The Green at Nocatee’s Crosswater Hall was transformed into a southern garden party May 5, when the Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra held its “Southern Soiree” celebration to benefit the center’s programs.
Guests adorned in colorful garden garb and hats worthy of Kentucky Derby Day enjoyed a reception featuring southern-inspired cocktails and hors d’oeuvres along with live entertainment by a string trio. Also on display was an active beehive attended by Master Beekeeper Bo Sterk, who described the bees’ activities.
Following the reception the party moved indoors, where guests had an opportunity to sample and savor cuisine from a dozen local restaurants and caterers.
“We choose a new theme for this farm-to-table event every year,” said Cultural Center Development Director Toni Boudreaux. “Last year, we featured an international theme and this year we decided to go with traditional southern fare.”
Jean-Sebastien Gros of Rype & Readi Farm Market took that theme to heart, displaying stalks of fresh corn and other vegetables he was using in preparing seafood cataplana and other dishes.
“This is real farm-to-fork cuisine!” Gros said.
Other culinary interpretations of the southern theme included sliced prime tenderloin with New Orleans sauce from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, chicken and waffles with fruit preserves from Table 1, spicy shrimp and green cauliflower grits from the Alhambra Theatre & Dining. Locally sourced honey – courtesy of beekeeper Sterk – and Florida cane vodka from St. Augustine Distillery were also featured along with corn bread and grits bar with a variety of toppings.
While sampling the southern delicacies, guests had an opportunity to bid on silent auction items before participating in a live auction hosted by Craig Smith.
“This is our last event of the spring and it sells out every year,” Boudreaux said. “People really look forward to it.”
That was true of Plantation resident Brooke Hackney, who attended last year’s event and came this year with first-time attendees Betty Saunders and Sue Mabry.
“They have wonderful auction items,” Hackney said. “Last year, I got a trip for two to Greece!”