Peak dining for just $4,500


So, you're climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and on your way down you find yourself feeling a bit hungry.

Ordinarily, you'd have to reach for one of those power bars, or maybe a handful of nuts. Nothing very spectacular. But it's not like anyone is going to open a restaurant at 12,500 feet above sea level.

Unless you're there on the right day with the right people.

A tour sponsored by ET African Journeys, as part of a fundraiser to benefit St. Timothy's School in Tanzania, will feature a gourmet feast prepared in what its sponsors promise will be the "world's highest pop-up restaurant."

The chef for the event will be Pierre Thiam, a Senegal-born chef now based in Brooklyn. Mr. Thiam, who once competed on Iron Chef (he lost to Bobby Flay), is known for his pan-African cuisine — his grilled chicken served in a lime and onion confit, his whole fish grilled with cassava couscous and tomato relish, his savory okra stew.

The way we see it, the chef will have several obstacles to deal with. First, he has to get the food and cooking utensils two-thirds of the way up the mountain to the base camp. Then he has to figure out how to cook it at a singularly high altitude. And finally, he will have to deal with tired, cranky travelers suffering from oxygen deprivation (you probably know that the summit of Kilimanjaro — it's called Uhuru, for all you Star Trek fans — is 19,340 feet above sea level).

Climbing Kilimanjaro is difficult, but it requires no special training or equipment. This particular trip, however, will take a healthy chunk of change: $5,400 for the expedition, which will leave Washington, D.C., on Feb. 18 and return on March 1. Along with the stunning views, the exercise, the chance to drop casual references to Ernest Hemingway in future conversations for the rest of your life, and the gourmet food, the price also includes a donation to St. Timothy's School, which educates Tanzanian orphans.

Airfare and lodging are also included, of course.

Interested? Call 800-662-5406 for information or reservations.

Wine. Beer.

If it's January (or any month, really), that means it's time for a new list of beer and wine tastings at Middle Grounds Market, which is in the historic Oliver House, 27 Broadway St.

Let's start with the beers first, shall we? Beer tastings are held Thursdays from 5:30-7:30 p.m., and are $10 per flight. This month's schedule includes IPAs (India Pale Ales) on Jan. 10; beers with fists on their labels on Jan. 17; barrel-aged beers on Jan. 24; and newly released beers on Jan. 31.

In case that slipped by without notice, let me reiterate: The beer tasting on Jan. 17 will focus on brews that have fists on their labels. How cool is that?

Now the wines. Wine tastings are held on Thursdays and Fridays, also from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The flights for these tastings are $15.This month you can try California wines on Jan. 10 and 11; Washington wines on Jan. 17and 18; Italian wines on Jan. 24 and 25; and French wines on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.

No word on whether any of the wine labels have fists on them.

For more information, call 419-351-3335.

Veggie Bourg

Why should carnivores get all the fun?

Beef bourguignon is one of the world's great dishes and is apparently the first thing everyone prepares when she first gets the Julia Child books. But the divine Ms. Child and her collaborators were not writing with vegetarians in mind, which means those who shun meat have not been able to try the delectable, richly flavored, hearty dish.

Until, as they say, now.

Katherine Polenz, a chef at the Culinary Institute of America, developed a recipe for beans bourguignon, which she then included in her book Vegetarian Cooking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America. The CIA, in turn, thoughtfully sent out the recipe for everyone who wants to try it:

Beans Bourguignon

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 ounces smoked tempeh (optional)

3 shallots, diced

4 carrots, peeled, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

12 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig rosemary

1 bay leaf

1 cup crushed tomatoes

½ cup vegetable broth

1 cup dry red wine

3 cups kidney beans, cooked

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine the butter and flour with a fork, mixing until the two are incorporated. Set aside.

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the tempeh, if using, and sauté for about five minutes. Add the shallots, carrots, and garlic, and cook until the shallots are translucent, about 3–4 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until they start to become tender, about 4–5 minutes more.

Stir in the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, tomatoes, broth, and half of the wine. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20–25 minutes.

Add the rest of the wine, beans, salt, and pepper. Continue to simmer until good flavor develops, about 10–15 minutes more. Remove and discard the herbs and bay leaf.

Add the butter and flour mixture to the pan and allow the liquid to thicken. Remove from heat and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutritional Information per 8-ounce serving—Calories: 190, Protein: 8 g, Carbohydrates: 25 g, Fiber: 6 g, Total Fat: 4.5 g, Saturated Fat: 2 g, Sodium: 190 mg.

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