As we covered last year, Lehigh Valley Health Network holds a huge gala to raise funds for their hospital system. This year they moved the event back to their Muhlenberg campus and themed it to “Island Fever”.
It was ironic that this year was much cooler than the past two, considering the theme. In case you didn’t read last year’s write up, this event caters to the elite of the valley: doctors, the wealthy, politicians, and all above and below. A couple usually costs $150 minimum, up to $25,000 per table depending on sponsorship. It’s always well attended and always a good time.
Upon entering guests were greeted and directed to locate the margarita salt shakers bearing their names for table assignments. Once inside the setup was much like previous years: large LCD displays in the middle, tables scattered throughout, and a second adjoining tent for the band/dance floor later on. The only real difference was that in the middle there was a bar serving up all sorts of different drinks, tiki included.
As you wandered about and women were getting glitter tattoos in the shapes of suns, seashells, and starfish, hors d’oeuvres in the form of cheeseburgers, smoked macaroni and cheese, guava pulled pork rib BBQ on toasted corn cakes, “florribean” BLT, and pickled watermelon cubes. They also had huge displays of margarita ceviche and shrimp in the dance floor area that looked festive. The watermelon wasn’t very tasty however the smoked macaroni, for me, was fantastically well done comfort food.
Once a few drinks were had it was time to sit down for the main meal. An interesting tropical salad was served up first: a spiced, poached pineapple and strawberry salad was mixed with romaine hearts with cinnamon, cucumber, Cabrales cheese, pear compote, and topped off with a mango vinaigrette and plantain croutons. I’m selectively a fan of plantains in their various forms, but these were seasoned well, crunchy, and made for a great themed topping to this dish.
The entree for the night was an entirely huge portion of beef and seafood. A filet of beef with jerk seasoning, pomegranate/chipotle/chimichurri sauce was good, but (as always with well done steak) would’ve been better served medium rare. A banana beer-battered grouper with mango salsa was acceptable. Banana beer sounds horrid, but it worked on the grouper well. There was also a variety of vegetables scattered about which were quite boring and definitely overkill. The dish itself had so much food it could’ve been broken down into three very large courses if it weren’t for time. I’d hate to know the amount of food wasted here. Anyways, it was decent overall for an event feeding hundreds at once.
Dessert was floating around afterwards in the form of orange brownie-bottom cheesecake, rum cake, key lime pie, bread pudding, cashew chocolate cake, strawberry margarita shortcakes, pineapple upside-down cake, parfait, and mango creme brulee. Maybe too many drinks were involved at this point but I didn’t manage to catch a lot of these. I did manage to snag a shortcake and a key lime pie. The mini key lime pie was fantastic. There was also huge tables of cupcakes, which were mediocre at best.
One unfortunate thing that wasn’t mentioned earlier was the rain. After guests came in they could step outside and see the valley’s own Great White Caps playing some surf rock on an island-themed mini-stage outside. Soon after arrival time began it started raining, sending the White Caps inside and the crowd without some great music. It continued to rain like hell for the rest of the night, but that did not stop the festivities inside the shelter or guests from peaking through the rain-soaked windows of the tents to watch the fireworks display. It was a fun night as always (and what event with an open bar isn’t?) and hopefully we’ll find ourselves in the position to cover this fundraiser again next year.