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An evening with Mario

Rick Coates - August 9th, 2010
An Evening with Mario: A Reservation For 2,300, Please!
By Rick Coates
Sam Porter is fresh off his successful first-ever Paella In The Park event last Friday in Traverse City which attracted a sold-out crowd of 1,500. Porter has no time to celebrate as he conducts another first-time event, “An Evening With Mario Batali,” that is expected to attract 2,300 for dinner.
The event is being co-produced by Porterhouse Productions and the National Writers Series. It will take place on the historic front lawn of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons this Saturday, August 14, from 5 to 10 p.m. Tickets range from $35 to $99 (the more expensive the ticket the closer to the stage one sits).
“This is a very fantastic event that starts with the generosity of Mario Batali,” said Porter. “Mario is donating his time and the net proceeds will go the scholarship fund that the National Writer Series has set up.”
Porter says there are “so many aspects of this event” that he is concerned some may not understand what they get for the ticket price.
“There are several components to this evening. First all, everyone is going to be well fed as all tickets include all 10 dishes being prepared from recipes inspired by Mario’s cookbooks,” said Porter.
“There will be a cash bar that will feature local wines and beers. When you purchase your first glass of wine you keep that glass and take it home, it is really nice stemware. For the beer we have canning jars but we are asking that you donate those back as they are going to a youth program to teach canning.”

LOCAL BOUNTY
Porter also wants to emphasize the local aspects of the event.
“This event is about celebrating our local bounty. The food will be sourced from local farms. Chefs from Epicure Catering and The Cooks’ House are working with Mario,” said Porter. “All the flowers are from local farms. There will be 15 local wineries represented, local beer and the Grand Traverse Distillery will be assisting mixologist Bridget Albert with making the Traverse City Cocktail (See Bottoms Up).”
The event will model the National Writers Series format to a point with Batali participating in a Q&A. Guest host Paul Saginaw, co-owner and founding partner of Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, will interview Batali on stage and facilitate the audience Q&A.
“The MC for evening is Billy Harris (of “Magic, Martinis and Mario” fame), and this guy is absolutely hilarious and a magician as well,” said Porter. “So he will be entertaining throughout the evening and will be bringing a guillotine on stage and a lot more. This night will be very interactive.”
Expect an informal opportunity for “attendees to get to know their neighbors.”
“We are not doing reserved seats per se, you buy tickets for certain sections in proximity to the stage but from there we want to encourage people to get to know one another and join others from the community at a table,” said Porter.

COMMUNITY EFFORT
Porter points out that this event is being made possible by the generosity of many in the community.
“When I think about Epicure Catering and The Cooks’ House giving up a Saturday night during the busiest time of the year and probably giving up some serious revenue to make this work and the numerous others willing to donate to this cause, that says something about how special our community is,” said Porter. “I am involved in organizing and promoting a lot of events and this is going to be one of the most spectacular that I have been affiliated with.”
While Batali won’t have time to sit down and autograph copies of his cookbooks, he has promised to sign several books in advance for sale that evening. “An Evening with Mario Batali” will conclude with a gelato station along with music and dancing.
If this event goes as planned, organizers of The National Writers Series plan to host other cookbook or food-based authors annually.
Does Porter fear there might be too much going on in the region all at once?
“I know I am involved with four major events this month alone, but all of them are doing quite well. I think the number of events in the region points to a community that is diverse and wants to be entertained and wants to support worthwhile causes,” said Porter. “The fact that 2,000 people are willing to take a chance on a first-time event supports this.”
Net proceeds from “An Evening with Mario Batali,” support the National Writers Series and its scholarship fund, which benefits college-bound writing and arts students attending Grand Traverse regional schools. Scholarship winners will have their works published in the Midwest’s best literary review, The Dunes Review, and receive their awards at a special multi-day gala reading event, also featuring nationally prominent writers.
The National Writers Series, founded by “Horse Soldiers” author Doug Stanton, Traverse City attorney Grant Parsons and Northern Express reporter Anne Stanton, is a year-round book festival in downtown TC.

Tickets for “An Evening with Mario Batali” are available online at www.nationalwritersseries.org and www.porterhouseproductions.com. Tickets range from $35-$100 and include two full plates of Batali entrees (10 recipes total), cash bar, gelato station, live entertainment and an interactive audience Q&A with Batali.

 
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