A balmy temperature, light breeze, fine food, flowers and greenery as far as you could see -- all at last night's Toast & Taste fundraiser for the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. It is, hands down, the most beautiful, tranquil fundraiser in town. Where else can you meander at your leisure, sip wine or beer (or both), nibble on appetizers and have a stunning vista -- and space to yourself. No crowded windowless ballrooms here! And the food is fresh, local and green. Oh, is that a smoke bush over there? I've never seen caladium in those colors. The white phlox are as tall as I am! What's not to love about this evening?

These four lovely ladies with their garlands of greenery, were among the guests at the event (from left, Celina Kane, Carrie Guenther of Ashley Fox Designs; Jill Leenay, arboretum staff; and Ashley Fox of  Ashley Fox Designs).

Best fare among the more than 40 restaurants, wineries and breweries represented:

Without a doubt, Cafe Maude's harissa-spiced lamb kebabs with yogurt mint sauce was at the top of my list with amazingly tender ground lamb that seemed to melt-in-the-mouth. Had to go back for a second sample.









For the most elaborate dish served, the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant served up its crayfish boil, which is on its patio menu only Friday through Sunday this weekend from 4 to 9 p.m., for $15 a bucket that serves two. Such a fun -- and messy -- deal.












I loved the twist on the the more familiar cantaloupe/proscuitto appetizer that the Arboretum Catering staff had to offer. In this case it was watermelon wrapped in proscuitto with blue cheese crumbles and a drop of chive oil that was as lovely as it was tasty. I will be doing this at home.












Then there was the Minnesota walleye "ceviche" (actually smoked walleye since freshwater fish cannot be eaten raw) from Prairie Bay Grill in the Brainerd area, which was lovely, served atop a slice of cucumber. Several vendors used the cucumber slice to serve up apps, which is a terrific "holder" for summer entertaining.












Stood in line twice for my favorite dessert, ice cream from Sonnie's ice cream/Crema Cafe. Roasted banana and lemon cucumber were the taste treats I couldn't resist -- no photograph because I ate them before I remembered to take out the camera. 












Throughout it all, musicians played in the Twin Cities' perfect setting. Great evening that supported the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.





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