A cut above?

Willeck, lean and mean from cutting off the gristle, has moved on to the semifinals of a national meat-cutting challenge presented by A1.

The competition is Feb. 25 at the Ice Factory in Kissimmee, Fla., and Willeck will be going up against 87 other professional meat cutters from around the nation. The prize is the title Meat Cutter of the Year, and a purse of $20,000.

According to a statement, Willeck is responsible for hand-cutting every steak served at Duluth’s Texas Roadhouse. In an average year, he will cut about $1 million worth of meat, working in frigid conditions. Literally. He works in a 35-degree walk-in refrigerator.

For the competition, Willeck and other participants will receive 30 to 40 pounds of beef. The contestants will speed-cut two sirloins, one filet and one ribeye. The cutters are judged on quality, yield and speed.

The competition is part of a program created by the Texas Roadhouse chain.

‘Lone Ranger’ still at it

Eh? recently received a call from a reader wondering about a generous man who regularly bought meals for his fellow Bridgeman’s patrons.

Eh? caught up with Dean Davidson, the man who gives generously to strangers and leaves them with a smile and a “Lone Ranger” card, and sometimes an inert silver bullet.

As it happens, Davidson persists in his micro philanthropy. And it’s not just at Bridgeman’s. Davidson finds ways to pay for others’ pastries at Johnson’s Bakery, giving tips to concession workers at movie theaters and sometimes just random folk off the street.

“I like to make a happy face,” Davidson said. “I like to see the expression on their face.”

Get a taste of Hermantown

Whether we know it or not, we’re all in constant pursuit of a new favorite restaurant. On Thursday, take those taste buds to Hermantown for the aptly named Taste of Hermantown, which promises all-you-can-eat samples from 13 of the area’s “greatest eateries.” You had Eh? at “all you can eat.”

The event is 5-7 p.m. at the Shrine Building, 5152 Miller Trunk Highway. It’s only two hours, but don’t forget to chew.

Tickets are available at the door. Admission is $15. Kids 10 years old and younger get in free.

All proceeds support the Hermantown Community Fund.

Participating restaurants:

* Cookie Temptations
* Dairy Queen of Pike Lake
* Dave’s Pizza Skyline
* Dubh Linn Irish Brew Pub
* Farley’s Family Restaurant
* Foster’s Sports Bar & Grill
* Grandma’s Saloon & Grill
* Grizzly’s Wood-Fired Grill
* McKenzie’s Bar & Grill
* Outback Steakhouse
* Perkins Restaurant & Bakery
* Super One Deli
* Texas Roadhouse

Get set for Food Truck Fridays in downtown Duluth

Food trucks are teaming up in August to serve lunch to downtown.

At 11:30 a.m. Friday, the Rambler and Chow Haul food trucks will meet on Michigan Street behind the Duluth Public Library, where they will be open for business until 1 p.m.

Food Truck Fridays will continue through August, with some guest appearances by the ice cream-toting Mrs. Delicious.

Woman eats 8 pounds of burgers and fries in Superior

Molly Schuyler finished eating 8 pounds’ worth of burger and French fries at Gronk’s in Superior in 7 minutes, 13 seconds. According to Gronk’s menu, the meal includes six 1-pound burger patties, 12 slices of American cheese and about a pound of fries. (Photo courtesy of Northland’s NewsCenter)

Management at Gronk’s Grill and Bar in Superior says no one had even attempted the Great Divide Challenge before Monday.

And why would they? The challenge involves eating 8 pounds’ worth of burger and fries.

But the challenge was accepted and met Monday by local power-eating enthusiast Molly Schuyler, who downed the meal in seven minutes and 13 seconds.

“They should have made it bigger,” she told the Northland’s NewsCenter afterward.

Her friend, Julie Williams, took the 6-pound Enger Tower Burger Challenge as a show of support — and Schuyler helped her finish that, too, according to the NewsCenter.

Beer here, beer there

There’ll be beer at Bayfront Festival Park today during the All Pints North Summer Brew Fest, but Cloquet will have its fair share, too.

The 13th annual Beer Collector Trade Show takes over the Northeastern Saloon & Hotel, 115 St. Louis Ave., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with setup beginning at 8 a.m. Admission is free.

The rain-or-shine show has room inside if the weather doesn’t cooperate, but don’t worry about being confined to the indoors if the weather’s nice. The Northeastern’s liquor license includes outdoors drinking on the premises, parking lot and fenced-in grass area.

Breakfast is served in the morning, and burgers and brats will be cooked throughout the day to go with the complimentary keg.

Hotel rooms are available, and reservations can be made by calling (218) 879-3312. For those feeling outdoorsy, camping and RV sites are available on the modern, city-operated campground within a block of the Northeastern. Or camp free in an RV or tent on the fenced-in grass.

Comin’ up roses

Admire roses, or want to learn how to grow them successfully? Then head down to Leif Erikson Rose Garden on Saturday.

The Lake Superior Rose Society has scheduled RoseFest from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event includes guided tours of the garden, mini-classes and demonstrations geared toward helping the beginner grow roses in northern Minnesota’s challenging climate.

The society scheduled RoseFest in conjunction with its annual Rose Show, open to the public at Valentini’s Vicino Lago restaurant, 1400 London Road, from noon to 3:30 p.m.

Anyone can enter roses in the Rose Show from 6:30-9:30 p.m.; novice categories are beginner-friendly, and vases are provided.

Duluth Grill meets goal

The Duluth Grill has surpassed its Kickstarter campaign goal to raise $10,000 to build an urban orchard on the grounds of an otherwise sea of pavement in Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

As of Friday afternoon it had raised nearly $11,800.

But now it has a loftier goal: keep raising money to match a grant from local trash-hauling company Hartel’s/DBJ. Every dollar over $10,000 raised in the Kickstarter campaign, up to $5,000, will be matched by Hartel’s/DBJ to build the rain garden that will slow and filter runoff from the parking lots of the restaurant and adjacent Motel 6.

But hurry. Today’s the last day to donate. Go to http://www.kickstarter.com and type “Duluth Grill” in the “search projects” box.

National attention

Grand Marais’ Dockside Fish Market was featured in the Travel section of Sunday’s New York Times as one of four restaurants in the U.S. “that celebrate their stamping grounds in ways that go beyond ingredients.”

The article, headlined “A Sense of Place, on the Plate,” noted the business’ ties to Grand Marais’ long — but mostly long-vanished — fishing heritage. Owners Harley and Shele Toftey operate one of the few remaining commercial fishing operations on the North Shore.

“It’s a dying thing,” Shele Toftey told the Times. “It’s a great livelihood, but it’s a hard livelihood.”

The article mentions, among other items, Dockside’s fried herring fillets and fried whitefish. It makes special mention of its herring roe, called Superior Gold Caviar, “that burst with a mild, briny tang.”

Beer is here

We’re in the midst of American Craft Beer Week, and a Duluth restaurant is marking it with a Minnesota-centric celebration.

Tycoons Alehouse & Eatery is hosting a meet-and-greet with six Minnesota brewers for craft beer fans from 7-9 p.m. today.

The party moves downstairs to the Rathskeller, where all its tap lines will serve Minnesota beer. And drinkers will be able get their taste buds on beer from Bent Paddle before it opens in Lincoln Park (it opens its tap room at 3 p.m. Thursday).