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A Sonata de Cuisine at the San Francisco Symphony Opening Night Gala

September 11, 2014
Kirsty Gumina

This year’s Opening Night Gala at Davies Symphony Hall was one for the history books. The dazzling kick-off for the upcoming symphonic season was a momentous celebration of the world-renowned and locally beloved conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), who is celebrating his 20th anniversary with the San Francisco Symphony. The word “symphony” is derived from the Greek συμφωνία or sumphōnia, the translation of which is “together-sound” or an agreement or concord of sound. MTT’s legacy lives up to the etymology of the word for he has endeavored to bring the sounds of contemporary and classical music together and has made great musical achievements accessible to audiences from all walks of life through new media and technology. An overall spirit of commemoration prevailed on Wednesday night as patrons of the San Francisco Symphony gathered to wine, dine and dance the night away in his honor.

The McCalls catering team—wearing its finest black tie attire—was excited to be back on the floor in the custom-built pavilion tent where approximately 850 guests were seated for dinner. Inspired by the intrepid conductor, McCalls regaled Gala attendees with four bewitching movements in the Patron’s Dinner, a sonata de cuisine if you will. The first movement began with a stately reception, wherein guests were greeted by the twinkling of chandeliers and passed champagne. The second movement started with the Mosaic of Maine Lobster with Avocado Marquise and Quail Egg, followed by the Smoked Seas Salt Filet of Beef with a scherzo-esque medley of this season’s finest vegetables: Kohlrabi, Sunburst Squash, Haricot Vert and Heirloom Cauliflower. The finale called for a Passion Fruit Baked Alaska that combined house-made ice cream with sweet crisp meringue to finish on a delicious note of concord.

Moving past the glittering throngs in the pavilion and into the Symphony Hall, patrons seeking a more intimate dining experience were served in our newest venue, The Wattis Room. Receiving the same excellence in cuisine as all attendees, Wattis Room patrons started with sparkling wine, Smoked Royal Miyagi Oysters and caviar. A first course of Poached Lobster Salad with Chilled Brentwood Corn Custard was followed by the entrée of Petite Beef Tenderloin atop Pinot Noir Braised Bermuda Onions, Herbed Wild Mushrooms and a Potato Gratin with Smoked Brisket. Couples enjoyed slow dancing in the romantic candle light before enjoying their dessert of Warm Chocolate Molten Cake à la Mode.

Just across Van Ness Avenue, the iconic lights of City Hall were greeting hundreds more patrons for the Symphonix and Supper Club Dinners. Inside, elegant tables filled the effulgent Rotunda where the pillars, walls and sweeping staircase featured playful light effects. Every dish featured something unique to the season: Yosemite Melon with Heirloom Tomato, Basil and Bocconcini was followed by a succulent duo of lamb chops —one Moroccan Spiced, the other an Apple Braised Rillette — accompanied by Roasted Yams, Chickpeas, Herbed Carrots and a light pour of Chermoula Sauce. Desserts included the Sonoma Goat Milk Panna Cotta with Chocolate Hazelnut Tranche and Roasted Fig, as well as an Olive Oil Pumpkin Cake with California Blue Cheese Gelato.

After dinner, patrons were ushered into the Davies Symphony Hall to enjoy the musical performances of Bonnie Raitt, Yuja Wang and the San Francisco Symphony itself. Aside from being a fun filled event, the Opening Night Gala is held to benefit the Symphony’s award-winning education and community programs that serve over 75,000 students in the Bay Area elementary, middle and high schools each year. These inspiring artists remind us that this cosmopolitan soirée is, at its heart, an act of community building.

As the evening turned into night, droves of revelers emerged from the Symphony Hall to find the hottest dance spots, finest cocktails and sweetest desserts. Got Light and Blueprint Studios brought the after-party atmosphere to new heights with dramatic lighting and lounge furniture spilling out onto Grove St. McCalls provided specialty drinks, full bars and copious amounts of candy alongside stations offering hors d’oeuvres and late-night snacks. The night slipped away gleefully as the after-party raged on, but there was already a buzz in the air of what delights next year’s event might hold.

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