Sunday, August 31, 2003

His wines make Sensation

Gourmet event chefs, patrons benefit from Mark Maher's pairings

By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mark Maher
If you've ever fretted over what wine would pair best with food, imagine the challenge posed to Mark Maher. He had to pick the perfect vintages to complement the culinary genius of 21 celebrity chefs, who will serve extraordinary appetizers, entrees and desserts at A Gourmet Sensation in Mason Saturday.

Maher is owner of Cutting Edge Selections in Fairfax, a distributor of 1,200 upscale wines. So, he knows something about the good stuff. Still, how often does anyone ponder what wine goes best with glazed buffalo short ribs?

That's the dish Jean-Robert de Cavel chef-owner of Jean-Robert at Pigall's, downtown, will plate for the 900 or so food and wine lovers expected to attend the 14th annual fund-raiser for Hospice of Cincinnati.

"A lot of times the complexity of the dish means the choices aren't always obvious," says Maher. "(But) after you've done it for a while it gets pretty easy."

What: A Gourmet Sensation
Where: ATP Center, Mason
When: 7-10 p.m. Saturday
Cost: $175
Tickets: Available at entrance, or in advance: 745-1621.
Undaunted, he suggests that buffalo - raised at Vista Grand Ranch in New Richmond - should match well with a 2000 Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon "Artist Series" from Washington state, and a 2000 Deux Amis Zinfandel from Sonoma County, Calif.

38 wines on his list

Those are among 38 different wines from Cutting Edge that will be served at a dinner that will cost $175 per person. So that even those who don't care for wine can feel like a connoisseur, two top-shelf beers will be served: Kinsale Irish Lager, and Dogfish Head Raison d'Etre.

Held under a huge tent at the ATP Center in Mason, A Gourmet Sensation is favored by the glitterati of Greater Cincinnati. But the talent lined up for the event should have no problem satisfying such discriminating palates.

Filling out the menu will be dishes from several of Cincinnati's premiere chefs, including Bertrand Bouquin of Maisonette. His chilled pea soup will be matched with a 2001 St. Innocent Pinot Blanc "Freedom Hill Vineyard" from Salem, Ore., and a 2002 Chateau Calabre Rose from France.

Notable out-of-towners include chef John Fleer of the Inn at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn. Accompanying his pickled gulf shrimp will be a 2001 Mount Eden Chardonnay "MacGregor Vineyard" from Los Gatos, Calif., and a 2002 Las Brisas Blanco from Spain.

Each chef has a $750 food allowance. The event program will include recipes for every dish. Diners may sample as many of the dishes and wines as they please.

First wine auction

All proceeds from the dinner and a wine auction will benefit Hospice of Cincinnati, which provides home care for terminally ill patients and support for their families.

The idea to hold a wine auction this year came from Gourmet Sensation committee member Theo Feig of Monfort Heights.

"So many people (at past events) asked where they could buy the wines, that he came up with the idea of letting them buy them right there," says Janet Ach, co-chair of the extravaganza for the last eight years along with her husband, Roger.

"It's gotten bigger, better and more profitable each year," Mrs. Ach said of the event. "It's really been through Mark Maher (selecting superb wines over the last seven years). He's done a phenomenal job."

Then again, so have the Achs, who are expected to step down as co-chairs after this year.

"We're going to retire," Ach says. "It's been a great eight years, but it's time for some fresh blood."


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