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Dinner in the Diner During the Golden Age of Rail Travel PART 2 ALSO INSIDE • Event Report: Old School Steakhouse with Red Wines from Around the World The International Wine and & Food Society IWFS Americas, Inc. 2019 Douro River Cruise, Part 4, June 11, 2019 • Upcoming Omaha Branch Events • Blast from the Past

A publication of the Omaha Branch of the International Wine and Food Society



e were treated to a different kind of couples event in October with Dave Thrasher’s Old School Steakhouse with Red Wines from Around the World dinner. One of the most iconic old school steakhouses in Omaha is Gorat’s. Gorat’s never claimed to be Italian like a lot of our old steakhouses: Venice Inn, Anthony’s, Angies and others. The only thing that made them “Italian” was the mostaccioli they served as a side dish with some tomato sauce! But I found the comparison of four reds, first in a blind tasting, then for two courses, a different and educational way to get guests to think about what they are drinking. I was not one of the two that got all four wines correct in the tasting. If you got one wrong, that meant you got 2 wrong. It was also amazing how these wines changed in the glass while breathing, changing my initial opinion. I got the Caymus right, noting its comparatively sweet tone indicative of a rich California wine. I got the Bordeaux and the Shiraz backwards. The Italian I got right away, but was amazed how much it changed in the glass. Many thanks as well to Wayne Markus, Kathy Connolly, Ed Jelinek and Gary Hagebush who plastered their name tags on the back of my suit coat. This was a fun event. Besides, I got my picture taken with Warren Buffet...or at least his cutout! We conclude our two part series on Dinner in the Diner During the Golden Age of Rail Travel. Last month we focused on the history of dining on the train. This time we concentrate on the luxury and elegance of dining by rail. The railroads recognized the powerful pull of dining while traveling. Only the highest quality of food was served, in an atmosphere of white linen covered tables, fine china with the railroad’s logo, heavy plated silver, and freshly cut flowers. White jacketed waiters provided attentive service. It was all elegance, all coming out of a tiny, incredibly warm kitchen. When the domed dining cars came out, these became the most desirable reservations on the rails. Wayne Markus takes us farther up the Douro River in Portugal with the fourth in the series detailing the IWFS Douro River Cruise Festival in Portugal. In Part 4 of our series, the group sailed upstream to Régua and disembarking to explore the Mateus Palace. Mateus rosé hit the American wine scene in the early 1970’s and was selling 4 million cases in the USA alone. Wayne delves into the information Rupert Symington gave at the evening meal aboard the Queen Isabel. Head of the Symington Family Estates, he represents Graham, Dow, Warre, and Cockburn Port lodges. Wayne also brings us some Port History from Richard Mayson’s book Port and the Douro. Cheers!

Tom Murnan Cover Photo: Interior of a dining car set for a meal. 4/20/1916

(Bostwick-Frohardt Collection. Courtesy of the Durham Museum)

“Sign on a hen house: An egg a day keeps Colonel Sanders away.” From The Best of the Cockle Bur compiled and edited by Harry B Otis, 3rd President 1973-1974 Page 2 · 2019 ·

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A publication of the Omaha Branch of the International Wine and Food Society

Old School Steakhouse with Red Wines from Around the World Story by Dave Thrasher // Photos by Tom Murnan & Ron Policky


ur club tends to host events at Omaha’s finest dining establishments, along with new up and coming restaurants, so I wanted to try something different and go to a restaurant that we haven’t been for several years. For my October event this year I decided to go with an “Old School Steakhouse” theme hosted at Gorat’s Steakhouse. Having grown up in Omaha, I always remember Gorat’s being the “Oracle of Omaha”—Warren Buffet’s— favorite restaurant, and they happen to be celebrating their 75th year in business this year. Additionally, I wanted to bring something unique from a wine tasting perspective. We only do formal tastings a few times per year, and almost never do them at couple’s events, so I wanted to do a blind tasting of red wines from around the world as well. Guests arrived for quaffing with red wines from our cellar along with a selection of French white wines that were served with appetizer spread of Gorat’s famous Onion Rings, Fresh Bruschetta and Spinach Artichoke Dip. For dinner, the group transitioned to the back of the restaurant where a private dining space was prepared for us. The space was configured with tables of six and eight to accommodate our group of 33 people. The first course was served, which was a Crab Cake Salad with mixed greens, raspberry vinaigrette and mango salsa. The wine pairing consisted of a 2016 Ramey Fort Ross-Seaview Chardonnay from Sonoma Valley that scored 96 points from Wine Enthusiast. A rich,

creamy California Chardonnay was chosen to pair with the savory, sweet crab cakes and I thought it worked nicely. However, the raspberry vinaigrette was too sweet and wasn’t the perfect dressing to pair with the crab cake or the wine in my opinion. Then things got more interesting... We were presented with four red wines and enjoyed a blind tasting to see if we were able to identify which wine was which. The group was aware that we were serving a 2013 Caymus Cabernet from California, a 2008 Smith Haut Lafitte from Bordeaux, a 2009 Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz from Australia and a 2010 Farroria Galardi “Terra di Lavoro” red blend from Italy, but did now know the order. After taking a few minutes to blind taste the wine, the servers presented us with the second course which was a Veal Marsala served with wild rice, mushrooms and Marsala wine sauce. Full 5-ounce pours were served for the tasting so that we could enjoy the same wines with the second and third courses to see if which varietals we enjoyed most with two different dishes. After we completed the second course, we discussed the wines and the group voted to see if they were able to identify which one was which. Blind tasting is something that we don’t do enough as a club and I believe it is the best way to truly learn about wine. And while many in the room had enjoyed these wines before, only 2 people out of 33 were able to identify all four wines correctly!

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After we discussed the wines and determined which was which, we then asked the group which varietal people enjoyed most with the food. The votes were all over the board and each wine received votes, which shows how versatile wine can be. We often tend to order a Cabernet or Bordeaux with red meat, but we should keep an open mind and try new varietals from time to time. Each of the wines paired wonderfully with the Veal Marsala, so we moved on to see how they paired with the next course. The third course consisted of a Filet Mignon served with hollandaise, grilled asparagus, and duchess potatoes. Again, all of the wines paired beautifully with the steak and there wasn’t a clear cut winner, although the Smith Haut Lafitte appeared to get the most votes. The dessert course was an Seasonal Cobbler served a-la-mode alongside a 2009 Myrat Sauternes. The Myrat Sauternes was a beautiful wine, and its mouthwatering honeysuckle, apricot and vanilla were a nice complement to the fruit cobbler. Thanks to “new” owner Gene Dunn, who purchased the restaurant in 2013, the kitchen staff, and the servers who all combined together to give us a great meal.

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A publication of the Omaha Branch of the International Wine and Food Society

DINNER IN THE DINER DURING THE GOLDEN AGE OF R AIL TR AVEL, PART 2 Story by Tom Murnan Photos Courtesy of Union Pacific Railroad Museum


e conclude our story which is based on James Porterfield’s book Dining by Rail. The dining car was a marvel of organization. From its humble beginnings of 60 feet long, modern cars turned into a length of 200 feet. Railroads developed

toast, Dover Sole, Whitefish, Wenatchee apples, Lobster Newburg On Toasted Cornbread, steaks and the like. The Wenatachee Valley apple (Rome Beauty) was promoted by Great Northern for their large size and delicious taste, and special dishes were promoted using the apples on the train. Railroad lines would contract for food and beverage items. For example, the Union Pacific joined forces with the Roma Wine Company in the 1940’s to private label white wine.

Union Pacific Winged Streamliner China (Photo by Tom Murnan)

their own logo marked china and extra heavy silver plated flatware. Re-equipping the cars was a never ending job, done with great skill. Only the highest quality of beef, veal, mutton, poultry, fish or pork was selected. Dairy and fruit items were of the best quality. Railroads were always on the lookout for unusual items that a consumer could not get at home. For example, The Great Big Baked Potato was touted by the Northern Pacific. They discovered that large Yakima Valley potatoes were being fed to the pigs because, at 5 pounds, they were too large and were considered impossible to bake. A two pound spud was deemed ideal, but larger than we typically get today. The secret of baking was to deeply pierce each end with an ice pick and add a pan of water in the oven to replace lost moisture. Other lines promoted their French

Courtesy of Craig and Marty Neros

salt and lard together, then put it in an ice chest for later use. Seeing the commercial, potential General Mills then turned it into a Betty Crocker product for sale to average consumers, and it didn’t have to be refrigerated. The Pullman Loaf was sandwich bread baked in square, straight sided pans so that all sides were the same size. This enabled better stacking and storing of the loaf in a crowded kitchen

Wine label, Roma Wine Company, bottled for Union Pacific RR circa 1940s. (Courtesy of the Union Pacific Railroad Museum)

Amazing food came out of these small, cramped, very hot kitchens (up to 125°), where, on cross country Limited Trains, they would have to produce three meals a day. The chefs were very innovative. Bisquick was invented by chefs of the Southern Pacific and revolutionized American eating habits. An executive of General Mills was astounded how quickly he received an order of hot biscuits and asked the chef how it was done. The chef told him he blended flour, baking powder,

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Dome diner number 8004, one of ten built in 1955. These were among the most glamorous and popular dining cars operating in the scenic American west. (Courtesy of the Union Pacific Railroad Museum)

than regular rounded top, cross country. In the 1950’s, trains had beveled sided loaves. To to compete with buses, automobiles and keep bacon from curling air travel. By May 1, 1971, Amtrak took up and breaking, it was over America’s passenger rail travel. Rail first partially cooked in car dining ceased altogether in 1983, but the oven to break the has started up again in certain areas. grain of the meat, then But the memories remain. What was it placed in the broiler to that made dining on a train such a memfinish. Thus prepared, it orable experience? It was a combination laid flat on the plate withof the “miraculous quality to the service out crumbling or curling. of a freshly prepared four-course meal Menus were unusual, but from the confines of a dining-car kitchen” not so far away from and the romance of travel. Mark Twain what patrons were used described this as “an exhilarating sense to lest they be afraid to of emancipation from all sorts of cares order an item. One of the and responsibilities.” And that feeling unusual recipes was Canwas enhanced by being on a train, being Domed dining area on the Union Pacific’s City of Los Angeles. These taloupe Pie on the Texas served high quality, delicious food, as were among the most desirable seats available for rail dining. When & Pacific Railway, and spectacular scenery passed by, viewed first introduced, a special steward was assigned to those dining in the can be found in Porterbehind large windows. Literally, a movdome. (Courtesy of the Union Pacific Railroad Museum) field’s book. able feast. Patrons loved the combination of Postscript: There are still a few working haps to the lounge, or back to their waiting luxury, top quality food while moving dining cars in existence today. The Napa seat. Then the process was repeated for and viewing an ever changing panorama Valley Wine Train provides wine and gourthe different sittings. After the passengers of scenery. Especially desirable were the met dining. The Texas State Railroad has were fed, the staff of porters, conductors, domed SKY VIEW cars that featured a brakemen were served. glass dome above the regular roof of the Finally, the dining dining car. Impeccable service started with car crew got to eat. the commissary loading the train. PerishRestocking the train able foods were packed in watertight conoccurred during stops tainers and packed in ice. One hour before at different termideparture, any meat grinding was done nals. Dining cars did to guarantee freshness. The cleaning crew not typically accomhad already washed down the walls and pany the train for its floors, wiped the tables and vacuumed the full destination. They carpets. As the dining car was taken to the would be dropped off train, the chefs began preparations: baking on a side rail after the bread, roasting meats, prepping desserts eating service was over and vegetables. Waiters would set the and be taken back to tables with linen, dishes, silverware and its city of origin or its glasses, placing a silver vase of fresh flownext drop off point. ers on each table. Uniforms were spotless. Rail dining, howTypical evening dining seating was ever, was always a loss Interior of a dining car set for a meal. 1916 (Bostwick-Frohardt offered at 5:00, 6:00 and 7:00. Meals leader for the railroads. Collection. Courtesy of the Durham Museum) might be announced by a waiter using By 1937, the average chimes, passing out menus or posting a meal on the Pennsylvasign for each cabin. Water and coffee were a dining car. The San Diego Winery Train nia RR sold for $1.24, while its true cost offered to the diner upon arrival to the offers a fine dining with wine luncheon. to the RR was $1.61, creating a loss of dining car, as well as menus, order forms There is also My Old Kentucky Dinner $1 million. By 1949 the loss was $4 miland pencils. The waiter tore the top copy Train out of Bardstown, KY, which operlion, and by 1957 it rose to $29 million. of the two part order form off and subates in Bourbon country. Outside the USA, The railroads considered low cost meals mitted the order to the kitchen. He then there are also some dining cars still providas an advertising expense. If they raised delivered bread, salads and the like. A ing service, like the Orient Express. the price to break even, it would be higher steward prepared alcoholic mixed drinks than the finer restaurants and hotels and or opened wine. Attentive service was proSource: Dining By Rail by James D. Porterfield, customers would balk. The Great Depresvided throughout the meal: delivering the Saint Martin’s Griffin, New York 1993. sion reduced ridership and passenger courses and clearing the table. At the end funds available for meals. World War II of the meal, the waiter discretely handled Wine label sourced from Wikipedia; further curtailed dining by rail, and after payment and customers moved on, the war, most rail travel was intercity, not

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A publication of the Omaha Branch of the International Wine and Food Society



A publication of the Omaha Branch of the International Wine and Food Society

Douro River 3rd Day – Tuesday



ne of the best parts of the cruise was being on the sundeck enjoying the Douro River, the Quintas, beautiful vineyards, and terraces. The weather was very nice, but it could have been very hot.

A bit about the Tollmans and Uniworld. Beatrice “Bea” Tollman is the founder of Red Carnation Hotels. Her husband Stanley Tollman is founder of The Travel Corporation (TTC) and their son Brett is the CEO of TTC. TTC is the owner of Uniworld and several other travel companies. Their motto is “In pursuit of Excellence.” Bea has said “Your guests teach you your business.” They feel strongly about the importance of their employees and Mrs. Tollman gives each a gift every year. She is a self-taught chef and has published five editions of her cookbook, “A Life in Food.” Some of her recipes are served on the Uniworld riverboats. There is a nice review of the Tollman family by Ruthanne Terrero in Luxury Travel Advisor.

Motor coaches took us to the town of Vila Real and the Italian baroque Palácio de Mateus, built by the 3rd Morgado [eldest son and heir] of Mateus in the early 1600s. The first wine many Americans enjoyed, especially in the 1960’s and 70’s, was a semi-sweet lightly sparkling Mateus Rose (Alvarelhão grape) or Lancer’s in the crock bottle, both Portuguese. The classic Mateus bottle, still used today, was influenced by the helmet of the Portuguese soldiers in WWI. The 14th generation of the family still lives there.

The entrance to the property is enhanced by a reflecting lake built in the 1950’s and today is surrounded by large oak and chestnut trees. A sculpture of a sleeping nude woman by João Cutileiro is in the foreground of the lake since 1981. With the reflecting castle it makes an interesting photograph.

The Queen Isabel launched up the Douro River early in the early morning for the city of Régua. We passed through the Carrapatelo lock, the deepest in Europe with a water level change of 35 meters. We passed through five locks each direction with inches to spare: the Crestuma-Lever, Carrapatelo, Bagaúste, Valeira and Pocinho. A special set of controls off to the side of the foredeck is for the captain to use in the locks. The Douro is comprised of three districts, from West to East Baixa Corgo, Cima Corgo, and Douro Superior. Douro Superior produces the best wines and is the most beautiful.

The entrance to the property is enhanced by a reflecting lake built in the 1950’s and today is surrounded by large oak and chestnut trees. A sculpture of a sleeping nude woman by João Cutileiro is in the foreground of the lake since 1981. With the reflecting castle it makes an interesting photograph. The Mateus Gardens were planted in the 1700’s and have since been modified and modeled after the gardens of Versailles by the grandmother of the current Count. The palace has chestnut ceilings and a library of 3000 books, including the first illustrated and Portugal’s most important epic poem, Os Lusíadas by Luís Vaz de Camões. Many original pieces of furniture including a table with a top of mother of pearl and dark turtle shell are on display. There is a private chapel, still used two days a year and a room of religious artifacts including a collection of relics obtained from the Vatican. On the motor coach dome-shaped concrete balõs were pointed out. The locals call these “mamas” or “Ginas” after Gina Lollobrigida or “Dolly Partons.” These are used to store wine in the Douro region over the winter. Some are still in use.

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Rupert Symington was our first guest speaker for dinner. The Symingtons trace their lineage of working in the Port trade back through 14 generations to 1652. Rupert is CEO of Symington Family Estates that own and operate Graham, Dow, Warre, and Cockburn Port houses. They also own a portfolio of non-fortified Douro wines including Quinta do Vesuvio, Quinta do Ataíde, Altano, and Prats & Symington. The latter is a widely acclaimed joint venture that produces Chryseia and Post Scriptum both of which were served later in the week. They own twenty-six Quintas covering 2,255 hectares of which 1,024 hectares are under vine. He is an engaging speaker presenting a very interesting history of Port and non-fortified wines in the Douro of which much of the following is abstracted along with many details from Richard Mayson’s book Port and the Douro and discussions. The British and French were often at war from 1193 until Waterloo in 1815. The British taxed French wine heavily. In 1667, under Louis XIV, a protectionist policy was instituted essentially closing the market for British fabric in France. The British countered by prohibiting trade with France. The British began buying more Portuguese wine. The Methuen Treaty of 1703, the “Port Wine Treaty,” allowed English woolen cloth to be imported duty free into Portugal and in return, Portuguese wines exported to England would be subject to a third less duty than wines imported from France. This treaty tremendously benefitted the wine industry of Portugal. The early wines were non-fortified, dry, austere and described as “black strap.” They definitely were not the Port of today. The British, and to a lesser extent the Germans and Dutch, started many of the Port lodges in Gaia to obtain the wine. The wine did not ship well, and many barrels went through secondary fermentation and bacterial contamination resulting in bad wine, even vinegar. They quietly began fortifying with a small amount of brandy to stop the secondary fermentation. This resulted in a sweeter better-preserved wine, the precursor of Port. The British thought this fortification was diabolical, but the wine was improved. >

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A publication of the Omaha Branch of the International Wine and Food Society

< Some were adding elderberry, sugar, spices and even substituting poor quality wine creating a scandal. The Marquis do Pombal, prime minister, took charge and created rules, some not so good, but mostly improved the Port business and wine. Over time the amount of distilled spirits, aguardente, increased from about three gallons (13.6 liters) of brandy fortified into a pipe (about 550 liters) of wine to 115 liters or 20% in today’s Port. It is no longer diabolical. Symington discussed the rather strange governmental quota allowing Port producers to use less than half their grapes for Port. This was designed to protect the farmers and to distribute the amount of Port produced across all vineyards in the Douro. This presents the problem of what to do with the grapes that cannot be turned into Port, thus the interest in non-fortified wines. The Douro is probably the driest area in the world where vines are grown without irrigation, typically 350 mm (13.8 inches) rainfall per year. The grapes brought by the Romans have been propagated and hybridized and have become resistant to drought. These grapes have thick skin, very small berries, and very small bunches, which gives them a very special and distinct concentrated type fruit. The family started experimenting with non-fortified wine in the 1970’s and 1980’s. This resulted in jammy high alcohol wines that were not very sophisticated and would age, but the tannin never went away. Bruno Prats from Cos d’Estournel in Bordeaux teamed up with the Symingtons and taught them not to over-extract and to spend less time on the skins, resulting in more elegant drinkable wines. They continue today as Prats & Symington. This is a little Déjà vu as the original Port wines were not fortified. They use the same indigenous varietals that are used for Port and have not yielded to introducing Cabernet and

Richard Symington & Richard Mayson

other varietals. The wines are not unlike the red wines of the northern Rhone with red plum, fruit, and minerality that take on dried thyme and herb notes. Symington is about to launch into one of the most spectacular, cutting-edge, self-sufficient, sustainable, Leed-certified wineries with a living roof in the Iberian Peninsula. It is a bank on the future of unfortified Portuguese red wine. The following wines were drunk at dinner. The 2017 Altano White is made from Viosinho and Rabigato grapes and, as with many Portuguese white wines, with a little touch of Moscatel to give it flavor and aroma. The wine is about $6 in the local supermarket in Portugal! Rupert thought it went well with Mrs. Tollman’s Broccoli Coleslaw, Spring Leaves and Garlic Crostini. The 2015 Quinta do Ataide is the first vintage from this estate in the Vilariça Valley. The Valley was formed when the Iberian tectonic fault that runs north from the Douro opened up, like the parting of the Red Sea, forming a flat basin about 4 miles wide. The soil is rich loam and schist in which Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca stand out. The Quinta is 100 hectares of flat vineyards that Symington acquired when they purchased Cockburn’s (pronounced co-burns) in 2006. It was planted by Cockburn’s as a way to produce Ports more inexpensively on the flat vineyards. They stopped making Port there, and it is now almost exclusively planted to red grape vines. The Roast Beef Bruschetta set off the minerality of the red wine.

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Symington is about to launch into one of the most spectacular, cutting-edge, self-sufficient, sustainable, Leed-certified wineries with a living roof in the Iberian Peninsula. It is a bank on the future of unfortified Portuguese red wine. Next came two unfortified wines from the Quinta do Vesuvio in the Douro Superior, the wild west of Port region. This may be one of the best quintas in the Douro. It was planted in 1835-1850 and in 1868 produced the first known single quinta wine in Portugal. 2016 Pombal do Vesuvio at $28/ bottle is the second wine of Quinta do Vesuvio. It is 50% Touriga Nacional, (the “Cabernet of the Douro),” 45% Touriga Franca, (the “Merlot of the Douro,”) and 5% Tinta Amarela. It was served with chicken breast, cheese, smoked ham, phyllo pastry and basil. 2016 Quinta do Vesuvio at $75 is the “Chateaux Lafite of the Douro.” It is 56% Touriga Nacional and 28% Touriga Franca.” Human foot treading is used to crush the grapes. It was a natural with US beef strip loin. Don’t know, maybe from Nebraska! This wine was a favorite of several around our table. 1994 Dow’s Vintage Port is made every 3-4 years. The Port Code of Honor is to hold your money and buy the Vintage Port. Vintage Port is 1% of everything they make. Bottles are numbered. The dessert was everything that goes well with Port: Chocolate cake mousse, tangerine sorbet, curd cheese mousseline and nut “Tuile.” Next time: Pinhao; Quinta do Seixo; Reception and Dinner On Board with Wine Expert Richard Mayson.

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A publication of the Omaha Branch of the International Wine and Food Society

blast from

the past

Photos from Mike Dunn & Roger Peterson

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Mark Your Calendars! DEC






15 11 16

Happy Hollow Club New England Holiday Wine Dinner and Dance Producer: Duke Matz

Wine Tasting The Flatiron Producer: Steve Hipple

Le Voltaire Producer: Todd Lemke

HOSTING AN EVENT? Let us know when, where and a little bit about whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s going on! We would love to include YOUR event on the calendar! Email details to:

A publication of the Omaha Branch of the International Wine and Food Society

December 2019

Purpose: To meet communication and service needs, to broaden participation and understand and to be an information exchange for the membership of The International Wine & Food Society in the Americas. Publisher: Todd Lemke Editor: Tom Murnan Graphic Designer: Omaha Magazine, LTD.

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PR ESI DEN T: Tom Murnan............................................... V ICE PR ESI DEN T / SECR ETA RY: Mark Stokes.............. T R E ASU R ER: Les Zanotti................................................ W I N E CELLA R M AST ER: Les Zanotti............................ M EM BERSH I P CH A I R M A N: Duke Matz........................

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KEEP IN TOUCH! Please notify Club President, Tom Murnan, 402.740.4802 or via email at to let him know if you are interested in hosting an IWFS event.

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IWFS Wine & Food Gazette December 2019  

IWFS Wine & Food Gazette December 2019