Whenever visitors ask me where to eat in the Twin Cities, Haute Dish is at the top of my list—because chef Landon Schoenefeld is a great and strengthening talent, and because he’s working culinary territory that no one else on earth seems to care about, namely the repertoire of the comfort-minded Midwest post-WWII. For instance, I had a ‘Spam and cheese whiz’ as part of the restaurant’s charcuterie plate that was, I kid you not, brilliant. A chunky, gelatinous, and silky ham terrine graced with a velvety but light, tangy, and plate-lickingly good cheddar cheese sauce. And the reason I tell visitors to go to Haute Dish is because you can’t get that in New Orleans or New York City, and if you could, it would mean something else, in the same way that gumbo or pastrami mean something different when they’re here, and not there. But too bad for you, that Spam and cheese whiz is gone. It was part of the late summer menu, and that ship has sailed. But guess what has sailed in to the harbor to replace it? Dirt cheapness. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the new dirt-cheap Happy Hour and bar snack menu at Haute Dish. During happy hour (4-6:00 p.m.), you can now get pretzel rolls and jalapeno cheese whiz for $4, truffled potato chips and French onion dip for $4, and things like that. These small cheap eats extend through the evening (the full dinner menu starts at 5:00 p.m.). Why? A few reasons. One, chef Schoenefeld tells me he feels like the menu was always a little flawed, with its three-section design of small, medium, large. He always meant people to just get two of the three, but people always got three of the three, which led to perceptions that the restaurant was more expensive than it really was, and more filling. Hopefully the new menu design with some tiny snacks will allow people to order in a way that makes more sense for them. Schoenefeld is also debuting a tasting menu with Haute Dish classics. Now for $35 you can get a house salad, the king crab taleggio mac ‘n’ cheese, and the short rib tater tot hot dish. Add wine or beer pairings for another $12, and there you have it—cheaper than nearly every other tasting menu in the Twin Cities and unlike any other restaurant meal in town—or in the country? ** James Beard Dinner at Le Cordon Bleu, Mendota Heights And how did chef Landon Schoenefeld happen to stop being a kid from South Dakota and start being someone who has a culinary point of view and trains a new generation in that point of view? By going to a local cooking school and aiming for the stars, of course. I’ll be supporting that up-and-coming generation of young chefs at Le Cordon Bleu on Thursday, October 18, by buying a ticket to support local culinary scholarships. Come? We’ll be celebrating local talent with treats from the Travail Crew (finally, you can get in without waiting in line!), Sameh Wadi (Saffron, World Street Kitchen, youngest ever Iron Chef America contestant), Jack Riebel (Butcher and the Boar, redefining ham in our time), Lenny Russo (Heartland, defining locavore in our time, frequent nominee for James Beard awards), and many more, including Michelle “Salty Tart” Gayer and me, the 10-time nominee, five-time winner of food and wine writing awards. Will I wear my medals? If we sell out the VIP tickets yes, yes I will!