Beth-El hosts a seder for the seasons

Tu B'Shevat has been called the Jewish Arbor Day, given its ancient background of honoring of trees each new year. Rabbi Avi Olitzky at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park says it's also a time when Jewish mystics called together communities to celebrate nature and the passing of the seasons. This year, a gourmet celebration will commence on Jan. 16 when chefs Jamie Malone of Sea Change, Mike DeCamp of La Belle Vie, Phillip Dorwart formerly of Table of Contents and now Create Catering, and Dawn Drouillard of Fabulous Catering serve a Tu B'Shevat Seder. Olitzky said they were "moved by the idea of the challenge of gourmet kosher preparation."

The event continues an effort that began last spring when Michael Pollan spoke at Beth El, launching a theme of "Beth El Eats," in which people engage in dialogue about food in an intentional and spiritual way: cooking, eating, hunger, Jewish dietary laws, and more.

The Tu B'Shevat seder, from 6 to 10 p.m., will be an eight-course wine dinner, with each chef preparing a pair of courses reflective of the seasons. Kosher wines otherwise unavailable in Minnesota will be flown in. "We will eat, drink, be merry," Olitzky said. "And be satisfied with our portion."

Seating is limited. Reservations are $125 per person through

Getting off on the right foot

Valley Natural Foods co-op in Burnsville is hosting a free family event to encourage healthy habits, especially among kids. The event is from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the co-op, 13750 County Road 11.

There'll be free tasting demos, activities and a healthy meal sold in the deli department. The goal of the night is to teach children that eating healthy, nutritious foods can be fun along with getting them to enjoy exercise. An instructor from Dakota County Parks will teach kids how to snowshoe outside in the snow at the co-op. Snowshoes will be provided, but dress warm for the 20-minute sessions. You also can taste soups made by the four students who are finalists in the Favorite Healthy Soup Recipe contest. The students are from Westview Elementary, Northview Elementary, Dakota Ridge School and Sioux Trail Elementary, to which the co-op donates funds for their participation in Community Night. For more details, visit

More food and dining trends

JWT, the huge marketing communications firm, has released its annual forecast of trends that (they say) will drive our behavior this year. Among the food world trends, they say to look out for:

Edible packaging: The substance getting the most attention is WikiPearl, an edible skin that encases food, sort of like the skin of a grape. Wrapped around ice cream or yogurt, it eliminates the needs for utensils, and for the carton. To learn more, visit<URL destination=""> <PARAGRAPH style="Text_Info__NoIndent">http://

Infused ice cubes: Think of lemonade ice cubes in iced tea, or minty ice cubes in a julep cocktail. The idea is that drinks only get more flavorful, instead of diluted, as the ice melts.

Silent meals: Some restaurants are starting to hold silent meals, asking diners not to converse, but to focus on the taste of the food, the ambience of the room, even the sounds of the kitchen. The food had better be awfully good. Or everyone should be Norwegian.

Ugly produce: In an apparent backlash to presenting for dessert one perfect pear, this trend says that retailers will start selling "nonconformist" produce and touting the idea that imperfection is a good thing. Granted, there may be too much sorting and squeezing going on in the produce aisles, but sheesh.