Remember when the Marx Brothers tested out their material at the Orpheum Theater on Hennepin, testing for laughs before they filmed it? Of course you don’t. No one does. But not since then has Minneapolis been the debut stage for such a likely national hit—Andrew Zimmern’s food truck, the AZ Canteen, debuted at the State Fair, and has been trying out dishes in downtown Minneapolis nearly every day since. Andrew Zimmern, of course, is our own home-grown superstar, one time chef of un, deux, trois, and now star of the food-and-adventure show Bizarre Foods, and author of many books, including the forthcoming Andrew Zimmern’s Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild, and Wonderful Foods, which I hear is a must-read for all picky-eating kids. And now he’s launched a food truck, as only a good and knowing chef really can, with a former sous chef from 20.21 (the Wolfgang Puck restaurant at the Walker) supervising the day-to-day cooking, and a hot-line of stoves that rivals that found in many brick-and-mortar restaurants, with eight gas-burners, a deep-fryer, and a big flat-top griddle. Which is to say this is no casual endeavor: The Canteen’s next step is to get loaded onto a truck and driven to New York City, where the AZ Canteen crew will be cooking for some of the food world’s biggest bigwigs, at Food & Wine Magazine’s annual show. After that? They plan to take it slow, but if there aren’t AZ Canteens all over the country by 2015 I’ll eat a goat sausage. Or rather, another one, and happily.
Because goat is one of the things you find at the AZ Canteen: I tried a goat butter burger (look out, Culver’s?) which was nice and meaty, thoughtfully topped with oven-roasted tomatoes and meltingly soft roasted onions, and a goat sausage grinder which was beautiful—spicy, gamy, deeply flavored, but not goaty, as it were. Goat, called Cabrito, in true south-of-the-border fashion, is a clear part of Zimmern’s mission, to get Americans to reconsider our narrow food-supply, one that, in its narrowness, threatens us with issues of both boredom and food safety. (Part of the reason there are so many antibiotics used in the industrial food supply is because we basically only eat three animals, and have to keep mega-populations of them to do so). Also widening the options of what Americans commonly eat: Bitterball eggplants! You’ll find these beloved darlings of Hmong and Lao cuisine in the fiery papaya salad, which supports AZ’s crispy pork belly with just-set egg. Yum. If you’ve never had the combination of tomato, raw eggplant, green papaya, chile, and cilantro which defines the pork belly of the agricultural inlands of southeast Asia you owe it to yourself: Pop, zowie, zam, it’s such gorgeously intense flavor, presented in an American-friendly way, but true to its origins.
And Andrew Zimmern’s truck is going to be handing out samples this Friday at Taste, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s annual food and wine show, at TCF Stadium this September 28 and 29. If you’re never been, come! The show should be pretty fantastic, more than 300 wines to sample, 100 beers to try, dozens of restaurants’ food to sample, wine seminars, and it all benefits our charity partners, University of Minnesota Athletics and On the Green Line, which supports the businesses on the new light-rail green line, which are suffering, seriously, through this construction. (If you haven’t heard, both Mai Village and Bangkok Thai have been having terrific troubles.) What can you do? Visit the restaurants, of course, and drink wine with me?
My Saturday wine seminar, if I do say so, should be fab: It will be a “Deep Dive Into Bubbly,” and during we will sample 10 bubblies from all over the world—prosecco (both pink and regular), Moscato d’Asti (the real good stuff), dark-red bubbly in the form of Italian Brachetto, Spanish Cava (the world’s most underpriced wine, in my opinion), California award-magnet sparkling, and, of course, real-deal, bona-fide French Champagne. How do the bubbles get in there? What’s the difference between the world’s different bubbly traditions? And most importantly: Which do you think is worth your hard-earned celebration cash? Come and find out.
And that’s not all! We’re going to give away a pair of tickets to Taste! In the comments below, tell us your favorite sparkling wine, by noon, Friday, September 21, and we’ll pick a random winner for two tickets to Saturday’s show. (We’ll announce the winner here Friday, September 21, by 1:00 p.m. in the comments.)
Hope to see you there!