A taste of down under Dinner: In addition to enjoying Australian wines and New Zealand lamb, patrons at Quail Ridge Inn will have a chance Tuesday to support a local charity.

April 11, 1997|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The 70 or so people who will sit down Tuesday evening to braised New Zealand lamb shanks with a berry sauce, accompanied by a 1994 Michelton reserve cabernet sauvignon, also will have a chance to contribute to a local charity.

Between the six courses of the prix fixe dinners -- each accompanied by a featured wine -- served an average of 10 times a year at Quail Ridge Inn on Route 27 north of Mount Airy, diners can participate in a silent auction to benefit Carroll County Children's Fund.

"Carroll County is a very giving county," said Quail Ridge Inn owner Austin Isemann.

Donors have given crystal, a trip to California and six-day stay at a California winery, a Faberge egg, tickets to Broadway shows and Orioles games.

The fund, organized in 1983 by Westminster pediatrician Karl M. Green, pays medical bills for children of low-income families who have exhausted all other forms of assistance.

The wine dinners at Quail Ridge Inn began in 1989, when Fran Schmitz, owner of Mount Airy Liquors, approached restaurateur Fred Isemann with the idea. Schmitz hoped the dinners would increase wine sales at the store he had bought two years earlier.

Isemann had gone into more sophisticated dining in the late 1970s, when he scrapped meatloaf and fried chicken for Italian ++ dishes that some people told him would never sell in Carroll County. The dinners have become a marriage of food and wine, the sponsors say.

"Wine is not necessarily the focal point, and certainly the food isn't. It's how they go together," said Austin Isemann, nephew of the original owner.

The silent auction was added in 1995 after Isemann, as president of the Carroll County Restaurant Association, suggested a countywide benefit dinner. "The weight of that project wouldn't let it get off the ground," Isemann said. But his discussion with Green led to the silent auctions at the Quail Ridge Inn dinners.

The auction produced 50 percent of the fund's $40,000 annual budget in 1996, according to Karen Boswell, publicity chairwoman.

She said 90 percent of donations go to pay medical or surgical bills for children.

Isemann and Schmitz plan the dinners as a "night out" featuring selected wines and unusual dishes. Isemann said he looks at the menu from a production management standpoint, but the dishes are the chefs' creations. "It's their night," he said.

Dinners range from $55 to $65, and frequently attract a capacity crowd of 70 without advertising.

Schmitz said he selects affordable wines, but doesn't get

involved in the foods or presentation. Isemann "knows what he's doing in the restaurant. I know how to eat it," he said.

Tuesday night's dinner will feature Australian wines. In addition to the entree, the menu includes a semillon with hors d'oeuvres, a marsanne with barbecued prawns with warm fruit relish, a sangiovese with quail ravioli, a Shiraz or Shiraz-cabernet blend with confit duck salad over warm greens and a sauterne with fresh peach ice cream with pear shortcake.

Sometimes the dinner planners do something daring, such as serving a cabernet sauvignon with a chocolate dessert instead of the beef that is its usual companion.

A wine sales representative usually is on hand to talk about the featured wines, but Schmitz, who is self-educated on the subject, avoids turning the dinners into seminars on enology.

A representative of the children's fund is present at the dinners to explain the fund's purpose. Boswell said the 20 members of the fund's board of directors rotate the duty.

She said Green started the fund to help "gray area" children RTC whose parents' incomes were too high for Medicaid, but too low to cover a catastrophic illness or a medical condition that requires long-term care, such as juvenile diabetes.

Pub Date: 4/11/97

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