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Photos by Harriet Sokmensuer
Sally Irwin, Pat Lotz, Harry and Sally Rownd, Bob Irwin, Jerry Lotz and Carolyn and Bob Rector
Sarasota Thursday, Jun. 19, 2014 8 years ago

Gourmet Gurus

by: Harriet Sokmensuer Community Editor

Four friends relive old memories of corn drifting out to sea, dysfunctional Christmas lights and Greek desserts gone wrong. At the mention of the corn, one of the ladies’ husbands comes over to the group to tell the story of the “best-tasting corn” he’s ever had.

The stories are familiar and close to everyone’s heart. This group of friends has been meeting five or six times a year for 34 years as part of a gourmet cooking group. The group includes Sally and Bob Irwin, Carolyn and Bob Rector, Pat and Jerry Lotz and Sally and Harry Rownd.

On this June night, the theme is “A Golden Chain,” for “the golden chain of friendship,” hostess Sally Irwin says. The menu celebrates the group’s longevity with some “golden oldies,” including asparagus-and-shiitake risotto and a pink-hued tropical cocktail.

The corn story is one for the books. In the evening’s menu there is a “Tribute to Special Friends” that mentions the corn: “[We] reminisce the memories,” writes Sally Irwin in the tribute, “like, roaming corn … ”

The story goes that when the friends met one evening on Siesta Key, where the Irwins lived at the time, they thought it would be a good idea to soak the corn in the Gulf of Mexico before cooking it. However, the ears escaped from the mesh bag and drifted out into the Gulf; the husbands eventually rescued them.

When the friends started the group in 1980, no one knew how long it would last. However, the group has remained creative and enthusiastic with its cooking throughout the years, such as a Russian-themed evening in 1982 for which the menu included beef Stroganov and Charlotte Russe with caviar and Russian vodka.

The group has moved from Clearwater to Siesta Key to Palmer Ranch. When the Irwins lived on Siesta Key, the friends would eat outside on the beach. This evening, they enjoy the comfort of Sally and Bob Irwin’s dining room in Palmer Ranch.

So far, the evening has gone smoothly — the only thing drifting away is the friends’ hunger as they enjoy another memorable dinner.

For those interested in starting their own cooking group, Sally Irwin is happy to help. Contact her at [email protected].

Tropical cocktail
“It’s a nice, refreshing, drink, and everyone likes it,” says Sally Irwin.

2 cups cranberry juice
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup orange-flavored
or regular vodka
1/4 cup lime juice
Fresh cranberries
Orange slices or lime slices

• Combine the cranberry juice, orange juice, vodka and lime juice in a pitcher, and mix well.

• To serve frozen, freeze in a plastic container for two to three hours, or until partially frozen, and serve in martini glasses.

• Garnish with skewers of cranberries and orange or lime slices.

Contact Harriet Sokmensuer at [email protected]


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