James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour Delights U.S.
TravelsinTaste was on hand for the evening, which began with a reception amid the farm's local produce. Passed hors d'oeuvres ranged from Zimmern's goat tartare to Becker's fried bread with Le Quercia Rossa prosciutto and Minnesota honey to McKee's Star Prairie trout, foie gras and smoked trout roe, among other delights. Wines from Chateau Ste. Michelle, Russian River Ramey Cellars, Rodney Strong and Davis Bynum and beer from Stella Artois quenched guests' thirst.
The seven-course, sit-down dinner commenced with host chef Ortuzar's summer squash salad with goat cheese and chiles. Otuzar's collaboration with Colicchio began in 1997 at Gramercy Tavern. He joined Colicchio in the founding of Craft and the Craft Restaurant Group and also created the 'wichcraft concept. Now he focuses on Riverpark.
Zimmern did not serve live octopus or armadillo pie -- some of the delicacies you might see him indulging during his shows. Instead, his creation was a giant Pacific clam crudo coupled with Ty Ku sake.
Next up was McKee, a name you've heard if you've spent any time in the Midwest food circuit, as he has opened six of the most well-received restaurants in the Twin Cities, including La Belle Vie and Solera. The James Beard Award-winner for best chef in the Midwest in 2009 has a restaurant repertoire that also includes Sea Change, Smalley's Caribbean BBQ and Barrio. But instead of barbecue he dazzled with a sauteed branzino with whipped brandade, artichoke, black olive and dill.
Meatballs, you say? How could they be a part of an exquisite culinary experience? If you're asking you haven't tried Isaac Becker's tagliatelle with foie gras meatballs, one of the runaway hits of the evening. Why would it not be? His 112 Eatery lies amid the arty, eclectic Minneapolis warehouse district and redefines "mom and pop eatery." A favorite of industry insiders, it redefines fine dining without the formality.
Alex Roberts followed. A veteran of New York City's Gramercy Park, Bouley and Union Square Cafe, Roberts spent his formative years in Minneapolis kitchens. He's since returned to Minnesota, reaffirming his commitment to sustainable, locally grown organic food by opening Alma and Brasa Premium Rotisserie. His grilled quail with marinated shiitakes and sweet potato was paired perfectly with a Domaine Serene Rockblock "SoNo" Syrah NV from Stella Artois, one of the sponsors of the evening.