The Cotes du Coeur Gala last weekend was so stunning, so over-the-top, that I’m finding it difficult to describe all the sights, sounds, and tastes that are still swirling around in my head today. But I’ll try to hit some of the highlights.
Where to start? I’ll back up to one of the events leading up to the Gala, the Tete du Cuvee Honoree dinner honoring winemaker Alfred Tesseron at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse last Thursday. Everything that evening was exquisite, from the house-smoked chicken risotto to the dry-aged rack of lamb to the selection of Texas cheeses. Chateau Pontet-Canet’s wines are special, perhaps because Alfred Tesseron’s adheres to the philosophy that a wine is made in the vineyards, not in the fermentation tank. In Tesseron’s view, the vintner is more farmer than chemist.
Then came the Gala last Saturday. When my husband and I arrived about an hour before the Gala, hundreds of people were already milling about ballroom foyer at the Anatole. The scene was absolutely cinematic, the women floating by in their beautiful dresses, and row upon row of wine bottles gleaming on the auction tables. There was a perceptible air of excitement and anticipation as attendees browsed the silent auction lots. Then, suddenly, the doors to the ball room swung open, and music and costumed performers swirled out, leading the crowd into the ballroom.
The chefs’ stations lined the perimeter of the ballroom in dine-around format, and their names, restaurants, dishes, and paired wines were projected on the walls above each station. We wandered around to see the chefs at work and talked briefly with chef Gerad Thompson of Rough Creek Lodge. His bourbon-molasses glazed “high plains bison” was amazing—we could cut it with our forks—and we begin to think about a weekend getaway at the lodge. We also stopped by to say hello to Kerry Simon, the only out-of-town chef participating (and whom I profiled here).
We eventually made our way to our table, where professional waiters brought us more dishes and wines from the different stations. Cotes du Coeur Chair Tim Wallace took the stage and acknowledged the Executive Leadership Committee and the One in a Million Volunteer Recognition Award recipient Ron Haddock. Then the auctioneer kicked off the live auction.
It’s not easy to hold the attention of more than 1100 people stuffed to the gills with rich food and wine, but when the auctioneer jumped into high gear, the bidding cards flew up all around the ballroom. Packages were fetching $12,000, $15,000, and $20,000, but the highest bid I heard was $28,000 for Lot 11, “Steaks & Cowboys,” offered by Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, and My Private Driver. That package included transportation by Mercedes limousine and a six-course dinner at Del Frisco’s for 10, and then later that same weekend, 18 guests will watch the game in a luxury suite at Cowboy Stadium.
After the live auction, the band started playing in the foyer, but after six or seven food courses and nearly that many glasses of wine, we were pretty spent. We stayed until about 11:15, but heartier guests made it all the way to 1:00 a.m. and beyond to the After Party.
Good for them. As for me, I felt like I had experienced Mardi Gras, Vegas, and Restaurant Week in the space of a few hours.
Note for next year—pace myself.