Now in its eighth year, the Fantasy has evolved into a showcase for the region's top chefs, including Marlin Kaplan (One Walnut), Vid Lutz (Johnny's), Paul Minnillo (The Baricelli Inn), Shawn Monday (Downtown 140), Pam Waterman (Lockkeepers), and Matt Barnes (Saucy Bistro). Reprising her role as coordinator for the feel-good feast is Donna Chriszt (Immaculate Receptions and Bradley's Catering).
The menu was still under construction when we sneaked a peek, but even then it sounded fab, filled with such tidbits as seared Hawaiian opakapaka with spiced coconut caramel (from Monday); braised short ribs with baby shiitakes (from Lutz); and ahi tuna foie gras "burgers," with pomme frites and truffle mayo (from Kaplan). Count on Barnes to bring the salad, Minnillo to offer cheese, and Waterman to do dessert (which we hear may be bittersweet chocolate cake, with cardamom crème Anglaise, espresso lollipops, and blood-orange mascarpone). An appropriate wine will accompany each course.
The 7 p.m. dinner at downtown's Union Club will be strictly first-class, and since studies also show that shelling out big bucks for a good cause actually enhances your karmic bank account, don't let the $175 ticket price slow you down. An additional $50 gets you invited to the pre-dinner reception, where Loretta Paganini and culinary students from ICASI will be serving up cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Call 216-292-4437 for reservations.
Wink wink . . . If you think the menu at Trader Jack's Riverside Grille (35901 Lakeshore Boulevard, Eastlake) looks familiar, we'll just mention that owner Walt Callam spent 12 years as a partner in the Winking Lizard Taverns before launching this new venture, in the former Pacers space on the banks of the Chagrin River. After a month-long renovation, the spot reopened in December; plans still call for expanding and improving a riverfront patio in time for warm-weather dining. Moderately priced wings, ribs, burgers, pizza, chicken, steak, and seafood are what's to eat; chef Fred Antonelli (formerly of Bratenahl's Shoreby Club) is doing the cooking; and you and your buds could be scarfing 'em up at lunch or dinner Tuesday through Sunday.