Recipe contest for independent restaurants

The Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest, now in its third year, has to be among the most gratifying of competitions. Open to independent family or "neighborhood" restaurants, it has a grand prize of $50,000, which includes a $10,000 donation to the charity of choice. The contest, from General Mills Foodservice, aims to give independent restaurants the opportunity to get national recognition for their one-of-a-kind dishes. Celebrity chef Amanda Freitag of Food Network's "Chopped" returns this year to help judge. The contest is open to food service operators, chefs and line cooks who develop and prepare recipes for menu items served at independent, commercial restaurants. Entrants need to submit an original recipe using at least one ingredient from General Mills' list of eligible products. Other recipe winners will be named in categories of breakfast, entree or dessert, with first-place winners receiving $15,000 and second place getting $10,000. Submissions will be accepted from Jan. 5 to Feb. 28. Official rules are available online at

'We won't go until we get some'

You don't have to be British to enjoy the figgy pudding that's coming out the Surdyk's Cheese Shop, 303 E. Hennepin Av., Mpls., for the holiday season. This English steamed pudding is made with butter, instead of the more traditional suet, but we guess few will care. (And perhaps be relieved.) The 2¼-pound cake is loaded with brandy-soaked figs, dried cherries, currants, cranberries and spices. It may sound like fruitcake, but it isn't, adapted from a spice cake recipe of baking guru Dorie Greenspan. It's $35 and made to serve eight to 10. There's also a doozy of a boozy hard sauce for $9 a pint. It's also available for shipping. They'll be available through New Year's or while supplies last. To order, visit or call 612-379-9757.

Winterfest tickets on sale

Winterfest, one of the largest Minnesota craft beer fests, isn't until Feb. 24, but tickets are already on sale. The upcoming fest moves to the Legends Club of Target Field, big enough to enable the previously two-night event to be held in one session. The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild event will feature hundreds of craft beers from almost 100 breweries and brewpubs from across the state. There'll be unlimited sampling of specialty and seasonal beers, catered food, craft beer education and the announcement of the "Best of Fest" Great Snowshoe Awards. Tickets are $75 in advance and $85 at the door; to order, visit