Susur Lee

I wanted to lick the plates clean last night and, well, that's not done at a James Beard fundraiser. But the food was THAT good, all nine courses (paired with nine wines, of course) on the Celebrity Chef Tour at Solera. Not a clunker in the bunch.

The meal was prepared by eight of our hometown experts and Susur Lee, the Toronto chef known for his fusion cuisine. Lee was the celebrity draw at this fundraiser, what with his multiple restaurants in several cities (and who was a finalist on Top Chef: Masters and did battle on Iron Chef America), but our locals showed off our city food-skills proud.

I hear, though, it was a tight fit in the Solera kitchen with all those egos. (Chefs are used to being in charge in their kitchens; for this meal there were nine in charge -- too many cooks in the kitchen?). But after some initial chafing, they helped each other plate up the individual courses in true Minnesota fashion to serve to the 115-plus guests, which included former and present DFLers: Phyllis Kahn (state representative), Kathy O'Brien (former City Council member) and Lee Greenfield (former state representative). Kudos to the Solera servers who whipped those dishes out in such a timely and pleasant manner.

The local chefs were chosen by James Beard-winning chef Tim McKee, who invited former and present staff (Jack Riebel now of the Dakota, Sameh Wadi now of Saffron, Eric Anderson of Sea Change, Mike DeCamp and Diane Yang, both of La Belle Vie, and JP Samuelson of Solera). And he invited Lenny Russo of Heartland, who enlivens any gathering (and any journalist's notebook).

How can you eat nine courses? Slowly. The meal took about 3 hours to work through -- 4 hours if you include the pre-dinner appetizers. The courses were small by necessity to accommodate so many of them.

How do you drink nine wines? Slowly. And these were, by necessity, smaller pours than usual (though a drinker could have asked for more of anything).

Here's what our experts put on display:

Jack Riebel: beef and basil carpaccio with spicy beef tartare, jasmine rice emulsion and Thai basil
Sameh Wadi: crispy blue prawn with phyllo and Indian spices
Susur Lee: caramelized black cod, salmon pearls, melon and wild mushrooms, Chinese rice log
Erik Anderson: grilled octopus with salsa verde, Spanish pepper relish and pimenton caramel
Mike DeCamp: poached foie gras with pickled cherries and arugula
JP Samuelson: cazuela of sherry-braised rabbit with grilled morcilla and sobrasada broth
Lenny Russo: Pan-roasted poussin wrapped in mangalitsa lardo with wheat berries, sweet corn, leeks and smoked corn broth
Tim McKee: grilled lamb rib-eye with pine mushrooms and lamb sweetbread agnolotti
Diane Yang: olive oil couscous cake with peaches and Earl Grey ice cream.