A Fundraising Fiesta

About 8 weeks back I received a verbal invitation to attend a dinner party with a group of friends.  Not an out of the ordinary occurrence, I am fortunate to have a group of foodie friends that love to cook and entertain.  I checked my calendar and immediately confirmed my attendance, failing however to inquire where the dinner was being held and what we were celebrating.  Weeks passed and my curiosity got the best of me, so I began to do some investigating into what the  evening may hold in store for us.

It turned out that my friends had purchased a catered dinner party for 6 at a charity event.  The auction item was donated by Lori Luedtke, an interior designer from the Lake Mary area, and volunteer with the Aim at Melanoma Foundation. Sadly, Lori’s brother had passed away from melanoma, she has since taken on the challenge of raising funds for research and into finding a cure.

On the evening of the dinner, my five friends and I arrived for our “mystery” dinner promptly at 8:00pm, as was instructed.  We were warmly greeted and ushered to the lanai where frozen libations and platters of Barbecued Langoustinos, Empanadas and fresh salsa quickly appeared.  The dishes were expertly prepared, however, I was a bit confused.  Were we not invited to someone’s home for a dinner party?  Why are our hosts not sitting and enjoying this Fiesta with us?  I was quickly informed by our fearless leader Mr. Earnest that this was the idea behind the evening.  As I mentioned earlier, he had purchased this dinner which was not only being hosted by Miss Lori but also served by herself and team!  I was shocked to say the least, and in all honesty i felt a bit guilty about arriving in someone’s home that I did not know, to in turn have them cook, serve, and never sit to enjoy with us.  And, Unbeknownst to our hostess Lori, our group included 2 other restaurant owners besides myself, a photographer, a nurse and another interior designer.  We quickly made a pact to keep tight lipped about our professions so as to keep our hosts calm and to avoid any unnecessary  nervousness, more guilt!

However, guilt quickly turned to enjoyment as the wine started to flow and we were invited to take a seat at the extravagantly themed dinner table. Our first course arrived and smiles quickly surrounded the table as we each took our first bites of a perfectly ripened avocado, garnished with sweet cantaloupe, and a garden fresh lemon-mint yogurt dressing, simply presented as “Chilean Avocado Salad”.  Needless to say we were all very impressed with the experience thus far.  It was already very evident that an enormous amount of  effort and love went into producing this evening.

Entrees arrived,  once again with lovely presentations and obvious detail. A perfectly executed Oaxacan Chicken sat before us with aromas that took us on a magic carpet ride to Mexico.  Accompanying was fresh summer sweet corn marinated and roasted with a zesty chili-lime butter, and perfectly flavor balanced tomato salsa.  As we enjoyed our main course we laughed amongst ourselves in the thought of preparing a dinner of this caliber to our group of sometimes critical personalities.  Although we had no outwardly spoken expectations for the evening, any that we may of had were definitely exceeded.  As is the case with all great meals, they at some point come to an end. Thankfully ours concluded with a light and airy Tango Lime Chiffon Pie with toasted coconut crust, a perfect final course.

Alas the team that had entertained our palettes for the evening arrived at our table  and we greeted them with loud applause.  As more in depth introductions occurred,  Lori and her team turned ten shades of red when they discovered there guests professions!  Plenty of laughter and glass chiming concluded our experience, and new friends were made.

I left Lori’s feeling very fulfilled that evening.  It was moving to see how much she misses her brother, but refuses to let his memory fade.  Her hope is that others will someday not have to suffer the way he did.  I also learned something about myself.  We get caught up in our day to day lives and sometimes shy away from the opportunities that arise to experience new  adventures.  Now you may think to yourselves “is going to a dinner party truly an adventure?,” maybe not for some.  But for me, to arrive on someone’s doorstop whom I do not know,  with a group that is as in the dark as myself was a totally new experience,  a culinary adventure, and one that I will remember for a very long time.

Thank you again Lori for entertaining our group deliciously!

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