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Wonderful Hot Dish Competition

November 9, 2010

We had a wonderful time as per usual at Le Poisson Rouge this past Friday – and even though I didn’t win the Hot Dish competition, I got to enjoy the wonderful Minnesota culinary stylings of our winning ‘Wild Rice Hotdish’ and ‘Chicken Surprise’ contenders, pictured here with their wonderful prizes:

To give you an idea of how seriously we took the judging, I’m going to take the liberty of sharing with you some inter-judge correspondence that was forwarded to me. Although it’s a little wordy, I think it reflects the sort of in-depth consideration that is necessary at every Minnesota Monthly Happy Hour:

Wondering if you are having any second thoughts about your rankings,
which I myself have found it hard not to go there. What exactly was it
about chicken surprise that led us to place it ahead of wildrice
hamburger hotdish? And should we really be surprised? It would be
difficult to remain firmly anchored in our appraisals, as long as we
remain without a workable, persuasive (dare I say robust) hotdish
litmus test.

It is my hope, and I believe yours as well, that a number of key
benchmarks may provide a maximum of multi-dimensionality–and
stability–in the terms of our hotdish critique. Some reflect
traditional minnesota culinary cultural norms, while others reflect
the slow bleed-in of foodie aesthetics. Although we revere our
hotdishes on an emotive level, we have not yet had the chance to fully
appreciate the true depth of flavor presented therein, nor to fully
elucidate it verbally.

In our contest, a post-modern self-awareness resolves in post-ironic
notions of recession-era comfort food–anchored in our
cross-continental auto-regard towards the northwoods. We hearken back
to the days of church potlucks tended by ladies in matching brown
floral cotton smocks–the fellowship hall tinged by the smell of
cigarette smoke and a faint note of urinal puck–though we know they
remain inaccessibly confined to tragic memory. Yet in the nightclub
bowels of Bleeker Street, the memory of the familiar lives on to
inspire a re-appropriation of our childhood lived truths.

If Minnesotans are now able to pronounce Asiago, so too are we able to
perceive new dimensions of hotdish integrity.

-authenticity
-woodsiness
-subtlety of flavor
-lack of oregano
-use of local ingredients
-overall traditionalism
-general deliciousness
-incorporation of savory cream soup mix
-presence of peas
-creative interpretation of classic ingredient
-flavor synergy
-initial olfactory bouquet–“le nez”
-textural fluidity
-flavor nuance interplay
-even preponderance of beige
-ojibwe relatedness

[update: I very foolishly forgot to attribute this mini-essay to our distinguished hotdish judge Andrew Scott]

I also had the pleasure of being allowed to perform the ‘Northstar Anthem’ – if you missed it on Friday, have a listen here:

We’ll be seeing you all the first Friday in December I hope!

(and as always, you can keep up to date on Minneapple activities and admire pictures from the Happy Hour at the facebook group here)

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