When you’re a former U of M fullback and your wife is a food blogger, and you get a chance to combine your respective loves of food and football, you jump on that date night opportunity, stat.
The NFL’s Taste of the Vikings 2015 was held at the Depot in Minneapolis on October 12th. (Not to be mistake for October 10th… because we totally did that and showed up Saturday night due to a calendar snafu. I guess God thought we needed two dates in three days. But I digress.) The goal of the event is to fight hunger, and this year all proceeds went to Second Harvest Heartland, a wonderful local organization helping to provide meals to local children in need.
Of course, the draw for me was all the fantastic Minneapolis-St.Paul area restaurants featuring signature dishes, all competing to be named “Top Restaurant” of Taste of the Vikings 2015. There were twenty restaurants total, and we tried just about everything, so we drove home borderline uncomfortable, but it was well worth it.
So without further adieu, here are my thoughts and critiques on some of the notable things we tried:
- Lobster Mac and Cheese – Bloomington Chophouse
Again, let’s set the precedent here that our family just returned from at trip to Maine, so anything with lobster is going to be highly scrutinized. Mr. MaK’s not a seafood fan, but this was one of his favorites. I thought their cheddar was nice, not too sharp, not too salty, and they had some nice sized lobster chunks. But the thing about any mac and cheese is that it’s hard to maintain en masse, so it was pretty mushy by the time we got to it.
- Chili Shrimp and Avocado Salsa with Avocado Mousse and Tortilla Chips – BLVD
So typically my only food caveat is that I’m a weenie when it comes to spicy stuff. (Trust me, I also think that’s lame, and I’m working on it.) But this was fantastic. All the sweet, tart, and spicy goodness that came from the combination of shrimp, lime juice, onion, and chili was a complete symphony. However, it was served in a tiny, golf ball-sized mini-fishbowl type container that, though beautiful, made for some really awkward fighting for the two bites it contained.
- Braised Short Ribs on Creamy Polenta with Fried Onion Straw – Lake Elmo Inn
Mr. MaK and I both agreed this topped our lists, and the truth is I’ll probably try to recreate it in the not-so-distant future. The braised short ribs were fall-apart-tender the moment your fork hit them, and they added horseradish to the polenta, which gave the homey comfort dish a more upscale, prime rib dinner type feel, and the crunch of the onion straws added variety in texture it needed. Divine.P.S. If you haven’t been to Lake Elmo Inn’s brunch on the weekends, you’re missing out. Start fasting Friday night to eat Sunday morning. And even if you don’t drink coffee, get coffee. End of aggressive recommendation. 🙂
- Shrimp and Grits – Oceanaire
This dish was definitely one of the prettier presentations we encountered at Taste of the Vikings, and I was excited to try it , but I was a tad disappointed. The consistency of the grits were great, but needed the flavor from the sauce to taste like anything. But the biggest disappointment of all: Where was my shrimp? They used pieces of sausage as filler meat here, and it was good, but to get handed a plate of “shrimp and grits” that was devoid of shrimp was just wrong.
- Chicken in Lettuce Wraps – Salsa La Salsa
This was another delicious-but-borderline-too-spicy dish. The combination of spices they used on the chicken were amazing, but one bite and my mouth was on fire. But on fire with deliciousness. (And what did I expect from a place called Salsa La Salsa?) 🙂
- Lobster Rolls — er wait, no. Lobster Guacamole – Smack Shack
Anyone who has ever talked restaurants with me know that I adore Smack Shack, and always have since the first time I got a lobster roll at the 1029 Bar, before the brick and mortar restaurant was an idea. But I felt like it was a big fail to have a lobster roll printed on the menu and wind up with a few corn chips and a tablespoon of guacamole with a few tiny shreds of lobster buried in there somewhere. Maybe they had a issue with their lobster shipment that day, who knows. We certainly don’t, because it wasn’t mentioned, just played off like the guacamole was what was printed on the menu. So…bummer. Oh well. I’ll still be showing up at the restaurant for my lobster roll every now and again.
- Beet Salad – Union
I wasn’t going include this one, but in case anyone from Union ever actually reads this: GUYS. I love you. You’re wonderful. In all my experiences at Union restaurant you’ve had great food, great service, and your rooftop is to die for. So what’s with representing your normally great restaurant with a single pale endive and a few paper thin shreds of beet? Again, I love you…but I’m not sure what happened here, and I know you can do better.
- Seafood Cocktail and Saltines – 4Bells
I haven’t been to 4Bells in Minneapolis yet (though can I pause for one moment and say how gorgeous their website is?), so this seafood cocktail was my first impression. And it was…ok. All the seafood seemed to be very finely minced/shredded, so it was hard to even tell what was in it. The balance of the tomato sauce was really great — not too sweet, not too acidic — but their “saltine” was more like an over-seasoned Wheat Thin and killed any flavor from the cocktail sauce. I’m hoping to swing into the restaurant, but I see this is a featured item on their seafood menu, so I’ll know to steer clear of it.
- Pumpkin! – Zelo
Oh, Zelo. You are tricky. You advertise “desserts” as your menu item, and then smack us in the face with this rich, earthy, spicy fall deliciousness you simply call “Pumpkin!” and proceed to watch us spoon up every delicious crumb to watch it melt in our mouths. (I do not have a picture of this as it disappeared much to quickly.) No wonder you walked away with the “Top Restaurant” vote at Taste of the Vikings 2015. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Well, that wraps up my recap of the NFL’s Taste of the Vikings 2015. Thanks to all the awesome Minneapolis-St. Paul restaurants that came out to show your stuff, compete, and support such a great cause!
Did you make it to the Taste of the Vikings 2015? Do you have any favorite recommendations or restaurants from the list above? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!