Christmas in June dons ballet pumps for ‘Nutcracker’ night

Text: Louise Liebenberg
Pictures: Salvelio Meyer and Sandy Coffey
THEY’VE done it again. The tireless, driven and very persuasive women of the Elizabeth Club 100 cajoled and mobilised the Port Elizabeth business community and society’s who’s who to once again raise an astounding sum of money for charity – a cool R180 000 to be exact.
Club 100 held its annual Christmas in June gala at the Radisson Blu Hotel last weekend and the glitzy fundraiser demonstrated that, despite ever challenging economic times, residents remain mindful of the need to support those whose need is greatest when times are tough.
It may only be June but it looked and felt a whole lot like Christmas as the club’s gala committee pulled out all the stops for this year’s magical theme of The Nutcracker Suite – and ensured everyone who attended had a rip-roaring time.
Well-heeled guests at the sold-out event received classy goodie bags crammed with gifts and were treated to some seriously enviable lucky draw prizes – including a golf weekend from Redbourne Lodge, imported jewellery from Don Marco, a luxury river safari on the Zambezi Queen and more.
The Radisson’s executive chef, Malcolm Bendrau, and his very capable team produced a marvellous three-course dinner using ingredients sponsored in full by Checkers.
The high point of the meal? Surely the magnificent, table-groaning dessert buffet complete with iced Nutcracker carrot cake, sparkly marshmallow delights, daintily decadent tartlets and tutu-pink cupcakes topped with tiny twirling ballerinas; a model train chugging cheerfully around it all.

Ballet dancers (from left) Nina Dippenaar, Sarah Young, Meghan Derry and Sarah McKee

The ballet theme was faultlessly executed, palest pink slippers bringing a whimsical touch to the tables as ethereal dancers from the Friendly City Youth Ballet ushered in guests and pirouetted on plinths in the venue, which had been transformed into a twinkling winter wonderland by Angelic Wonders.
Some of the city’s best-known businesses not only bought tables to last Saturday’s gala but also made generous cash contributions to this year’s three Christmas in June beneficiaries: Operation Smile’s hospice for children; the Green Scorpions’ anti-poaching unit for rhinos; and Santa’s Shoebox which makes Christmas gift boxes for underprivileged children. The R180000 raised will be split equally between the three organisations.

Club 100 committee members (from left) Kathy Zenios, Karin Fourie, Giovanna Zenios and Michelle Brown.

Club 100’s unstoppable chairwoman, Olga Hafner, is recovering from some long overdue knee surgery and so was unable to attend, but sent her personal thanks to all the sponsors via MC and fellow committee member Michelle Brown, along with a firm instruction to guests to have “the most fabulous Christmas in June”.
And most fabulous it was as Michelle and other Club 100 stalwarts like Giovanna Zenios, Karin Fourie and Kathy Zenios – who all looked fabulously glamorous to boot – made sure the 180 guests had an unforgettable night.
The traditional Christmas in June cabaret was dispensed with this year and so, following dinner and the chance to mingle, quite a few of the guests danced the night away in the company of talented former Idols winner Jason Hartman (above). Backed by his energetic band, Jason delivered fresh and convincing interpretations of favourites like Sting’s Englishman in New York and U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.
Christmas in June is unquestionably one of the most important get-togethers on PE’s social and corporate calendar.

Key sponsor representatives (from left) Clifford Ngakane, Nicholas Batten, Tania de Lange, Dr Amber Anderson, Shane Gerber, Odette Kruger, Bryan Dowley, Adri Ludorf, Leonie Scheepers and Karel van Niekerk.

Some of the businesses that heavily supported this year’s event, which was the club’s 12th, included BLG Logistics, Coca Cola Fortune, Continental Tyres, Downtown Print, Goldberg & De Villiers, Emfuleni Resorts, Magnetic Storm, Rand Merchant Bank, Spec-Savers, Simon Says, VWSA and Walmer Park Shopping Centre.

The main course – chicken breast stuffed with figs and camembert served with fine beans, nutmeg-infused potato croquettes and a roast pepper and rum sauce.

It truly was a night to remember, sumptuous, elegant and fun, but the best part was knowing that, in the process, two very worthy charities will in a few months’ time bring much-needed Christmas cheer to many of the desperately needy people that they serve, while the third will do its damndest to bring the crippling scourge of rhino poaching to its knees.
For a recipe for one of the dishes served at the extravaganza – more pictures from the event – scroll down below.

Recipe: Pumpkin and Gorgonzola Soup

The Radisson Blu’s executive chef Malcolm Bendrau served this soup (picture above) as the starter for last weekend’s Christmas in June bash. It is served with pumpkin and sesame seed brittle and corn bread which both proved to be perfect accompaniments. Malcolm adapted the recipe below to serve 10 people.
Ingredients for the soup:
1.1kg peeled and cubed pumpkin; 140g gorgonzola, 670ml cream; 450g butter; 45g cinnamon; 40g nutmeg; salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for the brittle:
55g sesame seeds; 55g pumpkin seeds; 400g sugar
Ingredients for the corn bread:
450g frozen sweetcorn; 610g bread flour; 80ml sunflower oil; 5g dry yeast; 56g parsley; 320ml warm water
Method for the bread:
Malcolm advises that you start your preparations with the bread. First place the bread flour, a pinch of salt, the dry yeast and 100g of the sugar in a mixing bowl and mix through with an electric beater that has a dough hook attachment. Slowly start mixing the dry ingredients together and incorporate the oil in a thin stream. Then follow with the warm water at the same pace until all is combined and the dough is forming. Lastly add the loose corn and mix all ingredients together on a medium speed for 8 min until light, elastic dough is your final result.
Proof the bread on an oiled tray in a warm, moist place and let it rise to double its size before baking at 160 degrees Celsius for 20 min.
Method for the brittle:
Place 280g of sugar in a saucepan and heat until all sugar has melted and become caramel. Add the pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds and stir. Place the seeded mix onto a greased tray and allow cooling and hardening. When the sugar has hardened, crush the mix into a course powder.
Method for the soup:
Place the pumpkin into a deep pot and add water until the water just covers the pumpkin. Put the heat on high and allow the pumpkin to boil until tender. Once the pumpkin is soft remove from the heat – DO NOT DRAIN. Add to it the remaining 20g of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and start to blend, Place the butter into a separate saucepan and clarify it so it becomes clear, but not too dark. Place the clarified butter into the pumpkin soup and continue to blend, add the gorgonzola next and lastly the cream and blend until smooth. Add a little salt and black pepper to taste.
Place the soup into bowls and sprinkle a little gorgonzola cheese on top as well as a little of the brittle; place the bread on the side and serve.

Social pictures from Christmas in June

Guests Benoit and Corinne Naidoo

Buli G Ngomane, Sipho Manzini, Phindi Kema and Mandla Madwara.

Markus and Donieta Herr with Maria and Mike Markides.

Lorenzo and Madeleine van Vuuren with Birgit and Arno Leach.

Louise Liebenberg and Salvelio Meyer.

Louise (moi!) again with Sandy Coffey on the left.

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