Mates 'sip it forward' at Australian wine event benefitting First Stage Children's Theater

2:19 PM
By Mithra Ballesteros, First Stage Children's Theater

Wine lovers and First Stage Children's Theater supporters gathered last weekend at Tripoli Country Club for a one-of-a-kind Australian dinner and wine tasting to benefit the theater company.  Guests enjoyed a five-course menu paired with Mollydooker wines, an award-winning vineyard in South Australia.  Event co-chairs Janet and Gregory Schmeling brought together their love of wine and their advocacy for First Stage to create a fun, casual event that raised funds for First Stage's Community Partnership Program.

Tripoli Executive Chef David Magnasco began by presenting a menu made up entirely of locally grown, seasonal ingredients available within 50 miles of the club.  He culls produce from one of three gardens he maintains on property and he regularly visits local farmers and farmers' markets.  He prefers to build a menu with a flavor experience that slowly increases in intensity and then eases up again.  In marrying wines to food, Magnasco considers the fat content of each ingredient, then works to cut that fat with the acid of the wine, leaving the palate cleansed.

Take, for example, Magnasco's salad course of smoked trout with spiced almonds, grilled red onions, berries, and mixed greens.  Deconstructing this course reveals a distinctive pedigree for each and every ingredient.  The trout came from Rushing Waters Fisherie in Palmyra, Wisconsin, an organic farm that raises its fish in artesian waters free of antibiotics and chemicals.  Growing Power, Inc., home of MacArthur fellow Will Allen, provided the mixed greens.  The other salad ingredients were locally grown and purchased from the West Allis Farmer's Market, one of the area's oldest markets, and, in Magnasco's opinion, one of the best in the region. With the salad, Magnasco poured Mollydooker's 2007 Sip It Forward, which drew strong oohs and ahhs from the guests.  The 2007 Sip It Forward is a blend of Cabernet, Shiraz, and Merlot, and a portion of its sales are donated to Transform Cambodia, a charity providing educational support to Cambodian children.  All these elements together formed what was perhaps the culinary highlight of the evening.

Said co-chair Greg Schmeling, "We're a small group with a big heart and in this spirit, we're 'sipping it forward' for First Stage and for the children and families in our community."

Photos taken by Jen McClellan, First Stage Children's Theater
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