It started with a “save the date” email and from there escalated into one of the classiest evenings to date at one of the most exclusive venues in all of Los Angeles. An evening of vintage glamor with promises of live entertainment from members of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, a promising prodigy, fine dining, vintage cocktails by a master class bartender and dancing with the best vintage band in all of Southern California, Dean Mora and his Orchestra. I did not even think twice about saying yes.
The event was held at the illustrious California Club in downtown Los Angeles. Ah. Let that just sink in. Perhaps I should explain. When I was a teenager and my weekends comprised of going into Downtown Los Angeles for books, books and more books at the L.A. Central Library, my eyes would invariably wander off to the Italian Renaissance Revival building that shares the same city block as the library itself. Ivy covered, guarded, shrouded in mystery, I had to know more about it. While I never specifically hunted out its secrets, it always remained in the back of my mind. I’d hear the occasional whisper of what it was all about, but never first-hand confirmations. Now I had the chance to step inside myself, thanks to a chair member who just so happens to be a member of the exclusive club, established in 1888 and held in the Robert D. Farquhar building since 1930.
You guys, this couldn’t be more relevant to my interests if a blinking, neon sign that said “RELEVANT” was fixed above my head.
LACO honorees David K. and Kay Duke Ingalls and Jennifer and Royce Diener.
image credit: Lee Salem Photography
The annual gala honored long-time supporters Jennifer and Royce Diener, the former of which served as President from 1991-1995 and Chair from 1995-1998; and David K. and Kay Duke Ingalls, served as President from 1980-1983 and Chair from 1983-1988.
Honoring David K. and Kay Duke Ingalls
Silent and Live Auction
Over $315,000 was raised from attendance, donations, silent and live auctions items, benefiting the LACO concert series, radio broadcasts and community engagement programs.
Alex Liberman tending the bar
When my guest and I arrived, we had only a few minutes to steal a vintage cocktail crafted by master bartender Alexander Liberman. Sneaking into the private bar area, we were able to grab the absinthe champagne cocktail:
Vintage Absinthe Champagne Cocktail
Cocktail in hand, we dodged into the main hall where everyone gathered for the entertainment portion of the evening. Now, I am about to publicly reveal something to you: I have a fascination with lights fixtures. So, just to illustrate how glamorous of a place The California Club is, and the level of class we’re dealing with here, feast your eyes on this chandelier:
The concert itself was beauty for the ears, with select pieces from classics Brahms, Bach and Puccini and contemporary masters Duke Vernon and George Gershwin.
Piano Quartet in G minor – Johannes Brahms
Armen Ksajikian (cello), Paul Colletti (viola), Margaret Batjer (violin) & Jeffrey Kahane (piano)
tenor Joshua Guerrero & pianist/violinist Ray Ushikubo
image credit: Lee Salem Photography
After the concert, it was back to the main area for the silent and live auction while hors d’oeuvers and cocktails were passed around.
Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey, fresh strawberries & mint, lemon & orange juice, sugar & 3 dashes of Angostura Bitters topped with soda.
My second favorite cocktail of the evening (the champagne absinthe cocktail being my first; sad I only managed to have one!), the Whiskey Smash was sweet and fresh, two adjectives that make for a happy Rachael.
Deviled Eggs & Caviar
Along with these morsels was smoked salmon on pumpernickel and smoked Gouda toast. Everyone swarmed the poor servers, going after their favorite bites. Both my guest and I took a particular shine to the Vienna sausages in puffy pastry, while I also could not get enough caviar dolloped deviled eggs.
French 75 Cocktail
Champagne – Gin – Lemon Twist
The cocktails were ever flowing, with Alex Liberman and his assistant Andrew working diligently in the bar. A New York City transplant, Liberman and his partner Kevin Felker run Bar Craft Consulting, offering their combined 30 years of experience to cocktail enthusiasts – be it for private functions, classes or tastings. A true believer in the resurrection of classic cocktails, Liberman offers handmade cocktails at the highest level of execution. He can be found at The Assosciation in Downtown Los Angeles where he is not only the bar manager, but offers cocktail enthusiasts an opportunity to delve deeper and refine their knowledge through a 6 or 8-week class series.Beginning with bar basics, tools and techniques, with each subsequent week examing individual spirits, their history and use in classic and contemporary cocktails. Whether you opt for individual classes or sign up for the entire series, you can expect to gain a wealth of knowledge and mad technical skills.
Ah, but what’s that sound? Time to close up the auction, put down the cocktail and head into the dining hall for our main meal, prepared by the on site chefs at The California Club.
Seared White Sea Bass
garlic spinach – shizo broth
Light, delicate and with just a whisper of sweetness, this first course could not have been more on the mark. It was a generous enough portion to make me feel like I had really been able to taste and appreciate all components of the dish, while still leaving me wish I had more in my bowl. I ended the dish feeling inspired to dig up a recipe and try it out in my own kitchen.
Veal two-ways: Roasted & Braised
mushroom ragout Bourguignon – rosemary polenta
There wasn’t a single item I disliked on this plate. I’m not one for veal, and I never go out of my way for it, but this was supple and heavenly. If I had to chose which method of preparation I enjoyed more, I’d have to say the braised veal as it positively melted in my mouth. The mushroom ragout Bourguignon was so spot-on; the perfect accompaniment. Grandma would be proud; I most definitely cleaned my plate.
vanilla bean sauce
While everyone was tapping out, I managed to keep going and just about devour this trio of meringue floating on an ocean of crème anglaise. This vintage French dessert harkens back to the days of glamor and glitz; where dancing to a big Jazz band was all the rage. Speaking of which…
Dean Mora and his Orchestra
While I appreciate the splendor of the classics, the music of the twentieth century “Big Band” era is what keeps my foot tappin’ and and my heart a dancing. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Dean Mora and his Orchestra live twice before and I do count this lucky third viewing to be a charm indeed. My friend Jessica and I were among the last few to vacate the dance floor; cutting a rug with a few other jitterbugs as Dean Mora and his Orchestra played one more time. Just for us.
My friend Jessica (left) & myself in our vintage flare
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra strives to enrich and connect our community through intimate and transformative musical experiences which exemplify and foster artistic excellence, education and innovation. For upcoming performances, please click here.
Obsessed, I tell you.