As any good caterer knows, a good party involves not just excellent food, but a wonderful setting. So, when the Baltimore chapter of the National Association of Catering Executives throws its annual "Uncorked!" party, you can bet both the eats and the environment will be spectacular. The banquet room at the American Visionary Art Museum was a vision itself, with 27 tables decorated to fit the evening's "A Night at the Movies" theme.
A table with The Birds theme featured the famous silhouette of Alfred Hitchcock hanging above a life-size tree centerpiece filled with black birds. A Breakfast at Tiffany's table had an artistic version of Audrey Hepburn's little black dress and hat, surrounded by those signature little blue boxes. The Paper Moon table, with a huge rice-paper crescent moon above it, won the judges' top prize of the evening.
Chapter chair Alicia Kroll and event chair Cate Buscher stayed mum about their favorites. Other guests weren't so reticent.
"We really belong over at the [One Flew Over the] Cuckoo's Nest table," said Sharlene Sherman, owner of Sharlene Sherman events, as she pointed to a table with straitjacketed dining chairs.
"But, we're at the [Out of] Africa. And that's a really neat table," added friend Freddy Stevens, owner of Freddy Stevens Entertainment.
Fran Fung, AFR Furniture Rental general manager, had a preference for Doctor Zhivago's elaborate chandelier setting, while his sales manager, Jennifer Bafford, was leaning more toward a table based on The Dark Knight. She wasn't alone. The table - which was set under a huge construction of gothic towers - won the "People's Choice" award.
But, the biggest winner of the night was the Maryland Food Bank, which garnered some of the evening's proceeds.
Glamour and giving back Glamour can be exhausting. Just ask fashion designer Manish Singh. Singh is the 36-year-old Baltimore guy who's already spent 10 years as the man behind the Victor Rossi line. He spends Monday through Thursday in New York City, where he is busy creating and manufacturing his own line of gorgeous dresses and gowns, as well as private label designs for companies like French Connection, Arden B. and Cache. Then, he comes to Baltimore Friday through Sunday to spend time with family and to teach a group of Howard County high school interns all about the fashion biz. Add that onto last weekend's agenda. He volunteered his time and fashions for a walk-through fashion show at the South Baltimore Learning Center gala Saturday night. Then, early Sunday, he was running a photo shoot to help several local models enhance their portfolios: Skyler McLeod, 20, who had just returned from three months modeling in China; Melissa Purvis, 17, from Virginia; and Ryan Krasney, 24, a singer who's just returned home to Columbia from Atlanta.
Singh credits his two grandfathers for encouraging him to give back.
"They helped thousands and thousands of people set up their lives with no expectations in return. Then decades and decades later, those people my grandfathers helped, [and] their children and grandchildren would come to say thank you. I used to watch it happen every day when I used to be in India with them. That absolute unselfish way of conducting themselves was awe-inspiring for me."
Singh certainly passed on a certain feeling of awe Sunday.
"This has been the most fun day ever," Krasney said.
"It was like playing dress-up."