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Area Food: Thielen a top draw at Madden's

Amy Thielen

Fried chicken and champagne.

That's what Amy Thielen is most excited about.

Which is fitting for the author of the James Beard Award winning book, "The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes" and host of Food Network's Heartland Table. It's simple, it's honest and with Food & Wine Magazine's top 25 Chef of 2012 Erik Anderson preparing the chicken and Food & Wine's "Best New Chef" winner Gavin Kaysen preparing the accompanying side dishs, it's likely to taste fantastic.

Those are a few of the chefs and food industry giants scheduled for this year's Food & Wine Weekend at Madden's Resort in East Gull Lake.

Thielen, who moved back to her home town of Park Rapids after honing her expansive cooking skills in New York, is a new face to this year's chef line up. She was recruited by repeat performer Jamie Malone of Sea Change in Minneapolis.

"I got an email from Jamie to do it and I respect her a lot and so I thought, why not? It sounds fun," Thielen said. "It's fun to cook with other chefs. At this point in my career as a cookbook author and TV host, I've been out of the restaurant scene for five or six years. But it's always a part of me. I love fine dining and cooking. I love getting back to where I started."

The Food & Wine weekend kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21 with a Jamaican food station and steel drum band followed by a "classic cocktails remade" event hosted by Nick Kosovich of Bittercube.

Thielen will be joined by Anderson, Malone, Doug Flicker, Robert Wohifeil, Jim Christiansen, Landon Schoenfeld, Niki Francioli, Adam Bartos, Kaysen and Madden's chefs Mike Scofield, Amy DeSanto, Bob Schuld, Darrell Lorenz, Rayan Reid and Paul Fitzpatrick.

Friday will be filled with cooking seminars, tours of Madden's gardens and wine tastings. The main event on Friday will be the whole animal bash, where chefs will prepare meals using whole animals.

"What I'm making will be my own, but I'm always inspired by what other chefs are doing," said Thielen. "I just went to Jim Christiansen's Heyday and totally loved some of the garnishes, purees and sauces he had. For example, he did a smoked eggplant puree and left the skin on. It had a smoky, earthy flavor, but still the eggplant flavor bubbled up. I'm inspired by that. When you leave the peel on it changes the look and color and we eat with our eyes."

Last year's explosive multi-course meal where Wohifeil kicked things off with a seared scallop with huitlacoche, corn cake and lingenberry for an amuse-bouche. Anderson surprised many with his pigeon roasted over embers with white asparagus, matsutakes, hay yogurt, ramson capers, black sourdough and chives.

Flicker, owner of Piccalo and Sandcastle in Minneapolis, served rabbit with sweetbreads, hearts of palm, horseradish pudding and lemon Verbena.

Malone stayed true to her seafood expertise with sablefish with island creek oysters, charred romaine and sourdough.

Christiansen prepared lightly cooked brook trout with artichokes, crayfish, watercress and mushroom butter.

Saturday features pastries, tacos, oysters, and a book signing by Thielen.

"I'll be talking about the dishes in the book and what I'm making now," said Thielen. "I'll also be kind of riffing and free talking. I'll talk about my life. What it's like to do the show. What it's like to develop recipes. It will be a free form talk."

Thielen is currently working on another book. This time it will be more of a narrative with some recipes splashed in for color.

Saturday will be capped off by The Grand Tasting where chefs will prepare a variety of dishes to be served with a variety of liquor, beer and wines. This will be a roaming event and will coincide with the silent auction benefiting the Brainerd Family YMCA.

"I'm excited to meet and work with all these chefs," said Thielen. "I would say that Minneapolis is certainly an exciting city for food right now. I'm excited to see all these new places opening up in the next year and how they're going to change our food city. What is happening in Minneapolis, and St. Paul, is a great thing. It's quickly becoming one of the best food cities in the country. I'm glad to be so close to it."

The weekend will be capped off with the fried chicken and champagne lunch Sunday. Thielen will be there enjoying her meal.

"I love the idea of exploring midwestern food," she said. "I could do that for a long time. It's contemporary and fresh and has a strong backbone. There are a lot of options with where I am. These are the ingredients I have at hand because I grew them. I love cooking with what I have. I can make things as interesting as I want them to be. We're all creating midwestern food just by being in the midwest. I'm searching for what is closest to us, what is interesting and what is freshest. There are obvious strong roots that go back, but midwestern food is changing."

Most of the events are available to non-Madden's guests. For more information on purchasing individual dining or seminar tickets, and a complete schedule of events on Madden's Food & Wine weekend visit or call 800-642-5363.

Jeremy Millsop
My career at the Brainerd Dispatch began May 11, 1999 after graduating from North Dakota State University. My areas of emphasis includes local high school sports, Central Lakes College, the lakes area golf mecca and once a year I dabble in the NHRA when the Lucas Oil Nationals come to Brainerd International Raceway.
(218) 855-5856