The Center's first Expressions benefit, attended by 138 Center supporters, art lovers, and foodies, wowed them all.  (Click here to see more pictures from this stellar event, courtesy of Donn Young Photography.)

The benefit, held September 23, 2011, at The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, engaged the evening’s guests in the creative collaboration of fine art and fine cuisine and raised $20,000 for the Center’s Family Support Fund, which helps close the gap between what families can afford to pay for the Center’s child mental health services and their actual cost.

Expressions explored several themes in the work of acclaimed artist and sculptor Thomas Sayre, whose work was exhibited at the hotel in August and September, through an inventive reception and four-course dinner prepared by Scott Crawford, The Umstead’s executive chef, and a team of renowned chefs from the Southeast: Steven D. Greene of Herons, The Umstead’s signature restaurant; Colin Bedford of The Fearrington House Restaurant in Pittsboro, NC; Matthew Medure of Matthew’s San Marco and Restaurant Medure in Jacksonville, FL; and Daniel Benjamin, pastry chef of The Umstead Hotel and Spa and Herons.

The reception featured bite-sized chocolate-covered orbs bursting with savory fillings including fois gras mousse, 

yuze, and black truffle. Dinner courses included an artful combination of white asparagus, crispy ham hock, quail egg, and herb salad (pictured at right); Maine scallop in pastry, served in a smoked vegetable nage; and hibiscus-marinated venison with wild mushroom and sage Cumberland sauce. Dessert was a delicate sculpture of caramelized white chocolate, cinnamon toast, roasted apples, and crème fraiche.

Reflecting the evening’s emphasis on the organic themes of Sayre’s work, each course was paired with a biodynamic wine.

The driving force of the event was creative collaboration, said Center board chair Dean McCord. “Creative collaboration is something that happens every day at the Lucy Daniels Center when our team of social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and educators work with children, their parents and members of the community who help make it all possible,” he added.

Throughout the evening, Sayre and Crawford shared the inspirations and techniques of their respective crafts, providing an insight into their creative processes that allowed food lovers and art lovers alike to appreciate the evening all the more. Diners particularly enjoyed the chefs’ take on Sayre’s Smoke pieces, as the carefully orchestrated unveiling of the scallop course revealed an aromatic plume of white smoke rising from each plate.

Crawford described the collaboration as one of the most satisfying andenjoyable of his career, and the standing ovation the creative team received at the end of the evening made it clear that the diners agreed.

Guest Leah Goodnight, director of marketing for The Umstead, described the event as a “beautiful and thought-provoking evening. The food and wine were absolutely sublime,” she said. “I thought Dean, Thomas, and Chef Scott all spoke so passionately and conveyed an inspirational message that set the tone for the evening.”

Through the generosity of numerous in-kind donors, event host The Umstead, and the evening’s food and wine purveyors—including U.S. Food Service, The Hess Collection Wines, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Palm Bay Imports, and Sokol Blosser—more than $175 of each $250 ticket purchase went directly to the Center.

Table sponsors included SAS, Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar, The Body Shop, Cargill, and longtime Center supporters Heather and Burton Craige and Jean Smith and Russell Hall.

Enjoy more photos from Expressions on our Flickr feed.