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One of My Best Meals of 2016 Was at a Minnesota Wild Game

Chef takeovers are elevating food at Xcel Energy Center


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We are at an incredible time for quality food in our sports venues. Target Field got the ball rolling by adding great local food items and restaurants inside the ballpark. U.S. Bank Stadium took it to a new level by bringing in 30+ local partners including Andrew Zimmern, Gavin Kaysen, an Ike's, and a Revival restaurant. And Target Center has just stepped up with David Fhima's impressive remake of the suite-level food.

Now the Minnesota Wild and Xcel Energy Center are getting in the game, and in a big way. First, they've made a couple of hires. Ryan Caulfield, who did a great job taking Cossetta to new heights during their impressive remodel, is now in charge of Culinary Concessions for Levy Restaurant at Xcel. He'll run all the food and drinks at the concession stands. And Matt Anderson is taking over the premium level: including the four restaurants and clubs that are on the club, suite, and event levels. You know Matt from La Belle Vie, and he helped get the premium level food going at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Part of what they're doing is bringing in guest chefs, largely with a Saint Paul connection, to takeover the Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Club. That club serves a buffet dinner before the game: the chefs get to change up the buffet options. So when the team from Pajarito took over, they added a Mexican/Southwestern flair to the salads and the meats.

The chefs are also doing 5-course tasting menus at a chefs table right next to the kitchen. I was invited to check out one of those dinners from Saint Dinette and Chef Adam Eaton, and it was absolutely spectacular.

We started with a scallop ceviche, served in an aquachile with this amazing burnt onion topping. Aguachile is essentially lime juice, pulverized chiles, and water. You'd think burnt onion would be bitter and off-putting, but it's similar to a coffee bitterness. There's a mole-like dance that happens when you combine th spice from aguachile, the sweet from the scallop, plus the bitterness of the burnt onion. It was a show-stopper (and you can get it at Saint Dinette for just $12!).

Then we had a perfect octopus with fermented white beans and a bean puree—just awesome flavors. Spaghetti ala chitarra (chitarra is a tool that creates this particular shape of spaghetti) with morcilla, clams, and chili flake. And then we had poached walleye with oyster and caviar. All in the club level of the Xcel Energy Center. All paired with great wines, and served by the General Manager Laurel Elm. Adam Eaton is really a gifted chef, and pulling off this level of quality in a kitchen that wasn't his own was truly impressive.

Obviously you have to be going to the game, but you don't have to be sitting in the suite level to eat at the club. It'd be fun to just try the buffet on one of these chef takeover nights. You can find the whole lineup and prices at the Wild's website, but most of the chefs table experiences will be $125-$150, which is just nuts inside a stadium and including wine pairings.

Dec 11Mucci's Italian – Chris Uhrich
Jan 12TBD
Jan 22TBD
Feb 12TBD
Feb 27Red Rabbit/Red Cow – Todd Macdonald
Mar 7Revival – Thomas Boemer/Nick Rancone
Mar 28Pajarito – Stephan Hesse/Tyge Nelson 

If you want to make a reservation at the club call 651-726-8400. To book the up to 6 person Chef's Table email chefstable@wild.com.

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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 rfischer@mnmo.com

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