The Woman's Board of the Chicago Horticultural Society recently held its eighth annual All Aboard! Party amid the Garden’s festive indoor holiday and model train exhibition, Wonderland Express. In keeping with All Aboard! tradition, the benefit chairs, Marianne Bestler, of Hinsdale, and Carole Sandner, of Lake Bluff, evoked the theme of a grand train journey, “From Paris to Versailles in Style.” Peggy Carr, a Woman’s Board member since 1960, served as honorary chair of the event.
Guests entered the event through Golden Gates to the Palace of Versailles, the home of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, then traveled past a picture-perfect gingerbread village composed entirely of edible sweets. A fragrant, cedar-lined hall led guests to the Wonderland Express garden-scale train exhibition, featuring lush horticultural displays of holiday plants and 80 miniature replicas of Chicago landmarks. Upon exiting, guests were greeted with strains of classical French music provided by the Allium String Quartet, which played among café tables and sparkling lights, poinsettias and evergreens.
Refreshments included champagne, spirits, wine and beer, and French-inspired appetizers from the event caterer, Culinary Landscape. Choices included steak tartare with cornichons, Dijon sauce grabiche; triple cream fromage with caramel apple jam and watercress on a red currant crotini; warm pots of Camembert, spiced pears, cranberry and toasted baguette; foie gras mousse with brandied cherries, black pepper brioche and wild arugula; and warm scallop gratiné with fennel-onion marmalade. Vocalist Lisa Yuen Sandner performed before dinner.
Three dining areas staged by Designs by Jody recalled the grandeur of the royal residence of the last Bourbon king of France: the Garden of Versailles, Library of Louis XVI and Hall of Mirrors. French cheeses, wines and other flavors inspired the menu, which began with a first course of mâché with roasted red beets, toasted walnuts, French Roquefort and sherry vinaigrette with smoked salmon mousse in a petite eggshell with whipped crème fraîche and chervil. The entrée featured beef tenderloin bourguignon and dessert offered a duet of white chocolate mint pots de crème, candy cane brittle, and cranberry tartlet, gingerbread truffle, and vanilla crème anglaise.
Final destinations of the evening included a Crêpe Station and a Souvenir Station. The event raised $250,000 for the Woman’s Board “Growing the Future” campaign. Now in its third year, the effort will raise $1 million to fund the renovation of the English Walled Garden and replacement of trees damaged by the Emerald Ash Borer. The Woman’s Board is dedicated to supporting the Chicago Botanic Garden through advancement of conservation, education and horticulture.
The benefit was generously sponsored by ComEd, NorthShore University HealthSystem, Discover and Grainger. Spirits were donated by Beam, and red and white wine by Bonterra Organic vineyards.
For photos from the event, visit our smugmug gallery.