Congrats to Tim McKee for grabbing a very well-deserved James Beard award for best chef in our region. Third time’s a charm. More on that later . . . .
Notice how the VAST majority of nominees in all the regions are owner-operators, making the multiple-years-in-one-restaurant rule a little easier to surmount. Imagine how many awards this town’s chefs would have won throughout the years had the bar been lower for number of years served. Stewart Woodman, Steven Brown, and a host of others would have long since been nominated. That being said, the rule is a good one and makes a lot of sense. Congrats, again, to all the nominees and winners.
So I get back into town after a few weeks on the road, and I am catching up on a lot of reading material. I am having trouble understanding a few local real-estate stories. On one hand, Bar La Grassa is opening in the summer, the new venture from Isaac Becker and the McKee-Thoma cabal. Makes sense, the Babalu space was available, price point looks smart, the vibe on the food is Italo-friendly . . . seems like a home run.
Burger Jones is opening in the old Applebee’s space next to Tryg’s. Phil Roberts and team doing a burger concept? Home run. And supposedly the burger meat is a custom-ground mixture that includes brisket. Yummmm. Can’t wait to check that out.
Yesterday, I was driving by the new West End development and was struck by the notion that the one type of venue that the new economy tells me won’t work these days is a monstrous new entity loaded with the same old mall tenants and a few quality, local, owner/operated food operations, such as Coopers, the new Kieran Folliard restaurant and bar. If anyone can make a place work, it’s Kieran. He is a smart man, a charming and engaging host, and savvy operator. BUT, he is being asked to fight the first round of a championship fight with one hand tied behind his back. City malls are no longer the home run they used to be a decade ago, when shoppers ran in droves to these locales. I am guessing that when the economy rights itself, consumers will take years to head back to huge convenience-driven spaces that all offer a core grouping of the same worthless stores.
Speaking of the West End development, does the Twin Cities dining consumer really want another Crave, which, by the time it opens in St. Louis Park, will be the third location for this concept? Is it just me? Let's replicate places like Black Sheep Pizza, which I finally got to try a few days ago . . . delish! Look at Block E. A year ago, the Borders store in Block E closed, and the space is still vacant, so is the old Escape Ultra Lounge space, which closed the year before. Now I hear that Sega Game Works, the anchor tenant there, is mulling its options to lease or pull out. Look at the tenants in the other malls, look at the turnover and re-launches and closings. Malls are not where it's at these days, and you can call West End something else, but if it looks like a mall and smells like a mall, it’s a mall. I am guessing that Folliard had a great deal on the table and got a great lease. He’s a very prescient fella and saw this all coming a mile away; count on it.
From fizzes to freezes, beers to bitters, and margaritas to mocktails, Food & Wine magazine is shaking up the world of home entertaining this summer with Food & Wine Cocktails 2009. F&W tapped the nation’s top mixologists, as well as the F&W Test Kitchen staff, to compile more than 150 of the best cocktail and party-food recipes, including must-haves from the nation’s hottest bars and lounges. Beginning May 5, the book will be available for $14.95 at bookstores nationwide and at foodandwine.com.
Bradstreet Craftshouse and La Belle Vie are both featured in the book. Speaking of drinks at LBV, I am really sad I missed Johnny Michaels's and Alexis McKinnis’s Pink Elephants event at LBV, raising dollars and awareness for Home for Life, the dog home that my old Viszla spent the last year of her life.
Book your table now for the next Junior Gourmet event brought to you by LBV’s Bill Summerville at the Dakota, where the theme will be all about American Cuisine and music. The date is Thursday, May 28th. Call the Dakota (612-332-1010), and book your table now.
The Mill City Farmers Market will open its season on Saturday, May 9. Let the rejoicing begin.
And save the date: September 25 and 26 is the Mpls.St.Paul Magazin e Taste event, which will be staged in the new TCF Bank Stadium. Last year's event was at the W Hotel, and Tom Colicchio showed up. This year, the focus will be on local superstars; the lineup is still being worked out. More on that later.