Attending a fundraiser thrown for you is kind of like having a milestone birthday celebration -- like your 21st, 40th, 50th or 90th -- and your wake rolled into one. Except you get to be alive to enjoy the party! You're not only the guest of honor but also the center of a lot of attention, Everyone lies and says you look absolutely fabulous until you actually believe it, and they're so nice to you that you don't dare let them down and get sick again or drop dead. I'm still marvelling at how blessed and fortunate I am to have so many dear friends worldwide who care about me!
Lucky for the guests I wore one of my "Queen's Suits" so I couldn't whip up my handmade Totonac dress to show off my somewhat scary, very impressive scar to anyone who hadn't yet seen it. I admit it -- I'm really proud of my scar. I'm disappointed to say that even though it's been only 4-1/2 months, it's already starting to fade. How could it? It's better than a tattoo; it's my badge of courage!
Okay, so for all of you who weren't able to attend, here's what it was like. First, it was held at the Seymour Center at Long's Marine Lab, part of the University of California, Santa Cruz marine biology facility, on a bluff overlooking the Monterey Bay. There's a patio off the room, which draws visitors outside easily, and walking trails along the bluffs. There is also a huge whale skeleton and a large sculpture of an elephant seal in front of the building that are perfect for climbing if you're my nearly five-year-old grandson. (Otherwise, you're just impressed by how big whale skeletons are.)
The room was decorated in tropical motifs with wall hangings and tables draped with colorful cloths and flowers. There were 19 student volunteers from the Professional Culinary Institute in Chef's Whites serving and assisting guests. And, there were 16food stations. Eat your heart out! This is what was served:
Gabriella Café: Green Zebra Bacon Gazpacho with Watermelon Radish Cucumber Shooters; Grilled Laughing Shrimp With Vanilla Chili Oil.
Café Sparrow: Diver Scallops with orange Vanilla sauce over Spinach Salad; Profiteroles with Vanilla Cream and Chocolate Sauce.
Ristorante Avanti: Vanilla Panna Cotta.
Theo's: Homemade Spatzele with Lobster pieces and Vanilla aioli.
Vida: Fresh Dungenous Crab Salad With Vanilla Aioli on Crostini.
PCI: Vanilla-Scented Lentil Soup; Crostini with Onion Jam.
Cowboy Diner: Asian Noodle Salad.
Lifestyle Culinary Arts and Cafe: Pistachio Vanilla Cheese Spread with Baguette; Pears with Gorgonzola Cheese and Vanilla Balsamic Reduction.
Carried Away: Vanilla Marinated Pork Loin Crostini with Onion Jam; Fennel salad.
India Joze: Seared Tuna in an Asian Vanilla Sauce, with Greens, Served over Fried Wonton skins. (Joe had a barbecue on the patio so everything was freshly prepared.
Flipper Fanny Cookies: Signature Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies and brownie cookies.
Dolce Bella: Artisan chocolates filled with Bourbon, Mexican and Tahitian Vanilla Ganache.
Chocolate Visions: Vanilla Dream Medallions: Dark chocolate enrobed vanilla marshmallow, toasted coconut, and crushed toasted pecans. My picture and "Patricia Rain, Vanilla Queen" design on top in edible gold leaf.
Café La Vie: Raw Chocolate Cream Pie.
Homestyle Baking Table: Beautiful cakes, tartes, tortes and bars baked by members of the Baker's Dozen.
The wine and beverage table was outside on the patio. A silent auction with 67 very cool items was set up in one area of the room.
A movie screen showed pictures of vanilla, growers and much more in a continuous loop.
The Hula School of Santa Cruz performed for us. And a jazz combo played the rest of the time.
Can you even imagine it? It was like being at one of those high-end hotel resort receptions you read about, except that it was right in Santa Cruz and it was in my honor!
Some of the guests said it was the best party they'd ever been to. The students asked Chef Stephany that if she ever threw another event like this, could they volunteer again. It was truly a gala celebration.
Special thanks to Stephany Buswell, pastry instructor at Professional Culinary Institute, Kathy Long, my web designer, Anna Marie, fundraiser specialist, Andrea Waters of Lifestyle Culinary Arts and Cafe and fundraiser specialist, and Leolani Lawrey and Garrick Gondo for making it possible to have the Hula School of Santa Cruz. And for Noel and other members of the jazz combo (whose name I unfortunately don't remember other than that they were great)! And to Prince and Barbara LaShaw for flowers.
Also thank you to all of the restaurants, bakers and chocolatiers who went all out to make this event a success, to Knipprath Cellars, Pelican Ranch Winery, Storrs Winery, and Bargetto Winery for wines. If I've left anyone out, I apologize. It was such a whirlwind that I barely tasted the food, much less know where all the wines came from.
The fundraiser has definitely helped me with bills incurred during my cancer dance. More than that, it has made me feel so loved, supported and connected with all of you who have written notes, sent donations, or helped me along this quite remarkable journey. I thank you so sincerely for your support.