Happy Valentines Day, Twin Cities. . . and welcome to day one, entry number one, volume number one of my new blog. Like any opening night, this one is hopefully going off without a hitch in our giddy up, but you never know. . . .
Being a New York ex-pat in the Land of 10,000 Lutherans means telling you what things aren’t before I can tell you what they are. You won’t find tips on storing iceberg lettuce or lengthy diatribes on streamlining marinara sauce for microwave cookery. Instead you’ll find a real-life look at my food-focused life, for real.
Friday evening my wife and I attended Project Turnabout’s annual fundraiser, Appetite for Life. Larry D’Amico and I cohosted the event, and after only two years running this giant-sized cooking class, it’s turning into the best food event of the season. We had Seth Daugherty from Cosmos doing a seared dayboat scallop on heart of palm; Tim McKee of Solera/La Belle Vie doing a beef carpaccio with artichokes, black truffles, and horseradish; John Occhiato of D’Amico Cucina made a stunning risotto Milanese with braised veal cheeks and gremolata; and Steven Brown did a lamb loin sous vide with sweet potato purèe and black olives. Randee Zarth wrapped things up with a chocolate filo dessert that was killer. As each course came out from the kitchen, the chef performed a ten-minute cooking class showing all 350 people how to cook the specific recipe. All the dough we raised benefited the state’s only residential recovery program for gambling addiction, Project Turnabout, in Granite Falls.
D’Amico Cucina has been one of the best restaurants in town for almost twenty years, but it has never been better than it is now. That’s saying something since Tim Anderson, Seth Daugherty, JP Samuelson, and Tim McKee all used to run the kitchen at one time or another. Occhiato’s cooking is more classically aligned Italian cuisine, and the honesty and authenticity that he shares with his customers is inspiring—and the food is great. If Steven Brown doesn’t get a Food and Wine Best New Chef Award this year, something is wrong (Daugherty won one last year, McKee in ’97, and frankly both Brown, Alex Roberts of Alma, and Doug Flicker of Auriga are overdue for recognition at that level). It’s a crime that restaurants without massive PR machines have to struggle to get their names out there, despite the massive amounts of local kudos they receive. F and W, IACP, and the Beard awards folks need to do a better job of sourcing the best of the best when it comes to nominations. It’s criminal that last year Lucia Watson—a great cook, to be sure—was nominated for a Beard Award, and Brown, Roberts, and Flicker were not.
Remember, if it looks good, eat it!