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Perfect Black Tie Dinner

The perfect black-tie dinner? Discovery Green gala team piles on the calories at Tony's in hot pursuit

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Present and past chairs of Discovery Green's "Gala on the Green" decide on the menu during a two-hour lunch at Tony's. Photo by Shelby Hodge
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The desserts were so tasty that smaller versions of three will be served including a slice of the Maker's Mark butter cake. Photo by Shelby Hodge
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Scott and Soraya McClelland will chair the Feb. 22 "Gala on the Green." Scott McClelland, Soraya McClelland Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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"Gala on the Green" attracts a glamorous crowd to one of the city's loveliest gala settings. Dinner has to be good. Photo by Bill Olive
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The dinner menu will begin with this yummy strawberry salad complemented by goat cheese panna cotta. Photo by Shelby Hodge
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A mini-sampling of entrees. The pollo involtini, left, won the taste test, the dish tweaked to meet discriminating palates. Photo by Shelby Hodge
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The out-of-sight Italian Beauty chocolate confection will be among the three desserts on the final plate.  Photo by Shelby Hodge
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With The Events Co. at work, gala goers can count on a splendid and creative decor in the party tent such as this from 2010.  Photo by Bill Olive
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Soraya McClelland, left, and Bobbie Nau discuss the attributes of the various dishes presented for consideration. Photo by Shelby Hodge
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For each gala, the party tent takes on a new persona but always with a green theme. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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News_Shelby_tony's Maker's Mark Buter Cake_January 2014
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News_Shelby_Tony's strawberry salad_January 2014
News_Shelby_Tony's entrees_gala tasting_January 2014
News_Shelby_Tony's chocolate dessert_January 2013
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News_Shelby_Tony's_January 2014_Soraya McCelland_Bobbie Nau
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Decisions, decisions — at the table in Tony's. Should it be the traditional beef tenderloin or the more interesting pollo involtini? The Maker's Mark butter cake or the key lime tart?

When planning the menu for a black-tie gala, every nuance of taste matters. After all, satisfying the palates of guests paying from $500 to $10,000 each is no easy task, particularly from the viewpoint of the gala chair who could take the heat for any menu missteps.

Just ask Soraya McClelland, who with husband Scott McClelland, chairs the Feb. 22 "Gala on the Green," benefiting Discovery Green. Soraya and a group of past "Gala on the Green" chairs gathered at the venerable restaurant over lunch recently to make the choices from myriad offerings. Chef Kate McClean and catering director Heather Shedd rolled out plate after plate of scrumptious temptations starting with appetizers and moving on through salad and entree candidates to dessert possibilities.

Calories, be damned! This group of svelte tasters was on a mission sampling 10 appetizers, three salads, three entrees and four desserts. Granted, the chef prepared them in smaller portions, though full-sized plates were presented so that judges could grasp the visual of each plate. As Soraya pointed out to the group finding each offering deliciously irresistible, it would be an extra mile, maybe more, on the treadmill later in the day. 

After two hours of tasting and with Shedd graciously adjusting plate after plate, the menu was finalized.  

The lunch party included past chairs Phoebe Tudor, Nancy Kinder and Bobbie Nau along with Discovery Green president Barry Mandel and development consultant Julie Bergen. Among them were one who doesn't eat meat, two seriously watching the fat content and one or two loving every single bite. With so many taste buds at work, it made for interesting discussion.

After two hours of tasting and with Shedd graciously adjusting plate after plate, the menu was finalized. Six hand-passed appetizers would be followed by strawberry salad (baby spinach, toasted pine nuts, shallots and goat cheese panna cotta) and pollo involotini served with spinach, roasted tomato and Russian bliss potatoes. When it came to selecting a dessert, the samplings were simply too delicious to choose. In the end, the group agreed on a trio of mini-desserts — key lime pie, Italian Beauty and Maker's Mark butter cake.

The biennial "Gala on the Green" is the Discovery Green Conservancy's largest fundraising event with proceeds helping fund the more than 400 free events taking place in the park each year.

With Tony's signed on to provide the dinner, The Events Co. retains its role as party decorator, guaranteeing one visually stunning evening, unique for its setting in a magnificent party tent located on Jones Lawn. Rocking party band Simply Irresistible out of Atlanta will provide the dance tunes. 

Ticket information is available here.

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