Despite the whiff of touristiness that hung in the air, the food being whipped up in the makeshift kitchens that ringed the ballroom was impressive.
Scala's offered what were in effect potato crostini: slices of potato fried up like thick, fresh chips and topped with such condiments as nicoise salad with ahi, and a mix of wild mushroom and asparagus.
Wild mushroom -- combined with duck confit -- also figured in the creamy, al dente risotto being dished out by Kuleto's. Grand Cafe struck the evening's most distinctive Asian note, with a tartare of salmon dressed with minced chives and toasted sesame oil.
"You look like you're really enjoying that pork chop!" a cheerful man said to me.
"Lamb," I said.
"Right, lamb!" he said, having another sip of champagne.
The tiny roasted lamb chops from Splendido were served with truffled mashed potatoes (as usual, a grand-sounding idea whose subtlety got lost in the execution; the hugeness of the party can't have helped), spaghetti squash, sauteed spinach, and a sprig of fresh rosemary -- a mini version of a full meal.
Harry Denton's Starlight Orchestra filled the evening with brassy tunes, but I didn't see Harry himself -- not even at the sheiklike tent set up in his honor in a corner, inside of which a bottle of champagne sat surrounded by chocolate truffles, as if enshrined. And guarded. I hoped that the tent-keepers would just give me the bottle of champagne, but I was politely offered a truffle instead -- an acceptable sop.
Milk may never acquire the dinnertime chic of wine, but the USDA says many of us aren't drinking enough of it. Although adults add bone mass well into their 30s, 50 percent of college-age men and 80 percent of college-age women aren't getting enough calcium. In an effort to get young adults to drink more milk, the Milk Processor Education Program will sponsor a "milk mustache" contest at UC Berkeley on Feb. 19 and 20. Look for the booth in Sproul Plaza, near the corner of Bancroft and Telegraph.
By Paul Reidinger