Well-Seasoned | Twilight Dinners offer exotic cuisine, chance to give back

March 29, 2014 

  • Chef Lisa Palermo’s Chorizo Sausage with Lime-Roasted Potatoes with Fresh Thyme

    Serves 4

    One pound red-skinned potatoes, sliced in wedges and eighth of an inch thick

    2 tablespoons olive oil

    Juice of one lime

    1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

    Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

    One half pound chorizo

    Garnish: fresh thyme sprigs

    Preheat oven to 350 F. Toss potatoes with olive oil, lime juice, thyme, and salt and pepper. Spread on a baking tray in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes, then mix and turn with a metal spatula to crisp the other side. Return to the oven. Bake another 15 minutes, and mix and turn again. Repeat the process until the potatoes are cooked through and browned. While potatoes are baking, grill or pan sear the sausage and cut in half lengthwise to serve over the potatoes. Garnish with sprigs of fresh thyme.


    To register for the dinner, visit https://ccwrc.org/twilight-dinners-2014/twilight-dinners-2014-reservations or call 238-7066.

    Sunday, March 30, 5 p.m.

    Spring Spectacular (filled)

    Duke and Monica Gastiger, Casey and Ted Hovick, Laura Reidy and Ralph Licastro

    Spats Cafe and Speakeasy Restaurant, State College

    The dinner will feature locally available foods and foods sourced from sustainable practices. The menu will be developed by Chef Duke according to what is available from local farms that week.

    Saturday, April 19, 6 p.m.

    “Deliciously Shanghaied”

    Ron and Sue Smith, Lemont

    Ying Wushanley and his wife, Geraldine (from Ireland), have put on this dinner for us for about 17 years. Dinner is typically 12 courses — some vegetarian and also pork, beef, shrimp and chicken, lots of vegetables, and amazing spices and combinations — not for the timid eater!

    Friday, April 25, 6 p.m.

    “Cote de Sol: A Region to Savour” (filled)

    Carnegie Inn and Spa, Lisa Palermo, Executive Chef, Toftrees, State College

    A Spanish Tapas Menu: the serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation. We will send you on a Spanish pub dinner starting with Sangria and small tastings in the Library at 6 p.m., followed by Spanish wines and tapas in the Dining Room.

    Saturday, April 26, 2014, 7 p.m.

    “Regional Cuisine of the U.S.” (filled)

    Debbie and John Carder, State College

    Fresh seasonal cuisine inspired by recipes from Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller and Alfred Portale. Wine pairings for each course featuring vineyards of Washington, Oregon and California.

    Saturday, April 26, 6:30 p.m.

    “Springtime in Paris” (filled)

    Sharon and Jim Mortensen, Chuck and Jill Curley, State College

    Join us for a French culinary experience.

    Saturday, May 17, 6 p.m.

    “Dinner with the Mayor”

    Darrell and Stephanie Velegol, State College

    Join us for dinner and a special evening with the mayor of State College, Elizabeth Goreham.

    Saturday, May 17, 6:30 p.m.

    “Taste of Italy”

    John and Gina Ferrara Ikenberry, State College

    Come join us for an evening of Italian cuisine and warm fellowship. The traditional Italian menu will be prepared by your hosts for the evening and will also include a selection of Italian wines.

    Saturday, May 31, 6:30 p.m.

    “A Pacific Northwest Evening”

    James and Barbara Korner, State College

    Featuring Copper River Salmon, along with favorite recipes from their decade of living in Seattle, join Jim and Barbara Korner for a home-cooked, relaxed evening in their home.

    Saturday, June 14, 7 p.m.

    “Upscale Backyard Barbeque”

    Anne Ard and Tom Poole, with Chef Michael and Jackie Edmonson, State College

    Join us as we start the summer enjoying barbeque favorites with an “upscale” twist. Expect some flavors of the Southwest, some cowboy cooking and some All-American treats!

    Saturday, June 14, 6:30 p.m.

    “Dinner under the Stars: A Flag Day Celebration”

    Amy and Mary Seaton, Rebersburg

    Celebrate Flag Day with a menu based on our founding foodies! Beyond their legacy as revolutionaries and politicians, the Founding Fathers were first and foremost a group of farmers. Passionate about the land and the bounty it produced, their love of food and the art of eating created what would ultimately become America’s diverse food culture. Join us for a menu inspired by fresh local products, paired with wine for each course.

    Saturday, June 21, 6 p.m.

    “Italian Fare with a View of Penn’s Creek”

    Patricia and Andy Pisano, Spring Mills

    The Pisanos make their own wine, which they will serve at the dinner. Hors d’oeuvres will be served on the wraparound porch overlooking Penn’s Creek.

    Saturday, June 21, 7 p.m.

    “Dinner in the Garden”

    Steve and Joyce Fonash, State College

    Enjoy dinner on the patio in the Fonash’s ¾-acre private garden.

    Saturday, June 21, 7 p.m.

    “Mais Oui! A Potpourri of French Cuisine”

    Sponsored by Traditions of America, hosted by Shirley Palermo and Tracy Lopez, Liberty Hill, Boalsburg

    A dinner of seven courses prepared by Chef Dan and Laura Sogor. Each course will represent a different region.

Chef Lisa Palermo, hair spiked and dressed in an eye-opening green chef coat that accentuates her trim figure, is not what one expects to walk out the swinging kitchen door at Carnegie House. She looks a little too edgy and contemporary for the wood-paneled library with overstuffed chairs. The Scottish inn ambiance in the dining room is decidedly Old-World European, with an indulgent and manly elegance that calls for a glass of scotch to be warming in your open palm as you sit by the fire.

But Palermo is going to mix it up for her Twilight Dinner on April 25, when she presents “Cote de Sol: A Region to Savour” with a Spanish tapas menu paired with Spanish wines in the midst of the splendid and rarefied elegance.

Diners will first enjoy some tapas in the library and then proceed to a large table in the dining room, where Paella will be served. Tapas, the small plates of Spain, provide diners with an artful variety of flavors, the perfect expression of Palermo’s background as a graduate of both the Culinary Institute of America and the Design Institute of San Diego.

This year is Palermo’s second as a Twilight Dinner host.

“I always thought that the Women’s Resource Center did a wonderful service to women in need. So many women feel there is nowhere to turn, and what they do there is amazing and affects so many lives in amazing ways. I respect all involved at the center and am excited to help in a way that is enjoyable for those who choose to participate.”

Many people in the area choose to support the Centre County Women’s Resource Center by attending one or more of the fundraising events known as the Twilight Dinners, which take place in March, April, May and June each year.

The dinners are donated by the hosts, and of the $100 cost per guest, $60 can be considered your tax-deductible gift, while the entire cost of the ticket goes directly to the center.

The hosts go all out to make sure that the guests are well-taken care of in terms of food and drink and that each table in every site is filled with like-minded people who are willing to support the cause.

Sue and Ron Smith, of Lemont, have been hosting Twilight Dinners for about 20 years, and always collaborate with the same chef.

“We’ve been doing these dinners with Ying (Wushanley) for about 20 years, so lots of people have been able to enjoy his amazing cooking. The WRC has so many valuable services that it’s nice to be able to help the agency raise money and have fun at the same time. Ying and his wife, Geraldine, who is Irish, have been good friends of ours ever since Ying worked with Ron to get his doctor-ate from PSU in sport hist-ory in the ’90s. I do the dessert and beverages,” Sue Smith said.

Joyce and Steve Fonash are veteran hosts, with a 15-year history of Twilight Dinners in their State College home. This year’s dinner will take place June 21 outdoors in their three-quarter acre series of gardens with a patio, a footpath and small ponds.

The Fonashes will have some heavy artillery helping them out. Their son, Dave Fonash, and his business partner, Chef Paul Kendeffy, are the owners of Zola and the Gamble Mill and will help them with their northern Italian menu, to celebrate Joyce’s heritage.

Joyce Fonash was a former board member of the CCWRC and knows very well just whom the events serve.

“They make us aware of the continued existence of domestic violence and sexual abuse. They help to continue the vital and surprisingly varied work of a dedicated group of people. They serve our neighbors, friends and family members who have experienced or are experiencing violence and abuse and often are in desperate need of safety, emotional help, material help and support in their process of healing. The dinners remind us of the grass roots of this effort and of a time when Centre County was a much simpler place. They are also a lot of fun. You get to meet interesting people, have a great meal and support a very worthy cause. It’s a real win-win situation,” she said.

Current CCWRC board member Gina Ikenberry shares the perspective of a relatively new host on the event.

“My husband, John, and I have attended many Twilight Dinners in the past, and each time we’ve gone to one, we leave feeling like it was such a great evening. We’ve talked about hosting one for several years, but felt a little intimidated about it. But we finally took the plunge last year and had a great time as hosts, so it was a no-brainer for this year to do it again,” she said.

The Ikenberrys will prepare a traditional Italian menu for their dinner on May 17, with homemade manicotti, various antipasta trays, braciole, and panna cotta for dessert.

Always keeping the mission front and center is important, said Ikenberry.

“It’s been a long tradition for the CCWRC to have these dinners. It’s such a great fundraiser because 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to the CCWRC. The hosts also act as good-will ambassadors for the center, as we ask them to talk a little about the CCWRC does. We provide the hosts with all of the info that they share with their guests — or we try to have at least one board member at each dinner so that they can share first hand info with everyone at the dinner,” she said.

The 2014 Twilight Dinner series commences Sunday with a Spring Spectacular at Spats. Don’t try to go — it’s already filled. But many chairs are still available at other dinners, with gracious hosts ready to serve you — and their community.

Anne Quinn Corr is a former caterer and culinary educator who is the author of “Seasons of Central Pennsylvania,” a cookbook about regional foods. She writes this monthly Well-Seasoned column and can be reached at chefcorr@gmail.com.

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