I’m officially off my New Year’s “eat healthy” resolution. And it only took about an hour.

But oh man, was it worth it.

Minnesota Monthly’s 16th Annual Food and Wine Experience was held Saturday and Sunday at the Minneapolis Convention Center and was without a doubt, one of the best reasons ever to go off a diet.

I went on Sunday afternoon for a bit, thinking I’d go in and be able to show some restraint, tasting only a few select dishes. That lasted exactly three minutes.

It was literally a smorgasbord of food — everything from fresh sushi to spicy curry to smoked salmon and everything in between. And now, nearly a day later, I still feel full.

I blame the food vendors and exhibitors. They’re just so friendly and put their food so nicely on silver platters, just begging you to stop and stuff your face.

But beyond the food, there were flowing white linens that signified a haven for wine tasting. Neon signs pointed to just about every kind of beer, waiting to be sampled. There were coffee beans overflowing at one table, fresh fruit smoothies being poured at another.

I began at what I perceived to be the front of the room and eagerly worked my way in, weaving up and down the rows of booths and tables. A sampling of country patè from Harry’s Food and Cocktail was delicious and refreshing with tomato chutney nestled on top. Seven’s array of sushi — made right before your eyes — was beyond scrumptious, which was apparent by the ever-growing line that seemed continuous.

There were kitchen demonstrations for folks to check out everything from new kitchen gadgets to how to make the most out of healthy ingredients.

The barbecue pit kept things smoking — and gave me a lovely souvenir of apple wood-smoked smelling hair for the rest of the day.

But at the end of the day, I must admit, it was all about the food for me. And I truly didn’t believe how little time it took for me to feel stuffed. I think it was the deception of how small each sample was — on first glance, it seems like a little bite here, a tasty morsel there. But after a dozen or so, you start to feel sluggish, and then before you know it, you’re waving the white flag and looking for a corner for nap time.

I was a little nervous heading in, as well, since there were so many different kinds of foods to be had — I wasn’t sure if my stomach could handle a trip to Italy immediately following a trip to India. I think in the future, I would try to map out my visits. Group the similar foods together, have a wine buffer, and then head to feasts of another country.

I also wish I would’ve stuck around more for the Local Chef Competition. I spent a little time here, watching the chefs in action and getting the dish from judge Jason DeRusha, but it definitely would be a fun thing to check out from beginning to end. In the end, Jack Riedel from the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant went home $5,000 richer — and with the respected honor of top local chef. I’m sure it’ll be tough to get a table there in the next few weeks.

All in all, if you’ve never experienced all that is food and wine at this annual show, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s like Christmas for local foodies except instead of stuffed stockings, you’ll find stuffed tummies hung with care. And like Christmas, you’ll likely want to hit the gym for a while once it’s over to get back to normal.


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