Heavy Table Hot Five: July 31-August 6

hotfive-flames

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.

Ted Held  / Heavy Table

Ted Held / Heavy Table

1-new - oneJerk Chicken at Pimento Jamaican Kitchen
On July 23, Pimento Jamaican Kitchen showed off its new, still very much under construction digs on Nicollet Avenue with an open house at which staff handed out excellent smoky jerk chicken, fluffy rice and beans, and sweet fried plantains to anyone with a mouth who stepped into the long line. For a few more days, you can help Pimento bring its island flavors to Eat Street with Kickstarter. Positive vibration bonus: in partnership with Refill MN, Pimento aims to provide 100,000 meals to food-insecure Minnesotans.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Ted Held]

Yena Lee  / Heavy Table

Yena Lee / Heavy Table

2-new - twoHalloumi Cheese Curds at Saffron
Saffron is offering fried halloumi cheese curds as one of its weekly specials. The salty, crunchy, and milky characteristics of halloumi cheese work well in a fried “curd” format, and the accompanying rhubarb pieces bring a nice, bright contrast to the comforting fried cheese.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Yena Lee]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table

Amy Rea / Heavy Table

3-new - threeKorean Fried Cauliflower at Icehouse
The mildly spicy and perfectly fried cauliflower is a crisp offset to the thick but tender kimchi pancakes that are best eaten under a drenching of the fried egg’s yolk. There are generous dollops of gochujang sauce to add some heat, if you like. Lots of flavor and texture in a not-overly-huge lunch plate.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

Joshua Page  / Heavy Table

Joshua Page / Heavy Table

4-new fourBarbacoa and Vegetarian Tacos at Pineda Tacos
We became fans of Pineda during a taco crawl last year. A recent lunch confirmed our positive first impression of this nondescript spot on East Lake Street. The barbacoa taco is juicy, soulful, and super flavorful. A vegetarian creation with griddled queso fresco, beans, and rice is also dynamite. We’ll definitely be back soon.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Via a Tweet by Joshua Page]

Paige Latham  / Heavy Table

Paige Latham / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveCherry Shortcake from the Barley’s Angels Goose Island Beer Dinner
The cherry shortcake made for the Barley’s Angels and Goose Island Beer dinner at Cooks of Crocus Hill was a revelation. Made with simmered dark cherries and saison, it was the hit of the evening. May no shortcake ever again be made without orange zest. It almost dwarfed its beer pairing, the Juliet Belgian-style ale.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham]



The Weekend Starts Now: Alondra Cano and Monica LaPlante

Bjorn Christianson / Heavy Table

Bjorn Christianson / Heavy Table

The Weekend Starts Now taped its seventh show at Du Nord Cocktail Room on Thursday, July 23. This episode features the music of  Monica LaPlante.

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. If you’d like to join us for the next taping, we’ll be at the Solar Arts Building on Thursday, August 6 (tickets available here).

You can follow and listen to the show on Soundcloud. And you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Becca Dilley Photography

Becca Dilley Photography

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. Get a onetime discount of 20 percent off any order at anniebs.com with the promocode “Weekend.” Offer expires 8/31/15.

Hear the whole seventh episode here

Bjorn Christianson / Heavy Table

Bjorn Christianson / Heavy Table

SEGMENT 1: INTRODUCTION

Taylor and James discuss deep dish pizza and the insane new show-themed glassware provided by the good people of Lift Bridge Brewing.

Bjorn Christianson / Heavy Table

Bjorn Christianson / Heavy Table

SEGMENT 2: MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL MEMBER ALONDRA CANO

Minneapolis City Council Member Alondra Cano drops by the podcast to talk living wages, goats in the city, and on-demand television.

Bjorn Christianson / Heavy Table

Bjorn Christianson / Heavy Table

SEGMENT 3: MONICA LAPLANTE

After a stellar pre-segment performance (and before a stellar post-segment performance) musician Monica LaPlante and bandmate Rory Donovan join Taylor Carik for an interview.

Bjorn Christianson / Heavy Table

Bjorn Christianson / Heavy Table

SEGMENT 4: CHRIS MONTANA OF DU NORD CRAFT SPIRITS

Chris Montana, half of the dynamic duo behind Du Nord Craft Spirits, gets on stage to tell the distillery’s story and preview some exciting upcoming spirits (coffee liqueur! apple pie!).

Bjorn Christianson / Heavy Table

Bjorn Christianson / Heavy Table

SEGMENT 5: YOUR WEEKEND PREVIEWED

The upcoming weekend in food, drink, and events from the guys behind Secrets of the City and Heavy Table.

Bjorn Christianson / Heavy Table

Bjorn Christianson / Heavy Table



Keepsake Cider from Dundas, Minnesota

Keepsake cider

Paige Latham / Heavy Table

In the land of 10,000 apples, the relative lack of local cider is confounding. Until recently, the cider market has seen only modest growth when compared to the meteoric growth of breweries (and now, distilleries.) Local cider drinkers can now choose between multiple local ciders and can even visit a production facility. But even so, few Minnesota ciders in distribution have demonstrated real staying power on shelves or converted any superfans.

Leidel’s, an excellent dry craft cider out of LaCrescent, was popular about a year ago but faded from shelves quickly. With a tart and refreshing new product, Number 12 Ciderhouse also promises to be successful with dry cider lovers, but availability has been spotty at best. Those who appreciate something sweeter have perhaps the best luck: Loon Juice, made by Four Daughters Winery in Spring Valley, seems to be the most consistently available new cider, in both bars and liquor stores.

Fans of bottle-conditioned farmhouse ciders, like those made by Wisconsin’s Maiden Rock, will find solace in Keepsake cider. Earlier this summer, GYST Fermentation Bar in the Whittier neighborhood of Minneapolis offered a sneak peek at three Keepsake products. Jim Bovino is GYST’s head fermenter and kitchen manager as well as a founder of Keepsake. He gained his cider-making expertise at Finnriver Farm and Cidery in Chimacum, Washington. Along with co-founders Tracy Jonkman and Nate Watters, Bovino sources apples from Keepsake’s own Woodskeep Farm in Dundas, Minnesota.

Bovino blames the lack of local cider in part on a deficit of appropriate apple varieties. “Many people think that they don’t like cider because they’ve never really had a good one,” he says. “Much of what’s available is made from concentrates or apple essence, sweetened using refined sugars, pH corrected using malic acid, and generally adulterated to resemble soda more than a fine beverage.”

Keepsake ciders smell, taste, and appear authentic with their murky haze and brilliant but natural colors. Very little residual sweetness is left in the glass, and each of the three choices, available in bottles and on draft starting next week, has some funk as a fermentation byproduct of the natural yeast on the skin of the fruit.

Bovino is hopeful that consumers will take to local ciders and embrace them in the way they have artisan cheese or craft gin. “While it will take some time for cider-apple production to keep up with the increasing demand, the trend seems to be toward more authentic products rather than simply the same old ‘alco-pop,’” he says.

Keepsake Cider is available at South Lyndale Liquors for $15 per 750ml bottle. It is also available on draft at GYST Fermentation Bar, Restaurant Alma, and The Bachelor Farmer.



Valhalla Nordic Smoke and Ale House in Willernie

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Underpromise. Overdeliver. Until you’re Thomas Keller or David Chang, take for granted that no matter what your concept, decor, and prices may suggest to the customer, you’ll meet or exceed those expectations with your food and service.

With that introduction you can probably guess that it’s not a good thing when I say that Valhalla Nordic Smoke and Ale House of Willernie is one of the most intriguing-looking restaurants to open around here in quite some time.

Its Nordic-inspired menu looks promising. The place pledges house-made beer. The classic Norse theme is aggressive to the level of exciting: Shields on the wall! Massive portrait of Odin the All-Father! Manly dark wood covering everything!

And yet on both our visits the food was an uneven mess. The highly touted house-made beer wasn’t yet available nearly a month after opening day. And it turns out that the only things louder than the Norse kitsch decor are the Goodyear-blimp-scale television screens that dominate the diner’s field of view, no matter where he or she might turn.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The central challenge of Valhalla is that it feels like two restaurants built atop one another: a high-quality, fun-loving sports bar, and a seriously confused, fine-dining New Nordic eatery. If Valhalla were merely offering burgers, fish and chips, wings, and massive television sets, it would be a solid success. All the variants of the fancy, third-of-a-pound house-ground beef burgers ($12) we tried were tasty: crowned with bakery buns, juicy, and nicely accented with various fixings and sauces.

James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

The order of fish and chips we tried was big, tender, artfully fried, and a fine value ($15 for a double order). Our ale-battered onion rings ($6) were similarly good, and while our “Dragon” Wings ($7) were a bit swamped by their mysterious, Fieri-esque “jagermeister-bull sauce,” they were skillfully cooked. The beer list was long and interesting, and ultimately satisfying.

It is during the attempt to deliver high-end New Nordic fare that the Valhalla’s longship founders and sinks.



Heavy Table Hot Five: July 24-30

hotfive-flames

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.

James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - oneMake it So ESB from Summit Brewing
This ESB (extra special bitter ale) from brewer Nick Hempfer is a lovely, malt-forward, floral-nosed beer that packs a wallop of honeyed refreshment. The Earl Gray tea it’s brewed with gives it a mildly astringent character and a seriously complex body. It may be our favorite new beer of the summer. It’s also a Jean-Luc Picard tribute.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | From last night’s taping of The Weekend Starts Now at the Du Nord Cocktail Room by James Norton]

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

2-new - twoSt. Vincent Pizza from Big River Pizza
Packing a major flavor punch, this concoction stars thick bacon, fresh garlic, provolone, and a bright, slightly sweet red sauce made from organic crushed tomatoes. This pizza could have been overwhelming, given the combination of high-powered ingredients, but the components complemented one another, producing a well-balanced, unique pizza.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | From a review by Joshua Page]

James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - threeDilly Beans from Saint Dinette
Sometimes the simplest dishes are the most impressive (see above). While there’s no shortage of things to rave about vis-a-vis the newly opened Saint Dinette, we were truly wowed by the simple pickled dilly beans served as a snack. They had a lovely, tangy, garlicky depth of flavor that made them absurdly addictive.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #3 | Submitted by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

4-new fourCardamom Latte from Anelace Coffee
So, here’s a mistake, and it’s 100 percent on us: we tripped upon the perfect late autumn beverage in the middle of summer. The lattes at Anelace are gorgeously smooth and rich without feeling overloaded. Add a whisper of cardamom syrup and you’re left with a comforting hug of a beverage, not at all too sweet and – all in all – unreservedly lovely. Even on a warm summer evening, this ranked among the tastiest coffees we’ve had around here. Once the the temperature drops we’ll back again and again for it.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an upcoming Central Avenue Checklist by James Norton]

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveHazelnuts from Hazelnut Valley Farm at Mill City
Norm and Mary Erickson started growing hazelnuts on their farm in Lake City when they retired, and now they are selling them at the Mill City Farmers Market every other Saturday (they’ll be there tomorrow, July 25). The dry-roasted nuts are fresh, crunchy, and properly hazelnutty, and their skins aren’t bitter. Norm says the majority of people who taste them buy them. The price is $5 for 4 ounces, or $18 a pound.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Jane Rosemarin]