South African Wine With YC & Me; David Fhima’s Back; Open Letter to Haute Dish

Lots of news, everybody. Let’s do this!

YC & Me!
First off, what are you doing Wednesday night? Come drink South African wine with me and YC, the chef de cuisine at La Belle Vie. We’ll be doing an event called Wine + Dine by Design. Here are the details: For $25 you get two tickets, two lovely Riedel wine glasses (retail value about $10 each), and to wander about through the Bespoke kitchen showroom at International Market Square and taste a whole range of South African wines, provided by Z Wines (but chosen by me), and eat lovely food cooked by Mike DeCamp, the chef de cuisine of La Belle Vie (who everyone calls YC, for Young Chef, a title he earned when he was a 17-year-old in Tim McKee’s kitchen, though of course he is now all grown up and important). But that’s not all! You get to do this while feeling good about helping your community, since all proceeds of the event go to WAMSO, the volunteer organization that helps the Minnesota Orchestra. Buy tickets! Should be a blast, and frankly, I can’t believe the tickets are so cheap; me, YC, a South African wine mini-seminar, and Riedel stemware to take home, for $15 a person, or $25 a pair? Dang, we are providing some luxurious value around here!

Uptown Market Opens
I was chatting with Chris Lockyear of the lovely bright purple hippie schoolbus café Magic Bus over the weekend, and he reminded me that the new Uptown Market is opening this weekend and will be running every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. till the fall. Here’s the story: They close down 29th street from Lyndale to Dupont—that’s the scroungy odd little street that parallels the Greenway—and fill the scroungy street with food trucks, farmers, artists, and who knows what else. The Magic Bus will be anchoring the event on Lyndale, and Chef Shack will be there too. And if you’ve ever put down your first cup of coffee of the day and vowed to go to the farmer’s market only to realize it’s 1 p.m. (you know who you are!), mark this one in permanent marker in your mind: A farmer’s market for bar-closers! And kids. And budget gourmets. Yum.

David Fhima’s Back!
David Fhima, much beloved, semi-notorious Minnesota restaurauteur is… Back! In St. Paul. He’s set to open up a new restaurant in his old Lo-To space on Mears Park in Lowertown St. Paul, called Faces. It opens Thursday, and I caught up with Fhima on the phone about what it will be, and why. Fhima has spent the years after he lost splashy Fhima, Louis XIII, and the Minneapolis Café in the healthy and restorative arms of the healthclub chain Lifetime Fitness, for whom he opened a few Zahtar restaurants and now supplies baked goods for out of his Mears Park space. But he also came away from Lifetime with a new respect for whole and healthy living. “You can’t be in shape, mentally or physically, unless you’re eating right,” Fhima told me. “I realized the way I grew up, with my Moroccan-Spanish mother, my Sicilian father, with this Mediterranean diet of seafood and olive oil, was really the healthiest way you can eat, and I want to get back to that. Well, I hate to say healthy because you say healthy and people think steamed brussels sprouts. No flavor. But that’s not true at all. Healthy foods can have the most flavor of all because they’re starting out good and don’t need complication.” To that end, Faces will be ambitiously local, organic, and biodynamic, Fhima tells me. To this end, expect dishes like brisket, short ribs, and even filet mignon from local grass-fed beef co-op 1,000 Hills, lots and lots of vegetarian options (for some reason I’m particularly excited about their vegetarian banh mi with scrambled eggs on a home-made baguette), pizzas from their traditional pizza oven, and a wine-list that’s 80% organic or biodynamic. (There will be a stand-alone wine bar in one corner of Faces; does this qualify as the metro’s first biodynamic and organic wine bar? Hmm, I bet Brenda Langton at Café Brenda would volunteer that if we’re calling bars in restaurants wine bars, hers was first. Still, interesting to consider.) The place will also act as a bakery and coffee shop, serving homemade bread, pastries, and coffee from 8 a.m. on. Does pastry not sound very healthy to you? For Fhima, healthy now means good for your body, but also good for your sense of well being: “At Lifetime, as I was getting involved in the food and travelling around the country talking to people, I became more and more convinced that the best diet is to eat a little bit of everything, the healthy and not-so. I think so many people are just craving all the time because they are depriving themselves. We eat fake sugar, fake foods, and our body doesn’t recognize them and just tells us: I’m hungry, I’m hungry! And then we break down. So a little chocolate, that to me is a healthy thing too.”

Dear Haute Dish:
I was in the other night. What a mess. The snail & ham potpie was a yawn; well, the pastry was lovely, but there was nothing under the hood, as the snails and ham were indistinct and unlovely. The burger was catstrophically oversalted. Catastrophically. The pigs’ foot was mushy, gummy, and amateurish. And Chef Landon Schoenfeld, you were sitting at the bar drinking while this horror was unfolding! Adam Vickerman, where were you? Listen kids, everyone is pulling for you. But all your glowing advance praise can turn on a dime. You need a chef in the kitchen tasting and responsible for everything that goes to every table. I haven’t given up on you; I was in earlier and had a wonderful meal, so the next one will be the tie-breaker. Don’t mess it up. And don’t take my word for it, call any chef in town: You think getting open was hard? The hard part has just begun.