Caterers put the most of Maryland on menu for VIP gala

July 07, 1993|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer

Take 10,000 crab cakes, an ersatz Bay Bridge and a dozen waitresses wearing "Hi Hon" T-shirts. What do you get?

Major league's All-Star Gala.

But that's just a hint of things to come on Monday evening when Baltimore sets out to dazzle baseball's elite. On the eve of the match-up between the American and National Leagues' finest, the boys of baseball -- along with their families, club officials and visiting media -- will see and taste "Maryland in Miniature," all without ever leaving the Maryland Science Center promenade.

In more than a dozen separate tents, some 2,400 guests of

major-league baseball will sample what life in our state is all about, with a heavy emphasis on food and entertainment. ESPN and CBS radio will be capturing it all live for those of us whose invitations got, ahem, lost in the mail.

Partygoers will start in "Ocean City" -- tasting pit beef, french fries and caramel corn on a makeshift boardwalk. Or they'll stroll along "Route 50," grabbing silver queen corn, strawberries and tomatoes from produce stands. Other choices include: the raw bar in "Annapolis"; smoked turkey, chutney and scones in "Western Maryland"; or meatloaf, mashed potatoes and flavored Cokes at the "Hilltop Diner."

What does it take to feed baseball's masses?

Check out these stats: 10,000 oysters, 4,000 oversized cookies, 1,000 pounds of potatoes and 200 pounds of tortellini will be on hand for a party that's expected to last 3 1/2 hours. (Can you imagine what these guys eat after a game?)

In between bites, guests will hear or see 100 acts and performers -- from a wildlife exhibit (with real snakes, owls and fish) in the Western Maryland tent to the Naval Academy Band representing Annapolis to hot jazz in Baltimore.

The gala game-plan is the handiwork of two local firms -- P. W. Feats events planners and Classic Catering People, who have spent the last six months doing everything from researching regional food at the Enoch Pratt Library to building a replica of the State Capitol.

"We tried to touch on the idea of Baltimore as a star-spangled city," says Paul Wolman, founder and president of P. W. Feats. "This is one of the few chances the players will have to have a nice, relaxing time. We were given the task of trying to mastermind an evening in Baltimore that they won't forget."

To that end, he and his colleagues have been working round-the-clock building an outdoor cafe for the Little Italy tent, checking in with decoy carvers from the Eastern Shore and constructing Planet Baltimore, a futuristic '50s-style city.

"This has a cast of thousands," says Chester Overlock, a producer with P. W. Feats. "We feel like Cecil B. DeMille."

Although this seems to be the party of the week, it's hardly the only one. On Saturday night at 7, the public is invited to an All-Star BSO concert at Rash Field; Chuck Thompson will be doing the play-by-play. And Major League Baseball Properties, the licensing arm of the organization, is having an invitation-only pregame gathering at the Power Plant on Tuesday.

With baseball's best on hand, the gala caterers themselves are rounding up their own employee all-stars for the night. So far, it's been easy finding volunteers to work that evening.

"This is the kind of event that everybody asks to work," says Edward Dopkin, president of Classic Catering People, who has given his staff extra training in the last week to prepare for the gala. "We pride ourselves on

the fact that our staff won't walk up to Cal Ripken and say, 'Can I have your autograph?' "

To make sure that partygoers receive the VIP treatment, the staff-to-guest ratio will be high. "We'll have one staff to every 10 people," says Mr. Dopkin. "At most events, it's one to 25 or 30."

Organizers are also preparing for things that most of us never would. For example, they've already calculated how much trash (40 cubic yards) will be produced that evening. Most of it will be hidden in tent-like rooms set up essentially to serve as attractive trash cans.

There is one factor, though, no one can predict: the weather.

"The grand challenge is trying to predict what's going to happen in the sky," says Mr. Wolman. "That can change the entire flow of the evening. We have three or four different maps worked out, depending on whether it's hot and sunny or the skies open up."

With so much planning going on, has anyone started dreaming of the gala yet?

"Who goes to sleep?" asks Mr. Overlock. "There's no time for that now."

For a taste of the gala, here are a few recipes the Classic Catering People have cooked up:

Hickory-smoked turkey breast

Serves roughly 30 people

12-pound fresh turkey breast

1 1-inch piece fresh ginger (grated)

3 cups apple cider

1 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh herbs

In a bowl large enough to hold the turkey breast, mix ginger, cider, oil and herbs. Place turkey breast in marinade mixture, turning once to coat the turkey. Cover and marinate overnight, turning the breast several times during the process.

Smoke the turkey breast by placing water-soaked hickory chips on hot coals in a grill or in a home cooker. Cook until the juices run clear. When the turkey feels firm, insert meat thermometer, which should read 160 degrees. Allow approximately 3 to 4 hours.

Lemon thyme scones

Makes 30 2-inch round scones

2 pounds 6 ounces all-purpose flour

8 ounces sugar

8 ounces butter (small dice)

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

2 1/4 cup milk or buttermilk

2 tablespoons lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

Combine dry ingredients (including lemon zest and thyme) in a small mixer with paddle attachment.

Add butter and blend until the butter is pea-size.

Add milk all at once. Mix just until dough pulls together and turn out onto floured surface. Roll 1/2 -inch thick.

Cut dough into 1 1/2 - to 2-inch rounds or traditional triangle shapes. Brush with egg wash.

Bake on cookie pan in 375- to 400-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden.

Right from the oven, brush with melted butter.

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