Thursday, October 07, 1999

Maisonette munchers rave on

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Well, this is a fine way to say thanks: You put food in front of people and what do they do? Argue.

        Referring here to Sunday at the Maisonette, where 60 people paid $1,000 each for a dinner whipped up by guest chefs: Five from five-star restaurants and one from a five-star resort.

        The event, a fund-raiser for the Contemporary Arts Center, attracted a bunch of Maisonette regulars who couldn't agree.

        Dennis Speigel was so partial to crab salad with mango, avocado and fruit puree (Patrick O'Connell, Inn at Little Washington) that he's organizing a field trip to the Virginia restaurant.

        Maisonette managing partner Nat Comisar refused to pick a favorite, then raved about the beef dish created by Dean Fearing (Dallas' Mansion on Turtle Creek, who is a former Maisonette cook). “It was a 200-year-old recipe Kentucky hunters used to preserve their kill. He used tenderloin marinated in molasses and black pepper with a compote of smoked bacon and wild mushrooms.”

        Other guests just kept eating: Arts patrons Stan and Mickey Kaplan and Dick and Lois Rosenthal; Ronnie Sassoon (husband, Vidal, was away); ex-Maisonette chef Georges Haidon with wife, Anne-Marie; CAC boss Charles Desmarais and wife, Kitty Morgan; Kim Klosterman and husband, Michael Lowe.

        There were five courses plus wines, followed by diners hoisting themselves up (Eye has no idea how) to give the chefs a standing ovation.

        OFF TO FLORIDA: Elsewhere in the world of excess, fans didn't know, but there was a piece of Cincinnati at last week's University of Florida vs. Alabama game.

        A large piece: A 6-foot alligator sculpted from 160 pounds of Wisconsin cheddar.

        Turns out that Sarah Baumann, an exec at Jungle Jim's, is also a cheese carver. Her cheesy work has appeared at Super Bowls (a giant Green Bay Packer; busts of broadcasters Howie Long, Terry Bradshaw and James Brown) and on The Tonight Show (a Jay Leno bust with way oversized chin).

        Anyway, she does lots of work for the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, which works with Publix Stores in Florida. When Publix wanted Florida's Gator mascot carved out of cheese, they contacted her.

        She used four 40-pound blocks of cheddar, then inlaid teeth and eyebrows of white cheddar “to give it a ferocious snarl,” she said.

        The Gator showed up at a party after the game, then was devoured by fans feeling ugly after Alabama won by a mere point (40-39).

        AND A CHEER: Know who deserves a round of applause this morning? Steven Bowman.

        Bowman, Judiac Studies prof at UC, is off to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. On Tuesday, he'll address a high-powered audience of university types, authors and politicians on Nazi treatment of Greek Jews — 90 percent were annihilated.

        Occasion is National Holocaust Month and its theme of focusing on victims that are often overlooked.

        Bowman is the author of the soon-to-be-published book, Agony of the Greek Jews During World War II for Yad Va Shem, a social agency sponsored by Israel.

        Knip's Eye View appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330.

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