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Tough restaurrant on East Republic Road is host to this year's Ozarks Public Television's annual fundraiser.
Tough restaurrant on East Republic Road is host to this year's Ozarks Public Television's annual fundraiser.

After 5: A Touch of Food and Wine

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When your job is to make an annual event bigger and better than the previous edition, it would be easy to do more just for the sake of doing more. Enter Hannah Combs, who coordinates the annual Friday Night TV Dinner and Wine and Food Celebration, Ozarks Public Television’s primary fundraising vehicle, now in its 23rd year.

Understanding that more than 25 percent of OPT’s annual budget is spent on more than 50 hours of weekly educational children’s programming, Combs always seeks to draw in a larger group of supporters. “There’s such a need for the children’s programming to continue,” says Combs, event coordinator for OPT. “We love to see the community come out and support it.”

This year, the Friday event shifted to another first-time location in Touch restaurant on East Republic Road. When Ceecee and I arrived, a host from Branson’s Titanic museum handed us boarding passes and directed us into an evening of food, drink and entertainment.

Last year’s Grey Goose ice bar and contemporary feel were retained, but reintroduced was a multiple course sit-down dinner. The menu diversity was wonderful, with Chilean sea bass, lamb chops with mint jelly and a perfectly cooked wild mushroom risotto. The drawback was the inability to pair all of it with wines, since our table only had a selection of three reds, and we were unable to get others from our server.

Prior to dinner, guests enjoyed martinis and flutes of bubbly with dates wrapped in goat cheese and bacon. Aerialist Lyra Sprenger entertained and amazed with three performances on silks descended from the second-story ceiling.

For Sunday’s event, Ceecee and I split up so she could focus on the food, while I perused the wines. As in the past, there was far too much to try it all, but below is a sampling of what we encountered:

On the menu
The Sunday event at University Plaza was filled with many familiar restaurants and several new ones. Ocean Zen usually has the longest line and once again, the presentation and dish were fabulous.

Another satisfying stop was Tea Bar & Bites, which served Greek lemon chicken, a goat cheese crostini and spanakopita.

Avanzare made a good showing, as did Big Cedar Lodge, which presented for the first time.
Bruno’s seafood paella was not as flavorful as expected, and newcomer Savor’s pupusa was difficult to eat and not to my liking.

For the sweet tooth, Nonna’s hazelnut torte with wild berry sauce was a highlight, as was ReRico’s key lime mousse pie.

The biggest change to this year’s event was the appearance of more than 50 craft beers, or microbrews, one of the fastest-growing beverage segments. Labels such as Smokestack Double Wide, Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat and Ska Pinstripe Red were introduced to reach out to a younger and more diverse crowd, organizers say.

The wine list
While the challenge of trying to sample 200 wines in three hours may seem like every aficionado’s dream, it really wasn’t possible at this event. Wines were provided by Brown Derby International Wine Center, 2023 S. Glenstone Ave.

Here are my favorites by category:

Favorite Overall White
· J Vineyards 2008 Pinot Gris

Notable Whites
· Irony 2008 Chardonnay
· Elk Cove 2008 Pinot Gris
· Mapema Sauvignon Blanc

“Value” White
· Gravity Hills Vertigo 2009 Chenin/Riesling
Favorite Overall Red
· Raymond 2007 Reserve Cabernet

Notable Reds
· Rubus 2007 Cabernet
· The Prisoner 2008 California Blend
· Irony 2008 Cabernet

“Value” Red
· Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec[[In-content Ad]]


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