Thursday, April 29, 1999

Birthdays gigs take the cake

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        If you gotta get older, you might as well do it with gusto — as two people did last weekend, and a third does next month. To wit ...

        COOK'S DELIGHT: When Dennis Speigel's day hit last week (“the age is a mystery; don't ask again”), wife, Donna, came up with an odd gift: She put him to work.

        Or as Maisonette chef Jean-Robert de Cavel told him: “It's your birthday and you're here cooking and sweating, and they're eating and drinking on you.”

        Seems Speigel, owner of International Theme Park Services, is a dedicated amateur chef. For his birthday, Donna set up a deal with Maisonette maitre 'd Richard Brown and Chef de Cavel: Space in the Maisonette kitchen to plan and cook dinner for six.

        Which Speigel did: Stuffed scallops, Dover sole, lobster salad with grapefruit butter, breast of pheasant with morels. He cooked 10 hours but didn't get to eat. “I only took tastes,” he says. “But it's OK. I had more fun cooking and learning from JR than I would have had eating it.

        “I did manage to knock off some champagne.”

        One can only imagine.

        BROADWAY B'DAY: Unlike Speigel, Broadway Series manager Van Ackerman can't hide his age.

        His friends made sure there were big 40s everywhere when they took over Coors Peacock Pavilion at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden for a surprise party.

        It was the party that almost wasn't: Ackerman is a big zoo fan, but planned to spend the day working. Friends cajoled and bullied until he agreed to visit the zoo for a while.

        He ended up staying from noonish until after 6.

        But not without guilt: “I should be at the office. I have 1,400 envelopes to address that have to go out soon.”

        Hot topic of conversation (besides the baby pictures that colleague Michele Deremo stole and posted all over the room) was what the Broadway series has booked for next season.

        “You'll know soon,” was all he would say. Even another glass of wine couldn't loosen his tongue.

        The other guests of honor were Cathryn Hilker and cheetahs Maya and Moya. They made cameo appearances and paid plenty close attention to the buffet.

        ONE MORE: Still to come: Singer woman Carol Sherman-Jones, former owner of Carol's Corner Cafe, will do her b'day with a song at Havana Martini Club.

        It's a double whammy.

        Whammy No. 1: a variety show in which Jones and accompanist Sherry McCanley do their cabaret act. Tracy Walker and Beverley Parker are also on the bill.

        Whammy No. 2: It's going to cost guests $35. That's because the June 10 do is a benefit, with food donated by Palomino's, Havana, Carol's and Cafe Cin-Cin. Money will go to Caracole House.

        Psst! appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330.

        Psst! appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330.