In honor of the newly released Hell’s Kitchen cookbook (Damn Good Food) the downtown restaurant put on the ritz last night, booking a blues band, and offering a multi-course meal to a crowded house of friends.
Food served included BBQ Baby Back Ribs, Lemon Ricotta Hotcakes, Mahnomin Porridge, and a Ham & Pear Crisp sandwich — a tasting menu of house favorites, in other words.
We attended the first seating (there were two!) and came away with a few observations about the evening.
1. The Band Can Make or Break an Event
Hud, fronted by Javier Matos, plays blues with an edge. If you want to find the midpoint point between Hell’s Kitchen and the blues, it’s the devil, the figure who lurks in the background (or struts in the foreground) of many of the genre’s best songs. Hud — clear, powerful, soulful, mature, menacing, uproarious, infernal — fit both the event and venue like wild rice fits porridge.
2. Personal Stories Sell Books
If you haven’t heard the personal story of Mitch Omer, you’re about to hear a lot about over the next few weeks as he promotes Damn Good Food. That’s good news — he’s an interesting guy, and the ins and outs of his cacophonic life give the book substance and compel a close look. Without ruining the highlights, he was a hell of a mess before he came to be the restaurateur who expanded and franchised his creative vision in Minneapolis and Duluth (with a great deal of help from his wife Cynthia Gerdes and right-hand man Steve Meyer).
3. Ann Bauer and Mitch Omer are Complementary
Omer’s co-author, local food writer Ann Bauer, has an NPR-ish affect and sense of polished poise that you’d expect — heck, even hope for — from a cookbook author. Omer — foulmouthed, explosively funny, looming in a kilt with sgian dubh — was an altogether more off-the-charts presence.
4. Nothing Spices Up An Evening Like Pot Brownies
The party’s gift bag had a little something extra that Borealis Press, the publisher of Damn Good Food, somehow couldn’t work into the book: a bona fide recipe for marijuana brownies. For therapeutic use only, of course.
5. Starting Dinner With a Caramel-Pecan Roll Is Hilarious and Awesome…
…but it does render dessert superfluous. Particularly if dessert comes at the end of six courses. Not counting the caramel roll.