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Winston’s annual heirloom tomato dinner returns for three nights in August

Like tomatoes?

Beyond sliced and salted or buttressed by white bread slices, mayonnaise, lettuce and bacon?

Beyond tomato soup and grilled cheese even?

Then the annual Heirloom Tomato dinner at Winston’s, the restaurant at Sullivan University’s school of hospitality, is definitely for you.

The multi-course tomato-centered dinner began a few years ago as a one evening event.

Now it extends to three nights, Aug. 8, 9 and 10 and at 6:30 p.m.

Winston’s chef-instructor and all around hilarious dude, John Castro, not only pushes his own creative boundaries with this meal, he’ll push your palate’s. That it’s become so popular—about a quarter of all attendees are from out of town—is no surprise.

Why tomatoes? Like many of us, Castro became captivated by them as a kid, when they were an abundant staple in his mother’s garden. His tomato epiphany occurred when his mother told him to taste it straight from the vine, outdoors-warm, to get its full range of flavors.

(More proof why you never refrigerate fresh tomatoes.)

All tomatoes gathered for the Heirloom dinner are locally grown. And given the quality and availability, Castro has drawn from as many as nine varieties for the meal, which always includes the Naked Tomato Discussion. That course sees tomato wedges served at each table with a variety of salts—that’s it, that’s all, there ain’t no more—so guests can understand the subtle nuances of each variety.

Price for the dinner is $65 per person (plus tax and gratuity), and optional wine pairings are available for an additional $25. (Big bargain, folks!) For reservations, call 502-456-0980.

Here’s the menu:

  • First course: Kir royale with heirloom tomato and Gavi
  • Second course: stuffed shrimp with pork and shallots, wrapped in a wonton skin and served with fresh salsa seasoned with Szechuan pepper and sesame
  • Third course: chilled ghost gazpacho with red onion, tomato, sour cream, fresh jalapeño, red vein sorrel and cucumber
  • Fourth course: Naked Tomato Discussion
  • Fifth course: braised beef short rib finished with Marsala tomato sauce, mashed potatoes and grilled ciabatta
  • Sixth course: doughnut filled with raspberry tomato jam with sweetened cream cheese icing, served with cardamom ice cream