Pass a good time | VailDaily.com

Pass a good time

Cassie Pence

BACHELOR GULCH – Mark Twain once said, “New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.” Sin is a way of life in the Big Easy: Fried dough with powdered sugar for breakfast. Drive-through daiquiri shops. Live sex shows. Dice in the streets. Cocktails larger than your upper body. Jazz. There is no other city in the world that knows how to celebrate life like New Orleans.The Ritz-Carlton and Taste of Vail have teamed up to throw a benefit for Hurricane Katrina victims that honors the city’s zest for life. The party Wednesday night features everything lovable about New Orleans, including traditional food, hurricanes, bourbon tastings, live jazz music and a speakeasy casino.”It’s a way to celebrate New Orleans, not necessarily mourn it,” said Steven Holt, director of public relations at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch. “So many people were trying to figure out what to do, how to help. This is a way to bring the whole community together.”Seeing the images of the flooded historic city and the lives destroyed moved Holt to action. He has spent a lot of time in New Orleans, and the city, he said, has a significant place in his life. Attending college in Austin, Texas, Holt said he and his buddies would buy plane tickets on Southwest Airlines for $39 each way to New Orleans. They would party all weekend and catch a flight on Monday before classes began.”It’s a tragedy,” Holt said. “And I don’t know if I can fathom the scope of what these people may need.”Amy Phillips, Taste of Vail administrator, said the organization is always looking for other avenues of community involvement, and this style event seemed like a good, natural fit.”Most people don’t know that Taste of Vail is a nonprofit association,” Phillips said. “There’s not one person that pockets all the money. Raised funds are distributed to causes in our community.”Phillips has signed on 20 valley restaurants to participate in the Our Big Easy Benefit. Restaurants are donating everything from the food to the employees and the time. Sapphire Restaurant is closing for the night to do the event.”The restaurants that aren’t participating, it’s more of a staffing issue,” Phillips said. “The Game Creek Club, their chef Thomas Newsted was called back up in the army to set up a mess camp to feed people on the Gulf Coast.”Most of the restaurants who can’t join the party, Phillips said, gave restaurant gift certificates for the auction. Chefs have also donated themselves in some cases. People can bid on a private dinner party for eight prepared by professionals in their home.Phillips said the food will be typical Taste of Vail style – upscale, unique and interesting. Half the restaurants have opted to do a dish with New Orleans flare and the other half will prepare a signature item. Juniper, located in Edwards, will serve confit of duck gumbo.”I’m preparing tuna sashimi on egg roll skin, which is fried, Asian slaw and a dab of wasabi,” Blu’s chef Rich Kellogg said. “That’s what my favorite snacky type item is. Plus, if everyone made jambalaya it wouldn’t be that fun.”In addition to tasting, party-goers can gamble for charity at the “speakeasy” casino, sip bourbon and hurricanes, bid on auction items or dance to the live jazz band. A Western-themed Ritz Kids Roundup will be set up away from the party to keep the little ones, ages 5-12, occupied.Tickets cost ranges from $75-$150. The top ticket includes early access to the event at 6 p.m. and VIP valet parking up at The Ritz-Carlton. General admission tickets with 7 p.m. access to the event are $75 for individuals, $125 for couples and $150 for families with two kids. Proceeds will be divided between the local chapter of The Salvation Army, assisting the organization’s effort to provide relief in the Gulf Coast, and a local fund to assist evacuees that may relocate to Eagle County. Also at the event, Bachelor, the Ritz-Carlton’s resident yellow Labrador retriever, will sell yellow, green and brown “Bachelor” bracelets with 100 percent of the funds going to the Louisiana Humane Society’s effort to help “displaced four-legged Americans.”Our Big Easy Benefit begins at 6 p.m. and ends at 9:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Vilar Center Box Office or by calling 845-TIXS. For more information, call 343-1161.Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or cpence@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado