The host state in general -- and a new kid on its block in particular -- came up big at Thursday's International Cold Climate Wine Competition. Four Daughters' 2011 La Crescent captured "best in show" among white wines in the fourth annual event at the University of Minnesota.
Four Daughters Vineyard and Winery, which opened just last year in Spring Valley, Minn., also won the Minnesota's Governor's Cup trophy for top wine from the state.
For the second straight year, Vermont winery Shelburne Vineyard's Marquette (in this case a 2010 Reserve) was named best red wine. The Midnight Voyage Dessert Red Wine from Danzinger Vineyards in Alma, Wis., was deemed best specialty/fortified wine.
The Marquette and La Crescent grapes (the latter is pictured below), developed by the University of Minnesota, showed especially well in the competition. Another Minnesota winery, Hinterland of Clara City, received one of just two "double golds" (panel judges unanimously designated it gold) for its Marquette Reserve. A Marquette from Indian Island in Janesville, Minn., and a La Crescent from Wild Mountain in Taylors Falls earned gold medals.
Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls grabbed two gold medals, for its Sogn Blush and St. Pepin. Also garnering a gold was the Frontenac Gris from Whispering Oaks in Melrose, Minn.
This year's competition included more than 325 entries from commercial wineries in 12 northern states and Canada (only grapes that can withstand harsh winters are eligible). Twenty gold, 61 silver and 79 bronze medals were awarded; for the entire medal list, go here.
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.
It's cool (er) in the evenings, right? So pack up your lawn chair and bug spray and head to the St. Paul Central Library's courtyard on Kellogg Blvd. in downtown St. Paul (90 W. 4th St.) for the four Fridays of July when the folks who are usually in the building will be showing the movies outdoors, beginning at dusk (about 9:30 p.m.). If there is rain, the movie will be cancelled. Here's the schedule:
July 6 -"Mostly Martha." Headstrong chef responsible for stubborn 8-year-old niece, which results in tensions between them until an Italian sous-chef arrives. With Martina Gedeck and Sergio Castellitto.
July 20 -"Eat Drink Man Woman." Semi-retired Chinese master chef who lives with three grown daughters, cooks a lot, deals with his daughters, and eventually finds happiness. Written and directed by Ang Lee.
July 27 - "Big Night." Failing Italian restaurant run by two brothers gambles on one special night to save its business. With Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalboub and Marc Anthony.
No need to pack snacks. There will be food trucks in place nearby.
The drum roll, please . . .
It's the announcement State Fair fans have been waiting for all year.
What are the new foods at August's Great Get-Together? Here's the list, hot off the presses, for the foods that will be competing with all the other fried and on-a-stick delicacies that show up in late summer where thousands of people gather daily (that would be the State Fairgrounds).
Surprisingly, there are few on-a-stick new foods, but several exotics, including camel meat and lamb testicles, among the more than 34 new offerings.
Alere's Featured Salads: Three (Asian, classic tossed and garden). At Veggie Pie, in the Food building.
Bacon Ice Cream: Yep. The real thing, candied and dropped into ice cream. At Rainbow Ice Cream, with five locations.
Beef Tongue Caramelos (tacos): Only available from Aug. 27-30 at Sonora Grill in the International Bazaar.
Breakfast Sliders: Trio of sliders (steak, Cajun sausage and ham) served with scrambled eggs at Ragin Cajun, in The Garden
Camel Burger Sliders: Only available Aug. 31-Sept. 3 at Safari Express in International Bazaar.
Cereal Killer Ice Cream: Two flavors (chocolately or honey and nutty) served in bowl with a little milk and dry cereal. At Blue Moon Dine-In Theater.
Cheeseburger Sticks: Hamburger, cheese and more in pizza dough. At Green Mill.
Chicken Nachos On-A-Stick: Chicken breast with corn chips and more. At Tejas in The Garden.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Puppies: Crushed peanut butter cups baked in Fudge Puppy and dipped in chocolate. At Granny's Kitchen Fudge Puppies, outside Food Building.
Classic Walleye Roll: Fresh walleye with wild rice. At Giggles' Campfire Grill in The North Woods.
Cranberry Wontons: Only available Aug. 23-26. Cranberry-infused cream cheese in crisp wonton shell with chocolate sauce. At Pham's Deli in International Bazaar.
Duke's Poutine: French fries topped with hot gravy and cheese curds. At Duke's Poutine.
Eggplant Caramelos (tacos): Only available Aug. 27-30. At Sonoro Grill in International Bazaar.
Eggplant Fries: Only available Aug. 27-30. At Sonora Grill in International Bazaar.
French Dog: One of three sausages on French baguette. At Sonny's Spiral Spuds in Food Building.
Gluten-free Chicago-style or State Fair-style Hot Dog: Quarter-pound hot dog. At Chicago Dogs in The Garden.
Gluten-free Risotto Peppers: Arborio rice balls with black beans and more, dipped in crushed corn tortilla chips. At French Meadow Bakery.
Great Balls of Fire: Hot and spicy pork sausage balls. At Sausage Sisters in Food Building.
Grilled Wild Alaskan Salmon Sandwich: Salmon served plain or with BLT fixings on bun. At Smokey's Charbroiler.
Hibiscus Iced Tea: Only available Aug. 27-30. At Sonora Grill in International Bazaar.
Lamb Chop On-A-Stick: At Lamb Shopped in Food Building.
Lamb Fries: Lamb testicles served with onions or deep-fried.
Minnesota Wine Bistro: Grilled Portabello Mushroom Bar (toast with garlic sauce and mushroom), Antipasto Plate (bison sausage, cheeses and more) and Wine Smoothies. At Minnesota Wine Bistro.
Ole's Cannoli: Cannolis with toppings or with chocolate-dipped shells. At Ole's Cannoli, inside Heritage Square.
Paul Bunyan Bar: Two flavors of ice cream bar. At Ice Cream Parlour, inside Heritage Square.
Ragin' Ankles: Pork shanks. At Famous Dave's.
Red Velvet Funnel Cake: At Smoothies and Jurassic Dogs.
Scone with Sausage Gravy: At French Meadow Bakery.
Spaghetti Eddie's Super Stick: Stick of pepperoni and cheese in batter, deep-fried. At Spaghetti Eddie's.
Spaghetti Sticks: Spaghetti noodles, sauce and cheese wrapped in pizza dough, served with sauce. At Green Mill.
Sushi: California roll and tempura shrimp roll. At Shanghaied Henri's in International Bazaar.
Sweetie's Delights: Mashed sweet potatoes on-a-stick, battered. At Mr. Potato & Sweetie.
Waffle De Liegne (Beligian Street Waffle): At Blue Moon Dine-In Theater.
Yosemite SAMwich: Spicy taco meat on bun with BBQ sauce and more. At Frontier Bar.
No Thursday night plans? Consider attending Second Harvest Heartland’s fundraiser, "Dish: Cuisine for Change," at St. Paul RiverCentre.
The April 19 event raises funds to fight hunger in the community (Minnesota and western Wisconsin), while offering samples of signature dishes from 20 Twin Cities restaurants. The evening includes wine tastings, a martini bar, silent and live auctions, and live entertainment. Tickets are $150. Visit dishcuisineforchange.org or call Second Harvest Heartland at 651-209-7994.
But hurry. The deadline to buy tickets is 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 17.
More than 1,000 attendees are expected at the event. Last year's fundraiser raised $500,000.
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