Before I could unpack from San Francisco, I was re-stuffing my suitcases for New Orleans.
The “dinner of the decade,” is how they billed it, and I had a seat.
But before I get to the event (which will come in a subsequent post), first, a little back-story, which operates as both disclosure and a disclaimer:
* * * * *
Friendships and acquaintances develop out of the strangest circumstances. Never would I have thought, after my experience at Stella! in January, and especially after my blog post about that experience, that Chef Scott Boswell and I would become so well-acquainted with one another so quickly.
Though I was flattered by the attention he showered on me, I shied away from his many invitations at first.
But Boswell does not take no for an answer.
His motto is “go big or go home.” His enthusiasm is, if not relentless, infectious. His persistence is, if not dedicated, endearing. Add to him an irresistibly charming wife – Tanya – and you’ve got yourself quite a persuasive package.
A few months ago, I received an invitation to attend a fund-raising dinner that Boswell was hosting at Stella! to benefit the Barrier Islands Reclamation Development Society (B.I.R.D.S.) and Bocuse d’Or USA. The guest chefs for the event included Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Jerome Bocuse – three key players in the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation. The entry fee: $2,000 per plate. It sold out in a matter of hours.
About a month before the dinner, Boswell called me.
Why wasn’t I coming?
I gave him a laundry list of very real excuses. Besides, wasn’t the event sold out anyway?
He insisted that I be his personal guest to the event – there was an empty seat with my name on it.
Absolutely not, I insisted. How could I justify taking up a seat that might raise a lot of money for the beneficiaries?
He wanted me there.
After a lengthy back and forth, with me refusing at every turn, I finally caved and told him that I would come only if I could find decent airfare at that late time, and only if he would allow me to make a healthy donation to the Bocuse d’Or (which I did).
Thank you, Southwest Airlines, for encouraging irresponsible, last-minute travel, unbudgeted expenditure of calories, and charitable donations.
Hotel? Boswell said that he had already booked and paid for two nights at a hotel for me.
I told you: he doesn’t take no for an answer.
The fund-raising event was on Tuesday, September 14. But Boswell had me fly down to New Orleans the day before.
That first night, I was invited to a private dinner at Stella! with the guest chefs, their sous chefs, and a handful of friends and spouses. Scott Boswell cooked for us.
The following night, Boswell, together with the guest chefs, cooked a multi-course dinner to a packed house of donors and members of the press.
I am incredible honored to have been included at these two dinners. Thank you, Chef and Tanya Boswell and the team of Stella! for two magical nights in New Orleans. You are gracious and generous hosts.
In between the two meals, there was much grazing and drinking.
There were late-night (or was that early-morning) rounds at d.b.a., a bar in the Faubourg Marigny district, where Glen David Andrews had the house sweaty with dance fever.
I revisited Cafe du Monde a couple of times to see if my opinion about their beignets and chicory coffee would change.
I escaped, unscathed, from the surly muffaletta man at Central Grocery, Co., with a gigantic sandwich as my prize.
And I finally had my long-awaited date with the “Stella! Uptown” at Stanley, a sundae made after my own heart: rum raisin ice cream, carrot cake, cream cheese sauce, whipped cream, and walnuts. Oh, and there was a cherry on top too.
Write ups and reports about all of these adventures are to come. I’ll hyperlink them below as I get them posted.