By Brian Reed
The Dakotas might not be the first region that comes to mind when you think culinary destinations, but savvy travelers will find an abundance of down-home culinary treasures in the Great Plains.
Farms and ranches occupy almost 90 percent of North Dakota’s land area; South Dakota produces more cattle than people. Needless to say, agriculture plays an important role in the region, and it is reflected in the fresh farm-to-table cuisine. Whether it is beef, wine or good old-fashioned fair food, you can’t go wrong in the Dakotas.
Sioux Falls, S.D.
You would think every winery is environmentally friendly, but Strawbale Winery takes green to another level.
“We are the greenest winery in the area in part because our building is actually made out of straw,” said Don South, owner of Strawbale Winery. “It has a timber frame construction, from timbers that fell down in the boundary area, straw fill walls, and even old slate chalkboards from a local school. We do lots of recycling.”
Strawbale uses only local fruit such as pears, plums and cherries to create its playful variety of wines. However, the most popular wines are made from black currant, strawberry rhubarb, blackberry and cold, hearty grapes that can handle temperatures as low as 35 degrees below zero.
The variety allows offerings that please any palate, from bone dry to very sweet.
The winery is available for tours and tastings year-round; visitors can view the winemaking and sample five or six different wines from around 30 blends and varieties.
Thursday nights throughout the summer, Strawbale offers the Summer Porch Series, events that feature live music, artists, food vendors and, of course, wine.
— www.strawbalewinery.com —
Gourmet Chef Inc.
Gourmet Chef Inc. offers demonstrations and classes in Minot that run the gamut of culinary creations. Groups can learn to prepare favorites like spring rolls, Thai food and wild game, and master classes teach Hawaian, Puerto Rican and Italian cooking. Gourmet Chef recruits local chefs, who use interactive methods to engage and instruct students.
“Sushi is one of our popular offerings taught by the staff from a local sushi shop,” said Denise Lindbo, owner of Gourmet Chef. “Everyone was able to eat what they made, take the leftovers home, plus take the recipes, a sushi mat and a sushi paddle.”
Lindbo can offer custom, private classes with local chefs in a number of techniques and genres. Hands-on classes are limited to 16 people, but demonstrations can accommodate up to 20. Each class usually has a relevant gift or item that participants can take home to remember the class or to aid preparation in the future.
Gourmet Chef is also a cooking store, so visitors can buy gadgets and even relax with a drink at its full coffee bar.
— www.gchef.com —
South Dakota State Fair
Every year, six days before Labor Day, the small town of Huron transforms from a sleepy town of 12,000 people to the center of attention in the state as it hosts the South Dakota State Fair.
Whatever you think you know about fair food, it doesn’t hold true in South Dakota. Of course, they have your typical unhealthful fare like onion rings and french fries, but what makes the South Dakota State Fair different is the addition of regional dishes like buffalo burgers and even a few international dishes.
The fair focuses on agriculture, with cooking demonstrations and contests and, of course, the fair food. With 60 food vendors serving more than 300 menu items, there is something for every taste.
“Some of the favorites are the cheese curd; Indian tacos, which have fried bread on the bottom, refried beans and taco fixings on top; buffalo burgers; elk meat; and other fair favorites like footlong corn dogs and funnel cakes,” said Candi Hettinger, marketing and events director at the South Dakota State Fair.
Two events of culinary importance will have food-loving attendees salivating: the Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance Heirloom Recipe contest and the South Dakota Cattle Women Beef Cook-off.
The Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance Heirloom Recipe contest is a new fair event this year where contestants can enter a recipe written before 1950 and then make the dish with the exact ingredients and measurements listed in the recipe.
Groups can watch and interact as contestants in the Beef Cook-off prepare their creations, and group members may even be offered a taste or two.
— www.sdstatefair.com —