‘Crescent City Masquerade’

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Consider this grocery list: 150 pounds of pork loin, 40 pounds of pasta, 30 pounds of fresh vegetables, 10 gallons of grits, 40 pounds of rice and 10 pans of bread pudding.
Sound like somebody’s feeding an army?
Well, maybe, if the soldiers are wearing tuxedos and suits or cocktail dresses and high heels, and dancing the night away in downtown Tupelo.
“Crescent City Masquerade,” the Junior Auxiliary’s 47th annual Charity Ball is Friday, Feb. 12, from 7 p.m. to midnight at the BancorpSouth Arena.
Living Ads and the Outstanding Citizen Award will be presented at 7 p.m.; music will be provided by DMP Band and Johnny Fears Jazz Band. The cost is $40 per ticket, which are available at Flowerdale Marketplace, Village Frame Shoppe, Reed’s Gift Shop and Staggs.
For the third year, chef and food stylist David Leathers of Tupelo will be directing the food preparation and presentation.
“With the theme being New Orleans, we felt like there should be a Cajun influence, but we didn’t want to do jambalaya or etouffée,” Leathers said. “We use a lot of Cajun ingredients, but I’ve added my own twist to them. We’re still in Mississippi, which means meat and potatoes, which is fine. I believe in the simplicity of food.”
The menu for the event includes Spinach Salad with Spiced Pecans and Honey Creole Mustard Vinaigrette; Penne and Muffuletta Salad; Smoked Tasso Ham and Crawfish over Creamy Cheddar Grits; Andouille Sausage and Black-Eyed-Pea Rice; Smoked Pork Loin with Apple Molasses Glaze; and Praline Bread Pudding.
“You pretty much have to do pork from an economic standpoint,” Leathers said. “But we’ve dressed it up with an apple molasses glaze. And the smoked tasso and crawfish over grits is our version of shrimp and grits. I didn’t want to use ingredients that were too complicated.”
Suzanne Blakey, chairman of the Charity Ball food committee, stressed that the fare provided is more than a jumble of appetizers.
“This is a full meal,” she said. “Come hungry.”
Last year, more than 700 people attended the event and they all got through the food line in about 45 minutes.
“They go down both sides of the table and there’s only one entrance, which makes it easier,” Blakey said.

TLC filming
An interesting twist to this year’s Charity Ball is that The Learning Channel will be filming Leathers during part of the festivities.
“They’re doing a documentary on food sculptors, featuring sugar, cheese, and fruits and vegetables,” Leathers said. “I’m the fruit and vegetables. TLC wants us to pull out all the stops, to do something really large.”
Leathers won’t give away exactly what he’ll be carving, but he did say it would involve watermelons and winter greens.
“It has to do with a masquerade and elegance and a lady at a ball,” he said. “I think one reason they wanted to film the Charity Ball is because they think there’ll be some drama. I mean, you’ll have me in the kitchen cooking food with 20 women for 800 people and carving something I‘ve never done before.”
Leathers isn’t sure when the TLC episode will air, but he’s guessing it will be next summer.
But that isn’t the reason he’s helping with the Charity Ball again.
“As long as I can, I’ll be doing this,” he said, “because JA is a great group of ladies.”
The feeling is mutual.
“David’s such a great teacher,” Blakey said. “We laugh a lot and learn a lot. He gets everything down on our level.”
Suzy W. Williams, chairman of the Charity Ball, said the ladies are preparing for more than 800 guests this year.
“Last year, we raised $135,000 and it all goes to programs for our children in Tupelo and Lee County,” she said.
JA help fund Cub Partners in connection with the Boy Scouts; a school aid program that provides clothing for needy students; a program that teaches CPR to health students at Tupelo High; college scholarships; and a self-esteem-building camp for girls called Shine.
For more information about JA or the Charity Ball, call (662) 844-5741 or (662) 401-5051.

How To Go
What: “Crescent City Masquerade,” the Junior Auxiliary’s 47th annual charity ball.
When: Friday, Feb. 12, from 7 p.m. to midnight.
Where: BancorpSouth Arena in downtown Tupelo.
Entertainment: Living Ads and Outstanding Citizen Award starting at 7 p.m.; music will be provided by DMP Band and Johnny Fears Jazz Band.
Cost: $40 per ticket, available at Flowerdale Marketplace, Village Frame Shoppe, Reed’s Gift Shop and Staggs
Miscellaneous: Complimentary dinner, cash bar; Starbucks Latte Lounge. Must be 21 to attend.
For more info: Call (662) 844-5741 or (662) 401-5051

Menu
- Spinach Salad with Spiced Pecans and Honey Creole Mustard Vinaigrette
- Penne and Muffuletta Salad
- Smoked Tasso Ham and Crawfish over Creamy Cheddar Grits
- Andouille Sausage and Black-Eyed-Pea Rice
- Smoked Pork Loin with Apple Molasses Glaze
- Praline Bread Pudding
- Chocolate Fountain with Fruit and Pralines