The Morning Bun at Honey and Rye Bakehouse

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

When you spend your whole childhood living in one city, you get to know the local carbs. In Madison, Wis. in the ’80s and ’90s, that meant Rocky Rococo pizza, Bagels Forever bagels, and the morning bun from the Ovens of Brittany. The last of these items is a local legend, and it still pops up (with varying degrees of fidelity and quality) around town, with good renditions at Barriques and Lazy Jane’s Cafe, and a relatively feeble version at La Brioche (the actual heir to the Ovens of Brittany business). And if you’re a glutton for punishment, you can even make them in your own kitchen.

The thing that makes the morning bun so addictive is this: You get the flaky sophistication of a croissant plus the gooey sweetness of a cinnamon roll, creating a “best of both breakfast worlds” situation. Good croissant dough has a chewy, flaky, buttery character that is well-complemented by the aggressive sprinkling of some cinnamon and sugar, and a great morning bun is at once sophisticated and childishly delightful.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Honey and Rye, the St. Louis Park bakeshop, has a morning bun on its menu for $3.50. Despite similarities in name and structure, there’s no direct Madison connection. Baker Anne Andrus says her first morning bun came from an Oakland, Calif. bakery called La Farine, and her version uses Danish dough (which typically includes milk, sugar, and eggs), rather than a simpler croissant dough, for added tenderness. And while it’s not a bite-for-bite clone of the Madison version, it’s quite strong in its own right. The Honey and Rye bun is about half the size of the big honkin’ buns found in Wisconsin, and it lacks the large, gooey core of its Madison counterpart. Instead, it has a delightfully consistent, chewy crispiness accented by a strong natural-cinnamon kick. In short, slightly different item, same result — a high-class yet slightly silly breakfast-time indulgence.

Honey and Rye Bakehouse, 4501 Excelsior Blvd, Minneapolis; 612.844.2555



Heavy Table Hot Five: Jan. 19-25

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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 editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

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Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

1-new - one - hot fiveSmoked Oysters at The Hasty Tasty
The mention of “smoked oysters” may evoke memories of tin cans, but the version at The Hasty Tasty is fantastic. Rather than individual oysters, the dish is a composed plate with fennel, pickled veggies, and Texas toast. This open-faced style keeps the accoutrements from overwhelming the star of the dish, while making it substantial and interesting. Pair with the Kumquat Caipirinha for a bright contrast!
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]

Ted Held / Heavy Table0

2-new - two - hot fiveSriracha Zucca Pasta at Italian Eatery
The Sriracha Zucca pasta at Italian Eatery is a welcome addition to their perennially excellent menu. The nickel sized pumpkin shaped pasta have more of sriracha’s brightness than heat and are cooked al dente, as you would expect from IE. Pepita pesto with toasted pepitas are a lovely twist on the usual pine nuts. There is a hint of citrusy tartness that contrasts perfectly with the olive oil and the sweetness of the basil. Pair it with a salad and the crispy chicken thighs for meal perfection.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Ted Held]

James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fiveCheesecake from Brianno’s Deli-Italia
Anyhow, back to the cheesecake. It’s as tangy as you could possibly desire, and sticky to the point of being almost cream-cheese-like in consistency. The balance of sugar and dairy zing is spot on, and the graham cracker crust is a great counterpoint in terms of sweetness and crunchy texture. We’ve had cheesecakes with a more elegant texture (lighter, firmer, overall better), but this slice gets the tangy vs. sweet balance right in an important way, and really delivers on the “cheese” side of things.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton from a recent review]

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveHam and Cheese Quiche Bite from Sift Gluten-Free Bakery
The crust of this mini-quiche was chewy and buttery, and perhaps a little corny. The egg filling was creamy and shot through with pockets of melted cheese and bits of smoky ham. Our only gripe was the silver-dollar size. We could have eaten an entire full-sized quiche. On the other hand, if it were bigger, we’d have missed out on the lovely crust in each bite. Sift knows what they’re doing: These things are seriously craveable.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a review by Ted Held]

James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveRain Drops Northeast-Style IPA by Barrel Theory
Hazy, New England-style IPAs remain wildly trendy and it’s easy to taste why: many possess a juicy, fruit-forward hops-driven flavor that paradoxically seems to flood your mouth with a pulpy, almost orange juice-like moisture while also making you thirsty for more. Barrel Theory’s Rain Drops (7.5% ABV, 60 IBU) is brewed with Citra and Mosaic hops and even juicier than most, a seeming cascade of moisture in every sip plus an earthy, profound, orange-and-iced tea sort of body.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]



Cheesecake at Brianno’s in Eagan

James Norton / Heavy Table

The photo above depicts a slice of cheesecake from Brianno’s Italian deli in Eagan. It’s not much of a photo — it was taken quickly, as an afterthought, to serve as a reference in case the cake turned out to be remarkably good. Not much other than fried catfish or tacos looks good on styrofoam, and the pale color of the cake plays particularly poorly here.

Nevertheless, this slice of Brianno’s homemade cheesecake ($3.50) quickly popped into our top five reasons to drive out to this stellar deli, one of the last true bastions of Italian-American deli deliciousness in the state.

That list:

5. All the Italian cookies/dried pasta/pizzelle you could possibly want.

4. High-quality frozen pasta sauce for a reasonable price; we really dig the house-made Bolognese, but the classic Meatless is just what you’re looking for, too.

3. The cheesecake. We’ll get into this a moment.

2. The Sloppy Hot Dago ($8.50). Is this the best hot dago sandwich* in the state, and therefore the world? You be the judge, but we think it might be. Tons of tasty melted cheese, high-quality red sauce, legitimately spicy sausage patty, and even a pepperoncini on the side. (*Yes, we know that the name is offensive to many people, and we actually wrote a book that dove into the history and etymology for about two full pages.)

1. Muffuletta ingredients. All the high-quality, reasonably priced Italian meats and cheeses you need to make a huge, killer muffuletta and feed an army of people. Plus! Spicy, delicious muffuletta olive salad in a jar to save you a tremendous amount of hassle and expense on your sandwich crafting.

Anyhow, back to the cheesecake. It’s as tangy as you could possibly desire, and sticky to the point of being almost cream-cheese-like in consistency. The balance of sugar and dairy zing is spot on, and the graham cracker crust is a great counterpoint in terms of sweetness and crunchy texture. We’ve had cheesecakes with a more elegant texture (lighter, firmer, overall better), but this slice gets the tangy vs. sweet balance right in an important way, and really delivers on the “cheese” side of things.

Brianno’s Deli-Italia, 2280 Cliff Rd, Eagan, MN; 651.895.1174



Chankaska Spirits Ranch Road Gin

Rick Didora / Heavy Table

Rick Didora / Heavy Table

Chankaska Spirits, a three-year-old venture of Chankaska Creek Ranch and Winery, is now offering a variety of spirits in Minnesota liquor stores and at its facility in Kasota, Minn., just south of St. Peter. Though the decade-old ranch and vineyard is better known for cold-climate wine, the Chankaska grounds were formerly occupied by a successful rum-running operating during Prohibition. As a nod to that heritage, spirit production has now expanded to include several unaged as well as barreled selections.

In terms of raw ingredients, Chankaska sticks to the use of traditional barley, corn, and rye for the majority of its portfolio. Using a 500-liter pot still, they distill each wash twice, first through a stripping run and then through a spirits run. To add to the continuity between the wine and spirit operations, two of the spirits feature the use of grapes (rather than grain), some of which are grown on site.

The Ranch Road gin is one of the offerings distilled from grapes, meaning that it is entirely grain-free. It was developed using 15 different botanicals, including juniper, and it strikes a balance between the juniper-forward and botanically balanced gin styles.

The aroma is fruity and floral, with slight banana and lilac notes, while juniper takes a backseat. On first sip, there is a biting quality that is delivered more by the alcoholic heat than the botanical additions. Rather than an aromatic bouquet, we found a monotone character that hits the palate consistently and doesn’t develop much over time. The website claims that this gin is “begging to be made into cocktails,” and we couldn’t agree more.

Far from being flavorless, the restrained and, well, basic profile of Ranch Road makes it a powerful mixing spirit. It’s an ideal canvas for more robust bitters and craft sodas like spicy Spruce Soda Co. Ginger Beer or Joia Orange Jasmine and Nutmeg. We especially liked the bitterness and depth of flavor when Ranch Road is combined with Blue Henn tonic. On the other hand, sipping it straight only led to disappointment.

One could argue that the merit of any spirit should be based on its ability to be enjoyed straight up. However, there are distilleries such as Skaalvenn and Du Nord that aim to deliver craft liquors perfect for mixing. With a $29 price tag, though, Chankaska is straddling the line between everyday and premium branding, and it falls short of sipping quality.



Sift Gluten-Free Bakery in Nokomis, Minneapolis

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

We love gluten, just to let you know where we stand. But we felt that if we turned this review over to the gluten-free beat, such as it is, that we’d be giving Sift (4557 Bloomington Ave S, Minneapolis) short shrift.

We will however give short shrift to the controversy, such as it is, surrounding the steady rise (get it?) of gluten free. Yes, celiac disease is real, and it is miserable. Yes, there are charlatans who will tell you that everything can be cured by eliminating gluten from your diet. Enough said about that.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

On to the baked treats that we picked up just as the sun was rising this past Saturday morning. Sift is a delightful and welcoming space, with a display case filled with an astonishing variety of muffins, bars, brownies, cookies, doughnuts, cakes, scones, and little tiny quiches. The beaming, smiling face that greeted us turned out to be that of Molly Miller, owner of Sift. She was visibly thrilled to be there and was more than happy to share with us her journey from longtime hobbyist baker to semi-pro farmers market vendor to professional baker with her own brand-new shop.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Her enthusiasm is well warranted. Our favorite item was the Ham and Cheese Quiche Bite ($2.50). The crust was chewy and buttery, and perhaps a little corny. The egg filling was creamy and shot through with pockets of melted cheese and bits of smoky ham. Our only gripe was the silver-dollar size. We could have eaten an entire full-sized quiche. On the other hand, if it were bigger, we’d have missed out on the lovely crust in each bite. I guess they know what they’re doing: These things are seriously craveable.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The Spiced Pear Coffee Cake ($3.50) was delightful. Airy, and rich with cinnamon and cardamom, it had a moist, fluffy crumb and a lovely aroma. For lack of wheat flour, it was missing nothing. We’ve had sweeter coffee cakes, but this one, with its spiced pear, had a sophisticated element that we’ll definitely return for.