Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cerebral Palsy: Calories For A Cause

Sunday was a pretty good day.  The night before was spent celebrating randomness with friends and the following morning involved a pretty good Sunday School and church service.  Shortly after after being dismissed from church, we went to the 21 Chefs Fundraiser which benefited the United Cerebral Palsy of the Mid-South Association.  The United Cerebral Palsy  Association hosts this annual fundraiser with tickets selling for $50 each and the opportunity to participate in a silent auction for a plethora of great deals, including trips, flight lessons, autographed sports memorabilia and family portrait sessions.  The highlighted chefs this year were John Bragg, Chris Sherfield, Bobby Maupin and the U of M's own Edward Nowakowski.  There were a variety of appetizer, entree and dessert dishes served and it was just an all-around incredible time...there was even beer, wine and rum tasting!  We were able to enjoy the evening with one of our favorite married couples and were happy to be a part of this event.

Of course, I was all about anything involving pasta and some sort of dessert.  The first dessert dishes that we tasted were banana pudding and caramel cake provided by Oliver's Catering.  We knew immediately that this was going to be an evening paid for on the Wii and/or treadmill, but for that delectable dish to be just the beginning of our tasting, I was more than willing to don gym shoes.  Next, we sampled the Raspberry Bavarian treat prepared by Chef Bragg from Circa.  I've never been a fan of mousse-based dishes, but this was really good...  Composed of a whipped raspberry mousse atop a vanilla sponge cake and finished with a single blueberry and pink and white chocolate sliver, it was truly unlike anything I've ever tasted before.  Chef Bragg demonstrated how to make this dish for an occasion of your choosing, but unfortunately for my future party guests, I was too busy stuffing my face with the vast variety of goodies to really pay attention.  If you'd like to try this and many other dishes for yourself, Circa just hosted its grand re-opening at its new location on January 27th...please visit the Circa website for directions, menu options and more information.

We next waited in line for a serving of Italian cuisine offered by Heavenly's by Don.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm a fan of anything Italian.  Offer me garlic bread with salad and I'll follow you home like a lost kitten.  The fare presented here was Italian Raviolini, which was ravioli shells filled with ricotta cheese and topped with beef and a sweet pasta sauce, and Italian Penne Pasta which was served with beef and the sweet pasta sauce.  The other members of my group were not big fans of the sweet sauce, but as I enjoyed my portion, my hips involuntarily did the happy dance.  I'm not sure if anyone who saw me realized what was going on, but by the time my brain conveyed to my subconscious what my body was doing, I was in full swing.  Any meal that gets me doing the utterly ridiculous happy dance in public gets bonus points in my book.  Heavenly's by Don is located at 4219 Riverdale Rd, Memphis, TN 38141.

Continuing on with dessert, and with no regards to eating in the proper order, we then sampled Strawberry Sorbet and Ice Cream Pizza from Maggie Moos.  I was the only person in the group that missed the Ice Cream Pizza, but it looked delicious and I have no regrets about only having the sorbet.  The calories that I missed were more than made up for with the three ensuing slices of cake that I inhaled from Memphis Works Cafe...Strawberry Cake with real strawberries, Lemon Cake and Chocolate Cake with Pecans...dear gracious, it was all I could do to get it all down, but I'm a trooper and I ate it all!  In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't brag about that...                                                                         
After that round of treats, we partook in spaghetti and mustard-based potato salad, which I don't usually enjoy, but this was actually pretty tasty.  To be honest, I was still busy stuffing myself with cake, so I didn't make it to the table myself, but that dish was also provided byMemphis Works Cafe.  Memphis Works is a group under the tutelage of the UCP Association that "...offers training for adults with and without disabilities. We coordinate the support, supervision and training that will allow students to sustain meaningful employment..."

We began to round out the evening with a sampling of a Seafood Martini (I didn't eat it.  Although it looked appetizing, I have a bias against pretty much anything that is uncooked, but the Mr. seemed to enjoy it thoroughly).  The entree was described as a ceviche consisting of Panama Bay scallops and shrimp marinated in citrus juice, diced peppers, olives and spices, with avocado and toasted tortillas served in a martini glass.  This was served by The Medallion Restaurant at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn.  I found my way to the booth next to the Seafood Martinis...with the Twice Dipped Chocolate Strawberries!  Chef Edward Nowakowski from The Medallion Restaurant provided this dish, gave a demonstration on how to prepare it...and provided a recipe for everyone to take home... White, Milk or Dark, you can never go wrong with chocolate!  So whenever we host another shindig, there's a pretty good chance that the guests will be in for an oh-so-sweet treat!  That eagle sculpture next to Chef Nowakowski was pretty amazing, and more so because it is made completely of salt.  I suppose in his spare time, he enjoys sculpting things that might be otherwise impossible for normal members of society to master and, upon inquisition, I was informed that I could find myself in some serious trouble if I yielded to the temptation to test the content of the sculpture by licking or otherwise touching the artwork.  After considering the pros and cons, I stuck to devouring my strawberries.  Not to be thirsty after eating all of those samples, there were beer tastings, wine tastings and rum tastings.  I can honestly say that I learned a lot in the few minutes of beer tasting and received some valuable information: the Memphis Brewfest is coming up soon! 

Easily, my favorite tasting was the Rum Chatta.  We consider ourselves to be avid liqueur tasters, as in we're not afraid to try something new, but this was something of which I'd previously not been aware.  Victor L. Robilio, Inc. brought this rum that was described as having a hazelnut and chocolate undertone and tasted a bit like Bailey's.  I was of the personal opinion that it tasted absolutely incredible and was even more intrigued when told that someone knew someone who put it in their coffee in the morning.  Morals aside, I couldn't agree with them more that it was just that smooth as to be used for a creamer in coffee.  My conscious won't let me do that Monday through Friday, but I have seriously pondered the concept...I suppose a special weekend breakfast among friends could be arranged just to test that particular smoothness theory. 

So who was my favorite?  All of the food was delicious.  Of the eateries that I didn't describe, there were supplemental dishes from Oliver's Catering, Erling Jensen's and Memphis Pizza Cafe.  It's not that they were unworthy of the blog, please don't jump to that conclusion...I just wasn't fast enough to get my hands on the grub.  My mistake was that I thought I would have time and opportunity to go back for round two...and I suppose I was more distracted by the sweets that I wanted to let on. 

Alas, my personal favorites of the evening were the BBQ Bacon Wrapped Shrimp and Medium-Well Prime Rib (there was also rare-to-medium well, but you know, uncooked...) offered by Billings Bald Butcher Restaurant in Covington, TN.   This was the first thing that I sampled when we entered the ballroom.  From the way that my eyes closed and my mouth salivated on the first bite, I should have filled my plate up right then and there.  To be fair to the other guests, I had a small sample and figured that I would just come back for more once I'd made my rounds.  I went back.  There was no more BBQ Bacon Wrapped Shrimp.  I was sad.  Apparently the puppy dog face in no way makes more shrimp magically appear, but I tried.  On the plus side, I've found one of the items to be served at my wedding, whenever that may be, but I've got a head start!  Chef Chris Sherfield prepared this dish for the guests, but over the sound of chewing in my brain, all that I can share is "wrap the bacon around the shrimp and cook for 25 min, remove, season and bake for another 5 min."  I firmly believe that there is more information needed to make that work, so with either sweet regret or sincere gratitude, I will leave it to the pros.  But in the interim, road trip anyone?

Overall, I (and I shall take the liberty to speak for everyone) sincerely enjoyed this fundraiser.  All of the organizers and volunteers went above and beyond to accommodate each of the guests and the head of the UCP even made rounds and interacted with us.  This was our first year attending this particular function, and I have all confidence that we will attend and support again next year.  Please visit the UCP website to find more information about volunteering and community activities they are spear-heading...it's truly for a great cause.

1 comment:

  1. I would definitely agree that this will become apart of our yearly functions to attend here in the city of Memphis. Great food for a great cause! The medium rare prime rib was very good as well.