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ExpoCulinaria, a food lovers event - you be the judge

Tue, Aug 14th, 2012
Posted in Rushford Arts & Culture

By Team ExpoCulinaria

The date Saturday, September 22nd is circled on calendars and hungry culinary fans are getting their tickets early for the 2012 ExpoCulinaria—a taste of Rushford, MN. Relished from the success of last year, ExpoCulinaria is on entertainment menus for 5-8 pm rain or shine. Located below lush Magelssen Bluff and surrounding hillsides in downtown Rushford, this valley location is ideal for the energetic and fun-filled, scrumptious array of events. The evening promises to be filled with sampling and strolling through participating restaurants and businesses, a wine and beer tasting, music, judging, competition and winning. The highly anticipated gastronomic taste experience will also coincide with the 3rd September weekend of, Taste of the Trail, highlighting the cities of Rushford, Rushford Village and Houston on the Root River Trail System.

The delectable big show of the evening will be the Chef Challenge, Bring It to the Table. The culinary competition between two professional chefs will create mouthwatering appetizers, entrées and desserts that will utilize surprise ingredients, for a panel of judges. This delicious detail will be led off this year by panel of three judging on a point scale for presentation, creativity and taste.

Meet ExpoCulinaria judge number one. With a passion for visiting the California wine region and a dream to grow grapes and eventually make good wine of their own, Mike along with his wife, Kim began creating Tower Ridge Vineyard in the Root River Valley, near Rushford, MN. The adventure began in the early part of 2005, when Mike & Kim found a 60 acre parcel that showed great promise. They began experimenting in 2007 growing different varietals and fine tuning their skills on the appropriate trellising system to support these precious grapes. Oh yeah - and creating some good wine! Mike’s career started with the US Air Force in the mid-70’s. Then he started a 20 year career with IBM in Texas and then spent 5 years working for a technology start-up company. Throughout Mike’s adult life he has been flying and now his talents are being put to use as a Captain pilot for United Express. In his spare time, you might see him lending a hand at the Rushford Hardware store. But Mike’s alter ego lives in the culinary world. Mike is passionate about creating elaborate 5 (five) course dinners for his friends. These dinners are also complimented with 2 or 3 appropriate wine choices based on what he is creating. The menus range from beef to pork or maybe even lamb, depending on what inspires him. But whatever he is creating, you can be sure it will be a memory for your taste buds. Mike loves to work in the kitchen or on the grill and will bring a unique perspective to the ExpoCulinaria of 2012.

ExpoCulinaria judge two Mary Mlynczak has worked in the food industry for 40 years. Beginning her food service career in the restaurant industry, working as a bus girl, waitress, cook, and then management. Mary is a Certified Dietary Manager and is currently the Director of Culinary Services at Saint Anne of Winona. Mary has been with the organization for the past nine and one-half years. Saint Anne of Winona consists of Saint Anne Extended Healthcare, Callista Court, the Benedictine Adult Day Center and the Saint Anne Training Center. Saint Anne of Winona is operated by the Benedictine Health System which supports their mission to achieve excellence in their campus dining experience for their customers and families. The mission encompasses menu development, dining room design, recipe development, and regular cocktail parties. Mary recently attended a training session on the importance of excellent customer service at Walt Disney World. She states “The ‘Magic’ was felt and we strive to create this for our customers, families, and staff each day.” Mary’s passion is cooking and entertaining friends and family. Mary lives in Winona with her husband Mark.

Ron Zeigler is President and CEO of CEDA (Community Economics Development Associates), providing assistance to counties, communities and developers with assisted, senior, workforce and market-rate housing throughout the area and is ExpoCulinaria judge three. When he was younger, his parents owned the supper club, Hi-Lite Bar & Steak House in Miller, SD. They served characteristic fare—steak, burgers, chicken and seafood. Ron assisted with food prep, bussing and serving in his high school years. His mother did much of the cooking, also making her own salad dressings. She had her own garden from which she utilized produce for serving in the restaurant. Out of college, Ron became involved in the fast food industry, managing a Zantigo restaurant. As this was a training facility as well, he trained managers for other sites. Ron’s culinary skills are grilling anything with hooves or feathers! Oh, and veggies too. A favorite of Ron’s when dining out is prime rib with fresh strawberry pie for dessert.

Ron is married to Sue (Hungerholt), a Rushford native and they reside in Rochester, MN.

A feast for the ears, Swing Inc., of Winona, MN, ‘The Best Little Big Band in Town,’ will be returning to provide music from the swing era and beyond for the pleasure of ExpoCulinaria patrons. From jazz standards to Latin favorites, Swing, Inc. means great music for listening and dancing. The quartet formed in 1999 when trumpeter Jerry Paulson needed a group to play for a local event in Winona, Minnesota. After the first gig everyone agreed that “it sounds pretty good” and Swing, Inc. was born. Today the core group of players perform regularly in Winona and Rochester, Minnesota; La Crosse, Wisconsin and throughout the upper Midwest.

Tickets now on sale are limited. You may purchase your tickets in advance from any of the participating Rushford business vendors, which include the restaurants, Rushford Foods or Pam’s Off-Sale Liquor, or by visiting the site: Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

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