A Cooking Class

Minnesota cuisine-o-philes, attend! Grip firmly your hats, seize tightly your lids, and don't say I didn't warn you: Now is the time to spot food celebrities, and any cookbook collector given to flipping his or her lid is in for a flipping of untold dimension, for lo, Minneapolis is hosting the annual conference for the International Association of Culinary Professionals April 25-29. Chefs, food writers, cookbook authors, they're all here to meet, to gossip, to confer. And if you've got good eyes, you've got a decent chance of spotting Emeril Legasse (the bam! man, star of so many Food Network shows), Martin Yan (of the Yan Can Cook empire), John Mariani (here because of his new, IACP-award-nominated cookbook The Italian-American Cookbook, but also author of the oughta-be-in-every-library Dictionary of American Food and Drink), Chuck Williams (of Williams-Sonoma--someone go see if the IDS Skyway store is quaking in its boots), Madeleine Kamman (prolific author and 20th-century French-food-in-America avatar), Julia Child (Julia Child), and many, many others.

When these culinary professionals are not hard at work, I suspect you'll be able to spot them terrorizing our sommeliers (who could use a good workout), puzzling over what a walleye could be (it's a freshwater perch), and, I'm betting, unsuccessfully seeking cocktails in our skyways. This I draw from some advice on the IACP Web site, namely that the "skyway encompasses myriad shops, services, restaurants, nightlife, and a theater."

Which is one of those statements so manifestly true and untrue it begs for an insider's correction: Yes, the skyway encompasses nightlife and a theater--in the half-block between Palomino and the Capital Grille it does. But mostly, the skyway encompasses a lot of cash machines and places to grab lunch on the way to picking up your dry cleaning. And it encompasses a whole lot of nothing after business hours, because it all locks down into a ghost town sometime after lunch. So, in lieu of my standard restaurant review, what follows this week is a sort of insider's guide to Minneapolis for culinary professionals.

Geoffrey P. Kroll

Location Info

Map

D'Amico Cucina

100 6th St. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

 

Where to dine? People often ask restaurant critics, "Don't you ever just want to relax and enjoy yourself and not think about what you're eating?" The answer is usually, "I am relaxed, and I do enjoy myself." But the truth behind that statement is that this is my home turf, and I've got all the time in the world to enjoy the beautiful variety of dim lights and flickering lights and bright lights and weird red candles melting spectacularly on the floor. In another city, I am less sanguine. I want the best the city has to offer, and if I don't get it, I want to leap from the table in mid-entrée to go elsewhere.

Where would I point culinary professionals in Minneapolis? Goodfellow's and Aquavit are the two to beat. Goodfellow's does sophisticated American regional cooking and serves it in an art-deco jewel box of a room. I go to Goodfellow's fairly often, and I'm rarely disappointed. Aquavit is the local branch of the New York, forward-looking Scandinavian restaurant, and I find the food alternately absolutely breathtaking and bafflingly clumsy, often at the same meal. (Please note that both Goodfellow's and Aquavit have bars where you can linger over a cocktail while surveying the room, and you can sample each restaurant's stunning desserts there. Both are open for lunch, too.) The third jewel in the crown is supposed to be newly chandelier-bedecked pan-Italian D'Amico Cucina. This Minneapolis mainstay recently redid itself, so here's your chance to be the first on your block to post a review.

After that, I love three of the really good smaller-scale chef-driven restaurants in town: Alma, Auriga, and Lucia's. All are in residential neighborhoods, so you will need to take a cab. It will be worth it. Aquavit, IDS Center, 80 S. Eighth St., Minneapolis; (612) 343-3333. Goodfellow's, 40 S. Seventh St., Minneapolis; (612) 332-4800. D'Amico Cucina, 100 N. Sixth St., Minneapolis; (612) 338-2401. Restaurant Alma, 528 University Ave. SE, Minneapolis; (612) 379-4909. Auriga, 1934 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; (612) 871-0777. Lucia's, 1432 W. 31st St., Minneapolis; (612) 825-1572.

 

Those amazing Parasoles: If you care about restaurant trends, give Parasole Restaurant Holdings a good look, because this company could sell ravioli to Chef Boyardee--and it will, in your town, sooner than you think. Buca is the best-known Parasole restaurant. Management honed the red-sauce-and-glee concept here for a few years, then spun the restaurant off into its own company and set it running. Now there are 59 Bucas, and so many more to come. The next concept spun off on its own was Oceanaire: This upscale, vaguely postwar-prosperity-themed restaurant is a chef-driven, fish-as-steak idea that does gangbuster business here; recently launched a successful Washington, D.C., location; and will open in early 2002 in Seattle. (Yes, they do see the irony in Midwesterners selling seafood to coast-dwellers.) Oceanaire is beloved for being fun, fancy, and classy without being at all highbrow. Expect one in your hometown, sooner rather than later.

The newest Parasole venture, Chino Latino, opened last spring and specializes in "foods from the hot zone," which Parasole says means any food that originates within 1,000 miles of the equator, and I say is just every under-35's favorite foods-that-aren't-pizza: mostly Thai, Mexican, Caribbean, Korean, and Chinese. Add sexy décor, sexy lighting, and big, expensive cocktails that make the crowd look especially sexy, and you've got a combination that can't lose. Right now the restaurant is still perfecting the Chino Latino concept, though they say they're already getting offers from all over the country to open a Chino in a city near you. Drink the future. The original Buca di Beppo, 1204 Harmon Pl., Minneapolis; (612) 638-2225. The Oceanaire Seafood Room, 1300 Nicollet Mall (in the Hyatt Regency), Minneapolis; (612) 333-2277. Chino Latino, 2916 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis; (612) 824-7878.

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