MINNEAPOLIS -- It seemed like an odd pairing, as two Minnesota Vikings defenders of Haitian descent -- Emmanuel Lamur and Mackensie Alexander -- were serving the most quintessential of Midwestern comfort foods at Wednesday's Taste of the Vikings event.
But as Lamur cradled his eighth sample-size cup and told everyone within earshot to stop by for a bite, it was clear the linebacker had found a new craving: tater tot hot dish.
To be clear, this recipe wasn't the typical bland, colorless concoction scooped onto styrofoam plates in church basements. Cowboy Jack's, the Minneapolis restaurant offering the dish, spiced things up with a dash of Tabasco sauce in the mix. Mostly, though, it hewed to the customs of Minnesota cuisine, right down to the French's crispy fried onions that chefs scooped out of industrial-sized bags. And Lamur loved it.
"I know it's onions and vegetables -- whatever it is, it's some good stuff," Lamur said. "It's so good -- I'm getting hooked. I'm supposed to walk around here and taste different foods, but I'm like, 'You know what? This is some good stuff.' I don't know -- it just got me. It's like love at first sight."
Lamur grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida, after his parents fled Haiti for the United States. He was raised on the Creole cuisine his mother knew from her native country: chicken, fish, rice and beans and, of course, oxtails.
"They do everything organic," Lamur said. "You have to go out on the farms -- they'll [ask] you which one you want, and they'll cut their necks. It's amazing -- I love it. It's country-style, but it's worth it. The wait, just to cook a meal, it's a little over an hour."
The 28-year-old Lamur once posted a video on his Instagram account of him defeathering a chicken before grilling it with his mother on a trip home to Florida in the offseason. It might seem a bit graphic to those of us used to having protein neatly delivered onto a plate, but it's one way Lamur can carry on the culinary traditions of a country where he still spends much of his offseason, working at an orphanage his aunt helps manage.
His brush with Minnesota cooking, though, had him anxious to try more of Minneapolis' burgeoning restaurant scene -- though a native Minnesotan might have suggested he branch out from the relatively limited flavor palette of church potluck standbys.
"I need to check it out," he said. "Once my family gets in town, I'm definitely looking forward to sitting down and trying other menus. Because if one is good, I'm sure there are other food options."