A Black and White Ball for the Ages

Dear Friends,

Most of the time I'm writing to see if I can get you on board for events that are upcoming. But occasionally we get involved in something that's worth a little post-event reporting. Such is the case this week with regard to TRIBEZA Magazine's Dinner x Design soiree at Fair Market last night. The event paired five designers with five chefs, the designers putting together tables and accompanying "environments" for roughly 25 guests each, and the chefs bringing it, with food to match, including your very own Texas French Bread (or as I like to think of us in this context, "Boulangerie Cinderella").

You see, these kinds of events are generally for the hotshots, and media darlings, where it takes weeks to get a reservation - not under the radar, super yummy, "I can't believe we didn't know they served dinner", type neighborhood venues like our beloved TFB. So when Lauren Smith Ford of TRIBEZA emailed me to say that Fern Santini had requested that we pair with her for this dinner, we were very excited.

For those of you who don't know Fern, let me tell you, she is a force of nature. I met her in passing a few years ago, and was surprised and pleased when she and her husband Jerry began showing up for dinner regularly. First of all, Fern looks like Stevie Nicks' long lost sister - and a lot of you know how I feel about Stevie Nicks. One evening she and Jerry pulled into TFB's parking lot in Fern's exquisite 1959 Corvette. The car looked to be a very clean restoration, so I asked if it was powered by the original 283ci engine. I guess I thought I'd school her with my knowledge of the history of Chevy's most iconic sports car - drop some of my cool middle aged car geek knowledge on her. Fern just laughed - and informed me that she'd had her mechanic drop in the engine from a 2013 Z1R - basically the fastest Corvette every built. I was amazed, and clearly out of my depth...

Working with her on this event gave me further insight into just what an extraordinary person she is. We met her at her company office, Abode, for an initial meeting regarding the dinner one afternoon a few weeks ago. A receptionist seated us and shortly, Fern blew through the conference room in a flowing floor length red frock with matching shoes (not to mention glasses), "Y'all want a glass of champagne" she asked, one hand over the call holding on her oversized iPhone. Before we could answer, we had flutes of sparkling rose in hand and Fern is explaining her vision for the dinner - a reimagining of Truman Capote's famous Black & White Ball held in honor of Katherine Graham in New York City in 1966 and attended by the author, and just about every A-lister in NYC at the time (Andy Warhol, Candice Bergen, Sophia Loren, etc.). You can see photographs by photographer Elliott Erwitt here - some of which were hung around the dinner table. Before we knew it, Fern was opening boxes to reveal 2 extraordinary stuffed white peacocks - each at least 5 feet tall that were to adorn the seats at ether end of the proposed 24 foot table.

Hall, Chef and I were sold - prepared to do anything for this woman. The funny thing was that as we continued, I noticed we were not alone. Fern picked up the phone and suddenly antique candelabras and silver plates were secured on loan for the evening. Gorgeous 10" tall Champagne saucers arrived in the nick of time from London. David Curio's team jumped into action and surrounded our table with 15 ft high translucent walls of black lace fabric, and enormous black and white prints of famous photos from the event.

And I haven't even told you about the food. Chef Ben, who's been with us for all of 3 weeks, killed it. The menu we brainstormed was based on one of my brother Ben's favorite culinary themes, which seemed fitting - grand Ocean Liner cuisine. Chef started off with an amuse of scrambled Milagro Farm eggs and black truffles, followed by a classic blue cheese wedge salad, and an entree of flounder stuffed with crab and slathered with old school hollandaise sauce. Throughout the evening we did our best to make sure the guests' champagne glasses were never empty of the Taittinger Champagne Brut or Rosé that we brought for the occasion - the very same Champagne served at Capote's ball in 1966.

What an evening. Fern Santini, you are a rockstar - no, you are our rockstar and we could hardly love you more. Thanks so much for making us a part of this wildness last night and here's hoping some tiny bit of your crazy beautiful glamour rubs off on us. And for anyone who couldn't make the event last night, come in and I'll tell you all the stories you're willing to hear about our recent adventures. Hope to see you soon.

bon appetit,