 hours. Cut in halves to serve. Makes 48 appetizers. BACON-CHEESE STICKS

12 slices bacon, halved

12 bread sticks, halved

1/4 pound grated Pecorino (Romano) cheese

Wrap each piece bacon, candy cane-style, around each bread stick half, stretching bacon to cover bread stick completely. Roll in most of grated cheese (about 3/4) to coat well. Place on baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees 15 minutes or until bacon is crisp. Roll bacon sticks lightly in remaining grated cheese. Warm before serving. Makes 24 bacon sticks. COLD CREAM OF AVOCADO SOUP

6 ripe avocados, preferably Fuerte

Lemon juice

1 small onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

Juice of 1 lemon

1 cup chicken stock (not condensed)

1 cup club soda

1 cup whipping cream

Salt, freshly ground pepper

Citrus leaves

Watercress leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons caviar

Slice 1/3 off blossom end of avocado to permit it to stand upright. Slice other end to scoop out pit and most of avocado flesh, leaving 1/8-inch layer in bottom. Avoid puncturing skin. Brush inside layer of avocado with lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Set aside.

Combine avocado flesh, onion, garlic and most of lemon juice in food processor and blend until smooth. Strain through medium strainer into mixing bowl. Discard any fat in chicken stock and stir stock into avocado mixture with club soda and whipping cream. Mix well. Season to taste with salt, pepper and any remaining lemon juice, if needed. Chill 8 hours.

Arrange 2 or 3 citrus leaves, spoke fashion, on each plate as decorative base for avocado. Place avocado upright in center of leaves. Fill avocado shell with soup and garnish with watercress leaves. Dollop each serving with 1/4 teaspoon caviar. Makes 6 servings. TENDERLOINS WITH THREE SAUCES

1/4 cup oil

1 (2 1/2 to 3-pound) beef tenderloin

2 pounds lamb tenderloin

2 pounds pork tenderloin

No-Fail Sauce Bearnaise

Mint-Rosemary Sauce

Apple-Raisin Coulis

Heat oil in large skillet until hot. Add beef, lamb and pork tenderloins and sear on all sides.

Place in baking pan and bake at 375 degrees until each tenderloin is done as desired or until meat thermometer inserted in center of each tenderloin registers 140 degrees for rare or 150 degrees for medium. (Lamb and pork will take about 15 to 25 minutes for medium. Cooking time for beef will range from 20 to 40 minutes depending on thickness of meat.)

Arrange tenderloins on serving board. Serve beef filet with No-Fail Sauce Bearnaise. Serve lamb tenderloin with Mint-Rosemary Sauce. Serve pork tenderloin with Apple-Raisin Coulis. Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Note: Pork tenderloins weighing about 1 pound each, usually come two to a vacuum package in supermarkets or gourmet meat stores. Have meat man cut loin from rack of lamb. A 2-pound rack of lamb yields about a 1 pound loin. Beef tenderloins (fillets) vary in size. No-Fail Sauce Bearnaise

2 medium shallots, minced

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

3 egg yolks

1/4 cup warm water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted and kept hot

1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon or 1 1/2 teaspoons dry crushed tarragon

Combine shallots, pepper, wine and vinegar in saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce to 1 tablespoon liquid. In blender, place egg yolks, warm water, salt and shallot mixture. Puree until smooth.

With motor running, slowly add hot butter to puree mixture in blender, whirring until butter mixture is completely incorporated and slightly thickened. Whisk in tarragon. Keep warm over hot water until ready to serve, stirring occasionally. Sauce will thicken upon standing. Makes about 2 1/2 cups. Mint-Rosemary Sauce

2 cups fresh mint

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary

Combine mint, white wine, vinegar and water in blender and blend until pureed. Pour into saucepan and add sugar. Bring to boil. Simmer over medium heat until liquid is reduced by half and syrupy. Add rosemary and simmer 1 minute longer until slightly thickened. Makes about 1/3 cup. Apple-Raisin Coulis

1 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup Burgundy

1/4 pound unsalted butter

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

6 medium Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup sugar

Soften raisins in Burgundy about 2 hours. Melt butter in large saucepan. Add lemon juice and apples. Cook over medium heat until apples are soft, stirring occasionally.

Stir in sugar and cook over medium heat until apples and sugar caramelize slightly. Add raisin mixture and cook 5 minutes longer until thickened. Makes about 3 cups. CLARA BURGESS’ SPOON BREAD

2 cups milk

3/4 cup white cornmeal or grits

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs, separated

3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Scald milk in large saucepan. Add cornmeal, stirring gently, until thick, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and salt. Cool. Stir egg yolks into meal mixture with shredded cheese.

Beat egg whites until very stiff. Fold egg whites into cornmeal mixture, blending lightly but thoroughly. Pour into 1-quart casserole or souffle dish. Bake at 350 degrees 45 minutes. Brown top slightly at 400 degrees 3 to 4 minutes or place under broiler a few seconds until browned. Serve at once. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


1 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

6 pears, peeled, halved and cored

1 head Bibb lettuce

2 medium grapefruit, peeled and sectioned

3 oranges, peeled and sectioned

1/2 cup walnut oil

1/2 cup white wine vinegar


1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Place water and sugar in skillet. Place pear halves, cut-side up, in pan. Turn and cook, covered, over medium heat until pears are poached, about 2 to 4 minutes. Do not overcook or pears will fall apart. Chill.

When ready to assemble, cut pears lengthwise into thin slices, but not all the way through to tip of pears. Fan out slices and place on 1 side of each individual plate. Place Bibb lettuce leaves on other side of each plate. Top lettuce with arrangement of grapefruit and orange segments.

Mix walnut oil, vinegar and pepper to taste and blend well. Drizzle over salad. Sprinkle salads with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese. Makes 12 servings. LEMON SOUFFLE TART

1 2/3 cups unbleached flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup cold water

Lemon Souffle Filling

Powdered sugar

Fresh Raspberry Sauce

10 to 12 fresh raspberries

Place flour, salt and sugar in mixing bowl. Cut in butter and mix until coarse crumbs form. Add cold water and mix until dough is formed.

Roll out dough to circle large enough to fit into 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Crimp edges, if desired. Pierce bottom of dough with fork. Place square of foil over pastry bottom and weight down with handful of beans or rice. Bake at 425 degrees 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and discard beans or rice and foil and bake 5 minutes longer until dough is golden. Cool on wire rack.

Fill cooled pastry crust with Lemon Souffle Filling and bake at 375 degrees 15 minutes until souffle is puffy and lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

When ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar and serve with Fresh Raspberry Sauce. Garnish with fresh raspberries. Makes 1 (10-inch) tart. Lemon Souffle Filling

4 eggs, separated

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup unsalted butter

Dash salt

Beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until pale in color. Stir in lemon juice. Melt butter in saucepan. Pour egg-sugar mixture into melted butter in saucepan. Heat over low heat until thickened to custard consistency, about 6 minutes, stirring constantly.

Pour mixture into bowl and cover until cool, about 3 hours. Beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form. Beat in remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff and glossy. Fold 1/3 of egg white mixture into cooled custard mixture. Fold remaining custard mixture into egg white mixture, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Fresh Raspberry Sauce

1 pint raspberries

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon raspberry flavored liqueur

Set aside 10 to 12 raspberries for garnish. Combine remaining raspberries and 1/2 cup water. Add sugar and bring to boil. Add cornstarch mixed with 1 teaspoon water. Stir until clear. Stir in liqueur. Strain sauce before using. Chill. Makes about 2 cups sauce.