Last year, Ernie's Pub had been open only a few months when it scored the Silver Fork award at the Bite of Burnsville for its crème brulee French toast, a decadent dish made with Grand Marnier liqueur.
Every year at the event, affectionately called "the Bite" by organizers, they present a Silver Fork, the people's choice award, and a Silver Spoon, the judge's award. This year, they've added a Silver Knife, the new "cutting edge" award, where people can vote for their favorite restaurant online.
John Pleschourt, owner of Ernie's Pub, said he's going for the whole set this year. His dish: curried grilled shrimp on warm tortillas with a citrus salsa, pickled onion and fresh cilantro.
The 22nd annual Bite, set for Thursday at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center, serves as the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Burnsville Chamber of Commerce. This year's event features more than 40 dishes from local restaurants.
"All the restaurants try to outdo each other," said committee member Katie Tierney. "You get so full."
"You get a little taste of everything in one house," said Tom Toohey, executive chef at Morgan's on Nicollet. The Irish- and English-influenced restaurant plans to showcase their mini shepherd's pies and peach cobbler.
The Roasted Pear will serve crostini with grilled chicken, feta, spinach and sundried-tomatoes, said catering director Kristin Corrigan. It also will offer samples of its chocolate mousse cups with whipped topping and strawberries.
Jamal Ansari of the Mediterranean Cruise Café said it plans to serve the dish that captured the Silver Spoon two years ago — hummus with two different pitas, homemade salsa, gyro meat and a cucumber yogurt sauce.
"It's nice and colorful and tasty," he said.
Kevin Martinez, general manager of the Rack, which opened six months ago, said it will feature wings.
"We don't mess around with our wings," he said. "They're really meaty. You smell 'em before you even bite."
And for some decadent dessert, Sarah Bynum, manager of Buzz, said that it will set up a waffle bar with sauces like chocolate and caramel, with plans to work in some Minnesota love by featuring Scandinavian flavors. It will also have red velvet cupcakes, vanilla cupcakes with butter cream icing, and sugar cookies.
"The restaurants put forth a lot of effort — their time and their money," said the event's restaurant chair, Mark Meier.
Committee member Nathan Kremer said moving to the Burnsville Performing Arts Center in recent years has benefitted the event. "There is just some kind of elegance to it," he said.
The event, which attracts 500 to 700 each year, also features entertainment — this year by G.B. Leighton — and silent and live auctions. Items to be sold this year include a first pitch at a Twins game, a Cannon River winery tour, "Golfapalooza" (four rounds with a cart at various courses), Twins home opener tickets, and new this year, Extreme Sandbox, an opportunity to play in the sand with construction equipment.
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.