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From the Editor: Beard House Dinner Showcases Local Camaraderie

Marco Zappia of Colita and Martina demonstrating the correct way to drink a cocktail. 

Sure, the James Beard dinner at Eastside in mid-April had stylish, sophisticated food, but was it fun? One only had to witness “the most creative drink person in the country” demonstrate the proper way to drink “Alfonso’s Special Herbs” out of a glass pitcher with a skinny sprout held at arm’s length from your mouth to answer that question. It’s the air flow that embellishes the drink, Marco Zappia explained at our table ... and then at the next and the next as he made his way around the packed dining room. That’s a lot of special herbs and Mediterranean vermut to consume—and it was only the second course. 

It was intoxicating. Zappia, who along with Ambrose Burke of Eastside mixed unique cocktails and wine pairings for the six courses including a cake extravaganza, never ceases to amaze.

The Minneapolis stop for the James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour featured an all-star kitchen, including host for the evening, Jamie Malone of Grand Café and Eastside; Tim McKee of Octo Fishbar; Daniel del Prado of Martina and Colita, plus Lee Wolen of Baka and Abe Conlon of Fat Rice, both from Chicago. A great supporting cast of future stars also shone: Chefs Britt St. Clair, Ryan Cook and Jen Schad of Eastside and Grand Cafe. 

Before we dug into pistachio crusted pork paté en croute, we were treated to a bit of history about James Beard, the man who is the measurement of excellence in the culinary world. Upon his death in 1985, his house in NYC was donated and has become a coveted destination for top chefs to cook dinners to raise funds for the foundation’s good works.

Like Steve Jobs, Beard dropped out of Reed College in Portland, wanting to get on with his life’s calling. 

A fun bit of trivia from the foundation’s representative was that when the house was donated, one of the surprises was that Beard’s bedroom had a mirror on the ceiling. Which might explain why he was asked to leave Reed, he quipped. 

Of the chefs participating in the Minneapolis dinner, two are already James Beard award winners, Tim McKee and Abe Conlon. Jamie Malone is up for Best Chef: Midwest 2019, but as of press time, the winners’ names hadn’t been released. But everyone who tasted the swordfish, baby artichokes, octopus and bone marrow and lamb with a”pancake” were the true winners. 

Foie Gras Orange

Instead of a sweet treat, the parting
gifts were salt cellars from artists at
Northern Clay Center, compliments of US Bank.


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