Monday, March 10, 2008

Noshing with foodies and drunks - Finds from the Twin Cities Food and Wine Experience

A few weeks back, we dropped a load of cash to spend a Saturday afternoon roaming a crowded exhibition hall begging for free sips of wine and bits of food. It wasn't a fit of insanity, but rather, the 14th Annual Twin Cities Food and Wine Experience. I've always wanted to go, but am usually out of town on vacation that time of year. As we pushed our vacay back a week this year, we were able to find out what we've been missing.

While the tickets at a face value of $60 are a bit over-priced, you do get the opportunity to taste hundreds of wines, foods and other thrills at your leisure while getting to people-watch to see what tragic fool is going to drop his canapè on himself, or what poor Edina housewife will have to get escorted out by her embarrassed husband. Good times! Furthermore, I actually found some good stuff. Here's my top 10 in no particular order:

1) 4 Vines "Old Vine Cuvee" 2005 Zinfandel - this wine won the "Best Value" award in the Zinfandel category for good reason. Arrestingly delicious. I've already bought (and drunk) 2 bottles of the stuff for about $10 a pop.

2) Il Cuore Cabernet Sauvignon - Found this at the Surdyk's booth - currants, soft tannins with a mild sweet finish - very tasty which says something as I generally don't enjoy Cabs.

3) Pinot Evil Pinot Noir - Another "Best Value" award winner for the show. Really good with forward mineral/stone textures with a cherry & red plum feel to it. Billed as a French table wine.

4) Di Majo Norante Sangiovese 2006 - Another "Best Value" award winner from the imported red category, this wine explodes with pleasurable overtones - smoky rich aroma with bitter chocolate and sour cherry. I love smoky wines so I can't wait to break into this at home.

5) Italian Sodas made with Torani syrups - Okay, this is not a new thing, but I haven't had an Italian soda since I was in college. The Torani folks were sampling deliciously simple and refreshing strawberry sodas that beat the pants off anything you get out of a bottle at the local convenience store. These will be a great refresher for summer afternoons on the balcony. They even gave me a $.50-off coupon.

6) Cedar Planked Brie with Roasted Berries - Kitchen Window had a massive booth and this was one of several finds we discovered here. They were demonstrating and sampling a round of Brie that had been grilled on a cedar plank, covered with grill roasted berries and drizzled with Orange Blossom Honey. If that wasn't enough, they finished it with smoked black pepper. Incredible and delicious.

7) CurrySimple Curry Sauces - Another Kitchen Window find, these fully prepared Thai curry sauces are made fresh in Thailand from local ingredients, vacuum sealed in giant "Capri-Sun" like silver packs and shipped over here for our hedonistic enjoyment. At $6 a pouch, it's not a bargain, but the flavors are so fresh and delicious, it beats out any Thai take-out I've had in the Twin Cities. The Thai Chicken Curry they made with these sauces was intoxicating.

8) Prosciutto, Blue Cheese and Date Wraps - Whole Foods had a poorly staffed booth with fabulous food including these gems - dates stuffed with blue cheese and grilled (how you grill dates without them falling through the grates, I have no idea!).

9) Osso Bucco Bread Pudding with Horseradish Foam and Red Onion Marmalade - B.A.N.K. at the Minneapolis Westin did not impress us with their food on our first visit there, but the sharp-suited dude at the B.A.N.K. booth at the show passionately explained to us that they have a new chef and a new menu that we should come back to try. If this tidbit they had on offer at the show was any indication of what this new chef has done with their rather understated cuisine, I'll be back for sure.

10) Chateau Lamothe White Bordeaux - I am finding myself quite smitten with Bordeaux Blanc and this one was no exception - nice floral peach nose, with a clean pale fruit flavor that made me smile. I have not found this wine yet in my normal wine shops, but I'm going to keep looking.

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