Kentucky Lucky

 Promising, lovely table settings for Kentucky Proud Grapevine Winemaker Dinner 2010

Promising, lovely table settings for Kentucky Proud Grapevine Winemaker Dinner 2010

Kentucky Proud. That's how we all felt, those of us standing to applaud Proof on Main Chef Michael Paley and the large crew from Sullivan University's Culinary Arts program at the end of the stellar 2010 Kentucky Proud Grapevine Winemaker Dinner on January 29, 2010.

I felt Kentucky Lucky, too.

How else to feel when...

  • One has feasted on exquisite foods...
  • Many grown in Kentucky by incomparable growers like Elmwood Stock Farm and Kentucky Bison Company...
  • Including perfectly-sized portions of completely new tastes and taste combinations, as in a dish that included all five tastes in a single bite, provided one could take proper control of the fork: fresh tuna, sweet buttermilk cubes, salty salami paste, fried kale, and citrusy-unctuous sauces all at once...
  • Paired smartly with wines from Spain, France, Italy, and the USA, courtesy of event co-sponsor Southern Wine & Spirits...
  • Each served in its own appropriately shaped glass...
  • With all wines and foods described by excellent "tour guides"?

The dinner benefited WUKY, Lexington's treasured NPR affiliate station, and preceded its annual EXTRA-extravaganza fund raise, "Heard It Through the Grapevine," a party that has grown so exuberant that multiple stories of a large downtown hotel are required to contain it.

One of the greatest delights of the evening came to us through technology, not taste. Students and staff at Eastside Technical Center set up a system of videocasting that surrounded us with giant screens that served as virtual windows into the kitchen, showing us the real-time food preparation going on there. So, for example, as we tasted our delicious Grateful Gourmet greens with butternut squash cubes, we could see students (and chef luminaries like John Foster and Bob Perry) set out the looooooong grid of empty plates for the tuna course. A white-coated army of chefs and chefs-in-training surrounded the prep table, each person carrying out a specific task in finishing and plating each dish.

The coordination and simple extent of work dazzled. I thought of the deep and wide human effort required to make a movie, with the always astounding roster of multitudes of contributors one sees as the credits roll.

For the Kentucky Proud Grapevine Winemaker Dinner, hundreds of people -- from seed producers to growers to distributors, drivers, equipment makers, miners, builders, marketers, planners, cooks, cleaning staff, and the evening's MCs -- contributed to a single beautiful event that celebrated Kentucky's bounty in bitter cold midwinter.

Thanks to the Eastside Technical Center's flawless technical support, we lucky diners had virtual seats in the kitchen. This made it easy to appreciate the final steps, at least, and even easier to add a large measure of gratitude to the many other memorable flavors of this convivial evening.

 Screen showing live prep work in kitchen at UK's Boone Center, KY Proud Winemaker Dinner 2010

Screen showing live prep work in kitchen at UK's Boone Center, KY Proud Winemaker Dinner 2010

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