13 September 2008

Crashing the Party: AgNite, a food and agriculture industry gala

When I invited the Strib restaurant critic, Rick Nelson, to attend AgNite, I said in my e-mail, “I've gotta believe that the food and ag people will put on the best spread of the convention.”

Being as objective as I can be, I believe my boast was partially true.

AgNite was planned by the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council. It was intended to be a non-partisan celebration of the food and agriculture industry. A way to raise awareness among the visiting media and delegates (and a small handful of politicians) of the role of our industry in the American economy. AgNite was recognized as one of the major events of the convention, perhaps the major event on Tuesday, Sept. 2.

We planned for 3000-4000 guests. Like the delegate reception, it’s a challenge to put on a party for that many people and still make the food special.

In the main reception areas, there were several ‘butler-passed’ items. I didn’t try them all. There was a particularly unusual roast beef with horseradish canapé; it was served on a spoon shaped cracker. The visual impact was great (though the taste was just ok). The crab cakes were fairly ordinary. My favorite item was a chicken Wellington, served in a puff pastry shell. I got one while it was still piping hot, and it was very enjoyable. We also had a buffet with mini pizzas and ‘sliders’ – small hamburgers and cheeseburgers. I didn’t like the pizzas at all, but the mini burgers were pretty good.

There was a VIP room, and the food in there was special.

We had a whipped potato station with garlic mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes served in a martini glass with a variety of toppings, including cheese, chives, and sour cream. There also was a carving station with very nicely done prime rib served on rolls. (Inexplicably, there also were very ordinary chicken strips available at the same table.)

Probably the highlight of the VIP room was a seafood bar with shrimp, crab claws, salmon, and ceviche. The quality of the seafood was wonderful.

There were desserts in both the VIP room and the main hall. They disappeared so fast that I didn’t get a taste of anything.

Comparing AgNite to the media reception and the delegate reception, we definitely beat the delegate reception. The media reception had more variety of items, and it probably was better than the food in the main hall of the AgNite gala. But I’ll stand by my assertion that the spread in the VIP room at AgNite beat them all.

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