The Pretty Young Things of Minneapolis amassed at Hotel Minneapolis Friday evening for the third annual Taste of the Nation HOTlist, where 12 local restaurants served up small plates of cuisine to benefit Second Harvest Heartland, the Legal Services Advocacy Project, and the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches. The event was one of the more than 45 food-themed fêtes being held across North America this year, but it was likely the only one that featured both frozen custard and tataki bison.
But not together, thankfully — the participating restaurants served their wares separately so attendees could enjoy dishes such as tacos with braised lamb (Cafe Ena) and Thai ginger salad (Sen Yai Sen Lek) at their own pace. Highlights included skewers of mozzarella, dried pineapple, and Thai basil from Chambers Kitchen, sweet corn and white truffle ravioli with summer vegetable succotash from Restaurant Max, and Crave’s tuna with wasabi cream. The River Chocolate Company, Adele’s Frozen Custard, and The Salty Tart offered tantalizing trays of sweets; beer, whiskey, and wine purveyors competed for attention with the event’s signature cocktails, such as a raspberry margarita.
Only the select few on the judging panel had the opportunity to taste the most talked-about drinks of the event — the creations of La Belle Vie’s Johnny Michaels and Bradstreet Crafthouse’s Birk Gruden, whose mixology duel had them go glass-to-glass in three categories. Michaels came in on top of the martini category, but Gruden’s mastery of the rocks beverage and a libation crafted from a box of mystery ingredients gave him the victory.
Delicious and doing good, Taste of the Nation Minneapolis has given more than $1.5 million to local hunger-relief efforts since its inception in 1988. A second event, featuring chefs cooking gourmet meals tableside, will take place at the Graves Hotel on Sept. 13.