'Taste of America' honors Sept. 11

As Sept. 11 approaches, many Americans may be unsure of how to commemorate the anniversary of the tragedy that struck this country a decade ago.

"It's been 10 years, but we all remember where we were that day," said Andrew Harris, owner of Mediterranean restaurant Maestro 2300.

In honor of the anniversary, Harris is preparing a special evening at the restaurant.

A Mediterranean restaurant might not be the most obvious place to hold a commemorative all-American wine dinner, but that's exactly what Harris is doing for the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11.

"We wanted to do it in remembrance of all the people who have served our country," Harris said. "The main reason we are doing this is to not forget those people, to remember them."

"This is the first time we've done anything like this," said James Bramlett, chef at Maestro 2300, "so we're really excited to pay tribute to all the people that lost their lives and the people who worked hard in the aftermath."

Harris described the mixed reactions he received from a potential dinner guest.

"I had some guy tell me the other day that he didn't want to come because he thought we were stepping over dead bodies," Harris said.

But Harris is not letting the negativity of others get in the way.

"We don't want to forget what happened that day," Harris said. "This is to stir everybody's memory."

The major highlights of the evening are not just the food and wine, but also the special guests.

Speakers include a variety of military personnel. Some served in Iwo Jima, while others are returning from tours in Afghanistan.

One honored guest, Sgt. Charles Bush, is a regular server at Maestro 2300.

"At first I thought I had to work it," Bush said. "Andrew surprised me by saying I was an honored guest. It was the most surprising news."

As guests arrive, they will be served hors d'oeurves of pimento cheese over crackers with celery hearts. The dinner will consist of five courses accompanied by five wines.

The wines come from five different states: New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, California and Alabama. All of the produce is American as well, including corn from Lee County, Cullman sweet potatoes and Georgia quail.

"We're trying to do a menu that reflects things from all over the country," Bramlett said.

The dinner is $85 a person, and Harris said he is confident it will be booked solid.

"We want to show the best this country has to offer," Harris said.

Harris said he hopes the event and the special guest speakers will remind everyone of those who fought for our country as a result of the events of Sept. 11.

"That's what we need to do," Harris said. "We never need to forget."

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