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Mount Washington Elementary Progressive Dinner is the Perfect Evening on Mount Washington

Progressive dinner guests sample fare at four houses to raise funds for Mount Washington Elementary School.

What’s the formula for fun in Mount Washington?

Four lovely houses + four delicious courses + eight gracious hosts + two fantastic drivers + multiple helpers/organizers = one wonderful

Boy, was it a swell evening.

Getting There Was Half the Fun

Conceived by Sharen Steele Herran, The Mount Washington PTA's Vice President of Ways and Means, and ably chaired by Nina Zippay, the inaugural event was a smashing success in terms of both fun and finances. 

According to Herran, there were 41 attendees (in two dinner shifts) and the event, which had tickets for $40 and $75, grossed $1,545 for educational programs.  Since hosts donated the food for a tax deduction and Nina and Sharen donated money for drinks, the only expense was the two 15-person passenger vans, which were, according to Herran, the “best part of the whole evening for the participants!”

I can personally attest to the fact that the vans, ably driven by Richard Herran and Princeston Edwards--one of Sharen and Richard’s older children--were right up there with the home visits in terms of entertainment value.  If you saw white vans filled with laughing, chatting people cruising around the Hill on Saturday night, they were undoubtedly Progressive Dinnerians.

Swedish Meatballs at a '60s Pad

Dinner attendees anxiously awaiting the start of the Mad Men season premier on Sunday got an early taste of a Sixties shindig at Nicole Thomas and Roy Staley’s Mount Washington West home, which was built in 1965.  For the appetizer course, attendees nibbled the quintessential mid-century hors d’oeuvres-- Swedish meatballs and sourdough bread cubes dipped in fondue--as Nicole shared information about the '60s art, furniture, and appliances. Outside, Rob tended the martini bar while guests gazed at views of Hollywood framed by hills and pine trees, and read original advertising material about the Mount Washington West community dubbed the “island in the sky” when it was built.

Second Course Sips at “Casa PC”

Then, it was off to Alan and Jim Palmer-Carter’s cozy “Casa PC” for the Pre-dinner course: mini-glasses of yummy Shrimp Bisque, Tomato Cheddar Basil, and Carrot Dill soups with carefully paired wines and Parmesan Thyme Discs. Some guests relaxed in front of a roaring fire in the original 1920’s section of the house that has had additions in the '70s and the '90s. Others enjoyed the remaining hour of daylight on the spacious balcony surrounded by greenery. And some, like Mount Washington Elementary principal Elizabeth Valentino, focused on the host-created word scramble game that featured familiar aspects of the school.

Enjoying Cochinita Pibil at Twilight

At dusk, Mark and Arlette Feinberg welcomed guests to their open and spacious home, which was designed and built in 2000 by Mark, a master cabinetmaker.  Guests sipped homemade mojitos, admired the art and Mark’s beautiful woodwork, and wandered in the fragrant-with-lavender garden.  For the main course, Arlette and her friend Anna Alvarez served the mouth-watering Yucatan specialty cochinita pibil, served on tortillas with a mound of rice and corn on the side. 

Everyone was just settling in when Nina Zippay gently steered everyone toward the door.  As Mark commented in a post-dinner email, “The mood was wonderful, but it was a true partyus interruptus... everyone leaving so abruptly....”

Such is the nature of a progressive dinner, of course, and luckily for those wanting to further enjoy the temperate evening, we were off to another home that brought “the outdoors in.”

Dessert on the Deck

The home of Monique and Rod Austria, who hosted the dessert course, features recycled treasures such as a folding glass door, which opens completely to connect the Austrias’ living room with their covered deck.  The latter was the ideal spot to sample sweet treats from L.A. Baking Company and enjoy the “premiere” of the Howlin' Wolves BOLD roast coffee: the second specialty roast created for Mount Washington Elementary by , owner of .

The perfect end to the Progressive Dinner? Sitting on the Austrias’ lantern-lit deck with Mount Washington Association board members Anna Carpenter and Natalie Seaman and Natalie’s husband Chris and talking about gardens and garage sales and ghosts on the Hill.

Clamoring for More Progressive Dinners 

“Everyone really had a fantastic time,” confirmed Nina in a later email. “As we ‘progressed’ through the homes the demand for the next dinner grew.  While we were at the 2nd house someone came up to me and said "You should do this every month!"  By the time we were at the last house I heard "We have to do this every WEEK!" 

My datebook is ready and waiting.

Anna Carpenter March 31, 2012 at 04:06 PM
I second that! I will never forget the fun I had during this progressive dinner. What a great idea and fun fundraiser, we were all saying that we could do this every week of the year....
Anna Carpenter March 31, 2012 at 04:07 PM
And THANK YOU KIM for always writing such excellent articles. You are the best!
Kim Axelrod Ohanneson April 01, 2012 at 09:01 PM
The progressive dinner organizers did an amazing job and party-giving parents were definitely "hosts with the most!" Cheers indeed.
Kim Axelrod Ohanneson April 01, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Anna, your comment and participation exemplify the organizers' successful attempt to reach out beyond the school and parent body and into the greater Mount Washington community. The food and drink were wonderful but it was really great to meet the hosts and the other guests.
Kim Axelrod Ohanneson April 01, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Thank YOU, Anna, for reading!

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