At the BMA, we love a `Crabaret,' even in rain, heat


July 21, 2005|By Sloane Brown | Sloane Brown,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Never let it be said that Mother Nature can keep Baltimoreans away from their favorite summer pastime -- eating crab. Last week's muggy weather and pouring rain didn't deter some 300 guests at Gertrude's at the Baltimore Museum of Art, for "Crabaret." What's more, it sounds as if the House of Ruth fund-raiser was the most successful in its three years of existence.

It just might have something to do with the main attraction -- a passel of crab concoctions created by Gertrude's owner and chef John Shields. There were crab cocktail claws in a chipotle dipping sauce, a crab cake and french fry stand, curried Caribbean crabmeat, crab and sweet corn fritters, crab soup, crab gumbo, and crabmeat enchiladas. And did we mention the wines paired with each delectable dish, a dozen in all?

"Not only didn't the weather keep people away," notes House of Ruth Executive Director Carole Alexander, "it didn't make them leave."

She says many folks stayed until the very end, dancing to the music of Blue Sky 5.

"I don't think I've ever seen people dance at our events before," Alexander says. Certainly not at the organization's yearly main event, a spring luncheon for 700, put on by Pat Modell, Barbara Brody and Olwen Modell. That event is always a sellout featuring guest speakers such as authors David McCullough and Frank McCourt.

Something tells us that lunch isn't going to be House of Ruth's only annual sellout.

What's hot in parties

Speaking of parties, that's all they did last week at the conference for the National Association of Catering Executives. Which, of course, is the point of the annual confab, and why a good number of B-more catering types made the trip to Orlando, Fla., where this year's NACE meet was held.

In that group, local radio personality Diane Macklin, who came back with the scoop on what's hot -- and what's not -- on the party scene for the coming year.

Little dishes, aka tapas, are still in. But serve them on anything but plain old round plates. Go geometric, or colorful. Or use square, lacquered bento boxes, the ever-so-elegant Japanese version of the lunchbox. In the passed hors d'oeuvre category, anything served on a skewer, individual fork or spoon is tres chic. But, remember to have someone following your server with an empty tray for folks' leftover skewers or utensils. There's nothing as frustrating as wandering a party holding a used bamboo skewer and not knowing where to leave it.

Ethnic food with decorations to match can't be beat. In fact, the hostess with the mostest will bring in a chef whose specialty is a certain cuisine -- say, Indian (very trendy these days) -- and pair him or her with the caterer to come up with the perfect menu. In terms of color, think deep reds and golds for your fall shindig.

Another up-and-coming trend is the interactive food station. Letting people create their dishes with all the prepared ingredients laid out for them to choose from. Pasta, salad, even a hot-chocolate bar. And how 'bout make-it-yourself potato salad? Macklin says one event planner explained how he set up a station with cooked cubed potatoes, chopped egg, chopped onion, celery, mayo and flavored mustards. It was a hit.

Macklin says martinis are still going strong -- particularly those made with all the new flavored vodkas and rums (including watermelon and peach). Red wines are overtaking white wines in popularity. And you're going to see more and more screw tops on higher-priced wines.

So, what's out? Low carb.

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