Well the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) of San Francisco has done it again, throwing their annual Out of Order Seder this past Saturday evening for the machers (Yiddish for ‘big shots’) and shakers of San Francisco’s Jewish community.
It’s clear from the entertainment, delicious food, and seemingly effortless way the night progressed from one thing to the next, that veteran party planner, schmoozer, and development guru, Aliza Arenson, has learned a thing or two from her days at the Kennedy Center in DC, because she and her CJM colleagues designed an amazingly innovative charitable night out at the museum. For a reasonable $100-$125 ticket (support the arts people!) guests were treated to an evening of art, conversation, musical performances, a deliciously kosher for Passover buffet and some of the best networking in town.
The evening started in the Stephen and Maribelle Leavitt “Yud” Gallery, which was aquamarine lit and overflowing with wine and passed hour devours. The heirloom vegetable tray was beautiful, and the red pepper and walnut dip was so good I wondered how long it would take to fill my bathtub with it?
The cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay were surprisingly good considering donated wines are typically just so-so. That being said, some mixologist friends enjoyed their newest concoction; a watermelon radish wine spritzer, consisting of two parts white wine to one part lemonade garnished with a paper-thin slice of watermelon radish. This spiced things up a bit for sure.
During that first hour of the evening guests were welcome to visit the Kehinde Wiley show, a modern portrait collection of Black Israeli men currently on display in the second floor exhibition gallery. A lucky few of us got a private tour into the artist’s mind from Janeane in the Education department who filled us in on the young artist’s background and some of the less notable nuances behind the artwork itself (and frames), before we moved on to the next phase of the event. “Sorry for all the questions Janeane!”
The lamb and grape skewers were the perfect bite-size morsels.
And I washed a few of those down with a warm cup of pepper and tomato soup.
And then cooled my tongue off with a potato and baba ganoush blini.
At the end of an hour of finger foods and friends, guests were gently nudged downstairs to the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Hall for a…well….lets just say…untraditional retelling of one of the oldest stories of our time…the Jews’ exodus from Egypt aka the Passover Story. Performers Juan “Wonway” Amador, Ari Kelman, Tommy Shepherd aka Soulati and Dan Wolf put on a modern hip-hop b-bop rendition of Charlton Heston’s (in my humble opinion) last great performance using the analogy of four musicians preparing backstage for the performance of their lives. Yeah, it’s kind of hard to explain since it was anything but literal, but it’s a modern art museums so what else would you expect aside from outside the box thinking? I will say this, it was definitely the most innovative way to present a story I’ve literally heard over 60 times, besides…the sight of a few hundred gyrating Jews searching for their rhythm like a blind man doing the Macarena was worth it.
Once the performance ended and we had a brief moment to massage our stiff hips from a few minutes of dancing like the tin man, we spilled out of the theater like cattle clearing a maze of gates with freedom in sight. If you’ve been to a Jewish wedding or bar/bat-mitzvah after the hora when the DJ announces the buffet is open…then you know what I’m talking about. I advised the fashionable fierce geriatric woman in a Chanel suite to my left to keep her elbows up and to stay close so she wouldn’t get trampled on our way to one of two buffet tables setup in the Koret-Taube Grand Lobby.
Nope, this is not a rugby scrum…it’s a bunch of Jews trying to wedge their way to the buffet table like a litter of pigs scrambling to get to mama’s teat.
Barely made it out of there alive….
Here’s what we ate:
Citrus and beet salad with a light vinaigrette.
Roasted asparagus (it’s in season!) and fennel with lemon.
Roasted brussel sprouts and mushrooms.
Mashed potatoes….these actually weren’t worth the Weight Watcher points, and I only took a bite so I could rationalize having another Tequila cocktail later.
Beef brisket with carrots. It was okay….but I’m biased towards my own brisket recipe.
Roasted herbed chicken with olives. This looked like a version of chicken Marbella, from the Silver Palate cookbook, but it wasn’t at all.
Haroset and matzoh (not in the picture), which is one of the items on the seder plate, symbolizing the mortar the Jews used to build Pharaoh’s Egypt. This is one of my favorite parts of the Passover meal, but everyone makes it differently. This is a combination of chopped apples, nuts, dried fruit, cinnamon, sweet red wine, and spices. Yum!
And for dessert, we had bite-sized French Macaroons (pistachio and raspberry), date balls, flourless chocolate cakes with fruit preserves on top, and baked meringues.
The evening was a blast from beginning to end, and totally worth the investment knowing that the food and booze alone would have cost more than the ticket. Who knew philanthropy could be so tasty? I look forward to participating in the CJM’s Out of Order Seder again next year… year 5774 on the Hebrew calendar.