Sing for your supper

What's being billed as Minnesota's first Italian festival opens at Harriet Island Sept. 23 to 24, but there's an appetizer of sorts from 5:30 to 9 p.m. July 18 when Festa Italiana comes to Mancini's Char House, 531 W. 7th St., in St. Paul. Along with food, there will be beer and wine tasting, a silent auction and the unveiling of the 2011 Festa artwork. Mamma mia! There's even an Italian Singing Contest. Entrants may perform a traditional Italian folk song, a song made famous by an Italian crooner or an Italian aria. A panel of judges will determine who will be invited to sing on the main stage in September. Submit your name and the song you plan to sing to and get your $25 ticket price reduced to $10. Visit and click on fundraiser for more information.

Let's do lunch

Aladdin, once the maker of children's lunchboxes, now aims to help busy women take back the lunch break with its Lunchtopia tour in downtown Minneapolis this weekend. Aladdin says multitasking women often skip lunch to run errands, eat at their desks or just never take a meal break. That can lead to unhealthy food choices, health issues, obesity and stress. The Lunchtopia tours offers an office "lunchover" to a business, ideas for healthy lunches and -- here's the marketing -- better ways to transport food (or visit Look for the display today at the Peavey Plaza Farmers Market and in various locations over the weekend during the Aquatennial.

If only for wine bingo ...

With summer flying by, we're looking ahead to the annual Food & Wine weekend Aug. 26 to 28 at Madden's on Gull Lake, during which Madden's chefs get to show their stuff, along with other guest chefs and wine experts. Friday night festivities include a bonfire and wine bingo. Saturday begins with golf, of course, with pairings including chefs and vintners. Teas, pastries, beers and chocolates get their time in the spotlight during the day, with Burrito Deluxe performing after a dinner and cordials tasting. For reservations and further info, visit

Bizarre? Seriously?, the site about all things foodies, has posted a list of "most bizarre state foods," noting Hoosier Pie from Indiana because the dessert, also known as "finger pie," is traditionally stirred "with nothing fancier than one of your own digits." Kool-Aid was invented in Nebraska, and North Dakota is home to chokecherries. Minnesota's bizarre food? Morel mushrooms. Yup. The site is taken with our passage in 1984 of "a revolutionary statute" to name an official state mushroom, calling Minnesotans "crazy for all things shroomy." We guess eelpouts remain our little secret. For a slideshow of the other notables, visit