On Dec. 26, powerful tsunamis struck the coasts of several Southeast Asian nations, killing tens of thousands and destroying countless towns, homes and businesses. On Sunday, Feb. 27, the members of the Colorado Springs Independent Restaurants Cooperative will host a fundraiser to help mitigate the effects of this monumental disaster. The event will be held at The Warehouse, where supporters will be able to munch on treats prepared by The Briarhurst Manor, Edelweiss Restaurant, La Petite Maison, The Margarita at Pine Creek, Paravicini Italian Bistro, Sencha, Pueblo's Steel City Diner, and The Warehouse.
Like many of us, Jeff Mervis, owner of La Petite Maison, was particularly affected by the visual images of the tsunami aftermath. Other members of the Independent Restaurant Cooperative (IRC) were equally moved. Steel City's Mary Oreskovich had gone to her parents' house to celebrate the holidays. Upon hearing the news, she became so upset she was almost sick to her stomach. Perhaps most distressed was Sencha's Brent Beavers, who feels a personal connection with the area. He has spent considerable time in Thailand, including a week on a small island that stood directly within the path of the surging seas.
As he watched the drama unfold, Mervis recalled a fundraiser held for the victims of 9/11 and immediately decided to do something similar. He felt that with the IRC there was a forum wherein something helpful could be done. At the group's next meeting, he suggested taking action to help the tsunami victims. The members immediately agreed. Raffi Sassower offered The Warehouse as a venue and each member restaurant will contribute something special for the event. Proceeds will be divided equally among the participating restaurants so that each can donate to the charity of its choice.
Appetizers, including shrimp crostini with peppers and roulades of bison and crimini mushrooms, will be provided by the Briarhurst's Chip Johnson. Franco Pisani of Paravicini will make shrimp bruschetta, topping grilled Italian toast with fresh shrimp, tomatoes, basil and onions. Pete Moreno, chef at La Petite Maison, will braise lamb shanks and serve them with seared greens, while the Margarita at Pine Creek will offer gnocchi with duck confit. The Warehouse's James Africano will use Southeast Asian ingredients in his braised coconut and green curry lamb. Dessert specialist Oreskovich, of the Steel City Diner and the soon-to-be-open Hopscotch Bakery around the corner, will offer a preview of the new bakeshop with scones, miniature tarts, brownies and artisan breads.
In honor of his friends, Sencha's Beavers will make Thai fish cakes, one of Thailand's most traditional dishes. Some years ago, Beavers visited the small island of Ko Lanta, where a tiny community of independent fishermen make their living from the sea. Local boys took him on their boats to fish and to explore the sea caves in the area. While there, Beavers says, he learned a great deal about local food, but even more about the diversity of the world and the many ways people live. He has a personal stake in the project, as he fears for the lives and livelihoods of the people who showed him so much kindness.
Although not everyone has committed to a specific charity yet, La Petite is planning to donate to UNICEF, the Briarhurst to the Red Cross, and The Warehouse to AmeriCares, which passes on 100 percent of all donations to the region and emphasizes sustained relief. Steel City Diner will support efforts to confront the non-human victims of the tragedy, especially local fish populations which were hit especially hard and in many cases are the lifeblood of local communities in the region. Beavers plans to directly assist the surviving villagers on Ko Lanta.
Beyond his personal connection, Beavers feels that the "modern world is so interconnected, and offers so many opportunities, that we need to have a world community outlook. If something like this happened to America, I think people would help us, so we need to help them. Especially because we are in a position to do so." Oreskovich heartily agrees, observing, "We are so blessed with family, friends and great farmers," that she feels it is "incumbent upon us to do whatever we can." Johnson echoed these sentiments, noting that even though everyone wants to help, it can be hard for us as individuals. But the IRC is an ideal group to do something because, as Johnson points out, the "IRC is about just that: cooperation and working together."
Now you have a chance to join them, and eat some good food for a great cause. The cost is $45 per person. Please be prepared to pay by cash or check, as credit cards will not be accepted so that each restaurant can maximize its donation (credit card companies take 3 to 8 percent from the seller every time you use your card). More than 90 percent of the total proceeds will be donated directly to charity.
-- David Torres-Rouff
The Independent Restaurants Cooperative's Tsunami Relief Dinner
Sunday, Feb. 27, 5 to 7:30 p.m.
The Warehouse, 25 West Cimarron Street
Tickets: $45 per person, cash or check only
Additional donations welcome; Call 475-8880 for more info