Minnesota Cooks at the State Fair

I didn't know what to expect at the Minnesota Cooks stage, located outdoors at the Minnesota State Fair's Carousel Park, but I was pleasantly surprised at every turn. From the signs announcing a sponsor list that would have made any local and organic food promoter proud (Thousand Hills Cattle Company, Organic Valley, etc.) to the coupons, calendars, and "eat local" brochures being handed out, this was an event for locavores to savor.

I made it to the fair just past 11:00 am, just in time to see Marshall Paulsen from the Birchwood Cafe make magic from poached chicken and bacon. Despite being taunted by a panel of luminaries, including Minnesota's cut-up Senator Al Franken, Marshall stayed cool, waxing eloquently about the importance of knowing where your food comes from - and his love for medium-rare poached chicken. Todd Churchill from Thousand Hills surprised me the most, with this bit of information: "My cattle is the lowest priced out there when it's raised," he said, "but without the scale [that major manufacturers have], the cost of butchering, packaging, and shipping the meat means that you'll pay twice as much for it at the grocery store."

I was glad to catch the Strip Club's JD Fratzke and Chez Jude's Judi Barsness (from Grand Marais) presentation as well. JD's "upscale BLT" - which he called a "P & PLT" - featured thick sliced bacon, pea sprouts, and a sauce made from mayonaise, sambal, Ames farm honey, soy sauce, and lime. JD's a fun presenter who loves to talk, and it was terrific to share his stories and his food. Judi's New York Strip Steak (from Hidden Stream farm, whose Lisa Klein was on the panel) looked fantastic as well.

I was sad not to be able to see all of the chefs and panels, but I was glad to get a chance to watch a few chefs, taste their creations, and learn a bit more about how they work.

JD works his magic at Minnesota CooksJD works his magic at Minnesota Cooks