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Dinner of the Century

Guests gather aboard the Lady Kathryn V for an evening of dining excellence for the Palm Beach Wine Auction Krug Dinner.

From the vantage point of the Intracoastal bridge, the Lady Kathryn V makes a grand statement to guests arriving for an extravagant nine-course dinner. Her string of colorful nautical flags flutters in the stiff breeze. She has just arrived from the Caribbean, and will make port in Monte Carlo this summer.

Tonight, however, the M/Y Lady Kathryn V and her owners – Kathryn and Leo Vecellio – are playing host to 10 guests for the Palm Beach Wine Auction Krug Dinner, including Auction Chairman Ted Mandes, who collaborated with Ibis Golf & Country Club Executive Chef Jerome Nicolas and Vincent Pages, head of Krug Champagne in the U.S., to craft a menu worthy of the evening.


The Scene is Set

Kathryn Vecellio, elegant in a black, beaded cocktail dress with a jacket accented by black ribbons, checked on the finishing touches as ivory tapers and votives were lit in crystal holders throughout the main deck salon. They cast a glittering glow on the opulent interiors.

Impressive floral arrangements by Tom Mathieu, comprised of white roses and lilies and bright green asters, decorated the dining room, main deck aft, bridge deck aft and the bridge deck salon. Towering white phalaenopsis orchids, designed by Elegant Orchids, added a tropical touch to the setting.

The main salon’s palette of cream, golds, warm tans and light browns complemented by the luxuriously glossy wood of Chippendale-style furnishings, offered guests a soothing gathering spot to nibble on butlered hors d’oeuvres and a caviar bar, showcasing Black River caviar in a Lalique crystal dish with Tiffany serving plates.

Hors d’oeuvres were accompanied by the first Krug Champagne of the evening: the Grande Cuvée. Pianist David Crohan, a fixture at Palm Beach’s Café L’Europe, played soothing tunes on the salon’s Steinway as his guide dog, Walker, snoozed underfoot.

The dining room, just off the main salon, was set for the first half of the evening. There, Pratesi white lace placemats, Limoges china, gold leaf chargers and Christofle silverware, designed with gold accents and an engraved “V” on the handles, made a stunning impression and set the tone for the exceptional evening. Ralph Lauren crystal votives dotted the round table set for 12, where exquisite Saint-Louis crystal complemented the appointments.

Gold leaf votives and gilded julep cups with smaller, white floral arrangements were scattered about the table and sideboards, adding visual delights to this intimate setting.


Behind the Scenes

In the galley, tucked behind the dining room on the main deck, things were decidedly more active.

Chef Jerome Nicolas and Sous Chef Joshua Giro of Ibis Golf & Country Club gracefully navigated the yacht’s well-equipped galley to prep the nine-course meal with precision that was borne of their seven years working together.

“You want the best food in the world for this Krug Dinner, a prelude to the Palm Beach Wine Auction event,” Nicolas says. “While we wanted to showcase the food, we wanted to illustrate the craftsmanship that is required at such an extraordinary event. In this setting – on this magnificent yacht – with these breathtaking appointments, the cuisine plays a most important role.”

Nicolas, who knew that eight of the 10 guests were returning for a second year of the Krug Dinner, says he wanted to create a completely different menu with a few twists and turns – noting the rabbit loin and blackened skate.

“Last year was more conservative,” he says with a smile. “This is beautiful food and wine, but you need to have fun.”

As for cooking and serving a nine-course meal aboard a yacht of this stature, Nicolas says he gave his team a similar message: “Enjoy it. I don’t know if we’ll have this experience of cooking again, so have fun creating it.”

The Ibis team included four servers directed by the club’s food and beverage manager, Michael Forgione.

Each new course emerged from the kitchen on a different set of Kathryn Vecellio’s fine china, selected especially for this dinner aboard the Lady Kathryn V. Along with each course came a new vintage of Krug. Pages, director of Krug in the U.S., introduced each Champagne with tasting notes and highlights of the French company’s history.

“What we are doing is all about legacy,” Pages says, who noted the House of Krug was founded by Joseph Krug in 1848 with the belief that Champagne should be about pleasure, generosity and sharing.

The guests were clearly impressed by the vintages. Michael Troise, retired auction director for New York Wines/Christie’s Fine and Rare Wine Department, as well as the auctioneer for the Palm Beach Wine Auction, was particularly enchanted by the Clos d’Ambonnay 1998, served with the second course of octopus carpaccio.

“What makes it so unique is that it’s a ‘blanc du noir,’ meaning white from black,” Troise says. “It’s made from the pinot noir grapes. Krug wants to create a sense of ‘terroir,’ that this wine can only come from where the grapes are grown. It gives a sense of place, a uniqueness, like it’s trying to find its way back to the soil.”

After the fourth course, the guests took a short intermezzo. While they toured the yacht’s upper decks for stunning views of the nighttime West Palm Beach skyline, the chefs prepared the final courses while the crew of the Lady Kathryn V transformed the dining room to reflect the deeper flavors to come – the rabbit loin and venison chop.


The Meal Begins

Each new course emerged from the kitchen on a different set of Kathryn Vecellio’s fine china, selected especially for this dinner aboard the Lady Kathryn V. Along with each course came a new vintage of Krug. Pages, director of Krug in the U.S., introduced each Champagne with tasting notes and highlights of the French company’s history.

“What we are doing is all about legacy,” Pages says, who noted the House of Krug was founded by Joseph Krug in 1848 with the belief that Champagne should be about pleasure, generosity and sharing.

The guests were clearly impressed by the vintages. Michael Troise, retired auction director for New York Wines/Christie’s Fine and Rare Wine Department, as well as the auctioneer for the Palm Beach Wine Auction, was particularly enchanted by the Clos d’Ambonnay 1998, served with the second course of octopus carpaccio.

“What makes it so unique is that it’s a ‘blanc du noir,’ meaning white from black,” Troise says. “It’s made from the pinot noir grapes. Krug wants to create a sense of ‘terroir,’ that this wine can only come from where the grapes are grown. It gives a sense of place, a uniqueness, like it’s trying to find its way back to the soil.”

After the fourth course, the guests took a short intermezzo. While they toured the yacht’s upper decks for stunning views of the nighttime West Palm Beach skyline, the chefs prepared the final courses while the crew of the Lady Kathryn V transformed the dining room to reflect the deeper flavors to come – the rabbit loin and venison chop.


Flavors Intensify

Floral arrangements of coral and blush roses, accented with red berries, graced the main table, complemented by a second selection of Pratesi placemats adorned with touches of gold embroidery. A new set of Saint-Louis crystal water goblets – this time in the “thistle” pattern – were placed for each guest.

With the heartier dishes came much laughter and discussion of how special this dinner was – not just for the incredible food and Champagne, but for its meaning as a fundraiser for the children’s educational arts programs at the Kravis Center.

“We love the kids,” Ted Mandes says. “We do this for all the right reasons.”

As the meal wound down to the cheese and dessert courses, Pages introduced the Krug Collection 1989 – a Champagne that he says most people describe with simply one word: “Wow.”

“This Champagne is in a second peak of maturation and evolved character,” Pages says. “It has more complexity and has an ability to age.”

“This is the essence of Champagne,” Ted Mandes says. “This is what Champagne is really all about. When you have a chance to drink something with a patina to it, it really gives you a portrait of what a Champagne can be.”

Following dinner, guests retreated to the bridge deck salon, where handmade chocolates, cookies and Hennessy Paradis and Hennessy Paradis Royal Cognac awaited them.

“Being with all of you again tonight is so special,” Cindy Mandes says. “Because this is something special.”


Guest List

Hosts: Kathryn and Leo Vecellio

Guests: Ted and Cindy Mandes – Founder and Chairman of the Palm Beach Wine Auction, and wife

Michael and Hanni Troise – Auction committee member who also serves as the Auction’s Auctioneer, and wife

Patrick Park and Lola Astanova – Committee member and sponsor, and guest

Madeline and Roderic Fink – Auction co-chairs

Vincent Pages – U.S. Representative for the House of Krug

Kevin Buckler – Owner of Adobe Road Winery, an Auction donor