Sex, Animals & Food

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If last week's Animal Attractions fund-raiser at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's Rainforest didn't get you in the mood for Valentine's Day, there's something wrong with you. At $40 a pop to benefit the Cleveland Zoological Society, a capacity 500 guests mingled among the potted palms and rushing waterfalls to learn about the birds and the bees. Or in this case, the rhinos and orangutans. There was zookeeper Heather Strawn trying to keep a straight face in the second-floor "researcher's hut," as she told us all about how to get a rhino horny. (We'd tell you, but then that means we wasted $40.) Then we popped in next door to hear curator Kristen Lukas talk about the mating habits of orangutans. All we learned is that they're dirty, and not in the XXX-rated kind of way. Even more of a turn-on downstairs, a U-shaped buffet of hors d'oeuvres greeted the ravenous mass of animal lovers. Crab cakes and sweet-potato-and-pecan bites from Fat Fish Blue (www.fatfishblue.com) proved a winning combo. While we expected something meaty from Woodmere steakhouse Fleming's (www.flemingssteakhouse.com), their chefs spared no expense with salmon bruschetta and crab & artichoke frittatas. And lines stretched around a couple of corners for the Kobe-beef Sloppy Joes made by Blue Canyon owner and executive chef Brandt Evans of Twinsburg. The only complaint we heard was that all the grub was dished out by 6:45 p.m., even though the benefit ran from 6 to 9 p.m. But give credit to the guys from Jacob's Creek for coming to the rescue. While the winemaker's offerings were limited to merlot, merlot, and more merlot, the vino kept flowing well up until the nine o'clock hour. "God knows I've had my share," slurred one guest as we watched two frogs try to make out. "But the guy I brought doesn't know it's my aphrodisiac." Another quote for our more-info-than-we-wanted-to-know file. — Cris Glaser

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