Fund-raising dinners can be a real bore. Just ask Robert Bookman, who co-chaired last month's benefit for the Los Angeles Opera.
Having supported lots of charities, the Creative Artists Agency agent has encountered more than his share of dried-out chicken breasts and bad wine. So this year, instead of just another dinner at the Music Center (where most of the opera events are held), Bookman's brainchild was a casual afternoon wine auction benefit featuring a roster of great Los Angeles chefs and great wines. Or as he put it, "a non-traditional milieu."
Downtown's Biltmore Hotel was transformed into a vineyard with lattices and dangling grapes for the party, which was co-chaired by opera benefactor Warner Henry, who also owns a wine distributorship. Honorary co-chairs were film director/vineyard owner Francis Ford Coppola and former Capitol/EMI chairman and wine enthusiast Joe Smith, who also is responsible for all entertainment at the World Cup in Pasadena this summer.
The guest roster was equally eclectic: Sir Anthony and Lady Tennent, Terry and Dennis Stanfill, entertainment attorney Neil Papiano, and film producer Larry Turman. "It was a good cross-section of people that you don't usually encounter at these kinds of things," says Bookman. "Entertainment people, opera people, wine and food kind of people, Pasadena kind of people." Because it was a good group and because everyone had a swell time, the opera netted about $175,000--about $100,000 more than was anticipated.
Bookman thought he knew why the event was such a success. First of all, vintners donated wine for tasting, "so you had ample good wine and not schlock stuff." Secondly, a lot of really terrific restaurants, including Citrus, Patina, Campanile and Rex Il Ristorante, donated really good food. Says Bookman: "There was something about the ambience and just the whole Gestalt of the thing." In other words, it was fun.
Nancy Silverton of Campanile served this suave, grown-up Scotch caramel ice cream on top of apple pie at the Opera party, but it's a star on its own. Placing the churned ice cream in the freezer at least two hours before serving allows it to firm up and smoothes out its texture.
SCOTCH CARAMEL ICE CREAM
1 pound sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups Scotch
4 cups milk
4 cups whipping cream
16 egg yolks, combined
Place sugar, vanilla bean and Scotch in large pot and cook until dark caramel color. Add milk and cream and bring to boil. Remove from heat. Let stand 30 minutes. Bring mixture again to boil and pour over egg yolks while whisking. Strain through fine mesh strainer into bowl. Whisk few times to release heat. Chill.
Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instruction. Makes 1/2 gallon.
Each 1/2-cup serving contains about:
456 calories; 64 mg sodium; 360 mg cholesterol; 32 grams fat; 32 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 0 fiber.