The Valley Line

I’ve been absolutely Olympic Games fixated these past two weeks. I’m certainly not alone because it seems that every conversation I have with people always ends up in Olympic chatting. The Games have been very exciting to watch. I have especially loved the swimming, diving, beach volleyball, and gymnastics.

The medal results in all the events have been pretty much straight forward except for gymnastics. It appears that not only are we viewers puzzled by some of the ways the different gymnastic apparatus scores are determined, but also the coaches and athletes are confused by the methods used by the judges. Hopefully one day there might be a better way to come up with those results not only faster but also more equitable for the athletes.

Our man Charlie – Judge Charles Carter Lee – who has the honor of being selected Chef de Mission (head delegate for the entire United States athletic team) at these games, was featured in an in-depth interview by Tom Brokaw Sunday before last. It was a great report and Brokaw highlighted Charlie’s volunteer participation with the International Olympics Committee (IOC) as an envoy and working with the Chinese government. If before this Brokaw report the world didn’t know who Judge Charles Carter Lee was, they certainly do now.

Another Olympic sidebar is a report that comes from my son Chris who arrived in Shanghai on a business trip on the eve of the opening of the Games. He said that when they entered the usually bustling city it was like a ghost town – people weren’t crowded on the sidewalks and a startling absence of the usual crush of cars and bicycles. They had trouble checking into their hotel because only a partial staff was there to take care of them.

Being absolutely starved after their long flight, they walked by restaurant after restaurant without a soul in sight. They finally found a restaurant where there were some people, but they were all huddled around a television set watching the opening ceremonies taking place in Beijing. He said even the cooks and waiters were gathered around that one TV. Chris was in Shanghai and environs for the entire week and he said that the Chinese people were so proud to be hosting the Games.

The whirlwind of the Games will be over on Sunday and we will have to wait four more years for Olympic Summer Game excitement that will be hosted by London, England.

It was a beautiful marriage of wines, food and music last Sunday evening when the Orchestras of Pasadena held a lovely event at the Boddy Mansion at Descanso Gardens.

Greeting guests as host that evening was Jorge Mester, music director and conductor of The Pasadena Symphony. Also greeting guests was assistant conductor Jeffrey Bernstein.

It was a lavender time of the evening when 70 guests gathered on the patio of the mansion to sip champagne and chat. Of course the Olympic Games was a major topic as well as buzz about the Sept. 13 fund-raising event to be held at the Ambassasdor Auditorium that promises to be a dazzling event.

The Boddy mansion, which sits high on a hill above the major portion of the gardens, is in such a beautiful setting. As the sunlight crept lower, deepening the ridges in the purple-hued mountains, the chirp of the cricket choir tuned up.

Adding their own musical talents to the mix was a great jazz quartet – Phil O’Connor, tenor sax and leader; Mike Scott, guitar; Ken Wild, stand-up bass; and Jason Harnell, drums.

The quartet played jazz tunes from the greats such as Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Mancini and Mercer, to name just a few of those masters.

Ann Rea, of the Henry Wine Group, introduced the wines to be served that night ,Meritage blends from Spain, Australia and California. Ann was extremely informative, as she not only talked about the wines themselves but of the vintner families that make them.

Wines represented that evening included a 2006 Bodegas Nekeas Vega Sindoa white blend from Navarra, Spain of Chardonnay, Viura and Viognier for the first course of salmon tartare prepared with hard-cooked egg, tomato, capers, red onion and lemon aioli. A 2006 Oxford Landing red blend of Cabernet and Shiraz from Riverland, Australia served with a tower of heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella with a watermelon reduction and chive oil. A 2005 Zaca Mesa Z Cuvee, from Santa Ynez Valley, California – a blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault accompanied the dessert course of mixed berry shortcake with tarragon whipped cream and mint.

Tiana L. Driggins, chef de cuisine, Descanso Gardens, brought her creative imagery and considerable cooking skills in the preparation of the gourmet food offerings.

David Brown, executive director of Descanso Gardens, who was celebrating his birthday that evening, was surprised with a candle-studded berry tart and the birthday song played by the quartet.

Also celebrating her birthday that evening was Edith Roberts, a longtime supporter of The Pasadena Symphony. Edith, an amazing energetic woman, was celebrating her 90th birthday!

This wine, food, and music meritage has been a lovely addition to the many events staged by the Orchestras of Pasadena. The next meeting for this meritage, also to be hosted by Jorge Mester, is set for Sept. 28; same time, same wonderful place.


JANE NAPIER NEELY has been covering the La Cañada Flintridge social scene for over 26 years. She can be reached at jnvalleysun@aol.com.

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