published Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Braly: Taste cooks ready to impress

It's time again for a delicious gathering of culinary delights from restaurants around the city. Taste: An Evening of Flavors, benefiting the Kidney Foundation of the Greater Chattanooga Area, will be 5-9 p.m. Thursday, March 8, at Warehouse Row.

This is the second year for the fundraiser, which grew from the popular Taste of Chattanooga event. More than a dozen restaurants will participate. Attendees can get tastes of each restaurant's signature dishes.

There also will be a competition among chefs from four restaurants, with each chef using a secret ingredient chosen by event sponsor Greenlife Grocery.

Mount Vernon executive chef John Lopopolo, who won last year's chef's competition and will be judging this year's, said Taste gives restaurants "tremendous exposure. It helps get our name out there to folks who may not know about Mount Vernon," he said. "It definitely helps boost clientele."

By buying tickets, you'll also be helping the Kidney Foundation in its efforts to help those in a 21-county area in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama fight kidney disease.

"Taste is very crucial for funding patient services," said foundation executive director Jennifer McGlohon.

Financial assistance includes help with transportation to and from dialysis, and payment for rent, mortgages, medical equipment, nutritional supplies and more with proven need. The average amount spent on each Kidney Foundation client is $700 per year, McGlohon said.

It's common for additional restaurants to sign up as the event approaches, but here are the ones McGlohon knows are participating: Belle's Cupcakes, Blacksmith's Bistro, Blue Orleans Seafood Restaurant, BrewHaus, Crepe-a-Delic, Greenlife Grocery, Joe Friday's, Lupi's Pizza Pies, Marco's Italian Bistro, Market Street Tavern, Marsha's Backstreet Cafe, Niko's Southside Grill, On the List Catering, Petunia's Silver Jalapeno, Public House, Sequatchie Cove Farms, Sitar Indian Cuisine, Southern Burger Co., Sticky Fingers and Velo Coffee.

Last year, Taste netted $10,000 for the Kidney Foundation.

"We'd ideally like to raise $15,000 (this year). The more we raise, the more we can help our patients," McGlohon said.

Tickets are $35 per person, which includes all the tastes you want, plus one drink ticket. Additional drinks may be purchased at the cash bar. For tickets, log onto www.tastechatt.com or call 265-4397.

I'm always looking for a good soup recipe that's different from my usual soup servings, and I found it by googling "best soup recipe" on a website by that name, www.best-soup-recipes-ever.com.

Here's the one that caught my eye. I served this Wisconsin cheese soup with a salad and French bread for sopping up the last bits of delicious goodness.

Homemade chicken stock made all the difference in this recipe. It's worth boiling a chicken even if you have to save the meat for another time. Add some onion and celery while it's boiling, then strain and skim off the fat before using the stock.

Wisconsin Cheese Soup

5 tablespoons butter

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

5 button mushrooms, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1/2 cup ham, chopped

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)

4 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, melt the butter, and add the celery, onion, carrots, mushrooms, green pepper and ham, and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add in the cornstarch and flour, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Then stir in the broth, and cook until slightly thickened. Add the milk, mustard, cayenne and paprika.

Gradually stir in the cheese, until fully melted. Don't let the soup boil once the cheese has been added. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.

I had the pleasure of meeting some celebrity guests at the recent Formal Affair wedding expo. Along with David Tutera, host of WE-TV's "My Fair Wedding," and Jay Qualls, from TLC's "Next Great Baker," I was a judge for the Cake Ace competition, which had local bakers create a groom's cake.

I must give the folks at Sifted Bakery in Cleveland, Tenn., kudos for their creativity and great-tasting cakes. Check them out at siftedbakery.com.

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