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Published: Sunday, 4/24/2011

MORSELS

Special taste of Europe set in Maumee

BY DANIEL NEMAN
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

High on the slopes of Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe, is a tiny vineyard called Passopisciaro.

Fortified with minerals from the volcanic slopes, the Nerrello Mascalese grapes take on what is said to be an extraordinary flavor. Boosted by other grapes from 80-year-old vines in the same region, the Passopisciaro wines have received high marks for their complexity, scent, color, and flavor of berries and mountain herbs.

Wednesday from 6:30-8:30 p.m., the Walt Churchill's Market in Maumee will offer a special tasting of four Passopisciaro varieties from the 2008 vintage: Chiappemacine, Porcaria, Rampante, and Sciaranuova. All of these are highly rated -- none received less than a 92 from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate -- and although they have not yet reached their full maturity, they are said to be quite drinkable now.

Bottles of these wines are hard to find and sell for as much as $100 apiece for the Porcaria (the Rampante is the least expensive at $35). Therefore, the tasting has a special price, $70 per person, and will be limited to 10 people.

As always, wine manager Austin Beeman will share his expertise and enthusiasm, discussing the winemaker Andrea Franchetti, the grape, the region, and each specific vineyard site.

For more information, call 419-794-4000.

We all scream

What's the best thing about the fifth annual Baskin-Robbins 31-Cent Scoop Night? The fact that the scoops of ice cream are just 31 cents, of course.

On Wednesday from 5-10 p.m., every Baskin-Robbins store in the country is offering a 2.5 ounce scoop of any kind of ice cream for just 31 cents. That's so cheap, you might as well get two. Or eight.

And you might want to try the April Flavor of the Month, Firehouse No. 31. First of all, it's only 31 cents (on Wednesday evening). But also, those 31 cents go to a good cause: This month, Baskin-Robbins is donating $100,000 to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which helps support the families of firefighters who have died in the line of duty. The money will be donated no matter which flavors are purchased, but the company is making a connection between the charity and the flavor of the month.

And what is Firehouse No. 31? Vanilla ice cream with cinnamon, Red Hot candy pieces, and a ribbon of Atomic Fireball candy pieces. The Baskin-Robbins folks call it "a perfect blend of hot and cold."

If you want to support the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation's mission, you can text 6333 -- that's NFFF -- to 50555 to make a $5 donation through the end of this month.

Urbanity

One of the hottest and hippest food-related trends, if not necessarily the biggest and most popular, is the movement toward urban farming.

Anywhere in a city that there is an open lot or space, someone can grow fruit and vegetables to feed a family or a community. The food doesn't get more fresh and local than that.

But growing lettuce and zucchini on an abandoned parking lot presents different challenges than growing it on a farm, and urban farmers need to know the principles of proper food handling and good agricultural practices -- particularly if they are planning to sell their produce to retail outlets.

Food safety expert Shari Plimpton of the Center for Innovative Food Technology will give a free talk called "Growing Food in Urban Areas Safely" from 3-5 p.m. tomorrow at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, 2213 Cherry St., about these issues as well as proper sanitation and procedures for safe produce.

Register by sending an e-mail to rsvp@ciftinnovation.org or calling 419-535-6000, ext. 108.

Serious chili

There are chili cookoffs, and then there are chili cookoffs.

The event Saturday and next Sunday in Marblehead is a chili cookoff.

Specifically, it is the 16th annual Buckeye Regional Chili Cookoff as well as the 14th annual Ohio State Cookoff. This is an international event (at least one team comes from Canada) that draws at least 25 of the best chili cooks from several states.

The winner in each category -- red chili, chili verde, and salsa -- qualifies to go to the World Chili Cookoff Championship in Manchester, N.H. And the winner of that competition in the fall will walk away with a cool $25,000.

Current world champ Tom Hoover, from Columbus, will be at the Marblehead contest, along with other past champions. All of the competitors belong to the International Chili Society, which should help maintain a high quality of the entries.

Proceeds from the Marblehead event will go to the CASA program, which helps find safe and permanent homes for children who have been removed from their homes because of parental abuse or neglect, and Joyful Connections, a program that provides a safe place for children to interact with the parents from whom they have been separated as part of the process of reuniting them.

The cookoff will be at the Knollcrest Shopping Center in Marblehead.

Items for Morsels can be submitted up to two weeks in advance of an event to food@theblade.com.



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