Samuelsson hosts James Beard Foundation tribute

Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s groundbreaking Aquavit restaurant, once a jewel of the IDS Center, may have closed in 2003, but it still comes up in conversations about late lamented local dining experiences. It also constitutes our local tie (as if one is needed) to a one-hour TV special, “30 Years: A Celebration of the James Beard Foundation,” which airs Nov. 26 and is hosted by Samuelsson. The show airs here from 3 to 4 p.m. on KSTP-TV.

Other top chefs will help tell the story of the Beard Foundation’s history in supporting culinary students through scholarships, in working for policy and change in the restaurant industry and perhaps most famously for the annual awards it bestows across the culinary, hospitality and beverage worlds. Others appearing include Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud, Tom Colicchio, Traci des Jardins, Carla Hall, Emeril Lagasse, Jacques Pepin, Gail Simmons, Martha Stewart, Ming Tsai and many others.

Samuelsson, known for his philanthropic work as well as his chef’s skills, has cooked the most fundraising dinners at the James Beard House in New York City. The foundation is named for the late James Beard, a cookbook author and teacher whose encyclopedic knowledge of food greatly influenced American cuisine. The show will be rebroadcast on Dec. 17.

Holiday bake sale Dec. 9

St. Paul’s Union Depot soon becomes the glittering Hub for the Holidays for the first two weekends in December. On Dec. 1, the annual tree lighting takes place at 7:15 p.m. with live musical entertainment featuring Minnesotan Eric Gordon, from Season 13 of “American Idol,” fireworks and opening of the outdoor European Christmas Market. We’re most interested in the Holiday Bake Sale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 9, with almost 30 of the top Twin Cities bakeries selling festive baked goods and confections. There also will be live cooking and baking demonstrations and other entertainment. Admission is $5 for adults, with all proceeds going to charity. Ages 60-plus and under 12 are free. VIP admission is $10 and includes a commemorative bakery box containing an oven mitt, recipe cards and coupons/offers from participating bakeries. Tickets are available online at and at the door. (Ticket prices do not include service fees.)

Sample the tea leaves at Mrs. Kelly’s sale

Another don’t-miss annual tradition is Mrs. Kelly’s Tea Tasting Weekend, which lets you sample and buy more than 100 of Mrs. Kelly’s Teas’ most popular blends. New this year is Cassis de Crème, a blend of currants, vanilla and flower petals, and Northeast Breakfast Blend with black tea, mate, cocoa, cinnamon, ginger and chai extracts. There also will be food and craft vendors on site.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 2-3 at the Grain Belt Brewery, 77 13th Av. NE., Mpls. The event is free but a $2 donation or nonperishable food item is suggested. Donations go to Perspectives Kids Cafe and Second Harvest Heartland. For details, visit