Magic Dragon

TABLEHOPPING:

WHITHER THE PERFECT M-BALLS?

Q: "Where can you get a decent bowl of matzo-ball soup in this town? I'm a transplant to Minneapolis and was left kinda empty by Zaroff's soup and Cecil's soup. Is there another place I don't know about? I want SOUP!!!"

--Matzo-less in Minneapolis

A:Matzo-less, for you, we do the impossible. For you, we part the seas. On receipt of your plea, I called Michael Morse, owner of downtown Minneapolis's café un deux trois and creator of unbelievable Seder meals, and explained the problem. Morse started rifling around his kitchen--"We've got matzo meal!"--and talking to his chefs. One volunteered, and shazam! Soup. "We're not going to do a Seder-Seder," explained Morse, "but we'll do baked chicken, potato pancakes, and matzo-ball soup over Pesach. Only over Pesach." That's Sunday, April 8 through Sunday, April 15. Ask and it shall be given unto you. You'd better make it in there. café un deux trois, 114 S. Ninth St., Minneapolis; (612) 673-0686.

DINE DELUXE, GUILT-FREE: Tonight, Wednesday, March 28, un deux trois is hosting a special benefit to help the homeless. A three-course prix-fixe dinner will be served for $40 per person, and all profits will be donated to the Greg Horan fund at the Minneapolis Foundation. "I was feeling philanthropic, feeling giving-back, feeling all that warm fuzzy stuff that doesn't overtake me all that often," lies gruff Morse, who just got done hosting an AIDS benefit. "Almost all of us are three, four, or five paychecks from being homeless ourselves," he notes. "For a minute I thought we should serve truck-stop coffee, bad soup, Spam, peas, and carrots out of a can. Then we'd all really be thinking of homelessness. But we're not doing that. What we're doing is a good thing. Have a wonderful meal in a wonderful restaurant, and help people."

DRINK IN THE SUN, GUILT-FREE: They got spirit yes they do, they got spirit how 'bout you? Seems like only yesterday that northeast Minneapolis was the cutest example of picturesque decay, a church on every corner, a gently smiling old lady crimping pierogies in every kitchen, a plaque in every artery. No more! By my calculations, real estate in Northeast went up a zillion percent in the Nineties, and the neighborhood experienced the greatest per capita restaurant boom in human history. And they did it all while maintaining the best of the old community. Don't buy it? Then swing by one of two extraordinary events being sponsored by East Side Neighborhood Services, a community group that's been going strong since 1915. The first is a chili cook-off at Mayslack's on May 5, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. Fifteen bucks snares you five bowls of chili out of a possible twenty varieties (including vegetarian chili), as well as five beers, provided by old-fashioned Minnesota brewers Summit, James Page, and the Minnesota Brewing Company. There will be a polka band on hand to provide extra levity, and don't even feel guilty about running off with five bowls of chili with all the trimmings, five beers, and polka music for the price of a pair of movie tickets: All proceeds go to ESNS's Senior Food Shelf. Mayslack's Music Lounge, 1428 Fourth St. NE; (612) 789-9862.

Then, if your good works haven't exhausted you, ESNS rolls out the pièce de résistance: The Fifth Annual East Side Wine Tasting, which promises so much gustatory indulgence I can barely bring myself to contemplate the dry days that separate us from Thursday, May 17 at the Nicollet Island Pavilion. Okay--get ready for this: $25 in advance (or $30 at the door) nets tastes of some 150 wines, provided by Surdyk's and River Liquors, as well as heaping plates of signature treats, both savory and sweet, from at least 16 northeast restaurants, including Gardens of Salonica, Jax Cafe, Erté, Bobino, Nicollet Island Inn, Nye's Polonaise Room, Gasthof Zur Gemütlichkeit, Sophia's, Marino's Restaurant, and the Surdyk's Cheese Shop. "We usually get 600 or 700 people," says Katherine Cohen, development director of ESNS. "I see people walking around with plates just heaped with food--it's all so good."

Good, and that other kind of good too: Every bite you take benefits the 18 social services ESNS funds, including park centers, a family violence program, a summer camp for kids, a program to help Somali widows adapt to life in Minnesota, and senior daycare. Donate another $10 for entrance to the Cigar Tent, where you may puff stogies and sample cognacs and other spirits. Not enough for you? Well, it's the neighborhood that keeps on giving: They'll also throw in live music, festive decorations by Northeast kite collectors, free parking at De La Salle High School, a free shuttle to the pavillion, and, of course, the peerless beauty of spring on the Mississippi. Call East Side Neighborhood Services for more information: (612) 781-6011.

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