I know I have been way too serious as of late, and I don’t want to develop a rep for being such a joy-less buzzkill, so in an effort to show you where my heart is I wanted to make sure you all saw this hysterical bit from The Daily Show. I still laugh my ass off thinking of it, whoops, wait, I am watching it again . . . yeah, it’s still hysterical. We clearly all need to lighten up because as TDS points out, 100 percent of all people who eat food will die. In other hysterical food fun here is Ted Allen of FN’s Chopped with a morning show spoof that has to be seen to be believed. I still can’t believe how real this send up is, while at the same time being so fantastical. It’s brilliant and makes good point about taking ourselves too seriously.
Onto more serious matters. Michael Pollan in Forbes lists the most powerful voices helping to reform our current food system and likens it to a social change movement. Couldn’t agree more . . . like seatbelts and smoking in past generations, food awareness needs to be the focus of national social change.
I think Pollan is too humble to say so, but even though some call him out for being too much of a food freak, I think he belongs on the list as well. He is a hero to many of us. Eric Schlosser belongs on the list as well, for both Fast Food Nation and for his thoughtful op-ed and essay work. I would point out that my personal food crush Marion Nestle is No. 2. I couldn’t agree more.
Back to more fun! Check out these amazing t-shirts with MN themes from Sacred Panda. I love the hot dish one especially.
Back to more serious matters. Lists are hard, especially “best of” lists, and especially lists that are essentially crowd sourced and not based on whatever meager doses of quantifiable excellence can be divined from an experience as subjective as dining. SO AT THE RISK OF BEING CALLED OUT FOR BEING A BIGGER JERK THAN I KNOW I AM, I gotta admit I have some problems with two current lists out there.First off, the producers of THE CHARLIE AWARDS, an inaugural celebration of the best in the Twin Cities food and restaurant community, just announced its Top 10 finalists. If you don’t know what those are look at my last post on these pages.
The 2011 CHARLIE AWARDS neighborhood finalists and dishes are: Caribe Caribbean Bistro (Creole Lobster Stuffed Mofongo), Crave - Mall of America (Mexican Roll - Sushi), Doolittles Woodfire Grille (two locations, both for the Woodfired Rotisserie Chicken) Gold Nugget Tavern and Grill (Stadium Burger) Modern Café (Pot Roast), Porter Creek Hardwood Grill (Salmon with Roasted Corn Sauce), Smack Shack (Lobster Roll), Solera (Meat and Fish Paella), and Zen Box Izakaya (Spicy Kimchi Ramen). Most of these dishes aren’t even realistically in the top 100, let alone the best in their neighborhood. The pot roast at Modern is one of the 10 most famous dishes in the cities. I don’t know if it’s the best, but it would certainly be a deserving winner. And I wouldn’t argue if that dish got an award someday for best dish in Minnesota. It's iconic and justifiably worth the drive from anywhere, and its stood the test of time.
But now that the list of finalists is out there, I am pretty convinced that letting restaurants nominate themselves and their own dishes and then have fans vote on that list is definitely not the way to go. It cheapens the results. These are not awards for excellence, and that puzzles me. Noticeably absent from the lists are any restaurants that normally are part of the conversation when it turns to best chefs, best dishes, and best restaurants in town. More than 100 independent restaurants registered to participate in THE CHARLIE AWARDS and each submitted a menu item they thought best represented their establishment, so when the finalists were chosen by public online vote, they only had those dishes to consider.
Before November 20, which is when the awards ceremony takes place, “a panel of local food enthusiasts will visit each of the 10 restaurants to determine which menu item they believe best represents the Twin Cities restaurant community.” That’s a quote from The Charlie’s press release. I can’t wait to see how this works out in the end.
Tickets for THE CHARLIE AWARDS Main Show at The Pantages Theatre and the After Party in the IDS Crystal Court are $35. A VIP Brunch will be held at noon on Nov. 20 at the Walker Room in LaSalle Plaza. Tickets for the VIP Brunch are $65. A portion of the proceeds from THE CHARLIE AWARDS brunch will benefit Second Harvest Heartland. If you want to purchase tickets go to charliesexceptionale.com.
The Strib reposted this Zagat Twin Cities gem last week. Theirs is a crowd-sourced contest and La Belle Vie took top honors. Can’t argue with that. Several restaurants for me are in the conversation but for the total experience of food/ambience/service/beverage program/ intangibles I would vote for LBV too. 112 Eatery, Vincent, Restaurant Alma, Bar La Grassa, Meritage, Lucia’s Restaurant, Manny’s Steakhouse, Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market, and the Oceanaire Seafood Room. The guide’s “other noteworthy places” include Cosmos, Heidi’s, In Season, Kincaid’s, Masu, Modern Cafe, Punch Neapolitan Pizza, Saffron Restaurant & Lounge, Sea Change, and Victory 44.
I would add Tilia, Travail, Fuji Ya, Masa, Parma 8200, Spoonriver, and Piccolo to this chat, also Bachelor Farmer, Corner Table, and a few others. The Zagat list is a bizarrely crowd-sourced popularity contest. But at least most of the restos in the conversation deserve to be there. The only restaurant out of the top 30 in our towns that is on The Charlie’s list is Modern. How does that even begin to happen? Well, in defense of The Charlie’s producers I can cite restaurant and public apathy. But some of us saw that one coming from miles away. The Charlie’s are a BRILLIANT IDEA, and I support it 1,000 percent, but the voting mechanism needs changing and the proof is in the pudding.
Can’t wait to see what the “food enthusiasts” have to say about the winners.