UNDERWOOD’S 7TH ANNUAL MYSTERY DINNER
7 years ago Underwood tested out the
Mystery Dinner fundraiser. 8 families
hosted and 90 guests attended and
$3,800 was raised for our school. The
event has steadily grown in popularity
and profitability. But last week’s 7th
annual Underwood Mystery Dinner
jumped the growth chart, going from 12
hosts last year to 15 this year; from 155
total participants last year to 185 this
year; and from $7,000 raised to $8,600.
A Beautiful Ambiance at the Haslam’s
Enough about the numbers - the real story this year is about building community. As
always, the Mystery Dinner event is a great opportunity for us fellow parents to get to
know each other beyond the playground and the front stoop of Underwood. But this year
the community building started before Saturday night because we had cooks that needed
houses to host in and hosts that needed chefs. So, lots of folks joined forces.
Shari Malyn & Jon Abbott set the scene at “Great American Bistro”, where James &
Maria Ng cooked the meal. A salad of field greens with goat cheese was first, followed
by a choice of short ribs with garlic mashed potatoes and/or lobster risotto. Yum! Shari,
who enjoyed the luxury of hosting
and not cooking, went all out with
her Bistro décor – white napkins,
white plates, white candles, white
vases & three different varieties of
white flowers. The “American”
concept was expressed with assorted
Andy Warhol memorabilia each
guest got a goody bag with a Warhol
book, a mini apple pie & a
customized chocolate bar and
Campbell’s soup can.
“American Bistro” Décor by Shari Malyn
“Viva Las Vegas ala 1957” took place at the home of Jan & Keith Wade, where chefs
Doris Brodhead & Susan Tracy served up shrimp cocktail; beef tenderloin with
Bernaise sauce, scalloped potatoes; grilled asparagus; & a beet salad with blue cheese.
Jan & Keith covered their dining room ceiling with 120 red, black & white helium
balloons. Guests got scratch tickets, candy cigarettes, gold rings, & dice.
Pam Ciquier joined forces with Karen Fasciano and Nina Muriel at their home and
cooked up “A Night in Northern Italy”. They took the strategy of dividing up the
cooking between them. There was a starter of Prosciutto & Figs with pine nuts,
gorgonzola and a balsamic reduction. The main course was braised chicken with olives
over baked polenta. On the side was a slow roasted vegetable dish, which consisted of
eggplant, zucchini, red onion, yellow peppers, fennel, and tomato. The meal was capped
off with a mixed green salad.
Due to the unprecedented popularity of this years Mystery Dinner, there ended up being a
large wait list of people who we could not squeeze in at the 14 existing tables. So here’s
another great story of community building. Two days before the event, Una & Ethan
Simmons – who were on the wait list – offered to host the other seven people on the wait
list and so our 15th dinner theme – “A Taste of Thailand” – was created and everyone
who wanted to attend the Mystery Dinner this year was able to.
Fiona & Alain McMurtrie hosted “Alsace-Lorraine Winter Feast”. This meal began
with Tarte à l'oignon à l'Alsacienne served with a frisee salad. It was followed by
Choucroute Garnie as a main course.
Alain McMurtrie preparing Dinner guests at “Alsace-Lorraine Winter Feast
His Charcroute Garni
Carolyn Judge and Bob Leaper, who have hosted many times over the years, were back
this year with “East Meets West”. They served corn lemongrass soup with lobster
salad; fennel / mango salad with a crab tartlet; seared scallops with an eggplant puree,
carrot / star anis reduction and curry oil; beef tenderloin with a wild mushroom flan and a
truffled aspargus sauce. All served with regular Red Sox updates!
Brooks Powers – new to Underwood this year – hosted “Fabulous Flavors of New
Southern Cooking”. Guests were treated to the sounds of new southern rap, jazz &
country music while dining on a mixed green salad, topped with toasted pecans &
cranberries. The main course was shrimp & grits, served with sautéed green beans, and
biscuits & honey. In keeping with southern tradition, a blessing was said before the meal.
“Grill 31 Steakhouse” was hosted at 31 Waverley Avenue by Martha & Michael
Hathaway. One guest commented that the meal “was worthy of the finest steak house”.
They had an elegant hand-made menu & wine list, designed by their son, who was also
the waiter. On the menu was a salad of garden tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and fresh
basil. The main course was seared 2-inch tenderloin steaks with mashed potatoes,
sautéed spinach with garlic, and roasted butternut squash with cranberries and sage.
Andrea & Kevin Newman hosted “Under The Harvest Moon – An Autumnal Feast”.
The table was decorated with miniature apples, pears, leaves, candles and autumn
flowers. First course was a curried butternut squash soup with a spider web patterned
drizzle of cream followed by mustard and fennel seed crusted pork roast on a bed of
braised apples and onions, haricots verts with shallots, and roasted fingerling potatoes.
Pam & Doug Haslam’s theme was “Small Bites at the Piano Lounge”. They hired a
piano player and redecorated their home for the occasion, replacing their furniture with
café tables, silver and white Christmas trees; & crystal-ringed candles. Some of the
offerings: Lobster martinis; crab cakes; beef tenderloin with haricots verts, cranberry
sauce, & mustard; polenta with shiitake mushrooms; squash bisque in demitasse cups;
beet, mozzarella & tomato salads.
Lobster martinis & tomato, mozzarella salads Enjoying the pianist
At the Haslam’s “Piano Lounge”
“The Whole Enchilada” was hosted by Nina & Steve Mayer. Pork toquitos were
served first, as guests sipped frozen drinks and got acquainted. The sit-down dinner
started with Ceviche and home-baked chili-dusted plantain chips. The main course was
chicken enchiladas, chicken tamales; home made refried beans; homemade Pico de gallo;
and a Mexican salad. The table was beautifully decorated with fresh flowers and fall
colors. Nina was happy that the score of the game was 4-0 before they sat down to
dinner, “so guests could actually relax and enjoy their meals”.
At the home of Cyndi Golus and Mark Vrahas, guests were treated to “Modern
French cuisine with a Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi?”
Guests & Host Mark Vrahas at
“Modern French Cuisine”
Shannon Slattery with moustache & beret
Cyndi and Mark served a four course meal of creamy potato
soup with truffle oil and shaved truffles; a salad of seared
scallops with a balsamic reduction; salt-crusted tenderloin of
beef with homemade frites (French fries), asparagus with
peppers, and roasted tomatoes. A cheese course followed.
Guests got goodies, such as packs of clove cigarettes,
moustaches, and French berets. A special surprise of the night
was volunteer kitchen helper and beloved Underwood Alum
Andy Gluck. Andy Gluck
“Smokin Hot Memphis BBQ” was hosted by Donna Manley & Joe Sullivan. Joe got
well acquainted with his brand new smoker as they spent a very rainy Friday night
together – 12 hours worth - smoking up two kinds of ribs and a pork shoulder. Guests
were also treated to stuffed jalapeno peppers; barbecued shrimp; collard greens; mashed
potatoes; chili-dusted corn and homemade corn bread. Country music accompanied the
meal. Joe’s extremely hot, home-grown habanero peppers were enjoyed by all the guests
who, according to Donna, couldn’t seem to get enough heat.
Monika & Raj Vallabh hosted “At The Maharaja’s Table”. They served Rajma -
Kidney beans slow cooked in a spicy tomato sauce with whole cinnamon spices: Lamb
Kabobs marinated with spices, cilantro, and a ginger-garlic paste; Achaari Paneer - Cubes
of paneer cooked in a yogurt-based sauce, seasoned with whole mustard, fennel,
fenugreek, and cumin seeds; Aloo Gobi - Potatoes and cauliflower sauteed with turmeric,
coriander, and fresh cilantro; Chapati - Whole wheat flat bread cooked on a hot tava; and
Rice. The center piece was floating white candles in big Indian copper bowls on a stand
made of fresh, bright red carnations. Each guest went home with a small gold sachet
filled with colorful saunf candy – (anise seeds wrapped in sugar) - an Indian-style after-
“A Seaside Dinner on Cape Cod”
was hosted by Fred & PattyGreene.
Guests were dazzled by the variety:
First, a Raw Bar of oysters, shrimp and
clams. A second course of New
England Clam chowder and a mixed
green salad with tomato salsa tossed in
parmesan and garlic dressing. Then a
Hot Buffet of : Baked Haddock in
sherried lemon butter sauce; Stuffed
Sole with crabmeat; Seafood Newburg
with lobster, scallop, shrimp and
haddock; sauteed green beans with
ginger, soy, mushrooms and cherry
tomatoes; & steamed white rice with “Seaside” dinner at the Greene’s
In additions to these 15 smaller dinner parties, the evening was flanked by two enormous
parties. Renee & Matt Levin hosted all 185 people at their home for the Appetizer
party. They cleared out their furniture, hired a caterer, and launched the evening in high
style. Passed hors d’oeuvres included mini Maine crab cakes; Kobe beef sliders with
carmelized onions; pork shu mi shooters with sesame oil and soy sauce, mini lamb
kabobs, and grilled jerk chicken skewers with creamy mango sauce. The dining room
table was covered with abundant platters of cheeses & fruits, breads, dips and roasted
vegetables. The crowd seemed delighted to be there - meeting, chatting, eating, &
opening their mystery envelopes. It was a fabulous start to the night.
The other huge party of the night was dessert. Amy Sellke must be properly thanked for
hosting the dessert party. Not only is she new to Underwood this year but her husband
was away in Japan and yet she volunteered to host this huge event. Fun was had by all as
platters of cookies, cakes, chocolates, & fruit were happily consumed. Pots of coffee
were emptied. Guests were buzzing about their dinners. Some were running down to the
basement to keep up with the Red Sox game. It was a great ending for a wonderful
Thanks to all of the hosts who were so generous and who put so much creativity and
effort into their part of this special evening. Thanks to the guests for participating and for
your generous donations to our school. Thanks to all those who helped behind the scenes
by baking cookies, loaning coffee pots, lending a hand in the kitchen… The fun & magic
of this special night is a tribute to the wonderful community we are part of at Underwood.