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Passion of the Chriszt 

The Chef's Fantasy dinner highlights Cleveland's top kitchen talents.

We always figured that chefs' secret fantasies involved Nigella Lawson and unorthodox uses of melon ballers, but what the heck. The Sixth Annual Chef's Fantasy fund-raiser, slated for Tuesday, March 23, is still shaping up to be one fabulous six-course feast.

Those who have missed inventive chef Donna Chriszt (since the demise of OZ, she's been holding forth in the kitchen of Aurora's Walden Country Club) will be pleased to hear that she's coordinating the event, which will be held at downtown's Union Club. The roster of regional kitchen magicians includes Michael Symon (Lola), Todd Stein and David Connelly (Vivo), Roger Thomas (Piatto), Tim Bando (Theory), Thomas Szoradi (Juniper Grille), and Brian Doyle (World's Fare Culinary Services). Chef Chris Carey, of the Union Club, is the event's host chef.

Cocktails are poured at 6:30 p.m., and the sit-down dinner commences at 7, with Doyle's flax-seared tuna, paired with hijiki salad and carrot-lemongrass syrup. The pièce de résistance will take the form of Stein and Connelly's grilled rack of lamb, with roasted potatoes, spinach, and a balsamic-grape reduction. In between, Bando will present housemade roasted garlic sausage, and Symon will prepare braised fresh bacon with endive chutney. Pan-roasted hog snapper, with mashed root vegetables and tomato-saffron ragout, will be Szoradi's contribution, and Thomas's Fantasia Cioccolata will mark the grand finale. Each course will be matched with a specially selected wine, from the Spencer-Roloson Winery in Napa Valley.

Considering the bragging rights this "once in a lifetime" meal will bestow upon the gourmets in attendance, the $150 ticket price seems pretty reasonable. Besides, $100 of that amount counts as a charitable contribution, earmarked for the fight against cystic fibrosis. Table sponsorships, ranging from $1,000 to $3,000, are also available. Call 216-382-8295 for details and reservations.

"This is my second year coordinating this event for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation," Chriszt says, "and I love to be involved in any way I can. Working side-by-side with some of the region's finest chefs, and for such a great cause, is an incredible thrill." Almost like a fantasy come to life, you might say.

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