Five Star Sensation gets the Culinary Throwdown Right

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Not that the organizers of last Saturday’s Five Star Sensation need my stamp of approval. The biennial culinary throw-down, to raise funds for University Hospitals’ Ireland Cancer Center, is always a guaranteed sell out. But I gotta say: The party rocked. Strolling the spacious tents, nibbling on signature dishes from more than two-dozen nationally renowned restaurants – including Spago, K-Paul’s, Tabla, Blue Smoke, Nobu, Campanile, and the Union Square Café – and hobnobbing with culinary legends like Paul Prudhomme and Wolfgang Puck was about as close to foodie heaven as most of us will ever come. (Also heavenly, the presence of more than 40 first-rate vintners, including Silver Oak, Patz & Hall, and Yalumba.) Unlike most tasting events – with the usual complement of thin paper plates, disposable forks, and tiny, tasteless samples – this one got it right, with substantial portions sided with real utensils. Equally impressive was the food quality. While much of the prep work had been done in the kitchens of Cleveland Browns Stadium, the freshness and flavors were flawless. Among the memorable tidbits: Thick-cut, medium-rare, grilled lamb chops, with cucumber-coconut raita, from Tabla (NYC); tender pasta “pyramids” stuffed with braised veal breast, from Campanile (LA); and buttery, seared slices of Waygu beef, with sweet-as-sugar creamed corn, from Puck and his crew (Santa Monica and Beverly Hills). Representing Cleveland: Executive Chef Ben Fambrough, from Sans Souci; Corporate Chef Mike LaMarca, from Hyde Park Prime; and Executive Chef Ken Sherepita, from Levy Restaurants, which provides food service for the Browns Stadium; along with Mitchell Brothers Ice Cream, Orlando Baking Company, Gallucci’s Italian Foods, Caribou Coffee, and Great Lakes Brewing Company, pouring Dortmunder Gold. (Afterward, the big donors got to party down at Mike Symon’s Lola, where a lot of the chefs had been hangin’ since they rolled into town for the event.) Attendees – about 2,000 of them – paid $300, $600, or $1,000 per ticket, and raised more than $2 million to benefit the cancer center. Start saving those pennies now; Five Star Sensation will return in 2009. --- Elaine T. Cicora

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