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DeRusha Eats: Heartland Restaurant & Cocktail Dinners

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(credit: CBS) Jason DeRusha
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – For years, restaurants have had special dinners with wine producers, and beer brewers.

But over the past couple years the idea of cocktail dinners has really been taking off.

St. Paul’s Heartland Restaurant is where local food teams up with a local vodka.

The charcuterie at Lenny Russo’s Heartland Restaurant in St. Paul is out of this world.

“We bring in the whole animals, and do the whole process here,” Russo said.

The beef is from Osceola, and the venison is from Iowa.

This knockout of a restaurant has always been about showcasing local and regional ingredients — from the food to the drink.

“Our bar doesn’t have normal Grey Goose stuff — it’s all local and regional spirits,” Russo said. “The Prairie label meshes well with the Heartland brand.”

Next Friday, the chef will pair a five-course meal with five cocktails that all highlight Prairie Organic Vodka.

“Made in Minnesota, organically grown, sustainably done, even the by-product is being recycled,” he said.

Prairie Vodka’s distilled in Benson, bottled in Princeton, and owned by Phillips, a Minneapolis company.

“Now the thing about a cocktail dinner that makes it different than a beer, or wine dinners is the spirits are a lot stronger,” Russo said. “We’re formulating them with half shots instead of full shots so people can stay sober throughout the meal.”

While the sit-down restaurant is what most people think of with Heartland, the market next door is a real treasure.

The Prairie Organic Vodka dinner next Friday is a fundraiser for CSA Urban Roots, a St. Paul group that takes on gardening, cooking and conservation projects with young people.

The dinner is $75, and click here for more.

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