Meals On Wheels Gala Raises Over $3 Million To Support Seniors

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The reception
The reception

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer PhotographyWhile some galas are stuffy or emotionally draining, the Meals on Wheels Gala is the opposite—it’s a culinary extravaganza where everyone had a rollicking good time! This year’s event, the 31st annual, took place on Sunday night at the Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion. The gala raised $3.3 million which will fund 660,000 delivery meals for seniors in the greater Bay Area.

Trou Normand's porky Italian bite
Trou Normand’s porky Italian bite

Photo Credit: Katie Ravas for Drew Altizer Photography

900 guests, clad in cocktail attire, arrived at 5 p.m. for a walk-around reception featuring hors-d’oeuvres, wine, beer, and specialty cocktails. Hundreds of the Bay’s top chefs, mixologists, sommeliers, and vintners participated at the event. There was housemade Italian pork spread and mustard from Trou Normand, fava bean puree and shaved parmesan from A16, and super fresh sashimi from Roka Akor.

Ryan Pollnow, Nicholas Torres and Thomas McNaughton
Ryan Pollnow, Nicholas Torres and Thomas McNaughton

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

Manresa served a well-balanced tequila cocktail while The Saratoga offered a delightful passion fruit concoction. Wineries that poured during the reception included Sinegal Estate Wines, Kosta Browne, Ovid Napa Valley, Robert Sinskey Vineyards and many more. What made the tasting so fun? The people behind the tables were the chefs and vintners themselves—for example, Maria Helm Sinskey filled wine glasses with a magnum of her winery’s lovely white blends.

The gorgeous dining room
The gorgeous dining room

At 6:30 p.m. the event’s producers had the difficult task of escorting everyone into the massive dining room for the four-course meal and program. Friends of Boulevard’s Nancy Oakes, the gala’s chef chair, were delighted to find a special caviar course waiting for them at their seats. Each guest was treated to a small jar of caviar and the traditional accouterments—sieved hard-boiled egg, creme fraiche, blini, and chives.

A plate ready to be served
A plate ready to be served

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

36 restaurants catered the meal with the courses varying depending on the table. At my table, Che Fico, Mourad, Lord Stanley, and Navio (of the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay) were the participating eateries. Mourad’s salmon with peas, green garlic, and preserved lemon was like spring on a plate. Lord Stanley’s slow-cooked short rib was tender and melted in one’s mouth. However, the standout was David Nayfeld’s sensational salad. The Che Fico chef served fresh mozzarella with a charred ramp salsa verde, crisp little gems, and crunchy breadcrumbs. It was creamy, crunchy, salty, tangy, and downright delicious all at the same time.

The live auction
The live auction

Photo Credit: Katie Ravas for Drew Altizer Photography

The live auction and fund-a-route took place throughout the meal. It was a lively and festive with auctioneer Greg Quiroga rapping through the auction. The chefs jumped on stage and upped the stakes of lots that involved their restaurants. When there was plenty of interest in his pasta making dinner for 12, Flour + Water’s Thomas McNaughton offered to host the event twice, so both of the top bidders could win and Meals on Wheels received double the funds.

David Nayfeld and Nancy Oakes
David Nayfeld and Nancy Oakes

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

The top three auction items generated an astonishing total of $280,000. They included a trip to the Resort at Pedregal in Cabo on a private jet with dinners prepared by Piperade’s Gerald Hirogoyen and Oakes; a dinner at Prospect prepared by a star-studded team of female chefs like Dominique Crenn and Alice Waters; and dinner for eight prepared by Lazy Bear’s David Barzelay in the home of the auction winner.

Stephanie Tomao, Sophie Dolan and Joan Merryman dance the night away
Stephanie Tomao, Sophie Dolan and Joan Merryman dance the night away

Photo Credit: Katie Ravas for Drew Altizer Photography

After the meal, guests headed back to the reception area which had been transformed into a lounge-like space. A DJ spun classics like Abba’s Dancing Queen and Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody that got the crowd moving. Kara’s Cupcakes, Salt & Straw and Recchiuti Confections were a few of the local makers who served bites at the dessert reception.

Todd Zabella and Lisa Zabelle
Todd Zabella and Lisa Zabelle

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

The good-looking group of guests featured many of the city’s top chefs like Val Cantu and Ryan Pollnow, Senator Mark Leno, Mayor Mark Farrell, The Battery founders Michael and Xochi Birch, and socialite Lisa Zabelle and her husband, Todd.

Michael Birch and Xochi Birch
Michael Birch and Xochi Birch

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

Atmosphere
Atmosphere

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

A plated dish
A plated dish

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

Kendra Weinisch and Mark Leno
Kendra Weinisch and Mark Leno

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

A beautiful dessert
A beautiful dessert

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

The participating chefs take the stage after the auction
The participating chefs take the stage after the auction

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

Andrew Freeman and Pam Roberts
Andrew Freeman and Pam Roberts

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

A bird's eye view of the reception
A bird’s eye view of the reception

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

Dessert
Dessert

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

The dining room
The dining room

Photo Credit: Katie Ravas for Drew Altizer Photography

Greg Quiroga
Greg Quiroga

Photo Credit: Katie Ravas for Drew Altizer Photography

Robert Afshar and Shaliz Afshar
Robert Afshar and Shaliz Afshar

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

Andi Gazelle, Paige Eller and Natalie Eggers
Andi Gazelle, Paige Eller and Natalie Eggers

Photo Credit: Katie Ravas for Drew Altizer Photography

Montana Vesal and Dilara Saatci
Montana Vesal and Dilara Saatci

Photo Credit: Katie Ravas for Drew Altizer Photography

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