Creole spices and a fire dancer heat up a New Orleans-inspired dinner party.
Hot spices and a fire dance are ingredients for an unforgettable evening. For Evercare executive Jeanne Lukas, fiery dining creates memories, and helps protect them as well. Each year Jeanne offers a coveted Creole Dinner for Four to the highest bidder in Evercare’s annual live auction in support of the Alzheimer’s Association. After seeing a FireMagic performance, Jeanne was inspired to add literal fire to the heat of her Creole spices.
Her dinner package — a five-course Creole feast with a fire dancing performance — garnered the second-highest bid of the auction. “Nine departments waged a bidding war for Jeanne’s evening,” recalls colleague Anna Korinko, senior associate general counsel and high bidder. “The mystique of the fire performance significantly upped the ante. My husband and I won Jeanne’s dinner last year. We really wanted it again.”
SETTING THE MOOD Jeanne delights in single-handedly conjuring a French Quarter evening to meet the expectations of the highest bidder. “I love Creole cooking for its fusion of ethnic influences, fiery spices and audacious indulgence in butter and cream,” says Jeanne. “The spectacle of fire dancing mirrors the drama of New Orleans cuisine. Both arts evoke mystery and reinterpret cultural traditions with fearless inventiveness.”
BIG EASY HOSPITALITY Jeanne welcomes guests with New Orleans’ Abita beer and platters of deep-fried eggplant. Her dining room glitters with Mardi Gras beads and feathered masks. A playlist of favorite New Orleans musicians showcases the city’s rich musical heritage. “We invited close friends who appreciate incredible food,” says Anna. “Jeanne’s dinners are exquisite. Because there’s no caterer, her evenings feel like a wonderfully personal gift.” Guests Sarah Youngerman and Paul Cassidy agree. “Gathering to support a cause in such an engaging atmosphere fosters intimacy,” Paul observes. “It’s a rare dynamic.”
After cocktails, the party is seated for a series of traditional and contemporary Creole courses, including oyster and artichoke soup, caramelized-onion-and-cream biscuits, and arugula salad strewn with candied pecans. Wines whimsically complement the French Quarter theme. “Decadence and Seven Deadly Zins are a wink to the indulgence of Bourbon Street,” Jeanne explains. “And the fiery Solaris label hints at the fire performance to come.”
One decadent dish follows another. Guests savor shrimp entrées in delicate pastry boxes garnished with chives and dusted with Creole spice. “I don’t know anyone else who could single-handedly create such a meal while making it look so effortless,” Anna says.
A MAGICAL INTERLUDE After the fourth course, Jeanne invites guests to don masks and reconvene outside for the performance. Arrayed in the guise of carnival revelers, guests take seats in darkness lit by a single flaming urn. Zydeco music swells on an unseen cue. Flickering light appears through the trees. Costumed in black, the masked dancer emerges from the shadows swirling live flame in each hand. With choreographed grace, he exchanges the handheld fire for “poi,” burning wicks on arm length chains. Spinning the poi into blazing arcs, the dancer glides through shifting patterns of flame. Guests cheer spontaneously.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Sarah exclaims afterwards. “The juxtaposition of danger and beauty is mesmerizing.”
“The performance is captivating and wonderfully collaborative,” Jeanne says. “Our performer added the fireproof mask to his costume specifically to complement my French Quarter theme.”
The evening comes to a close over chocolate cake spiked with cayenne pepper. “This has been an unforgettable experience,” Anna declares. “We take away wonderful memories and the knowledge that we are helping those whose memories are slipping away. The charitable context makes the evening even more meaningful.”
CREATE A CREOLE PARTY
BEER: Local wine distributors will order Abita beer from New Orleans upon request.
SEAFOOD: Jeanne uses Fabian’s gulf shrimp and oysters in Creole recipes inspired by Emeril Lagasse and Chuck Taggart. Fabian Seafood www.fabianseafood.com
DECORATIONS: Mardi Gras masks and beads are available at the Mardi Gras Outlet. www.mardigrasoutlet.com
CHOOSE A CAUSE: Jeanne’s UnitedHealth Group’s Evercare division works closely with the Alzheimer’s Association, making it a natural choice for a charitable contribution. Alzheimer’s Association of Minnesota – North Dakota www.alz.org/mnnd