Naples Wine Festival dinner gives preview of Tramonto's New Orleans restaurant dish

Tristan Spinski/Staff
Chef John Folse, center, and Chef Rick Tramonto, right, both of Restaurant R'evolution in New Orleans, supervise as Sam Ardito, left, of Naples, preps an appetizer of 'Trio Amuse' for dinner guests of Sandi and Tom  Moran, co-hosted by Grace and Ken Evenstad, all of Naples, during a 2012 Naples Winter Wine Festival Vintner Dinner at the Moran home in North Naples on Friday evening. The dinner was themed 'Where the Magic Begins' and featured a magician, a dance performance and cuisine by world-renowned chefs Tramonto and Folse.

Photo by TRISTAN SPINSKI // Buy this photo

Tristan Spinski/Staff Chef John Folse, center, and Chef Rick Tramonto, right, both of Restaurant R'evolution in New Orleans, supervise as Sam Ardito, left, of Naples, preps an appetizer of "Trio Amuse" for dinner guests of Sandi and Tom Moran, co-hosted by Grace and Ken Evenstad, all of Naples, during a 2012 Naples Winter Wine Festival Vintner Dinner at the Moran home in North Naples on Friday evening. The dinner was themed "Where the Magic Begins" and featured a magician, a dance performance and cuisine by world-renowned chefs Tramonto and Folse.

Rick Tramonto
2012 Naples Winter Wine Festival chef

Photo by Submitted

Rick Tramonto 2012 Naples Winter Wine Festival chef

— Four different kinds of grapes. Four hundred glasses.

For the 40 guests attending a 2012 Naples Winter Wine Festival event at Sandi and Tom Moran's North Naples home, those were the ingredients needed just to get the diners through the wine served with dinner.

"You will see the most variety of grapes at this dinner," said Grace Evenstad, a co-host of the dinner and one of the evening's featured vintners. "Robin (Lail, of Lail Vineyards in Rutherford, Calif., who was the co-vintner) does sauvignon blancs and cabernet sauvignon and we do pinot noir and chardonnay, so we have a lot to offer."

Wine and incredible food were on the menu at 17 dinners held in private homes around Naples on Friday evening as the Wine Festival kicked into high gear.

The theme was "Where the Magic Begins" and guests were treated to magical plates of food from Executive Chef Rick Tramonto and Partner John Folse of Restaurant R'evolution in New Orleans.

One of those dishes, "Death by Gumbo," was hailed by New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne and was what Folse called "an evolution of a classic dish" and involved stuffing foie gras, rice, oysters and andouille sausage into a quail.

"The elements are all there, but by repositioning them, we create something new," he said, adding the chefs were hoping to showcase the Cajun and Creole traditions that make New Orleans cuisine so special.

All dishes on Friday's menu will be served at R'evolution when it opens in April.

"We have been in the test kitchen for a year doing a lot of research and development. It's like we finally get to play restaurant," executive pastry chef Erin Swanson said.

The Morans, who hosted their first vintner dinner Friday night, are new trustees to the Wine Festival, becoming trustees two years ago.

"I went to Meet the Kids Day and I realized what an impact the festival and the Naples Children and Education Foundation had on children and the charities," Sandi Moran said of what prompted the couple to become trustees.

After raising $94.5 million since 2001, today's auction is poised to push the total to more than $100 million.

Ken Evenstad, a trustee of the event, expects that mark to be reached.

"We'll get there," he said. "And, if the auction does well, I think it will be a good indicator of the economy for 2012. You never know how the auction is going to go, but we will get (to $100 million)."

Tramonto, who made his fourth Wine Festival appearance Friday, said the Naples Winter Wine Festival is his favorite charity event.

"It's an amazing cause. It's crazy money. It's so impressive. It's what it is all about. They live their charity. They live their cause. That's what I love about it," he said.

Michael Monico, of Winnetka, Ill., was excited to be at the dinner after a moving Meet the Kids Day — his first.

"(The Cliffords') inspiration is what caused us to come tonight," he said.

Chicago businessman Charlie Besser said he's looking forward to the auction and to see how much his donated auction item — a trip to the Masters — brings. Beyond that, he said he's enjoying his first Wine Festival experience.

"It's an extraordinary way to celebrate a more extraordinary cause," he said.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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