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.
The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.
Butternut Squash Daiquiri at Cafe Alma
A butternut squash cocktail doesn’t sound like something you would want to order, especially in favor of the other great cocktail choices on Cafe Alma’s menu, but this one is worth trying. The squash notes are subtle, but add a wonderful earthiness to the drink. There is a burst of lemon for freshness and acidity, which balances the mild sweetness of the squash. If that isn’t enough, the drink is served in an adorable hollowed gourd, and topped with a velvety sage leaf, making it one of the best looking cocktails around.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Varsha Koneru]
Moon Tea from Sacred Blossom Farm
Tony DiMaggio grows, dries, and blends the herbs that go into Sacred Blossom tea at the Gilmanton, Wisconsin farm of the same name. We tried the lavender- and chamomile-forward Moon blend and found it to be profoundly soothing – it’s a bright floral touch of summer, and lacks any of the dusty or weedy notes that sometimes mar herbal teas. You can order this local brew via the farm’s Kickstarter campaign, which wraps up in about week. Dogwood Coffee and The Produce Exchange at Midtown Global Market will also begin carrying retails packs of Sacred Blossom tea next week.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]
Beef Tagine at Moroccan Flavors
A speedy, elegant lunch from a warming tray? Yes. In the heart of the Midtown Global Market, you can get an authentic, slow-cooked tagine. The beef is rich, sweet and mildly spicy, served with apricots, prunes and almonds over rice. Or choose chicken and squash, served over couscous.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Bruce Manning]
Cry Baby Burger from Jimmy’s Billiards
The Cry Baby Burger from Jimmy’s Billiards is as feisty as its name sounds. Jalapeño peppers, pepper Jack cheese, and a small but mighty dose of hot sauce will clear those sinuses in no time. Spring for the sour cream for the fries as a heat-reducing dairy product.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #4 | Submitted by Amy Rea]
Apple, Grilled Cabbage and Prosciutto Salad at Burch
This salad was a nice balance of sweet, tart, and slightly salty … an excellent complement to most of the rich menu items at Burch. “Grilled cabbage” suggests a salty and/or smokey flavor profile, but there was no hint of the grilling in either taste or temperature. Below the mound of green apple bites and shredded cabbage was a generous layer of thinly sliced prosciutto. A touch of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a few chives on top enhanced each of the individual flavors.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Brenda Johnson]
For the time being, at least, there is no escaping sexy food. Go to Instagram, and you’ll see an endless parade of the same essential dish, over and over again – manicured, impeccable, adorable, gleaming in natural light, made with exotic ingredients, bespangled with foams and brunoised bits, beckoning to you for a mere $9-12 (appetizer) or $16-23 (entree). Food in the age of high-quality camera phones is to be photographed and disseminated as much as it is to be eaten, and we’re all paying a price for that.
Let’s get unsexy for a moment. Let’s get horribly, brutally, unfashionably sexy. The housemade meatloaf at Everett’s is $4.29 a pound, and it comes in a brutal-looking little tinfoil loaf pan. The one that we brought home ($6.50’s worth) could have easily fed a family of four – it was nothing more than a brick of nourishing, full-flavored, herbally seasoned meaty classic goodness, sexy as a tree stump, and fashionable as Cheez Whiz. There may not even be other food words as homely and uninteresting as “meatloaf” – it’s no coincidence that an abomination known as nutraloaf is regarded as one of the least humane punishments in the American prison system, which has no shortage of humiliations and pain to inflict upon its charges.
But here’s the thing: This is cheap food made with care. This is cheap food that you can tuck into with relish, with ketchup, or pickles, or Worcestershire sauce, or with spaghetti sauce on pasta, or as part of a sandwich or wrap. Think of a good meatloaf as a well-made meatball, scaled up and baked into a pan, and treat it as such. It’s not the end of your dining choices, it’s a point of departure. If you make it yourself, the varieties and customization are nearly infinite. If you buy it at Everett’s you’ll be dining on pure comfort, and you’ll do it for less than an order of fries at more than a few local restaurants.
Everett’s is a local treasure, with a meat section that’s a throwback to a time when not only did butchers know their trade, but they got you your dinner for a reasonable price. When we’re not at Everett’s picking up meatloaf, we’re buying high quality frozen turkeys in order to celebrate Thanksgiving in February or obtaining some of the best (and best-priced) ribeyes in town to throw on a grill.
Everett’s Foods and Meats, 1833 E. 38th St., Minneapolis, 612.729.6626
The voyage through the hidden entrance of Can Can Wonderland is Wonka-like and full of anticipation. Glossy red arrows are painted on the walls, and with a bit of trial and error, it’s hard not to smile while hoping to arrive at the correct door. Stepping into the carnival makes the illusion instantly real — it’s not just your imagination, you’re having fun. This place is a grown-up carnival where everything and nothing seems out of place.
Can Can Wonderland, which opened last month off of University Avenue in St. Paul, is a singular concept, despite the recent trend of games-plus-drinks seen at the outrageously popular Up-Down in LynLake and West End’s Punch Bowl Social. There is a decidedly homegrown personality to Can Can’s mini-golf Xanadu. Its energy bounces from the bar, to the row of vintage pinball machines, and throughout the putting green. It feels the way a carnival should feel: quirky with an emphasis on whimsy.
The drinks are no exception. Nick Kosevich (above) and the team at Bittercube have been consulted to bring quality cocktails to two different bars inside the place, and the team took inspiration from their surroundings, rather than riffing on the worn-out classic-cocktail-with-a-twist concept.
On the more restrained end of things is the Subtle Beast ($9), made with blanco tequila, mezcal, grapefruit-lime elixir, cappelletti aperitivo, Jamaica #2 bitters, and rimmed with Sal de Gusana. The sheer number of ingredients is in clear contrast to most other menus curated by Kosevich, but surprisingly, each component stands up in the mix. The mezcal brings subtle smoke, while the citrus adds both sweet and tart. The pleasant tequila backdrop is not boozy, but aromatics from the cappelletti aperitivo (an aromatized wine) create a bold punch. Sal de Gusana, a salt-like powder made from dried agave worms, is mixed with kosher salt for a spicy rim.
For an even more spirit-forward option, go with the sparkling Neon Love ($10). House tonic is mixed with a healthy dose of Bombay Sapphire East gin and lime. Crushed ice creates a bed for butterfly pea flower, a flavorless blue powder that slowly bleeds into the liquid, leaving a purple tie-dye look streaking towards the bottom of the glass. Gin is the star, but the tonic is close behind, with beautiful anise and clove notes. A silver flocked lime slice creates an image that’s pure intergalactic chic.
Even more adventurous are the semi-frozen drinks served out of a slushie machine. The texture of the three choices is more Slurpee than ICEE, and they range from sweet to sloshed.
For those who like their alcohol hidden, opt for the fruit-heavy Boone & Crockett ($8), a mix of the lowbrow wine, rum, lime and Bolivar bitters. A mild, floral finish adds depth to what otherwise might as well be rum and Kool-Aid. The middle of the road option is the pleasant Humu Humu Nuku Nuku Apua’a ($11). This one is tiki up front, but it leaves the palate with a pop of alcoholic heat. A mix of rum, pineapple, cherry and vanilla bean is perhaps most notable for what it lacks — there is no coconut to push it into island territory.
Finally, the refreshing High Plains Grifter ($9) was voted the most refined slush cocktail by our team. Whiskey anchors the combination, while a beautiful lemon-tangerine aroma and flavor hits the palate without much sweetness. This is due to the addition of lemon oleo, a gravity-filtered form of citrus juice and essential oil, plus orange bitters. A splash of Fulton Lonely Blonde creates ideal balance.
In the over-the-top department comes the final adventure, a dessert drink called Monkey Business ($14) which is at once a milkshake and wallop of bourbon. It’s a lollapalooza-sized shake made with bananas, peanut butter, ice cream, bourbon, and chocolate. A thoughtful topping of dried bananas adds texture. Thankfully, it is not as thick as the typical milkshake, but it is large and rich enough to serve more than two people.
Can Can Wonderland may feel at once vintage and trendy, but the drinks are unlike any other program in recent exploration. It feels like the alchemists at Eat Street Social got inspired by the Minnesota State Fair. The entertainment provides appropriate pacing between drinks and they have created a foolproof system for moving about the attractions as food and drink tabs can be opened and closed anywhere without hassle.
This attention to detail makes the visit even more effortless, as do the knowledgeable bartenders who are genuine in their interest in explaining the many obscurities on the menu.
Can Can Wonderland, 755 Prior Ave N, Suite #004, Saint Paul, MN 55104, 651.925.2261. Mon–Wed closed, Thu 10 a.m.–11p.m., Fri-Sat 10a.m.–12a.m., Sun 10a.m.–10p.m.
Sunday morning at the neighborhood pie place: There are hash browns on the flat top, a couple of teenage boys waiting for enormous plates of eggs, a woman at the counter with a question about the Chicken Sammy (“Can you make it a half?” “Not usually. But, sure. I can make you a half.”), coffees that could use a warm-up, and a platoon of French silk pies waiting for a crown of whipped cream.
And there’s just one guy, Dave Hulett, the eponymous Pie Guy, making it all happen. He’s not just the name on the door, he’s the chief pie-maker and short-order cook.
While the home-style breakfast and lunch are filling the hole in the neighborhood’s heart left when Butter decamped for Nicollet, we were there for pies. Because, really, “neighborhood pie place” isn’t actually a thing. And it should be.
When we first heard about Dave the Pie Guy, a guy with a crazy dream to build a business on pies, we wondered how the economics of that would work. Pies can’t hide behind mediocre ingredients or shortcuts. You have to taste butter, fruit, cream, eggs — and lots of them. And those things aren’t cheap. Top-quality ingredients for a homemade apple pie top $10 (in round numbers, I’m thinking $2 worth of butter, $8 worth of apples) at retail prices.
So here’s how Dave makes the economics work: He actually charges what his pies are worth.