Feast with the Beasts brings out party animals


Yes, it will be a big dinner at the Toledo Zoo, but no, they will not be serving rhinoceros. Why would you even think such a thing?

Carnivores will be roaming the zoo Friday, and also vegetarians, for the ninth annual Feast with the Beasts fund-raiser. The bill is steep, $250 per person, but all proceeds will go to fill the zoo's pockets, or perhaps its marsupial pouches.

For your big donation, you'll get a five-course meal whipped up by executive chef Sam Misiura and his staff: a light and spicy Korean cucumber soup; a salad of shaved fennel, grapefruit, and scallions arranged in a leaf of radicchio; an appetizer of grilled zucchini wrapped around a crab and sweet-corn salad served with a smear of saffron aioli; a choice of entrees (beef tenderloin, halibut, or a wonderful grilled polenta with black beans and sweet corn), and a dessert of summer fruit napoleons -- seasonal fruit layered between ethereally light triangles of phyllo dough and whipped cream, served with Earl Grey tea-scented dark chocolate truffles.

Most of the courses will be served with specially chosen wines, and before the meal starts there will be trays of appetizers. Don't miss the one they're calling Billionaire's Bacon. Seriously. Even so, the Belgian endive with Maytag bleu cheese and bread crumbs will also have its partisans.

Along with the meal there will be a live auction of zoo-related items. Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m.

Attendance is limited and reservations are required. For more information or reservations, call 419-385-5721, ext. 2091.

Hot doggerel

The Olympics? Child's play, compared to real competition -- hard-fought, take-no-prisoners, serious competition.

And may the best hot dog win.

The Mud Hens, who for most of the season have not shown that they know much about competition at all (ha!), are stepping up to the plate, as it were, with a contest that is about something big. A contest not for the faint of heart. A contest of creativity and skill. But mostly it's just about popularity.

The Hens' Ultimate Hot Dog Challenge is on, featuring the best hot dog creations devised by local sport and media celebrities, though "celebrities" is probably too strong a term. Some local TV and radio people, several local college coaches, and an actual Toledo Walleye (plus a newspaper food columnist who uses parentheses more than he should) were presented with an impressively large array of hot dogs and potential toppings. From this spread, each of the participants concocted his own hot dog creation.

These creations range from the straightforward (Angus beef hot dog, dash of ketchup, dash of mustard, and relish, by University of Toledo assistant men's basketball coach Angres Thorpe) to the extravagant (fried hot dog, nacho cheese, shredded cheese, lettuce, guacamole, diced tomato, one slice of bacon, sour cream, and "lots of love," by WNWO-TV Channel 24 sports director Will Kunkel).

The dog most likely to kill you -- and, it should be pointed out, the one that is most popular as of this writing -- is by Ryan Wichman, meteorologist at WTOL-TV, Channel 11: Angus beef hot dog, nacho cheese, bacon, and BBQ sauce.

Personally, we think the Gourmet Cowboy offers the best combination of flavors without going too far over the top: Angus beef hot dog, yellow mustard, hot sauce, baked beans, and crispy fried onions. We also think the person who created it is the handsomest of the lot, even if he is too partial to parentheses.

This year, people can vote for their favorites by visiting and clicking on "like" for their favorite creation. The top two finalists will then go head-to-head, or dog-to-dog, at the game on Aug. 26. The winner will receive a trophy and a really cheesy foam hot-dog hat.

Melting away

Losing weight is hard. But it can be easier if you are motivated to share your progress with other people.

The Ohio State University Extension is offering anyone (who has an email account) a six-week program to do just that. The idea is that experts at the extension service will send two emails a week to everyone who signs up. These emails will share exercise tips, recipes, and diet-related information that, unlike some diets we could name, actually has a basis in science.

The idea is to get the participants to pick up healthy habits. And as an added incentive, the dieters will also be asked to keep a daily log and to take anonymous pre and post-challenge surveys. These will help both to track the program's success and to give the participants a sense of being accountable for their actions.

The free program begins Aug. 27, and you can only sign up through Tuesday. To register, email or call 740-474-7534.

Best and wurst

German potato salad -- pounds and pounds of it.

Potato pancakes. Leberkäs platters. Sauerkraut balls. Landjäger. Schnitzel sandwiches.

It can only be the hugely popular German-American Festival, which will be Friday through Aug. 26 at Oak Shade Grove in Oregon.

This is the 47th annual iteration of the festival, which seems to be expanding every year (not unlike the waistlines of many of the people who attend). Along with the bratwurst, the cheddar wurst, the smoked wurst, and the jalapeno wurst (note: not a traditional German item), there will be at least one new offering this year: bratwurst made with Swiss cheese and mushrooms.

There also will be seven new German beers on tap, for a total of more than 40. For many people, that fact alone is reason enough to go.

Festival-goers who don't want to eat the chicken dinners, smoked ham shanks, pretzels, Guggisberg cheese, cream puffs, pickles, Swiss sandwiches, and other German and Swiss treats can always fill up on more familiar festival fare -- french fries, funnel cakes, and ice cream.

Along with the German beers there will be German wines to try, and plenty of traditional desserts such as kuchen, strudels, and Lebkuchenherzen, hand-decorated gingerbread hearts. If you have a particularly good authentic German cookie recipe, you can bake samples and take them and the recipe to the Sidewalk Cafe by 3 p.m. Saturday to enter in the German Cookie Baking Contest. This year, only cookies will be judged.

There are probably other things at the festival, too, such as rides and cuckoo clocks for sale and people trying to throw a ridiculously heavy rock, but everyone knows people just go to these things for the food.

The festival is open 6 p.m.-1 a.m. on Friday, 2 p.m.-1 a.m. on Saturday, and noon-11 p.m. on Aug. 26. Admission is $7 at the gate, with various discounts available, especially on Sunday.

For more information, visit

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