Taste of Dorset set for Sunday
From time immemorial - ever since a hunter lugged home a piece of a mammoth elephant for his prehistoric dinner guests in the cave - humans have gained fulfillment through sharing food.
Romans were famous for their elaborate feasts. Medieval hosts were known for not just food, but subtleties between courses. Mechanical elephants, ships and castles were rolled into the dining room with bards and troubadours entertaining the gourmands.
Dorset chefs are about to replicate epicurean history for the 23rd year.
Vendors on the street of Dorset (there's really only one) will tantalize taste buds from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 7.
"It's the State Fair of northern Minnesota," said Compañeros owner Rick Kempnich of Dorset's line-up of delicacies.
It all began when Dorset business owners were weighing ideas to draw people to the self-proclaimed Restaurant Capital of the World, claiming the most restaurants per capita on the globe.
"We think," Kempnich said, of the three-people-to-one-restaurant ratio.
"Ever heard of Taste of Chicago?" one of them queried.
"Vaguely," replied one.
The idea was hatched. The four restaurateurs agreed to keep prices low - with samples, not full meals - and spirits high.
"And pray for sunshine," Kempnich said. (So far, rain has fallen only twice, last year as the event was winding down.)
"It's an old-fashioned carnival," said Kathy Schmidt, LaPasta's chef and owner of 19 years. "It's reminiscent of the 1900s, not a slick city operation but an old town fair."
People, she said, arrive with chairs, umbrellas and trays - so they can gather the bounty and head to a shady spot - and watch the crowd.
It's family-centered with games galore. Bands will entertain with a mix of mellow rock and folk.
And a mayor will be proclaimed at 2 p.m., with traditional election protocol run amok.
A buck buys a vote. Residency is not required; the mayors have hailed from Chicago, Minneapolis and many other places. This year, James Bond is in the running.
Chickens, dogs and children are eligible. The only requirement is a buck in the ballot box.
At precisely 2 p.m. the drawing is held and a new mayor begins his/her/its term, with bodacious mayoral proclamations welcomed.
Employees look forward to the event, the kitchen crew moving to the sidewalk, Kempnich said. "We shift roles," he said of cooks meeting the public. Many bring children and spouses to assist.
This year, the Mudball Musketeers (a cook and two waitresses) will be serving the Compañeros' signature goody.
A taco bar, tamales and quesadillas will be ready for consumption.
LaPasta's spaghetti balls are gaining legendary notoriety, people lining up to sample the original fare, along with pork sandwiches, prime rib and more.
Each year, a new, collectible T-shirt is created for the event; this year's theme is "Dorset's Apps - Appeal, Appetite and Appreciate."
"It's the most fun day of the year," Kempnich said of the groundswell of anticipation and creativity that precedes the event.
"Would you do this twice?" he's been asked.
"No!" is his adamant reply, while grinning.
Come by car, pedal in by bike or arrive on horseback for the Taste of Dorset.
All that's required is a hearty appetite.
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