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The Inside Dirt on Wine Judging And Crazy Cakes


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How do you judge 50-odd wines? At first, with great precision, and later, with increasing hilarity.

Or at least, that’s how it was at the top-secret advance judging of wines for our 2011 Food & Wine Experience, which takes place at Target Field March 5th and 6th—that’s right, next weekend! We’ll be releasing the winners of the judging this weekend, but I can reveal a couple secrets in advance: First, the wine with the distinct nose of Swedish Fish that tasted like fermented raspberry Crystal Light will not be taking home any prizes. Two, the Boomtown Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon ($14-$16, depending on the store) are beautiful, great wines to buy by the case for the whole of the upcoming grilling season; the Merlot is black cherry plush but firmly tannic, and the Cabernet spicy, ripe, and good.

If you want to ferret out great wines for yourself, come! There will be more than 350 wines to taste (first with precision, and later with hilarity?) and all sorts of other good and fun things to eat, do, and see, like the Czar of Cakes Challenge. Will any cake possibly top last year’s all-edible Silence of the Lambs cake? I spoke with Marie Porter, the brilliant baker behind Celebration Generation, who didn’t win the competition outright, but won in terms of a worldwide publicity bonanza. (Really, she was written about in many languages.) You’d have written about her in many languages too if you were there; it was astonishing.

Celebration Generation will be back this year, competing against The Cake Diva, Muddy Paws Cheesecake, Sweets Bakeshop, and last year’s winner, Gateaux. I called up Porter to ask her if she could possibly do something more newsworthy than last year’s cake—Jack the Ripper cake, perhaps? She told me to hold on to my hat, her cake will be even crazier. “It’s a theme I’m sure no one is going to go for,” she told me, mysteriously. “It’s not gorey, but it’s really disgusting in another way.” What way? Come find out.

More inside scoop: Saturday tickets are getting close to selling out, but Sunday is still looking good; the Champion’s Wine Dinner is getting close to selling out as well, but the wine lunches have better availability. And you still have a chance to win tickets...but why wait? They may sell out!

Whether you win or buy, I hope to see you there! And remember, it’s all for a good cause: Proceeds benefit Minnesota Public Radio.

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Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

Have a food-related question? Email rhutton@mnmo.com

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