Silent Auction To Benefit Gulf Fishermen: Foodie Goodies For Sale

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Even if you aren't attending the upcoming Ceviche Throwdown, you can still help with the Houston Chowhounds' goal of raising $15,000 to support local Gulf fishermen in the wake of the BP oil spill and ensuing environmental disaster. An online silent auction, organized by head 'Hound Jenny Wang, went live this morning with food gifts for every type of food lover and in every price range -- and some that purely priceless.

Have you ever wanted to attend a working dinner with Houston Chronicle food critic and James Beard award winner Alison Cook? Be a guest host on radio show Southbound Food? Be a chef for a day at Brennan's? Learn to butcher a pig with Chef Chris Shepherd of Catalan? Shadow the preeminent Elouise Adams Jones -- Ouisie herself -- for an afternoon at her River Oaks restaurant? These "priceless" items and more are up for sale, going to the highest bidder when the auction is closed on July 19 at high noon.

Looking for something with a more finite dollar sign attached to it? There are items galore for sale -- all of them donated by chefs, restaurant owners, media personnel, PR firms and others in the Houston food community -- some of which you might be able to bag at a bargain price.

In the "Dining & Wining Experiences" category, there's a broad spectrum of dinners and wine pairings available in nearly every price range. Bidding for a Sunday jazz brunch and mimosas for four people at Bailey's American Grille starts at $50, while a full-out weekend at La Torretta del Lago -- complete with six-course meal at Chez Roux and overnight stay at the resort -- starts at only $275.

For a more concrete purchase, you can take home items like an entire case of Domaine de La Laidiere 2005 Cuvee Speciale -- a Bandol wine that won second place at the 2010 International Wine Competition at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo -- starting at $240. Or grab a set of autographed cookbooks from chefs like Emeril Lagasse or Mario Batali starting at $12.50.

A host of gift certificates is also available, perfect for stocking up on for birthdays or Christmas presents or for surprising a special someone with an impromptu dinner. Restaurants and bars offering gift certificates for sale range from casual spots like Big Star Bar to fancy steakhouses like the Strip House (bidding for those $100 gift certificates starts at $50).

Although the silent auction is an extension of the fundraising event, attendance at the Ceviche Throwdown is not required to win an auction item. Online bids for auction items will be accepted and printed out on the bid sheets, and bidding will be concluded at the live silent auction at the Ceviche Throwdown on July 19. In other words, if you aren't attending, bid as high as you can go to ensure that the item you really want won't be snapped up at the live auction.

Those who bid and win online will receive a Paypal invoice via e-mail and the auction committee will make arrangements for pick-up. Payments should be received by July 21 or the next winning bidder will be contacted.

New auction items will be added as the event gets closer. If you don't see something that strikes your fancy today, check back in a few days. You never know what you might find up for sale at the Houston Chowhounds' silent auction.

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