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No grapes of wrath here; just good drink and grub

By LENNIE BENNETT

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 20, 2001


Culinistas came out in full force May 12 at Tropicana Field for the Abilities Wine Tasting and Auction. And even if you didn't consume an ounce of wine, you still got your money's worth ($50) with plenty of food.

But wine was the corker for most patrons, and organizers took care to pair vintages with appropriate noshes, especially during the VIP reception at 6 p.m. that preceded the big event. I wish I could give you some groovy comments about the liquid part of the meal, but I didn't sample any of it. Tom Pritchard of Salt Rock Grill seemed pleased with a Beuhler cabernet, 1998, which he called "insider stuff."

Here are more examples for future consumption:

Pic Pac's Lee Neal chose a 1999 DeLoach O.F.S. pinot noir to go with Grand Finale's Indian-spiced pork loin with tamarind date chutney and curried potato salad.

I don't know about the pinot noir, but the pork had Ed Cassidy and me swooning (though Cassidy, the directing of marketing here at the St. Petersburg Times, preferred it with the 1999 Tane cabernet franc, which was supposed to go with Perch's salmon).

Then there was the osso bucco and root vegetable ragout with a 1996 Col D'Orica Brunello di Montalcino (say it fast, five times, and you get a break on the $45.99 price tag per bottle). I also liked the accompanying wine-speak descriptions -- stuff like "floral and leafy complexities and a certain austerity to plummy meaty flavors."

You get the idea.

At 7 p.m., the gates opened to the larger tasting, commencing a stampede of people that one wag compared to the running of the bulls in Pamplona. The point for those of us already in place was to get out of the way.

Still, nice to see, in passing, were Vince and Lenda Naimoli with Glenda Young; George and Dorothy Locascio; Terry and Lynn Tanner; Bo and Betsy Godbold, representing major sponsor Raymond James Financial; committee member Howard Sachs; Ed and Sylvia Ameen, who reported a most successful Ronald McDonald House black-tie gala recently; Robert Danielson, whose cool Jerry Garcia tie I admired; Skipp and Joyce Fraser; Bob and Donna Berman; William Blackshear and Toni Behr, in a jacket with a wonderful fuzzy collar shaded black and pink; Richard Winning, updating me on wife Diane's travels in India (mongooses abound in her hotel and aren't they cute); Karen Hunt; Bill Saron; and Abilities Foundation president Frank DeLucia, toting bottles of wine that people continued to bring to him for the auction "like they're falling out of the sky," he said.

A few more food notes: Amici's pasta in startling colors of bright green, blue and yellow was lovely, though the advertised flavors of key lime, blue corn and saffron tumeric were too subtle for me; Dan Marino's had people lining up for the comfort-food meat loaf and mashed potatoes, as did the Grill at Feather Sound for its signature crab cakes. One of the most beautiful presentations was Guppy's orchid-garnished plate of shrimp sausage, and among the most generous were the servings of beef tenderloin from Home Gourmet.

* * *

Members of the Junior League of St. Petersburg gathered Tuesday at the Vinoy's Sunset Ballroom on Snell Isle for the annual dinner. Actually, many of us gathered first at the downtown Renaissance Vinoy Resort ballroom, due to a mix-up. So a steady stream of women in SUVs were seen making three-point turns in front of the resort, then heading back up Beach Drive.

A good deal of halting also occurred on the Snell Isle Bridge as others were waylaid and told the correct location. We all finally arrived in time to welcome a new provisional class and congratulate members "going sustaining," including Murray Beairsto, a past president who practically danced up to the podium to receive her well-earned roses.

Many women of whom I am very fond attended, so singling out a few is no fun but here goes: Betty Jane Johnson, mother of president-elect Jane Graves; Sally Willis; Carol Piper, Fay Baynard; Mary Lou DeVoe; Felicia Beach; Julie Musselman; Mary Joan Mann; Carol Ann and Carey Rhodes; Lynn Cox; Leslie Ann Curry; Mary Jane Dann with Helen and Melissa Dann; Monica Mason; Janet Allweiss; Anne Long; Georgia Mattern; Janet Raymond; Grace Hamilton; Kathleen Eidson, who is moving to Atlanta with her family; Cary Bond Thomas; and Rebecca Hearn.

Two members were honored for their work in the league and the community. Kally Harvard received the Virginia Lazzara Award from last year's recipient, Mary Gardiner Evertz. The award is named after a most special member who died too young, and helping with the presentation were her husband and son, Brad and Stephen Lazzara. Liz Curry received the Maillande Holland Barton Award, named for the group's founder, and past recipients on hand were Elithia Stanfield, Joyce Baker and Lisa Wells.

The league year ended with Jan Herzik passing the gavel to incoming president Colleen Russo.

* * *

Party people, it is the beginning of calendar time, and I am harvesting dates for the annual On the Town listing of social events for the 2001-2002 season to be published in early September. Please send party information to Lennie Bennett, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, FL 33731. Or e-mail me at lennie@sptimes.com. Please do not leave a phone message. Include name of the event, sponsoring group, date, time, cost and a contact phone number that can be published.

Looking ahead

June 2

ACH TELETHON KICKOFF: All Children's Hospital is celebrating its 75th year and the telethon's 18th year. A party at the hospital's education and conference center features cocktails, a buffet and a silent auction. Large-screen TVs broadcast the telethon off-site. Casual. 6 p.m. 701 Fourth St. S. $50. 892-4476.

* * *

June 8

BOLESTA SUNSET DINNER CRUISE: Bolesta Center fundraiser takes place aboard the Starlite Princess, sailing from Corey Causeway. 8-11 p.m. $50. (813) 932-1184.

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