DINING | Dinner at the Homeless Cafe

The menu for the second seating last Monday was considerably more elaborate than the first.

For the 4:30 seating, diners were served chicken Alfredo, vegetable soup, fresh fruit and cookies.

For the 7 p.m. seating, the five course $75 prix fixe menu, prepared by guest chef Serge Devesa of Hotel Sofitel, started with a crab bisque with truffle oil emulsion, followed by a salad of mesclun with toasted pine nuts, prosciutto and fresh hearts of palm. The fish course of Dover sole roulade with salmon and lobster mousse was followed by lamb prepared two ways - a lamb shop in a puff pastry jacket, accompanied by sliced lamb tenderloin. For dessert, warm chocolate cake with pineapple ginger relish, accompanied by a shot of Grand Marnier Centenaire. Before the dinner, Devesa brought the guests into the kitchen to show how the salad course was prepared.

It was a magnificent dinner. The dining experience was comparable to any top local restaurant- except that at the other top establishments in town, guests don't pass through a metal detector on their way to the dining room.

The first menu was a typical dinner at People Serving People, the family homeless shelter at 614 S. 3rd St., Minneapolis. The basement dining room serves the shelter's 300+ residents three meals a day, some 250,000 meals a year. The food budget is stretched by food from the Second Harvest food pantry, and donations from the Minneapolis Convention Center, the Hilton Hotel, and other local organizations.

Food for the second , including the accompanying wines, was donated by the Hotel Sofitel, which meant that all proceeds from the dinner went to benefit PSP. (People Serving People gets most of its funding from Hennepin County and the state of Minnesota, but has to raise about a third of its budget. )

Between courses - PSP executive director Jim Minor told the guests a little about the shelter's programs and mission, and made a very gentle pitch for support. It's a place, he said, where families can get a new start. PSP provides not only shelter, but the help they need to get back on their feet - quality childcare, so that parents can look for work; and expert guidance for young mothers and fathers who don't know how to parent.

A national television show contacted him last week, Noble said, looking to profile a middle-class family plunged into homelessness by the recession. He had to explain to them that middle-class people don't come to his shelter because they have other resources to turn to. The people served by PSP are at the very bottom. They haven't lost their homes - they never had a home to lose. They can stay at PSP until they find a permanent place to live, but the average stay at PSP has gotten much longer in recent months, because there is no place for many of them to go.

Monday's dinner was part of PSP's Chefs for Change dinner series. Upcoming dinners include an Indian dinner prepared by Nipa Bhatt, former owner of the Gypsy Curry House; Brahim Hadj-Moussa of the Barbary Fig, Pete Maccaroni of the Sample Room, Jeff Ansorge of the Capitol Grille, and Rick Kimmes. Seating is limited to 40 guests per event. For details, or to register, go to peopleservingpeople.org, or call 612-227-0221.

(Full disclosure: I attended the dinner as a guest of PSP.)

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