Who: Vikings players and their families, football followers, and NFL bigwigs
What: The Minnesota Vikings Taste of the NFL event
Where: Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America
When: Monday, October 4
Why: Who wouldn’t want to munch on a delicious dinner, served by a studly Viking, all in support of a good cause?
I am a Green Bay Packers fan. I always have, and I always will be. I never thought the Minnesota Vikings could impress me—but I was wrong. On Monday night I headed to the Vikings Taste of the NFL event at the Mall of America. The event, which partnered with Second Harvest Heartland, benefited the efforts of the Viking’s Children’s Fun Summer Lunch Program, which provides meals to children in need. I entered the event ready to mix and mingle with my enemies, and I left with a newfound appreciation for some major do-gooders in the community.
Upon arrival at the West Gate of the Nickelodeon Universe, Vikings cheerleaders greeted us in their sparkly and very small uniforms. Once my plus one wiped the drool from his mouth, we headed into the event only to stumble on Vikings guard Seth Olsen and offensive tackle Phil Loadholt serving up some delicious noshes from Famous Daves. As I glimpsed the countless food stands from local eateries such as Granite City, Crave, California Pizza Kitchen, and Bar Abilene, I realized my black pencil skirt was the wrong wardrobe choice for the food-infused evening.
We quickly sampled the hand carved Texas brisket, licked our fingers, and reared ourselves for more tasty treats from participating restaurants. As we headed to the nearby Yum and Dancing Ganesha stands, we were redirected toward the North Gate where Jared Allen, Ray Edwards, and Pat and Kevin Williams were signing autographs. Despite the grudge I still hold from Allen’s countless sacks on Aaron Rodgers last season, I appreciated the way he so willingly and eagerly signed footballs, jerseys, and papers for adoring fans.
We were pulled away from admiring Ray Edwards’ bedazzled behind (his jeans had more sparkle than most blushing brides) to have a word with rookie running back Toby Gerhart. As two Notre Dame grads, we felt compelled to tease Gerhart about his whooping on our boys last season. He wittingly played along, and my adoration of the cute Minnesota newbie improved.
From there, we jumped in what appeared to be the longest line to check out the foodie fuss. We savored chef Jacob Brodd of Bloomington Chophouse’s crab cakes, and we were equally impressed with the sushi selection from Seven. But when Tremain Johnson served us North Coast chef Steven Schulz’s citrus glazed porkbelly and chipotle potato puree, we reached a flavor filled paradise. Thankfully, I could sneak a second serving while my plus one drilled Johnson, a former LSU player, about his thoughts on Les Miles.
We circled back for the second round of autographs—I wanted to thank Adrian Peterson personally for all the good he’s done for my fantasy football team—but glancing at the long, VIP-only line to see Peterson, Matt Blair, Chuck Foreman, and EJ Henderson, we decided to change route and headed for the silent auction tables. There my heart silently broke when I saw the Brett Favre Vikings jersey (sigh, the purple No. 4 just doesn’t look right. But my spirits were lightened when I stopped for a chat with Larry Fitzgerald Sr. (father of Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald), and I realized that I was speaking to a sports writing legend.
Before departing, we stopped to thank the Taste of the NFL founder Wayne Kostroski for a spectacular evening of fundraising and—okay, I’ll admit it—fun. And though I’ll still cheer for my Packers on Sundays, thanks to this party, I’m all about supporting the Vikings on Mondays—unless, of course, there’s a Green Bay game on . . .