On Sunday, May 4th, I sat down with friends and family to take part in a delightful five-course meal and wine tasting at Ponte Vecchio, home to some of the area’s finest dining. This was no ordinary meal—each course had been meticulously crafted by restaurateur Tim Fleming and carefully paired with a different wine selection.
What made the evening more special was that the dinner doubled as a fundraiser for the Peoria Area World Affairs Council, a local not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting a better understanding of world affairs among central Illinois residents. It seems that Fleming has hit upon a unique niche, where he can showcase his extensive wine knowledge and the rich culinary traditions of northern Italy while also giving back to the community, one nonprofit at a time.
The concept is simple. Tickets to these wine pairing events are $75 per person, with $10 of each ticket going straight to the organization. It makes for a splendid night on the town and an easy way to raise money for a cause.
“The format is pretty much set,” explained Fleming. “It’s a five-course dinner. It starts with an appetizer, and then we do one or two pasta dishes, then one or two entrees, and we finish with dessert.” The evening is both relaxing and educational, as Fleming offers extensive commentary on the wine and food selections.
There is a method to Fleming’s work that wine aficionados will appreciate. “The last several events, we’ve actually concentrated the wines from one area of Italy and tried to give the audience a comparison of different wines from within the same region—and sometimes from the same grape,” said Fleming. “So they can actually taste the difference between a Barbera d’Alba and a Barbera d’Asti. It’s the same grape, but from two different areas within Piedmont [one of the 20 regions of Italy], and there is a marked difference between them.
“Another one is the Barbaresco versus the Barolo,” he continued. “They’re both made with Nebbiolo grapes, and they’re from the same region, but they’re made in a slightly different style and the grapes are grown in a slightly different area.”
The simple, fresh ingredients of Tuscan-style cooking are a splendid match for the wines of northern Italy—something the Italians have known for centuries, and even a novice like me could understand.
Fleming has put together 12 to 15 of these dinners for various groups, from the Central Illinois Memorial Kidney Fund to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. If your organization is interested in such an event, call Tim Fleming at (309) 682-3994. Your taste buds—and your favorite charity—will thank you later! a&s
Estofado di Carne
by Tim Fleming
Pulled braised beef in a thick tomato sauce, served over fresh fettucine
- Chuck roast (or other marbled beef roast)
- Carrots, Celery, Onion
- Marinara sauce
- White wine
- Vegetable stock
- Salt, Pepper Garlic
- Braise beef after seasoning.
- Combine all ingredients with enough liquid to cover beef.
- Cook at 400 degrees 2½ to 3 hours until liquid is reduced to a thick sauce.
- Shred beef and put back in sauce for half hour.
- Serve over pasta.