April 13th, 2011

Iron Sommelier 2011: Catching Up with The Periwinkle Foundation

“What’s wrong with you? You don’t look at all comfortable in a suit.”

A few years ago, that was a piece of wisdom offered to me by my roommate at the rehearsal dinner for our dear friends. Maybe it was because I was wearing fire-retardant coveralls to work every day, but he was right, I was a bit squirmy in my dry-cleaned digs. That was then.

Last night, I raced home from work, glad to have the opportunity to pull a suit from my closet and press a nice shirt. It was the night of Iron Sommelier 2011, the event benefiting The Periwinkle Foundation. It was noted on the invitation to be designated a “casual chic” night, but at the last minute changed to “suit and tie.” Houston Country Club, playing host for the evening, made sure of the alteration.


When I walked in with my girlfriend, we approached the sign in desk. “Two under ‘The Loop Scoop,’ I think,” were my words to the volunteer. She looked right through me, sure of some ruse. That uncomfortable feeling began to wash over me once again. “My name is Paul, but the tickets are under ‘The Loop Scoop.’” This time she took to her papers to confirm my identity, or lack thereof. First under the “L.” Finally under “T.” We were found.


The elaborate ballroom of Houston Country Club had been taken over by stations, hubs for wine sipping, and children’s artwork. Water color hearts and Sauvignon Blancs. Crayon space shuttles and Cabernets. Finger-paint caterpillars and fizzy Rosés. You get the picture…


With empty glasses we approached each of the tables manned by sommeliers from familiar restaurants. Our first stop was at Le Minstral where the french accent was thick, but the Sauvignon Blanc was light and crisp. I won’t pretend to know anything about the art of wine (or the art of children, for that matter), but I tried to keep up as well as I could with the barrel of buzz words from Sylvain Denis.


At each point along the road of tables covered in bottles was another recognizable name from a recognizable restaurant. Because all deserve mention and I am not allotted enough words to write about each, just take a gander at the line-up that The Periwinkle Foundation was able to put together:

Sean Beck — Backstreet Café, Hugo’s and Trevisio
Vanessa Treviño Boyd — Philippe Restaurant + Lounge
Ron Brandani — Carrabba’s Kirby
Bryan Davis — Haven
Sylvain Denis — Le Mistral Restaurant
Pedro Garcia — El Meson Restaurant
Sam Governale — Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Saree Mulhern — Republic National Distributing Company
Cathy Nguyen — Mark*s American Cuisine
Tatiana Panirovskaya and Christophe Paul — Café Rabelais and Brasserie Max & Julie
Ben Roberts — Masraff’s
Mike Sammons — 13 celsius wine bar
Evan Turner — Fox Hollow Gastro Lounge


And the list of wines they were serving? Well, that’s in a pdf link that you’ll have to check out on your own time.

Easily, this event would stand on its own. There doesn’t have to be a charity or non-profit attached to Iron Sommelier to survive in a world of crowded calendars. Thankfully, The Periwinkle Foundation does reap the reward of putting on this competition and art auction. Oh, that’s right. The art… Shall I bless you with a critique of a eight year old’s creation?


No. Never. But that’s what it felt like walking around the dancing floor of the Houston Country Club ballroom.

All of the artwork from the children sponsored by The Periwinkle Foundation was on display in a long strip down the middle of the room. Faux art critics such as myself walked up and down, inspecting each piece of work, looking for a gem. How could you consider any above the others? All you had to do was write your name on a piece of paper to place your bid. I wanted to bid on them all.


And then there were the big guns…

Guest artists contributed to the frames of the art. These were the centerpiece, each work’s title posted to the big board where the real bidders with deep pockets would do battle. The artists included: Joan Son, Kelly Gale Amen, Kermit Eisenhut, Régine Gaud, Marsh Dorsey – Outlaw and Kim Ritter. Soon the bidding was much too far over my head. My line of credit paled in comparison to the numbers thrown up on the big board.


Luckily for me, I still had the opportunity to take in all of the inspirational art around the floor. That’s really what it was all about anyway, right? The children. The stories. The cause. Even though Sean Beck of Backstreet Cafe and Hugo’s took home the championship belt once again and Bryan Davis of Haven was crowned the People Champ, everyone in attendance was able to walk away from Iron Sommelier with their head a little higher. I walked away comfortable in my suit.


Check out all the photos in our Flickr Set – Iron Sommelier 2011

— Paul


The Periwinkle Foundation — Wednesday, April 13, 2011 6:32 pm

Paul, Thanks again for attending, glad to see you had a good time! Thanks for the wonderful write up and photos!

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