Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email email@example.com.
Scones from French Meadow Bakery at the Fair
The fresh-baked strawberry and peach filled buttermilk scones from French Meadow Bakery (at the fair) are remarkably tasty — and feel healthy for fair food!
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Brenda Johnson]
Oklahoma Cinnamon Rolls at the Minnesota State Fair Food Building
Fair food can often be ersatz, canned, decanted-from-a-bag food, but sometimes it’s pretty real. You can watch bakers make the Oklahoma Cinnamon Rolls from scratch in the Food Building — rolling out the dough, sprinkling on the cinnamon sugar, and baking each tender, sweet, delicious bun in the oven. The show makes the inevitable wait in line downright enjoyable.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | From an Instagram Post by James Norton]
Charred Onion and Goat Cheese Bruschetta from Bar La Grassa
The charred red onion and goat cheese bruschetta at Bar La Grassa is an example of simple ingredients coming together elegantly to create something otherworldly. The sweetness of the onion paired with the tart cheese is perfection on toast.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham]
Sour Cream Raisin Pie at Lange’s Cafe in Pipestone
This is road trip food exactly as it was meant to be. Lange’s will serve you dinner at noon and supper in the evening and pie at every meal if you want it — even after one of their famously mammoth cinnamon rolls at breakfast. Sour cream raisin pie is a diner tradition crying for a comeback. Lange’s is so thick it is almost spreadable and sweet enough to make your teeth ache. In other words: exactly right.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Tricia Cornell]
Kimchi Pancake at Black Cat Natural Foods
The Black Cat Natural Foods breakfast stand at the Mill City Farmers Market expanded its menu this summer, and now offers a kimchi pancake: a sizable, tender pancake with kimchi both inside and on top, along with a fried egg, chili aioli, and cilantro. Tons of flavor with a bit of a spicy kick … this is a great way to wake yourself up on a cool farmers market morning.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]
The Weekend Starts Now taped its twelfth show at the Chef Shack Ranch on Monday, Aug. 17.
This weekly podcast is a joint project of the Heavy Table and Secrets of the City, and it covers art, music, food, drink, culture, and more in the Upper Midwest.
Our podcast is brought to you by Annie B’s Popcorn and Caramels. Annie B’s has been handcrafting caramels and popcorn in small batches since 1978. Their products are all-natural, gluten-free, and made in Minnesota.
Hear the whole episode here … (We’re no longer breaking the show out into individual segment files, but we’ll keep listing them so you can preview what’s on tap.)
SEGMENT 1: INTRODUCTION
Taylor and James talk about Wet Hot American Summer.
SEGMENT 2: REED FISCHER FROM Go 96.3
We talk with the editorial producer of the hot new radio station Go 96.3 about DJs, playlists, festivals, and more.
SEGMENT 3: ANNIE D’SOUZA FROM THE MIDWESTIVAL
All about the hot new site / movement / brand presence The Midwestival, with its founder Annie D’Souza.
SEGMENT 4: YOUR WEEKEND PLANS
Andrew WK, Rails and Ale, and more.
This post is sponsored by Tiny Diner.
By Joanna Demkiewicz
We’ve got a lot going on here at Tiny Diner. After a founding 2014 farmers market managed our by farm lead, Emi Sogabe, we launched our 2015 Farmers Market last Thursday. We were featured in Small Business Revolution (a storytelling movement dedicated to honoring small business across the United States), and we were just awarded the Environmental Initiative Sustainable Business Award for our solar use, innovative water catchment systems, urban gardening, and dedication to education.
But I bet you didn’t know that the diner itself is just the beginning. In addition to the edible perennial garden outside the restaurant, we also own the Tiny Diner Urban Farm, a cultivated space located at 3957 42nd Ave S in Minneapolis.
In addition to growing really yummy vegetables and herbs, the Urban Farm is the site of educational workshops. Urban Farm manager and community outreach coordinator Koby Jeschkeit-Hagen hosts some pretty badass workshops, on topics such as how to compost with worms or how to bench graft apple trees. The workshops are low-to-no cost, with donations welcome, and often feature local experts, so you know you’re getting a genuine experience.
But wait – there’s more. We also rent a rural farm plot consisting of two acres of land on Bruce Bacon’s Garden Farme in Ramsey, Minn. We call this space Tiny Diner@Garden Farme, and TD@GF manager Taya Schulte has a variety of bounty coming our way this summer: radishes, peas, baby kale, arugula, lamb’s quarters, wild greens, rhubarb, endive, edible flowers, squash, and 20 varieties of tomatoes. It’s OK if your mouth is currently watering because you’ve got a lot to look forward to, like a local heirloom on your burger, or a local squash in your scramble. Our Garden Farme goodies are also available at our weekly farmers market, held Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the diner’s parking lot.
Just know that for us, three’s not a crowd — it’s how we get you the good stuff.
Tiny Diner, 1024 East 38th St, Minneapolis; 612.767.3322
This week in the Tap: Some thoughts on what makes great fair food, and whether it matters where it comes from.
The Tap is a biweekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm. “We raise 100 percent grass-fed lambs & goats traditionally, humanely, and sustainably.”
The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor James Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the Authenticity of Minnesota State Fair Food
We’ve been doing the first day, full-court press on Minnesota State Fair food longer than anyone — it’s integral to the DNA of the Heavy Table to dig deep and work with as much data as we can manage. It’s all well and good to taste four things, but by tasting 10 or 15 or 40, we can make deeper and more meaningful comparisons. And we can better understand the trade-offs of consumer value, product cost, marketing, and appearance that define the commercial food that we eat.
One thing that has never really entered into our calculations — and indeed seems to be largely ignored by all who write about fair food — is the authenticity of what we’re eating. As visitors, much of the public seems to take for granted that much (or all) of what is served at the fair is decanted from plastic bags and cardboard boxes, spat at one point or another from an industrial hose or stamped out of a mold.
I have complicated feelings about that. It’s difficult not to.
On one hand: 1.8 million people visited the fair last year, and that sheer volume requires that much of the food be dead simple to prepare and serve. I would never demand locally produced, hand-dipped corn dogs or that every scoop of ice cream served at the fair be made at Izzy’s or Sweet Science.
On the other hand: There’s a great deal of food at the fair that is actually made locally, with some or even a great deal of care. We loved the JonnyPop Chocolate-Dipped Cherry on a Spoon and the (see above) Izzy’s Butter Queen Coffee Ice Cream at the Hamline Church Dining Hall. And fans of local craft beer have a lot to choose from, including a bewildering (and uneven, but that’s OK) slate of novelty beers created solely for the fair. Clearly, we can do local, thoughtful food on a big scale when it’s called for.
As I was compiling our massive State Fair food tour this year, a friend of mine emailed me with a PDF that suggested, quite directly, that O’Gara’s Limerick Stix were a pre-made U.S. Foods product called Grit Stix, a grits-meets-pimento cheese-meets-Cheetos form factor food that is “a cost effective appetizer and garnish with a subtle cayenne-fueled heat.”
We like Limerick Stix. They have a nice lingering heat and while industrial pimento cheese is distinctly trashy, it’s also really fun, and that’s at least some of the fair in a nutshell. But after learning that these things were merely mass-made stuff meant to serve as a “cost-effective appetizer” that “covers all dayparts,” I hesitated to put them on our top 12 list. But then: hell. They’re sold at the fair, they’re delicious, and people will enjoy them.
Heavy Table believes sincerely that using skillfully made local food will, generally speaking, also yield the most delicious food. But the “generally speaking” is critical. Every year, we find plenty of local food that falls flat — too greasy, too spicy, too bland, way too pricey, you name it — and covering over those defects in order to punish Big Food would be dishonest and a disservice to our readers, as would badmouthing corporate fare that was reasonably priced and tasty. Ultimately, our job is not to tell you whether you should eat something, but instead what you’re likely to taste when you do so. If we’re going to make the local food movement stronger, honesty is key — selling people locally made hot dogs, for example, that taste like sawdust will turn everyone back in the opposite direction.
It would be nice to have more transparency on the part of the fair in terms about where and how things are prepared, but it seems unlikely that we’ll ever see that. Transparency is not the fair’s style, and an effort to award labels for local food would surely turn into a hornet’s nest of definitional squabbling as various vendors attempt to claim the mantle. We’re familiar with this. If you read the Heavy Table’s Minneapolis Atlas of Ethical Eating and Drinking you’ll notice that some places exhaustively document the struggle — and it’s really a struggle — to buy local, treat employees well, and minimize their impact on the environment. And others, when asked about what they do on those fronts just write, not terribly convincingly: “Yep, local, yep yep, green, yep, 100 percent, that’s us, yep.”
There isn’t an easy answer as to how to engage with this stuff, but next year we’d like to do something — a showcase of the top five local flavors, for example — to highlight the best of the Upper Midwest at the fair. There is no shame in sucking down a handful of Limerick Stix. But it’s also worth seeking out, for example, lemonade sorbet made in St. Paul with Minnesota honey. With luck and more thought, we hope to help you accomplish the goal of weighing flavor, value, and provenance at the fair next year, and, in fact, wherever you dine. — James Norton
Bifrost Farms Hopes to Make Cheese in Northwestern Wisconsin
More cheese news from the great lactic state to our east, via the always excellent Cheese Underground:
“Meg and Joel Wittenmyer, land stewards for a diverse 20 acres in northwestern Wisconsin that they call Bifrost Farms, recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on barnraiser.us. Their goal? To raise $4,000 before the ground freezes to install critical infrastructure needs at their farmstead goat dairy so they can work on the interior of a new micro-creamery this winter.”
Check it out, and share some financial love if the thought of local goat cheese excites you. — James Norton
- Seward Co-op Creamery Neighborhood Cafe, 2601 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis | See our preview here. We have high hopes for this place between the chef (Lucas Almendinger, formerly of Third Bird) and Seward’s connections to the local food scene.
- Cien Tacos, 803 Bielenberg Drive, Woodbury | Apparently they will not, in fact, offer 100 different kinds of tacos, which is a minor bummer.
- Bar Luchador, 825 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis | A new Mexican / L.A. street food place in the old Campus Pizza location.
- I (Heart) Pho, 850 Maryland Ave E, St. Paul | A short item in the PiPress indicates that this place is owned by the same folks who run iPho by Saigon.
- The Green and Grain, LaSalle Plaza Skyway, 800 LaSalle Avenue | The food truck is now a skyway dining spot.
- Parella, Calhoun Square | Along with Monello and Il Foro, this is part of the intoxicating fog of upscale Italian restaurants that has descended upon us. Michael Larson (formerly of Parasole, currently of Digby’s) is behind this venture.
- IN Spirits, 983 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | The crazy flavor crew of Verdant Tea is back after the shuttering of their Franklin Avenue spot, presenting a collaboration in Northeast Minneapolis that pairs them up with Intelligent Nutrients. Jess Fleming praised the aromatherapeutic cocktails as “stunners.” The name is essentially impossible to Google.
- Hiko Sushi, 1466 Yankee Doodle Road, Eagan | Don’t judge a sushi place by its location; we really enjoyed Haiku in Mendota Heights when it opened.
- Tattersall Distilling, 1620 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | Currently the place-of-the-moment, and why shouldn’t it be? Cocktail rooms are white hot right now, and proprietor Dan Oskey has a solid rep. Here’s our review.
- Wander North, 771 Harding St NE Suite 150, Minneapolis | With the opening of this space, Wander North becomes the third cocktail room in the Twin Cities.
- Giordano’s, 2700 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | This Chicago deep dish pizza chain has plenty of fanatic followers, based on the 2- to 3-hour waits that have been clogging this place since its opening. Here’s our review.
- The King and I Thai (reopened), 760 Highway 110, Mendota Heights | There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when this Thai-food institution closed in 2012; it’ll be revealing to see how much of its original clientele make the trek to the new incarnation.
This post is sponsored by Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op.
Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op, which has been serving its St. Paul neighbors’ natural foods needs for over thirty-five years, will open its third location this Wednesday, Sept. 2. The new store, at 740 E 7th St, St. Paul, features a full-service meat counter, a cheese island where you’ll find a wide selection of local and everyday cheeses, a full-service deli complete with pizza bar, and local, organic food for everyone (psst … you don’t need to be a member to shop) at a fair price.
Mississippi Market chose to open its third store in Dayton’s Bluff thanks to the hard work of a group of residents from St. Paul’s East Side. This dedicated group formed the Gateway Food Co-op with the goal of opening a storefront in their neighborhood. To achieve the goal, they considered either starting a new food co-op, or working with an existing cooperative that would be willing to open a store. In 2011, Mississippi Market’s general manager met with members of the Gateway Food Co-op steering committee to learn about their wishes. Mississippi Market conducted a market study of the area, reached out to community groups, and met with business leaders to learn how the co-op could best meet the community’s needs. In the end, Mississippi Market decided that a store in Dayton’s Bluff was a perfect fit for the co-op, and its member-owners invested over $1.8 million in the project.
The co-op’s new store brings new jobs to the area, as well as a classroom offering cooking and healthy lifestyle classes to the general public. This helps further Mississippi Market’s mission of creating positive change in the community by influencing the production, distribution, and enjoyment of food. The folks at Mississippi Market believe that everyone should be able to enjoy good food, so they do their best to make healthy food affordable. The co-op has biweekly sales, coupons, budget-friendly bulk foods, and it accepts WIC and SNAP payments. The co-op also offers discounts to limited-income shoppers and seniors — ask about Senior Savings Thursdays.
Mississippi Market invites you to the East 7th Street store’s Grand Opening event on Saturday, Sept. 26. The store’s new aisles will be full of festive activities, and there will be live music by local musicians.
You’ll find samples from favorite local farmers and producers including L.T.D. Farm duck eggs, Sweet Science ice cream, Salad Girl Organic Salad Dressings, and The Lone Grazer Creamery. There will be face painting, free popcorn, goodie bags for the first 200 shoppers, free apples for kids age 12 and under, grocery purchase giveaways every hour during the event, and prize drawings. Kids can enjoy an activity in the classroom during the event, too.
Ribbon cutting & store opening
Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015
Store opens immediately after the ceremony (approx. 9:00 a.m.)
Grand Opening celebration
Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015
10 a.m.-3 p.m.