It was just before 7 p.m. and for one home on St. Charles Avenue, the night of April 20 was just about to begin. The garden—still vibrant with late spring blossoms—had a just-before-sunset glow and was humming with activity: wine being uncorked, food simmering or receiving final touches, the band getting in place. The home—a Greek Revival built in 1857—rivaled the gardens with the lush floral arrangements placed throughout.
The gala program
The party in question, “Sentimental Journeys,” was back after a brief post-Katrina hiatus to benefit Longue Vue House and Gardens, a National Historic Landmark built in 1939-1942 that suffered extensive flood damage because of the storm.
This fête—the patron reception—was just the beginning of two nights of wining, dining and serious fund-raising. Set in the home and gardens of event co-chair Jon Vaccari, he was joined in hosting duties by his other co-chairs Catherine Freeman and Sandra Pulitzer, as well as patron reception co-chairs Helen Butcher and Barbara Rosenberg.
Even though the chandelier in the dining roomis dramatic, the floral centerpiece adds even more to the room.
The stylishness of the home’s interiors and the flowers all came together to create an elegant ambiance. The chic interiors were by Vaccari, a designer noted for his cool palette and sleek lines, while the flowers by René Hofstede of Mille Fiori Flowers and Event Design consisted of peonies—noted for their size and fragrance—tulips, anenomes, calla lilies and others in shades of purple, green, pink and white that were expertly and creatively arranged in the home. The Flower Council of Holland, represented at the party by Pascal Koeleman, contributed these flowers, as well as those used at the gala. Five vineyards—Hall Wines, Landmark Vineyards, Rex Hill Vineyards, Swanson Vineyards (which was represented by co-owner Elizabeth Swanson, a New Orleans native) and Truchard Vineyards poured some of their best vintages, while guests sampled a number of “small plates” of food prepared by chef Michel Richard of Michel Richard Cintronelle in Washington D.C. and chef John Besh of Restaurant August. Richard concocted eggs mozzarella, a lobster burger (quite good!) and chocolate grapes, while Besh did a “black and blue” potato gnocchi tossed with blue crab and a boudin of Louisiana quail—to name just a few of the dishes that were served. Don Vappie and his band added a quintessential New Orleans touch, much appreciated by locals and out of town guests.
This blue and white tiled fountain further enhanced the Moroccan feel. Flowers floating in the pool added color.
The night of the gala, which was held under a tent in a lot in Old Metairie, was blessed with just as nice weather as the patron reception, creating a relaxed setting for this black-tie and auction portion of “Sentimental Journeys.” Because the focus of this party is the auction—28 trips to exotic locations around the globe—the person who is put in charge of the night’s décor often turns to a foreign locale. Designer John Fernandez found inspiration in Morocco—its rich, spicy colors were incorporated in the fabrics, the flowers and the furnishings—as well as the belly dancers who greeted guests. The entry tent was covered with fabric and further decorated as if it was an Emir’s living room—hookahs included. The big tent, where the dinner and auction took place, was canopied in blue fabric and had twinkling white lights underneath to give guests the feel of dining under the stars.
Chef Thierry Rautureau—of Rover’s restaurant in Seattle—was noted for his chapeau and made the scene during the dinner service of which he and chef Peter Moore of the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans whipped up hidden behind tent walls. No gourmet experience, of course, is complete without wine (Hall Wines, J Vineyards, Landmark Vineyards, Swanson Vineyards, Truchard Vineyards, Rex Hall Vineyards and Piper-Heisdeck Champagne) and each course was paired with a different one. Next up was the auction helmed by Elyse Luray, a co-host on PBS’ “History Detectives” and well as an appraiser for HGTV’s “If Walls Could Talk.” Bidding was spirited, with many lots going above their asking price—raising even more money for Longue Vue. For those who may have not had enough of the night’s festivities, Pepe and the Bottle Blondes—who were a huge hit for this party in 2004—entertained well into the night.
Event co-chairs Catherine Freeman, Jon Vaccari and Sandra Pulitzer
What makes this event so special? Event co-chair Catherine Freeman best sums it up, “A combination of all the elements—flowers, food, décor, entertainment and the diversity of trips. It’s not just one element that makes this party so unique.” And partygoers couldn’t agree more.
The Flower Council of Holland’s Pascal Koeleman and Mille Fiori’s RenéHofstede are joined by two of Hofstede’s designers at the patron party.
Longue Vue House and Gardens “Sentimental Journeys”
In 1936, Longue Vue House and Gardens owners Edgar B. Stern and his wife, Edith, took a year long overseas journey in celebration of his 50th birthday and their 15th wedding anniversary. Upon their return, they privately published a memoir documenting the trip, calling it “A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy and Other Countries.” And it was in this spirit of adventure that in 1995 that the board of Longue Vue embarked on its own “Sentimental Journey.” Held every 18 months, the event raises funds for Longue Vue programs and seminars
Of special note: Kudos to Lilla Wright, the director of “Sentimental Journeys,” who successfully organized and pulled together the various components for this event.
Three simple oblong white containers are filled with lush floral arrangements.
In the living room, flowers were placed in individual water goblets and gathered on a tabletop. A mirror below gave the flowers a more vibrant look.
The entry tent was made to feel like an Emir’s lair.
Hugh Uhalt, Carla Adams and Dick Currence
A fireplace wall made of flowers.
The gala tentwas covered with blue fabric, underneath which were twinkling whitelights to give the feel of dining under the stars. photo: Nijme RinaldiNun