There’ll be no rest for the wicked on the weekend on May 18-19, as two of the year’s best events unfold.
Perhaps my favorite wine tasting of the year, Solo Vine’s rosé tent gala, commences in an enlarged space next to the store at 517 Selby Av. in St. Paul. There’s always super-swell food on hand and a bevy of tasty fermented grape juice.
And not just pink but white wines and plenty of that stuff with tiny bubbles. The event costs $35 and runs from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, rain or shine; call 651-602-9515 or go to solovinowines.com
I guess that means that, for me at least, Saturday the 18th will be the day to head to Minnesota Monthly’s GrillFest, where some great chefs, wine wholesalers and product purveyors will be on hand.
This one runs through Sunday, May 18 & 19, 1-5 p.m., both days, at the Depot (225 3rd Ave. S.) in Minneapolis. Tickets are $30 at Grillfestival.com or $35 at the show.
Guess I’ll have to put off the gardening chores for yet another weekend.
Michael Pollan, the best-selling author whose many works are on the shelves of those following food issues, will be in town May 2, at Beth El Synagogue to talk about his new book "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation" as part of the synagogue's "Inspiring Minds" series. Pollan is the author of "Food Rules," "The Omnivore's Dilemma," "In Defense of Food" and other volumes that have been must-reads in the food world. His new book will be published in late April and focuses on the four elements (fire, water, air, earth) that transform the stuff of nature into good things to eat and drink.
Tickets for the event:
$500 for the VIP ticket, which includes a private reception (appetizers by Heidi and Stewart Woodman, chef/owners of Heidi's and Birdhouse) and a photo opportunity with Pollan, reserved seating, a copy of his new book.
$180 for reserved seating and a copy of the book.
$60 for a general admission ticket
$25 for a senior (65 or older) or student general admission.
Part of the proceeds of the event will benefit Appetite for Change, a North Minneapolis nonprofit that uses food as a vehicle for social change. The event will also benefit Beth El Synagogue.
For tickets or more information, see www.besyn.org/pollan or call 952-873-7300.
The event will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the synagogue, 5224 W. 26th St., St. Louis Park.
Join us as we celebrate Taste’s 43rd birthday with a special screening of the 1967 classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” at Taste Night at the Heights Theatre on Thursday, Nov. 1.
The particulars first: Tickets are $8 and are available at the door; for advance (non-refundable) tickets, go here. Showtime is at 7:30, but be sure to arrive early, because along with the movie, we’ll be featuring the song stylings of organist Harvey Gustafson at the theatre’s mighty Wulitzer. There’s also a cookbook raffle, with proceeds benefiting Second Harvest Heartland.
Here’s a quick plot synopsis: Dr. John Prentiss (Sidney Poitier) and Joey Drayton (Katharine Houghton) meet in Hawaii, quickly fall in love and decide to marry. They return to San Francisco to tell Joey’s parents, Matt and Christina Drayton (Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn). Through various convenient plot complications — it’s a kind-of romantic comedy, so they’re allowed — Prentiss’ parents (Beah Richards and Roy Glenn) fly up from Los Angeles to meet their future daughter in law (leading Hepburn to utter to Tracy, in her inimitable Connecticut accent, “Guess who’s coming to dinner?”). They gather over dinner — prepared by the Drayton’s maid, Tillie Binks — with longtime Drayton family friend Monsignor Mike Ryan (Cecil Kellaway).
The issue is that Dr. Prentiss is black, and Miss Drayton is white. “Guess” is a prime example of what Hollywood once referred to as a “message movie.” The subject of interracial marriage was a radical one for a mainstream Hollywood film in 1967, but a timely one.
“But you do know, I’m sure you know, what you’re up against,” says Tracy’s character to his daughter and her fiance. “There will be 100 million right here in this country who will be shocked and offended and appalled at the two of you.” Several weeks after filming was complete, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriage in its Loving v. Virginia ruling. The movie opened six months later.
“Guess” garnered 10 Oscar nominations (including, shockingly, for both Art Direction/Set Direction and Music; you’ll know why they rate a “shockingly” when you see the movie), and won two: William Rose, for his original screenplay, and Katharine Hepburn (pictured, above) in the Best Actress category. It was her second Academy Award (“They don’t usually give these things to the old girls, you know,” is what she wrote in a thank-you telegram to the academy); her first, for “Morning Glory,” was in 1934, and she would go on to win two more, for “The Lion in Winter” in 1968 and 1981’s “On Golden Pond."
Other nominations included Best Picture, Best Actor (Tracy), Best Supporting Actor (Kellaway), Best Supporting Actress (Richards), Directing (Stanley Kramer) and Editing (Robert C. Jones).
Entertainment value aside, “Guess” boasts a treasure trove of Hollywood history and trivia. It was Tracy’s final film; he died 17 days after filming his last scene, part of a week-long endurance race to complete his character’s climactic eight-minute monologue. Tracy’s illness made him uninsurable, and so Hepburn and Kramer placed their salaries in escrow until filming was completed. It was the ninth film that Hepburn and Tracy made together, starting with “Woman of the Year” in 1942.
The cast included two women who would later become familiar to TV audiences. In her film debut, Isabel Sanford played Tillie Binks; in 1981 she would become the first African-American woman to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy, as Louise Jefferson in “The Jeffersons.”
Virginia Christine (pictured, above), who played the bigoted Hilary St. George to perfection (the actress was a favorite of Kramer’s), was also famous for her 21-year run as Mrs. Olson in a series of commercials for Folger’s Coffee. The scene where Hepburn's character tells her off in no uncertain terms is one of the movie's highlights.
The part of Joey Drayton was played by Katharine Houghton, Hepburn’s 22-year-old niece; “Guess” was her film debut. Poitier was the No. 1 box office draw that year, thanks to “Guess” and two other hit movies that had been released in the span of six months, “In the Heat of the Night” and “To Sir, With Love.” He wasn’t much younger than the two actors playing his parents; there was a seven-year difference between Poitier and Richards, and 13 years between Poitier and Glenn.
“Guess” has plenty of food references, most notably a scene at a drive-in (pictured, above, and staged in front of one of moviedom’s cheesiest rear-projection screens), where Tracy makes a fuss over fresh Oregon boysenberry sherbet. And it ends, of course, with everyone sitting down to dinner.
That's because I'll be tweeting my way through the fair's 35-plus new foods, from bacon ice cream and Paul Bunyon Bars to walleye rolls and red velvet funnel cakes. Follow me on Twitter, or catch the feed here.
If you're visiting the fair after opening day, don't hit the Carousel Park without checking out my four-star to zero-star ratings of all the new foods. We'll post it online on Friday, and it will appear in print in Variety on Saturday.
Meanwhile, if you're on the Fairgrounds on Thursday, don't miss Taste editor Lee Svitak Dean. She'll be meeting-and-greeting at the Star Tribune booth (Carnes Av., in front of the Grandstand Ramp) from 10 to 11 a.m. (while you're there, pick up the Strib's pickle-flavored lip balm). And from 1 to 2 p.m., Lee will be in the Saint Agnes Bakery kitchen in the Creative Activities Building (Dan Patch Av. and Cosgrove St.), preparing Thin Mint Bars, which, if you're a chocolate and mint lover -- and frankly, who isn't -- will become an integral part of your baking repertoire.
Next Thursday in Taste (and Wednesday afternoon at Startribune.com/taste), we'll have my rundown on the foods all first-time Fairgoers need to eat.
By the way, the above picture is also from the Strib archive. That's Ruth Marie Peterson of Austin, Minn., the 1955 Princess Kay of the Milky Way, milking Filco Ormsby Dainty Lady. They're in front of the all-you-can-drink milk booth. Note the price: 10 cents a glass. It's now a buck, and still one of the fair's best values.
It was a tough choice to make, to determine the best entry: a beautifully designed beer-cheese BLT soup by Jack Riebel of Butcher & the Boar, or a fragrant three-course meal of an heirloom tomato salad with charred-tomato vinaigrette, a trout and vegetable tagine, and a chilled melon soup for dessert from Sameh Wadi of Saffron. That was the decision the judges had to make Saturday during the Chef Challenge at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, an event held in multiple cities, sponsored by Country Financial and, here, the Minneapolis Farmers Market.
The chefs had 20 minutes to find their foods of choice at the market, and $50 to spend, followed with 30 minutes to prepare their dish. Jack and Sameh raced through the aisles of the very crowded market (or at least they tried to; it was tough to get customers to move out of the way), grabbing the tomatoes, cantaloupe, trout, bacon, bread and more to be used in the prep.
Jack, at right, relied on what he called "the three killer 'Bs' for his dish: beer, bacon and bread. Each chef was allowed to bring two ingredients to the event. Jack brought vinegar and beer; Sameh also turned to vinegar, as well as his own spice blend.
"This is more stressful than Iron Chef. It's Jack Riebel," said Sameh at the start of the competition. By 11 minutes from deadline, Jack noted, "Stress, stress, stress."
But neither seemed too stressed; they were calmly -- though hastily -- at work, focused on the end results.
I was one of the four judges, who included food blogger Stephanie Meyer and WCCO-TV weekend anchors Matt Brickman and Jamie Yuccas.
Take a look for yourself at the completed dishes. Jack cooked and plated a stunning soup in the very formal, elegant method of first presenting the soup ingredients without the broth, then at the table slowly pouring in the liquid. No matter how many times I've had soup presented this way, it makes me swoon. See the tomatoes, maple-glazed bacon and green onion? That's a slice of gouda atop the bacon and the mild beer-cheese broth also uses the cheese. It was a real stunner. Here's how the dish was initially served before the liquid was added, followed by a photo after the addition of the beer-cheese broth.
Sameh presented a three-course meal, starting with a salad of heirloom tomatoes with a charred-tomato vinaigrette. The fragrance was wonderful. The dressing was drizzled on the salad at the table. (Again, a swooning moment.)
Heirloom Tomato Salad With Tomato Vinaigrette
• 5 heirloom tomatoes, (3 sliced thinly, plus 2 whole for vinaigrette), divided
• 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
• 3 tbsp. olive oil
• 1/4 jalapeno (no seeds)
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1/2 pint (2 cups) raspberries
• A few fresh basil leaves
To make vinaigrette: Char 2 tomatoes over flame until mostly black. Do not rinse off the charred bits. In a blender, combine tomatoes with vinegar, olive oil, jalapeno, salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Pour over sliced tomatoes. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, raspberries, salt and pepper.
Second course from Sameh was a seafood tagine made with rainbow trout and vegetables (zucchini, patty-pan squash and corn in the mix), mixed with North African spices, a blend called ras el hanout. The dish was originally presented in a cobalt blue tagine, then dished up individually for the judges.
Trout Tagine with Ras El Hanout and Corn Broth
Note: Tagine is a type of dish found in the North African cuisines of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, which is named after the special pot in which it is cooked. They are slow-cooked stews braised at low temperatures, resulting in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce. If you don’t have a tagine pot, this recipe could also be prepared in a covered baking dish. This is one of the winning recipes in the Chef Challenge from Sameh Wadi of Saffron restaurant. The recipe calls for a Moroccan spice blend called ras el hanout, which varies considerably depending on who makes it. Wadi uses his own blend of 29 spices that he sells at Saffron and online at saffronMPLS.com/spicetrail.html. Other blends can be used and would be available at Middle Eastern stores, as well as at Kitchen Window (3001 Hennepin Av., Minneapolis, 612-824-4417). The blend typically includes cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chili peppers, coriander, cumin, nutmeg and turmeric. If not using Wadi’s spice mix, adjust the amount to your taste.
• 2 c. corn stock (see directions below)
• 3 ( 5-oz.) pieces rainbow trout or similar fish
• 2 tbsp. ras el hanout (a Moroccan spice blend, see Note), divided
• 4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
• 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
• 1 large onion, sliced thin
• 3 c. fresh corn kernels
• 6 baby zucchini, halved
• 12 baby patty-pan squash, whole
• 1 c. yellow wax beans, blanched and cut into 1-in. pieces
• Salt to taste
• 1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
• 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
To make 2 cups corn stock: Simmer several corn cobs (from the fresh kernels you will use in this dish) with water, onions, garlic and salt for 30 to 45 minutes on medium. Strain and season with a pinch of salt.
To prepare fish: Marinate fish with a pinch of ras el hanout spice and a drizzle of olive oil for 15 minutes and reserve in the refridgerator.
Heat remaining oil in tagine or large pot. Add garlic, onion and corn; cook on low heat. Add zucchini, patty-pan squash and beans. Then season with salt and remaining ras el hanout spice. Add corn stock and reduce liquid by a quarter, with pot uncovered.
Season the fish with salt and place in the tagine with the fresh cilantro. Cook for 3 minutes on high with the cover on. Add the lemon juice and serve.
Third course from Sameh was a frothy muskmelon soup, that will definitely find a place on my summer menus.
• 1 muskmelon, peeled and cut in chunks
• 1/4 c. ice
• 1/4 c. water
• Juice from about 1 1/2 limes
• Honey, to taste
• 1/2 pint (2 c.) raspberries
• Freshly cracked black pepper
• Few sprigs of mint
Combine muskmelon, ice, water, lime juice and a bit of honey (amount will depend on how sweet the melon is) in blender. Purée on high; add more water for desired consistency, then taste (adjusting honey, if needed) and strain.
To serve, place soup in bowls and garnish with raspberries, a sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper and mint leaves. Serve cold.
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