Heidi’s opening date! Get ready Minnesota, Heidi’s is about to dawn. When? The numerologically auspicious day of… You know, actually, I should clear up a few things first. Chef Stewart Woodman and I did a joint book event on Saturday, he signing his new cookbook Shefzilla, me signing my wine book Drink This: Wine Made Simple.
I was nervous about appearing with Woodman, as his blog has been a hotbed of anxiety about restaurant critics, star systems, and rival restaurants and chefs lately, and I felt like I was walking into a lion’s den. In fact, I shouldn’t have worried. Woodman and I had a very interesting talk behind the signing table, one of those talks that was so interesting I wish it had been mic’ed and recorded. But it wasn’t, so here’s what I remember.
Woodman feels that all his trouble-making is for the betterment of the Twin Cities food community. I said that what Woodman fails to understand is that critics such as Rick Nelson at the Star Tribune are writing for the entire metro region, and need to convey the various merits of restaurants including, but not limited to, Enjoy, Crave, Rock Bottom, Aperitif, Kincaid’s, Lindey’s Steak House, Sawatdee, the Bulldog NE, Barley John’s, the Corner Table, Piccolo, Lucia’s, and La Belle Vie. To convey this is not the same thing as plucking the three-star restaurants out of the madding crowd for the benefit of Michelin-guide followers.
He conceded my point, but said that I failed to understand that there’s only one three-star, four-star, or however you want to arrange the top strata in Minnesota: La Belle Vie, or possibly two, La Belle Vie and Cosmos, and if you give other restaurants as many stars as La Belle Vie (and possibly Cosmos) it diminishes the perception of how truly excellent La Belle Vie is. I allowed that this may be so, but relayed anecdotes of experiments we ran at City Pages some ten years ago, toying with a star system of black stars (fine dining) white stars (taco and noodle houses) and so on; we eventually gave up the noodling because it looked so ridiculous in layouts to have a four star taco dive beside a three star, but inarguably superior in every way (except tacos) farm-to-table chef-driven restaurant.
Stars. Harder than they look. I’m very lucky in that I’ve never been forced to award them, unless you have a single person awarding them, over decades, or a very strict regime, they’re meaningless. Even in the hands of civilians, they’re, well, let’s not say meaningless, but difficult: I just looked at Yelp, and La Belle Vie—four-and-a-half stars! Also four-and-a-half stars: The Wedge, Lotus to Go, and the Lunch Cube. Ruth’s Chris: Five stars!
In any event, Woodman and I came to see eye-to-eye: Stars are not ideal, and everyone involved in the various roles of creating and critiquing food wishes only to create a better food world. Also, face-to-face communication is a far better way to resolve conflict than blog-to-blog communication. Also: Woodman has an opening date set!
January 11, 2011. There, I said it. It’s the day Heidi’s 2.0 goes live at its new larger, snazzy location at 2903 Lyndale Ave. S., just off the Greenway in LynLake. 1.11.11: A date that will live in—in what? In history, in infamy, in our hearts? One month people, till one of the best chefs to ever grace a Minneapolis stove turns sets saucepan to burner, for public enjoyment.
FYI: Woodman tells me they’ll start taking reservations two weeks beforehand (so, starting Dec. 28), for dining up to a month in advance, at 612-354-3512. Happy New Year!
And in other news…
Landon Schoenefeld’s New Menu; Dirt (Candy) Inspired Vegetarian Feast This Sunday!
Speaking of dirt, dishing, and so-on, I happened to catch chef Landon Schoenefeld of Haute Dish earlier this week in the milliseconds before he debuted his new menu: Very intriguing. He’s taken on the big guns, the big gun itself, in the pantheon of Midwestern Dishes Chefs Won’t Touch. I speak, of course, of tuna noodle casserole.
“I’ve been thinking about this one for a long, long time,” Schoenefeld told me. His answer to tuna noodle casserole? A loin of red Ahi tuna, cut into a long cylinder, seared, laid over wasabi-touched pea purée, and paired with torchio pasta dressed in a sea urchin sabayon. The crunchy potato chip topping will be evoked by fresh radishes and elephant garlic chips. Can it be done? Can tuna noodle casserole be pushed into a fine dining universe? Go, and post your thoughts in the comments—I need to know! I’m booked solid for the next week. Sigh.
Also, go on Sunday night, when Perennial Plate—the documentary film project and website about sustainable eating in Minnesota—and Haute Dish are throwing a dinner. $50 will get you at least five all-Minnesota (and Wisconsin and the Dakotas) vegetarian courses.
“People think I’m some kind of dummy who can only cook meat,” Schoenefeld told me, “So I started cooking vegetarian as a challenge to myself. Can I cook vegetarian food that an omnivore would want to order? I’ve been looking at the menus of [New York City chef and alt-food celebrity] Amanda Cohen at her restaurant Dirt Candy and thinking about how to really do a vegetable.”
Ever since the gauntlet was thrown down and Schoenefeld started thinking about dirt, Dirt Candy, and all things vegetable-related, he has been offering vegetarian tasting menus on Sunday nights, this Perennial Plate dinner looks to take it to the next level. Now, I don’t know who’s been saying Schoenefeld is a dummy, but I’m glad we all, as a city, get to eat their words. Call Haute Dish at 612-338-8484 to make a reservation for one of the three seatings on Sunday night.