The Fort Knox of Meat

One thing I didn't try was Forster's famous whole roast pigs, dozens and dozens of which are about to go flying out the door for Asian New Year celebrations. They'll be either gutted and ready to roast, or roasted and set up Carmen Miranda-style, with an apple in their mouths and a festive pineapple hat.

If the thought of a pig roast grosses you out, you'll also be happy to know that Forster's is the only local supplier of pork spines, pork hearts, sheep and cow eyeballs, and other animal parts needed for medical research by schools, hospitals, and medical-product companies. Pig spines, for example, are used for surgical practice, but they are usually destroyed in the butchering process. Since Forster's gets much of its meat directly from the Glencoe processing plant run by Tom's brother Phillip, they can direct that the spines be preserved. In fact, to hear Tom Forster tell it, the whole reason there are so many medical-product companies in the western suburbs is because of his shop's ability to provide the mountains of hearts needed to create a product like, say, the pacemaker.

So picture them--thousands of people who have had their lives changed, without knowing it, by a little butcher shop in the middle of a housing development. A man sitting in a restaurant on Cathedral Hill, eating a chicken sausage while his pacemaker keeps time in his chest. A woman in a three-bedroom house in Plymouth, breakfasting on bangers while recovering from disk surgery. I ran the image by Forster and he didn't say a word, just smiled and nodded, his bright blue eyes narrowing under his baseball cap. Outside, Phase Four was getting under way with men clearing the last of the Forster family trees.

Directions (from Minneapolis or St. Paul): Take I-394 west to Highway 169; follow 169 north to County Road 9; take 9 west to the second stoplight; turn left on Zachary Lane; turn right on Old Rockford Road; turn right on Deerwood Lane. Foster's parking lot is at the top of the hill.

 

TABLEHOPPING

DINE EARLY, OFTEN: I once thought it was adequate to celebrate the millennium at a single restaurant, but on further consideration I realize that we all must go to at least three dinners that night--if they serve them, we must come! If you already have reservations motivated by my hectoring of the last two weeks, why not add more? Think about an early or late meal at Aquavit: The $80 prix fixe is for those wanting to dine between 5:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and features four full courses and two minor ones including a smoked salmon cone, foie gras ganache, and an entrée option of pastrami roasted duck with 50-year-aged balsamic vinegar. The $150 prix fixe seats between 8:00 and 10:30 p.m., includes entertainment by jazz vocalist Kim Fragodt, and allows you to choose an oyster roll with champagne foam for a starter. Both dinners conclude with a "millennium trio" of triple chocolate terrine, chocolate won ton, and chocolate ganache. Aquavit is in the IDS Center at 80 S. Eighth St., Minneapolis; (612) 343-3333.

For those who'd like to head for dinner after a couple of rounds at Golf Mountain, both the Napa Valley Grille and California Cafe have put together some pretty plush spreads. The California, which to my enormous sadness is no longer headed by chef Steve Vranian, is serving a three-course, $65 meal between 7:00 and 10:30 p.m., and they're offering what may well be the Twin Cities' only lobster mashed potatoes that night. California is at the Mall of America, Third Floor South, near Macy's; (612) 854-2233.

Napa Valley Grille is serving a $125 prix-fixe that is available from 5:00 to 10:30 p.m. and includes a glass of champagne and a gift box of millennium chocolates. What's most remarkable here is the inclusion of the most expensive beef on earth, Japanese Kobe beef, from cows that receive massages and acupuncture and generally lead a life of beer and skittles--or at least sake and shiatsu. To the best of my knowledge, there's never been Kobe beef on a Twin Cities menu before. The Grille is also at the Megamall, second level, West Market; (612) 858-9934.

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