Tasting North Country Heaven

A CALL TO SALES: Don't forget that the right accessories can be quite useful in landing a loved one--especially if, like so many of us, you're in love with a shallow person! At least that's what Starbucks Coffee wants you to think. During this Valentine month they're hawking Starbucks Italian Roast, "a medium-bodied blend of Latin American and Indonesian coffees with a sweet, slightly smoky flavor;" chocolates, and La Grande Passione, a compilation of classic arias performed by renowned artists including Placido Domingo, Anna Moffo, and Ben Heppner for $9.95; available at all Starbucks locations. Between now and Valentine's Day, Starbucks is offering a deal for blighted lovers: One pound of Italian Roast and the La Grande Passione Opera CD for $16.95.

FATTEN THE COW BEFORE THE SLAUGHTER: This Valentine's Day, Napa Valley Grille's own Eric Scherwinski will offer guests a special "Dinner for Two." Menu items for this special repast vary from blood orange mignonette oysters, crab and lobster lasagna, smoked duck breast, ostrich Wellington, seafood jambalya, and whole-pan-roasted yellowtail snapper, to mention a few. Your chow will be presented on one big feeding platter, the better to see the eyes and mouth staring at you adoringly from across the table. Champagne and wine of course, and truffles to smooth the ride. Reservations strongly recommended. Find the Napa Valley Grille in the Mall of America; 858-9934.

HEARTLESS BOXES: Last week I found in my mailbox the following missive from Jimmy Dean's "Tastefuls! Green Box," boxed meals apparently intended to keep women from eating more than eight grams of fat for lunch. "Dear Editor: 1997 is fast approaching and that means New Year's Resolutions. And to women across the nation, that means diet time." Why not ask both genders to eat your food that requires no assembly, heating, or refrigeration? That's no food for a friend, my friend. I saw your lunch, I tried to eat it, and those packaged mini-chips, candy, and plastic-wrapped pizzas are nothing to rave about. If you're going to eat nasty food, why not eat really delicious nasty food? When's the last time you treated yourself to a bowl of sloppy chili sided with some batter fried potatoes? From Lucy Saunders' Cooking with Beer, here's a very special recipe for:

Beer and Potato Crisps

* 2 potatoes, finely grated (about 3 cups)

* 1 egg

* 3 TB. flour

* 1 small onion, grated

* 2 scallions, green part only, minced

* 2 sliced Canadian bacon, cooked and minced

* 1 cup amber ale

* 2 TB. vegetable oil

* salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients together. Heat a non-stick griddle to 435 degrees. Drop tablespoons of batter onto griddle and cook until bubbly and browned, then flip over. Serve with a dab of sour cream or mustard dipping sauce. Makes about two dozen.

These are best when eaten with a heap of chili. Here's help from your favorite new recipe book, the Pace Family Recipe Round Up.

Texas-Style Chili

* 2 pounds ground beef

* 1 TB. chili powder

* 1 tsp. ground cumin

* 1/2 tsp. salt

* 1/4 tsp. garlic powder or 2 minced
garlic cloves

* 3 TB. all-purpose flour

* 2 cups water

* 1 cup Pace Picante Sauce

* Chopped onions, shredded cheddar cheese and chopped fresh cilantro

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, cook beef, chili powder, cumin, salt, and garlic powder until beef is browned, stirring to separate meat. Pour off fat. Add flour and cook one minute, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in water and picante sauce. Cook until mixture boils and thickens, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low. Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with onions, cheese, cilantro, and more picante sauce.

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