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What's hot this week: Twin Cities beer dinners, champagne sabering and a Japanese tiki bash

Is your weekend calendar and beyond looking a little light? Not anymore. The next two weeks feature a stacked lineup of massive beer dinners, beer cruises and Oktoberfests, champagne sabering, cocktail soirees, national benefits, a whole hog roast, an oyster bash and a Japanese tiki night. Is your interest piqued yet? Read on.

Thursday, Oct. 20:

La Bamba: An Afro-Mexican Dinner and Dance Slip in last-minute for this unique feast. Read all about it here. Tickets here.

Champagne Sabering Class – Here’s a new impress-your-friends trick: Dan Sobiech of JC Boisset will teach guests how to properly saber a bottle of champagne through a hands-on experience with just enough practice time before New Year’s Eve parties put you in the spotlight. Light bites – and of course champagne – will be featured FireLake, Mall of America throughout the night.  To make reservations for the 6 p.m. event, dial 952-851-4040.

Third Thursday at MIA  -- This month, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is celebrating ‘Artoberfest’ … that is, the art of beer.  Brewers from Wabasha Brewing Co., Fair State Brewing Cooperative, Bad Weather Brewing Co. and Fulton Brewing will be on hand – with their own artsy beers – to discuss their inspiration, and there will be an exhibit of beer steins and drinking vessels. What else? What they’re calling “beer-inspired arts and crafts” and live music from The World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band. More info here.

Saturday, Oct. 22:

Hi-Lo Diner Pig Roast – Lowry Hill Meats is coming to the diner to get piggy wit’ it for the collaborated whole pig roast and Hawaiian-meets-Polynesian bash. The afternoon (3-9 p.m.) highlights Bauhaus Brew Labs beer, Milk & Honey ciders and harvest cocktails and will also feature live music and lawn games. Tickets start at $40 for adults and $10 for kids. More info here.

Cooks of Crocus Hill cooking class with Molly Yeh – Read all about it here. Tickets here. A noon book signing is also open to the public.

Oktoberfest Beer Tasting Cruise – Oktoberfest celebrations are wrapping up, and what better way than while floating along the St. Croix River. The party boards in Hudson, Wis. at 6 p.m. and the cruise goes until 9:30 p.m. The $49.95 ticket includes beer samplings and a German buffet stocked with charcuterie, sausages, spaetzle, pickles, cabbages and mustards.  More info here.

Nordeast Big River Brew Fest – Forty-eight (yep, 48) breweries and cideries are pow-wowing at East Side Neighborhood Services (which benefits from the proceeds) for the sixth annual fest. Samples from local food vendors will be available as well. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. More info here.

Sunday, Oct. 23:

Cheesetoberfest – What do you get when you pair Oktoberfest with cheese? Cheesetoberfest, the Food Building surmises. The latest of Kieran Folliard’s shenanigans includes a menu of mac ‘n cheese, garlic sausages, raclette and biscuits, among other things, from local purveyors. Indeed Brewing Co. and The Draft Horse will be on site with brews. And of course, there’s a cheese raffle. Tickets ($38) include two beers. More info here.  

Monday, Oct. 24:

Tattersall Super Night  -- The Northeast distillery likes to keep things interesting and this event certainly fits that description. The Japanese tiki theme night will feature rum drinks with an Asian twist, ramen dishes slung from Wyn65 Mobile Food Emporium, kung fu movies in the cocktail room and Wu-Tang tracks spinning throughout. No entry fee. More info here.

Neighborhood Beer Dinner Series at Red Stag SupperclubFlat Earth Brewing is collaborating with Friends of the Mississippi River for a five-course meal and discussion at Kim Bartmann’s eatery. Courses prepared by chef Andrew Ernst include an amuse bouche of a waffle cone with clotted cream, bacon and fig and chile braised beef with sweet potato gnocchi for a main course. Tickets are $65. More info here.

Fulton Brewery/ Red River Kitchen Beer Dinner --  The brewery (Fulton) is hosting the food truck (Red River Kitchen) and the result is a 16-course dinner (!!) executed by Strip Club Meat & Fish chef J.D. Fratzke and paired with 16 (!!) Fulton beers. Social hour begins at 6 and the courses will start dropping at 7. Tickets are $80. Start fasting now and find more info here.

Tuesday, Oct. 25:

Taste of Linden Hills –This swanky cocktail soiree at the home of Felicity Britton and Tom Braun – atop Wild Rumpus Bookstore – includes tastes from neighborhood gems Tilia, Upton 43, and Harriet Brasserie, among others. The event begins at 7 p.m.; general entry is $60. Proceeds will support LHiNC grants. More info here.

Wednesday, Oct. 26:

Haskell’s Wine Dinner Series at Lela Restaurant –A five-course meal, created by Lela chef Stewart Woodman, will pair with a flight of five U.S. West Coast wines from Crimson Wine Group. Eats include lobster three ways and smoked salmon grilled cheese with caviar. Tickets are $80 for the 6:30 p.m. event. More info here.

Friday, Oct. 28:

Taste America, Twin Cities – The James Beard Foundation’s national tour is making a stop in the Twin Cities for an epic night featuring Philadelphia chef (and James Beard award winner) Jose Garces and local stars Thomas Boemer (Corner Table and Revival) and Michelle Gayer (Salty Tart).  A handful of other local A-list chefs will be on hand too, including Ann Kim (Pizzeria Lola), Jorge Guzman (Surly Brewing Co.) and Sameh Wadi (Saffron Restaurant & Lounge). A tasting reception precedes the four-course seated dinner. Tickets start at $250. More info here.

Saturday – Sunday, Oct. 29-30:

Veg Fest – Compassionate Action for Animals will host the two-day festival at Coffman Memorial Union at the University of Minnesota. Vegetarians, Vegans and meat eaters alike can partake in the lineup of veggie-based dishes and cooking demonstrations. Admission is free. More info here.

Sunday, Oct. 30:

Chef’s Dinner Benefit – Cookie Cart is hosting its fourth annual benefit at the Town & Country Club in St. Paul starting at 5 p.m.. Volunteer chefs including Ben Weiss (Butcher & the Boar) and Chris Ulrich (Mucci’s Italian) will contribute to the four-course meal. Tickets are $150. More info here.

Oyster Bash – Oceanaire Seafood Room is celebrating those beautiful bivalves and plenty of other seafood with the 3-9 p.m. party. Bites including lobster rolls, oysters on the half shell and crab cake sliders will be paired with an array of white wines. Indeed Brewing Co. will provide the beer.  From 4-8 p.m. The Whiskeys will serenade from the stage, live. Tickets are $75. More info here.

Tuesday, Nov. 1

Morrissey Hospitality Companies gift card deal – Thinking about holiday gifts already? This St. Paul-based restaurant group is offering up a whale of a deal that might have you splurging for yourself, too. Starting Nov. 1, every shopper who purchases $100 worth of gift cards from any of the MHC properties – the Saint Paul Hotel, The Saint Paul Grill, M ST. Cafe (lower level of Saint Paul Hotel), the Saint Paul Hotel’s Lobby Bar, Pazzaluna, Tria and Kendall’s Tavern & Chophouse – will receive an additional $100 worth of cards for those locations. The deals end Dec. 31 and the cards must be used between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31 2017.

Look who's back in a kitchen after 10 years: ex-Cosmos chef Seth Bixby Daugherty

A high-profile name has popped up in an under-the-radar restaurant.

He’s Seth Bixby Daugherty, the chef who put Cosmos on the map when the dazzling restaurant opened in the Graves 601 Hotel (now the Loews) in downtown Minneapolis in 2003. His work at Cosmos grabbed the attention of Food & Wine magazine, which named him one of its annual Best New Chefs in 2005.

He left Cosmos after nearly four years, choosing to focus on childhood hunger and nutrition initiatives, and paying the bills by teaching at Art Institutes International Minnesota in downtown Minneapolis. He held that job for nine years until he was laid off in the summer of 2015, part of the school’s restructuring as it prepares to close.

It makes sense the hotel guy would return to hotels, and he did: the 350-room Minneapolis Marriott Southwest in Minnetonka. You’re forgiven if you’re unfamiliar with the property’s Blue Birch restaurant. But now there’s a reason to become acquainted, right?

“It’s not Cosmos,” said Bixby Daugherty. “There’s no foie gras on the menu. I can’t do super-eccentric stuff. That wouldn’t work here. But I’m not trying to do Cosmos food. We’re concentrating on good, simple food, and it’s working. We’re busier than we were six months ago.”

For example: Bixby Daugherty has brought a make-from-scratch ideology to a kitchen that hadn’t prepared its own stocks for more than a decade.

“At breakfast, we’re making our own ricotta for gluten-free lemon-ricotta pancakes,” he said. His best-selling dishes are a pair of ramen bowls; one is vegan, the other features a smoked pork broth. Both sound very Seth Bixby Daugherty.

“Most hotel restaurants are not known for their ramen bowls,” he said with a laugh.

How does it feel to be back in a hotel kitchen?

“It’s awesome,” he said. “I’m a hotel guy. I’m proud to be here.”

Turns out, Marriott had a key selling point that no one else offered. During his job search, he heard the same thing at job interviews: he was overqualified.

“That meant that I was too old, and that I wanted too much money,” the 51-year-old chef said with a laugh. But there was a greater issue at play.

 “I heard a lot of concern about my extra-curricular activities with fighting hunger,” he said. That was a non-starter. “I certainly don’t want to give up on who I am.”

His interview at Marriott was a complete 180, however. 

“They embraced it,” he said. “They encouraged it.”

How great is that?

His is a full outside-the-office resume, by the way. Along with his extensive work at Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, where he’s helped to raise millions of dollars, Bixby Daugherty created Cooking Matters Minnesota, which teaches families cooking skills through an intense, hands-on curriculum. It began with five volunteers in a single location and has grown to 500 volunteers in 50 locations, all managed by University of Minnesota Extension.

Then there’s ProStart, the varsity-level high school cooking competition. He’s been the longtime mentor of the Elk River High School team (they’re the state champs for the past three years running, and last year took 8th in the nation), and he’s excited about the current team’s prospects.

Oh, and as he has for the past 11 years, he’s overseeing the Iron Fork chef’s competition on Nov. 3. Go. It’s fun.

Bixby Daugherty, a self-professed workaholic, sees a happy future as a corporate chef within Sage Hospitality, the Colorado-based behometh that operates the Marriott.

“It’s an awesome company, so we’ll see what happens,” said the Denver native. “I’m very proud to be a chef, and I’ll always be a chef. But I’m more proud of my work in fighting hunger and raising awareness around issues of healthy eating.”

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