The best meals Star Tribune food writers ate in 2023

The best meals Star Tribune food writers ate in 2023

The Star Tribune’s Taste team eats out — a lot. Although we’ve had many memorable meals, this one stands out.

Ann Kim Kasama Collaboration Dinner

Somewhere behind the shiny silverware and artfully arranged plates, there’s a quiet conversation taking place between chefs and diners. It’s one of the privileges of being able to eat out so often that I can recognize these moments. Like familiar licks from a great guitarist, there is character woven into the chords and flavors.

On one glorious sold-out night at Young Johnny’s, I was among a room full of diners enjoying the culinary expressions of Chef Ann Kim and her friends Tim Flores and Jenny Kwon, who own Chicago’s acclaimed restaurant Kasama. The progressive dishes were playful in tone, but seriously designed. What I know now in hindsight about Kim, the chef’s latest restaurant, is that she was stepping into her future. I could taste the optimism, excitement and nervous pride in the bowl of beef mandu.

The broth was light, but full of deep flavor from the bones. The dumpling wrapper was a sturdy home for a succulent beef short rib. “It’s a family recipe,” Kim said across the table, beaming with joy and purpose. She talked about how she and Flores met through her restaurant and how the friendship fueled the creative collaboration for an event that fueled their creative spirits.

After years of pain and hardship in both our city and the restaurant industry, this stolen moment on a cold spring night was a glimmer of hope for the next chapter of Minneapolis restaurants. Like that bowl of soup, this year has been an opportunity to learn from where we’ve been and step into something new — something beautiful, infused with hope and a little salty spice from what has become Kim’s mantra: loud fear. (Joey Summers)

Bone marrow and duck confit at Maison Margaux

It’s both exciting and exhausting when a dish arrives on the table and stops you mid-sentence. Such was the case at Maison Margaux this summer, when we ordered this trifecta of bone marrow, duck confit, and orange marmalade on sourdough toast made from chef David Fahima’s century-old family recipe.

Excitement arose over the impressive dish before a bite was taken, and expectations were high. The tension came from wondering whether he would meet those expectations. Fortunately, you won’t be disappointed. Flawless duck confit is bathed in a thick, rich glaze reminiscent of mole. Fatty bone marrow. This sourdough was topped with apricot jam that had been cooked in duck fat and Espelette pepper for 36 hours. (Fahima sang the marmalade’s praises, but realized that its ingredients made it something to enjoy on occasion.) While we picked each one out—they were all delicious—we still had an important question: Were we eating them right?

no. Our server suggested that we combine all the ingredients together, and when we did, the result was truly magical. I still remember it clearly, and with a sigh, months later. It’s one of those occasions where an experience turns an ordinary evening into an extraordinary one. (Nicole Hvidsten)

More restaurant stories at the end of the year

Vinay’s feast

For my wife’s birthday this summer, we hosted a fun-filled weekend with friends old and new, those we’ve met here and those we’ve stayed close to through different life cycles. It all culminated in a backyard dinner for the ages.

At a long table covered in banana leaves, we’re gathered around mountains of food that’s meant to be enjoyed with our hands (she uses bits of purple sticky rice to pick up other morsels). For many of our out-of-town guests, this was their first time eating Hmong food, and we couldn’t be happier as we served them herbs, chili peppers, sauces, noodle circles, smoked grilled meats, and whole fish, all with the help of Chef Yia Vang. And the Vinai feast is impressively plentiful. Sharing this wonderful banquet sets the convivial tone for the rest of the evening, the kind of party that transitions to a campfire for a singalong that ends the next morning, and for memories that last forever.

Ordering is done via Tock, where you can customize your own proteins, toppings, sauces, desserts, and cocktail mixer. (You can bet we chose the state’s famous coconut lychee colada for our drink.) It’s $75 per person, including delivery and setup, with no utensils to wash, tons of leftovers, and a natural tablecloth you can roll up and wash. Throw it straight into the organics bin, this has got to be the easiest dinner party you’ve ever hosted for 16 people. And definitely the most delicious. (Sharyn Jackson)

Pennsylvania Yellow Chicken in Demi

The adage that chicken can only be relegated to a side piece in any well-designed restaurant here has become a little tired. Which is clearly wrong, if you count the number of Michelin-starred kitchens in France that find ways to put it on a pedestal: using the most prized breed (brise) and cooking it ceremonially (in the pig’s bladder).

The chicken dish I experienced during the last moments of summer, at Demi’s, had no such source, nor any business requiring it to be cooked in a balloon of pig organ. But she approaches in a way that’s consistent with Demi’s ethos. Chickens are a Pennsylvania yellow breed — ones that enjoy sunshine, land to roam, and a diet of organic yellow corn, which explains their golden color. The kitchen stuffs a little farce under the skin and roasts it until it’s waxy and juicy. There is a section of chicken meat, shaped like a candy bar; A dark and reflective law. And a strand of vegetables, such as zucchini and tomato curry, carved into a trompe l’oeil, so that the tomatoes mimic cherries. This dish is refined and subtle, yet familiar – it’s a play on curry, a German fast food dish – and somehow it’s one of the very few dishes I still can’t get out of my mind. (John Cheng)

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