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A Black (and White)-Tie Affair to Remember

June 5, 2012
Kirsty Gumina

Last Saturday, the San Francisco Symphony’s 2012 Black & White Ball was the place to be. Thousands gathered at Civic Center Plaza to party and support a great cause: musical education programs for over 75,000 Bay Area students.

The gala stretched over nearly eight acres and included multiple venues. Like skilled conductors, McCalls—with nearly 60 chefs, 180 staff, and over 100,000 pieces of cuisine—orchestrated an unparalleled event.

Early in the evening, we served 1,500 guests in three separate sit-down dinners. The Patron’s Dinner took place in a tent off Franklin Street, lavishly decorated in graphic black and white stripes, zigzags, and polka dots. There, guests dined on chilled Maine lobster and a delicate duo of lamb. After a successful live auction, tuxedoed trumpeters playing Paul Simon’s Graceland ushered patrons into Davies Symphony Hall where Mr. Simon himself performed onstage with the symphony—a first in the ball’s 50-year history.

City Hall, divided down the middle in black-and-white décor by Blueprint Studios, hosted the Supper and Symphonix dinners in both its north and south light courts. Guests savored a trio of white asparagus, vichyssoise, fresh Porchetta, and an entrée of tender beef filet. After the dinners, in less than one hour our team helped transform the venues into breathtaking after-parties, each space showcasing musical talents spanning the decades-long history of this elegant fundraiser.

Van Ness was shut down from Grove to McAllister as party-goers braved the cold weather (as only San Franciscans can do) for extensive buffets featuring over 40,000 pieces of sushi, 12 roast pigs carved on-site, New York steak, countless platters of artisan cheeses and charcuterie, and other mouth-watering delicacies. Well-stocked bars throughout allowed guests to meander from space to space to enjoy all the mind-blowing décor and dynamic entertainment. We are proud of our nearly 20-year history working with the Symphony on this charitable event. More about the happenings at the Black & White Ball in SF Gate.

Our Beloved Bridge’s 75th Birthday Bash

June 4, 2012
Kirsty Gumina

This past Memorial Day weekend, our iconic bridge, spanning nearly 9,000 feet across the Golden Gate, gently ushered in her 75th year; and we tell you what, perhaps it’s the perpetual coats of vermillion or the age-defying properties of constantly being shrouded in fog, but she doesn’t look a day over twenty-nine.

We all know San Franciscans take great pride in their ability to throw a doozy of a party so it’s no surprise that this milestone birthday celebration for the City’s most coveted architectural accomplishment be an event with much fanfare; and where there’s a great party, far be it for McCalls to somehow not get involved.

The three-day bash kicked off Friday morning as hundreds of guests gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to proudly witness the unveiling of the modernized Bridge Pavilion Center. McCalls provided a simple and delicious breakfast of petite pastries, croissants and fresh berries for the crowd while civic leaders and patrons memorialized the bridge.

Sunday’s festivities culminated into an extravagant fête showcasing our beloved bridge when thousands of beaming well-wishers gathered along Crissy Field to joyfully celebrate the night with food, music and drink. Our staff, pleased to join in the merriment, provided unrivaled cuisine and service for those fortunate enough to escape the brisk air into the sponsors’ tents.

Chilled guests dressed in International Orange, the bridge’s signature color, warmed up with a butler service of traditional San Franciscan Cioppino and clam chowder. Inside they sipped Iron Horse sparkling wine and nibbled on fresh oysters, Chinese dim sum and local artisan cheeses. Heartier dishes of roast chicken, pulled pork and skirt steak rounded out the menu as well as an eye-catching, orange-hued candy buffet.

Revelers had a perfect view for the art deco-inspired fireworks display, choreographed to a decade-spanning musical mash-up. The spectacular 20-minute pyrotechnic show, a fitting tribute to our iconic landmark, was nearly as entertaining (but not quite) as watching our executive chef, Lucas Schoemaker, joyfully push a hotdog cart through the festive crowd.

Never prouder to be San Franciscans, guests danced the eve away to the Robert Vickers Orchestra. And sure as a six-dollar bridge toll, many, many hearts were left in San Francisco that night. We said it before … not a day over twenty-nine. You’ve held up mightily, dear Golden Gate. Happy Birthday to you …Happy Birthday to you.

Is Chez McCalls SF’s Newest Restaurant?

March 14, 2012
Kirsty Gumina

Perhaps, if Willie Brown had his way. According to Inside Scoop SF, Willie Brown believes a restaurant run by McCalls could rival some of the best on both coasts. In a recent article the former SF mayor compliments new restaurant Eleven Madison Park on the east coast then passes the praise our way while speaking of a dinner service recently orchestrated by our top-notch staff.

“I tell you McCalls ought to be a restaurant,” said Willie Brown following the Junior Committee of the Fine Art’s 8th annual MidWinter Gala. McCalls “presented a salad that was as good as what I got at Eleven Madison Park. The salad was made with beautiful Little Gem lettuces and shaved Parmesan and it was really just spectacular.”

Showcasing impressive events in spaces customarily void of all things culinary takes insane organization and bounds of creativity. At McCalls we have a passion for pulling this off seamlessly and Willie Brown has taken note. “Somebody should tell McCall that if he opened a restaurant and kept the same menu they do for the big events like that one—a very simple menu—it would be as successful as Boulevard,” he continued. “If Quince can cater and run a restaurant, I don’t know why McCalls can’t.”

Leave it to Willie Brown to get the wheels in our head turning. For now we’ll stick to doing what we do best, organizing memorable events with spectacular cuisine.

Classy, Artsy, International

February 7, 2012
Kirsty Gumina

Happy couple Nargues and Christian celebrated their union at the Legion of Honor recently, and Junebug Weddings captured amazing photos of the event. McCalls was honored to provide the catering and flowers for this event.

The couple infused every bit of the ceremony with their personal style. Said Nargues: “I’m Persian, and Christian is Austrian, so it was important to us that both cultures be incorporated throughout the wedding, in our classic foggy San Francisco location. The architecture of the museum and surrounding statues created a European vibe. The wedding ceremony included Persian poetry, a Persian sofreh (a table filled with elements representing life), live violin music, and lots of Persian sweets.”

McCalls florist Miguel Torres incorporated the couple’s favorite color, “cheery, vibrant yellow,” into all his creations. Said the Nargues: Christian and I love a classic and elegant look with a trendy and artsy touch – we hoped the style of our wedding would accomplish just that.” Congrats to both of you!

What’s Cooking at Cafe Asia?

October 2, 2011
Kirsty Gumina


Ever wonder who’s responsible for the tasty offerings in the museum’s Cafe Asia?

Meet Executive Chef Melinda Quirino, who has been at the helm since the cafe opened in 2003. Prior to joining the museum, Melinda led the kitchens at Hotel Nikko Restaurant, Cafe American, and Chez Moi.

We tagged along as she shopped for the cafe menu at the Heart of the City Farmer’s Market at United Nations Plaza, a few steps from the museum.

What are you excited about for the fall season?

Oh, fall is when you get beautiful root vegetables. Kabocha and apples come out in fall, too, of course.

How often do you shop at the market?

As often as possible. As a chef, I like to use seasonal produce. It’s good for our customers to have fresh food! I like to support the farmers, too.

What’s the most popular item at Cafe Asia in the fall?

Soup! Everyone likes warm food in the cold weather. Like coconut soup, and I make it with kefir lime leaves and lemon grass that I find here at the market. There’s also a wild salmon burger people love. I serve it with sweet potato fries and lemon grass aioli.

Do the exhibitions ever inspire your menu choices?

Oh, yes! For the Maharaja exhibition, I’m making chutney with kumquat, figs, and fresh pineapple. Also, we have Kashmiri kari korma—a leg of lamb braised in red pepper Masala sauce, served with roasted cauliflower over basmati rice. I made a similar dish this past summer with chicken instead of lamb. You know, with Asian food, it’s diverse, so you can make it fresh and new every day. The café is especially nice in the fall season—you should come in!

—Amelia Bunch

The menu at Cafe Asia changes seasonally. To learn what’s new, visit asianart.org/cafeasia
More About the Asian Art Museum asianart.org

Photography by Jennifer Yin