To all of our readers and friends, Happy Thanksgiving from the Heavy Table team! We’ll be on the road and chowing down for the rest of the week, but we’ll be back next Monday (Nov. 27), ready to resume our Monday-through-Friday schedule of fresh original content. Take care and drive safely!
We should have seen this coming. When we reviewed Tattersall Distilling’s Cabin Cocktail Recipes book last June, the list skewed (understandably) toward batch cocktails to sip on a boat, on a dock, or on a porch. Glaringly absent were the kind of cocktails that get us through cold winters, whether we’re at a cabin or just hunkered down in our living rooms in Minneapolis or St. Paul.
Tattersall now has a winter edition [click here for PDF], and bartender Bryce Laine put the new version through its paces for us. In broad strokes, these are simple cocktails that are easy to prepare in batches, whether in a pitcher, a Thermos, a flask, a blender, a Mason jar, or a slow cooker. The recipes are short, and the sweetest classic cocktails in the book — think of hot buttered rum or the venerable Midwestern favorite, the grasshopper — have been classed up and had the sugary bits toned down.
We started with the AMARO SWISS MISS (top), one of the simplest and boldest of the bunch. This is all about a quiet, thoughtful conversation: The amaro cuts the sugar of the hot cocoa and adds depth and lingering, tingling astringency. Like many of the best Tattersall cabin cocktails, this is a one-trick pony in the best sense of the expression — one little change to something ordinary creates an entirely different experience.
The GRASSHOPPER is going to rile traditionalists. It’s not green, and it’s not like drinking boozy mint ice cream out of a glass. But this blend of Tattersall Creme de Cacao, Tattersall Fernet, and cream is light and elegant, with a nice herbal bite.
The SNOW-MAN-HATTAN (brown liquor, Tattersall Sour Cherry, Tattersall Italiano, and bitters) is “mixed” by sticking it in a snowbank or ice bucket for 20 minutes, letting all the ingredients naturally morph together as the whole thing gets chilly. The bite on this guy is mellow. It was an elegant slow-sipper of a cocktail made with bourbon. Next time we’d give rye a shot to give it a bit more of an earthy base.
The FROSTBITE MARTINI (Tattersall Barreled Gin, Tattersall Americano, orange bitters) was clean, crisp, clear, and cold, having gone through the same 20-minute icedown as the Manhattan. Considering how truly boozy this thing was (3 ounces of gin), it went down as smoothly as a luge on a freshly frozen track.
The Tattersall HOT BUTTERED RUM in no way resembles what drank in days of yore in Wisconsin, which is to say a homemade, heavily spiced ice cream that would be glopped into a cup and doctored with some combination of boiling water and spirits. Instead, this comparatively restrained cocktail brings together rum, hot water, a cinnamon stick, and honey butter, making for a mellow and milky warmer rather than a full-on ice cream sundae of a drink.
Similarly hot was the JELLY TEA TODDY, nothing more than Tattersall Aquavit, chamomile tea (from a bag, no less!), and a tablespoon of apple jelly. The herbs of the aquavit were a perfect complement to the chamomile, and both of them spiced up the apple quite nicely. (There’s a Concord grape jelly and Earl Grey tea combination in the book that is our next go-to when the weather really gets cold.)
For dinner party applications, the 50TH & FRANCE brings together Tattersall Pommeau (an apple liqueur) with maple syrup and dry sparkling wine. It’s refreshing and dry without being either too austere or too syrupy, and it would cut through the fat and roasty char of a hearty winter feast without too much trouble.
Last up: the AQUAVIT OLD FASHIONED, which uses a little bit of maple syrup to harvest a surprisingly big kick of mellow sweetness that plays well with the aromatic qualities of the bitters and aquavit. The recommended swizzle stick is a pine bough, and it’s worth the effort for the visual interest alone.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.
Seafood Chowder at Corner Table
This was an eye-catching dish that warmed and comforted on a chilly evening while offering enough brightness to keep us interested. The clams, resting on a dollop of brandade, were fresh and meaty. The brandade, a puree of potatoes and whitefish (although traditionally made with cod), was rich and nutty. The house-made oyster crackers were crunchy, tender, and light. Bits of crisp celery offered a contrast to the creamy broth and confit potato slices. And to top it all, the sparkling smoked roe provided explosions of briny depth.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Jane Rosemarin]
Duck a la Presse at Meritage
As we wrote in our story about Meritage’s (extremely) special duck dish, Duck a la Presse isn’t just an entree, it’s an entire complicated, beautiful, and somewhat brutal process that plays out tableside, from duck deconstruction to squeezing to sauce-making. The end product is worth the fuss and expense. It’s one of the richest and most delicious duck dishes we’ve tried.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a story by James Norton]
Breakfast Bowl at Coalition
Coalition in Edina now occupies the old Pearson’s Family Restaurant space. Their hearty breakfasts are a far cry from the former classic diner fare. Try the satisfying Breakfast Bowl, made with farro, spinach, avocado, bacon, dried cherries, and creme fraiche. Though it sounds, in part, like health food, it’s flavorful and filling.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]
Fried Bologna Sandwich at Bull’s Horn
The Fried Bologna Sandwich at the newly opened Bull’s Horn boasts meat that was smoked in house, a deviled egg schmear, a lot of lettuce, pickles, and spicy mustard. Hand to God, the first thing we thought of when we bit into it, with all its fatty, earthy meatiness, was that we were eating a decent corned beef sandwich.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an upcoming review by James Norton]
Chocolate Zucchini Bread at Corner Table
Karyn Tomlinson, the new chef de cuisine at Corner Table has taken an eat-your-vegetables kids’ snack and transformed it into something stupendous. She infuses her chocolate-zucchini bread with custard and tops it with a rich caramel sauce to yield a moist cake that tastes like a chewy brownie, but with a lighter crumb. The bread is served warm with a slab of creme fraiche ice cream on the side. Contrasts in flavor, texture, and temperature keep this dessert in exquisite balance.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Jane Rosemarin]
Fire, blood, and storytelling. Those elements — burning wood, the bounty of a fresh kill, and the swapping of tales — are pretty much the bare bones of classic hospitality, and therefore civilization itself. Add a good bottle of wine, and you’re basically in heaven. That may be why the Duck a la Presse ($120) at Meritage gives diners such a primal feeling of warmth and satisfaction, despite all the high-end trappings. At the end of a day, it’s a chef (in this case, Executive Chef Jason Engelhart, pictured above) talking to you about food, history, and culture while he squooshes the jus out of a deconstructed, lightly roasted duck. The duck press itself is a show-stopper, a gorgeously steampunk device that wouldn’t be out of place in either an episode of Sherlock or a medieval interrogation chamber.
In recent months, we’ve been greatly enjoying the roast chicken dishes from Mexican restaurants on East Lake Street, and while the Muscovy duck that is prepared at Meritage with a sauce of port, cognac, and duck squeezings is worlds away in some regards, both dishes strike a similar chord: There’s something intensely comforting about a well-prepared piece of poultry served with rice.
As we stated earlier, the Duck a la Presse is not an inexpensive dish. It’s a meal for two, or it’s a (hefty) course for four, and it’s the climax of a dining experience that will run for a couple of hours, minimum. We spent about three hours at Meritage from our first tastes to dessert, and the time flew by between the wines, soups, salads, and the main event.
The Duck a la Presse has a ceremonial feel to it. This is no accident; pressed duck has been a specialty at the famous Tour d’Argent in Paris since the 19th century. First, the whole roast duck is presented. It’s then whisked back to the kitchen for deconstruction and additional cooking of the breast.
The tableside saute station is fired up, and then broken-down duck pieces are tucked into the canister of the antique press so that they produce under pressure a rich, pinkish liquid that is the base of the intense, savory sauce that is splashed upon the carved duck breast. Two legs from a previous day’s duck, given a full confit treatment, tower over the plate like absurd and delectable palm trees.
Because you’re spending so much time with the animal and watching it go through a number of increasingly delicious formats, you are compelled to reckon with your own carnivorous diet. But if you’re OK eating supermarket or fast-food poultry, there’s nothing about this duck’s story that is worrisome, its spectacular final chapter notwithstanding. (Unlike the typical French duck, American ducks going through the press aren’t suffocated, as regulations and prevailing ethical standards prevent it.)
“The duck we are using is raised by Grimaud Farms in California,” said Russell Klein in an email to us after the meal. “It is a well-raised bird, all natural, no antibiotics, etc. It is a Muscovy, which after much trial and error we found to work best for the Duck a la Presse. It is much leaner than a Pekin or other breeds, and is often the duck of choice in France.”
“We obviously have a few local options, but we did not find they worked very well. We love Christian’s ducks at Au Bon Canard (they are what we serve on the menu) but they are way too big for this dish.”
There are a number of truly special meals to be had around here — everything from a coursed meal at Kaiseki Furukawa to a spotlight dinner at Travail to any of the extraordinary seasonal meals with beer pairings cooked in partnership with breweries like Lift Bridge, Fulton, and Surly. But if you’re going to blow it out big, and you’re looking for a particularly spectacular way to mark the occasion, it’s truly difficult to do better than the fire, flash, and flavor of Duck a la Presse.
You can reserve a Duck a la Presse on the Meritage website.
Fair State Brewing Cooperative‘s Spirit Foul has an aroma that’s as difficult to quit as this sought-after beer is to find. More than a decade of tasting and describing food has me instinctively sniffing and then deeply inhaling anything that I plan to taste. It’s a holdover from a conversation I had with a cheesemaker while researching The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin.
“First I feel the cheese,” he said, demonstrating how he would roll a small piece of cheese between his fingers before gently mashing it into a pliable ball. “Then I smell it. By the time I finally put it into my mouth, nine times out of ten, I already know how it’s going to taste.” It was a good line of patter, but he was right. Along with sight, smell, and feel, taste is but one of the ways we have of assessing food.
Back to Spirit Foul. It has a juicy, resinous, piney aroma — not herbal or acrid or air-freshener-y, but rather dank and full and wild.
Spirit Foul is a big 6.3 percent ABV “hazy IPA” brewed in concert with Modern Times Beer of San Diego. And as its addictive odor suggests, it’s mouthwateringly juicy, with a funky pineapple-powered richness that is a refreshing antidote to our current and ongoing bout of cold weather. This is a big IPA that is more than just crushingly astringent hops; it’s a fuller, richer package.
A pack of probably jealous Philistines in the comment section of The Minneapolis Egotist don’t like the packaging, deriding its “hideous” and “nauseating” design. In reality, the package is absolutely stellar. It’s a bold tribute to the palettes and design sensibility of the 1950s, with faded circles of color overlapping and becoming saturated, creating a disorienting, hypnotic, and incredibly distinctive appearance.
If you’re hoping to pick up your own four-pack, Fair State has helpfully built a “Where can you find Spirit Foul?” beer finder for you.