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Fine dining at book launch

Chefs Amy Thielen, left, and Denese Jokela, sample dessert in the kitchen before serving the last of a six-course meal Saturday. (Anna Erickson /1 / 4
Steakhouse Deviled Eggs were the first course of the evening. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)2 / 4
Diners enjoy a fancy six-course meal with wine pairings Saturday for Chef Amy Thielen’s book launch party at Necce’s Ristorante. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)3 / 4
Terrapin Stew played live music. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)4 / 4

By Anna Erickson

Downtown diners enjoyed a special six course meal and wine pairing Saturday evening for local chef Amy Thielen’s Park Rapids book launch at Necce’s Ristorante.

Thielen has been in the spotlight since her cookbook release and television debut in September.

Saturday night’s menu included dishes from her cookbook, “The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes,” published by Clarkson Potter.

As the evening progressed, diners were taken on a journey through Thielen’s cookbook as well as wine country.

Dominic M. Giuliani, with Palm Bay International Fine Wines and Spirits, worked to pair wines with each dish.

The meal itself wasn’t fancy – it featured Midwestern staples. But with Thielen’s unique additions to classic fare and an assortment of wine the dinner reached a different level.

The first course, for example, featured Steakhouse Deviled Eggs. They aren’t your typical eggs, though. These are served warm with a blend of Worcestershire sauce, bacon, lemon and bread crumbs. They were paired with a sparkling Italian wine.

Other courses included a French onion dip and liver pate with baguette, caesar salad, pot roast and tiramisu and potato donuts for dessert. The liver pate and tiramisu were recipes from Denese Jokela, owner of Necce’s Ristorante while all others were Thielen’s.

Over the last few months, Thielen has been interviewed by several radio personalities and is making television appearances.

Thielen’s television show, “Heartland Table,” has been airing on Food Network Saturday mornings and is receiving great reviews.

But for Thielen, Saturday night’s book launch was special.

“It makes it seem more real,” she said.

After working on her cookbook for more than three years, Thielen said it was a surprise that her publishers allowed her to include 200 recipes, along with stories about each one.

“It really was a miracle that they let me create this the way I wanted it to be,” she said.

She wants people to be able to elevate their home cooking with her cookbook and develop an appreciation for it.

Wine connoisseur Giuliani said it was an honor to be in Park Rapids with such a well-known chef. Necce’s Ristorante was also the perfect venue, he added.

“It’s the feeling you get when you’re dining in a house with friends,” he said. “It’s like you’re home.”

Jokela said she has enjoyed working with Thielen and it was fun to put together a fine evening of dining. A six course meal is relatively unheard of in Park Rapids.

Thielen will continue to make the rounds with media interviews in the coming weeks.

Food Network is airing two more “Heartland Table” episodes as well. Four have already aired. Some are filmed in her family cabin near Two Inlets and others show her visiting other cooks, restaurants, lakeside kitchens and working farms, highlighting local traditions and flavors along the way.

The last two episodes will air at 9:30 a.m. central on Food Network.

This Saturday, Oct. 12, Thielen celebrates everything outdoors as her neighbors bring back the freshest catch in order to prepare a crispy Skinned Trout with Butter Sauce. Amy’s garden provides the inspiration behind a Green Salad with Brown Butter Balsamic Walnut Vinaigrette and Sheep’s Milk Cheese. On the grill, Amy enjoys grilling skewers of tomatoes, onion, bacon and bread, served with a ripe cheddar aged in a cave by cheesemaker friend, Willi Lehner of Blue Mont Dairy.

On Saturday, Oct. 19, as the weather breaks after a long, bitter winter in Northern Minnesota, tradition calls for the start of road trips. Theilen heads to Madison, Wis., where she meets with local butcher and friend Johnny, who sends her home with delectable beef spare ribs from Fountain Prairie Farm. At her favorite cheese shop, Fromagination, Amy picks some of Wisconsin’s best cheeses before stopping at Karben4, a new brewery that will supply her a smoked Porter used both as an ingredient and accompaniment to her recipes. Back at home, uses her collected ingredients to prepare Oven Baked Ribs, Smoked Sardine Caesar and Maple Bread with Washed Rind Cheese.

For more on “Heartland Table” and Amy Thielen, go to

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561