The breadth and quality of responses we received for our Create-A-Restaurant contest was a little humbling, and our internal panel struggled a bit to sort out the winners. There was much cleverness among the other entries (and our decisions were far from unanimous.)
All that said: we hope you enjoy our three winning entries.
GRAND PRIZE ($50 gift card to Annona Gourmet in Northeast Minneapolis)
The Wild Table
by Teresa Marrone
“The Wild Table” would be a restaurant highlighting foraged or wild foods. Morels, fiddlehead ferns, maple syrup, wild rice, blueberries, and dandelion greens are well-known. But there are many other wild foods to consider: nettles, purslane, daylilies, puffballs, dock, elderberries, serviceberries … the list goes on. And, venison, pheasant, duck, walleye, trout, whitefish and herring fit right in.
In the hands of a competent chef, the possibilities are endless. Cattail pollen crepes filled with wild mushrooms, served on a bed of sauteed garlic mustard. Nettle pasta with wild duck, garnished with violets. Wild-rice-flour blini topped with sour cream, pickled ramps and Lake Superior whitefish caviar. Salade sauvage, featuring cattail shoots, violet leaves, wood sorrel, watercress and edible flowers. The cocktail menu could include drinks based on highbush cranberry juice (exquisitely tart, gorgeous color), sumac-ade or black cherry juice. Chokecherry-wild grape wine can rival bordeaux. Beer can be infused with wild berries, or perhaps made with wild hops. The dessert cart would include Bumbleberry Pie (wild blackberries, crabapples, huckleberries and raspberries), rose hip sorbet, gooseberry cobbler and mulberry-butternut tart. (If you’re not drooling yet, better check your pulse!)
To add interest, some foods could be “campfire style”, cooked and served in foil packets. Or you could have a Boundary Waters Feast: walleye, morels and fiddlehead ferns served in an iron skillet.
FIRST PRIZES ($20 gift cards to Annona Gourmet in Northeast Minneapolis)
by Ann Nordby
My restaurant is always just around the corner. It has white tablecloths, and the servers wear those long white linen aprons and carry heavy wooden pepper mills. They know everything about the day’s dishes, which wines taste best with each dish, and which wines are overrated. The menu changes with the seasons, and with what looks good in the market, because the chef visits the markets regularly. A jazz trio plays in the corner on the weekends.
The chef is constantly learning and re-interpreting the history and uses of each ingredient the way a linguist studies words. About half the dishes are vegetarian — not on principle, but because of the variety of tastes that vegetables offer — pesto, carrot soup, garlicky broccoli, oniony frittata. There is no Thousand Island dressing, no children’s menu filled with deep-fried items, no carrot sticks.
People dress up to eat at my restaurant, and they order a before-dinner drink, settling in for the evening as though they have arrived at a party. And it is a little like a party because the food, the lighting, the music and the relaxed pace encourage conversation with the people at the next table. There are taxis outside, so no one has to drive home.
These restaurants do exist in other cities, but I haven’t found one in the Twin Cities yet. I keep searching. And thus, it is always just around the corner.
by Carly Schuna
I’d like to make a pastry shop
Near Hennepin and Lake.
It’d be for kids, and every day
I’d wake at dawn to bake.
Princess cakes with triple tiers
And chocolate as their source
Would sit near dinosaurs and bugs
(In cookie form, of course).
And waves of cupcake creatures
Would be right there for the picking.
There’d be frogs and cats and llamas—
Maybe ocelots or chickens.
And fondant! Oh, the fondant—
It would make all sorts of things.
Monsters that are good to eat
And necklaces and rings.
The colors would be crazy
There’d be murals on the floor.
I’d want a train inside the shop
And two revolving doors.
I’d hold a daily story time
With listening and munching.
The book would sound so soothing
Over muted gulps and crunching.
The Cities need a place like this
With sweet treats just for kids.
So who wants to fund my project?
Come on, now. Any bids?