BEST LOCAL CHEF - 2005
A friend recently confessed that he will only spend money in Minnesota on food of two cuisine categories: Vietnamese soup shops, and Auriga. While we can't understand his sense of adventure, we certainly understand his logic: No other investments pay off so reliably. If you can't understand why Auriga would be a cuisine category to begin with, you gotta get in there. More than at any other restaurant in Minnesota, Auriga's food is its own cuisine, reflecting the singular talent and set of interests that stem from chef and co-owner Doug Flicker. For one thing, he likes things to be little. Whether he's serving you a meal-starting amuse-bouche of a single chunk of tea-smoked hen-of-the-woods mushroom, a single Kumamoto oyster topped with grains of caviar, a single red rose of beef tartare, or a dollhouse-sized portion of goat's milk panna cotta with pickled ginger and licorice oil, he simply demands your attention as surely as a harvest moon or a shooting star does: noiselessly, and then quietly takes your breath away. For another thing, he likes what he likes, and doesn't much care whether the sturm and drang of the world comes with him. When all of New York was on fire with pork bellies, there were none at Auriga. When all of Minneapolis was on fire with pork bellies, there were none at Auriga. And now that all the world is sick of pork bellies, there are still none at Auriga. Because chef Flicker likes fish, seared expertly and paired with an undistracting, carefully enhancing broth, like one based on new spring vegetables. Because he likes chicken, roasted and subtly gilded, by, say, pairing it with truffled gnocchi or yellow slices of translucent salt-roasted beets. Because he likes braises in winter and salads in summer, because he likes things to be sensible and then nicely embroidered. Watching the cuisine of Doug Flicker evolve over the years has been one of the greatest joys of eating in Minneapolis.