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By Laurie Kesteloot
My family’s farm is located just east of Marshall, Minn. My brothers and I are the third generation to operate the farm, which we do alongside my parents. With a team of about 15 employees, we raise and sell 80,000 market hogs annually and farm 600 acres of corn and soybeans.
My parents never pushed careers in agriculture on my brothers and me when we were growing up. In fact, I never had any intention of returning to the farm. I studied economics and accounting in college, worked in the banking industry, and never planned on looking back. In the first couple of years of my career I began to notice a cultural shift toward people wanting to know where their food came from. In the media, at grocery stores, and at dinners with friends, the misperceptions I was hearing about where our food comes from and how farmers are raising animals was almost overwhelming. It was a steady drumbeat that I wanted to disrupt by sharing some of my own personal experiences.
It’s funny how life takes you places you didn’t expect. The commentary on farming began pulling me back to my family’s farm, and two years later I’ve found myself in a job that is innate for me — working with my parents and my two brothers improving our family farm everyday.
Reviews of a couple Castle Danger brews, plus we talk flavored beer (featuring Schell’s, Borealis, Urban Growler, Bent Paddle, and Northgate) on Minnesota Public Radio’s Appetites series. The Minnesota Food Charter launched this week. The Well Fed Guide to Life gets out to Hello Pizza (our review here). Curry Diva Heather Jansz is hosting a weekly pop-up at Our Kitchen in Uptown. Republic Uptown is devoting all 56 taps to local beer in November. A new Kickstarter campaign is raising money for Urban Forage, an urban winery and cider house on East Lake Street. Dara looks at the mentors behind Lyn65 (our review here) and The Third Bird (review here.) Rick Nelson does a pizza chain roundup (Tucci Pronto, Pizza Rev, Pieology, and Pizza Studio). And Jess Fleming delivers a Minnesota body slam (“So how was the food? Some of it was good. Some of it was, in a word, disappointing”) to the current incarnation of the Union-Workshop-Kaskaid entity.
About the Farms in the Lens series: Much of what we write within these pages is focused on the restaurants of Minneapolis and St. Paul. But much of what we eat at those tables comes from farms around the state. With underwriting from Clancey’s Meats and Fish, we’ve set out to document a half dozen of these farms, focusing on the relationship between humans and animals.
Pheasant hunting has an air of romance to it — the combination of hunters, dogs, and prairie evokes a Victorian novel made real right here in Minnesota. Beyond Brainerd, off the highway, then onto a gravel road, past the hunters and a log cabin, a complex series of barns, buildings, and enclosures houses Wild Acres Hunting Club and Shooting Preserve, and also thousands of the area’s most treasured poultry birds.
Wild Acres supplies turkeys, ducks, chickens, and pheasants to many Twin Cities restaurants and shops. They control the whole process: They supply their own eggs, hatch the birds, raise them, process them on site, and deliver them.
What began as a shooting preserve in 1978 became a pioneering farm that in the 1980s was among the first to sell free-range chickens. The farm has been a favorite of many food professionals, including Wolfgang Puck, Charlie Trotter, and numerous Twin Cities chefs.
“Most of my chefs will say, ‘It’s not what we do with it; it’s a good product when it comes in,’” says Pat Ebnet, who owns and runs the bird-growing side of the business. (His mother, who is semiretired, runs the game preserve.) “Going to one of the restaurants and seeing the end preparation, that is the end benefit. That is the ‘wow,’ that these people really appreciate what I do,” says Ebnet.
A single flock of geese roams around the property during the summer. Many are sold at Christmas time.
Wild Acres started as a shooting preserve and still has a shooting club. Since Ebnet took over, the poultry operation has vastly outpaced the shooting preserve. Pheasants are hatched twice a year and live outdoors. Ebnet processes about 4,000 pheasants each year for restaurants and markets including local coops and Clancey’s.
Nigerian food on the move, a new specialty wine shop in Excelsior, and a look at some of the offerings of the Red Table Meat Company in today’s edition of The Tap.
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.”
Coming Soon to Minneapolis: Lagos Pop-Up Dinner (Tuesday, Nov. 11 – DATE CHANGED)
Detroit chef Tunde Wey (recently departed from revolver) is touring the country cooking Nigerian food, and Minneapolis is the next stop on his itinerary.
We caught up with him by phone on the Chicago leg of his tour and asked him why Twin Cities diners should check out his Nov. 11 pop-up dinner.
“The sort of person who’s attracted to this sort of thing is ready to try something different, and has sort of a swagger sensibility, and doesn’t need an explanation,” Wey says.
“But I will say what the food is not, it’s not precious,” he adds. “It’s really a hearty, authentic cuisine. At revolver, we had revolving chefs come in, doing the cuisine du jour, modern American fare, with all of its aesthetics and presentation and all that. And that’s all wonderful progressive food, but after doing that for a year, I became more and more enamored with the food that I grew up with. It has a real degree of technical skill, but it’s unpretentious. So I just went back home, you know?”
Wey is 31 years old and has been a professional chef for less than a year. He came to the United States in his mid-teens, living with an aunt who — along with his mother — gave him a grounding in how to prepare traditional Nigerian meals.
To this day, his family is his cooking school when it comes to the kind of Nigerian food he’ll cook in Minneapolis: “I’ll call my mom on the phone and ask, ‘How’d you make this again?’ I’ll call my aunt; I’ll call my cousin, and learn how the food is made. I’m learning by taste. That’s my training — my palate, my mouth.”
Wey says the tour is about the holistic experience, not a painstaking, flavor-by-flavor examination of the food.
“Devoting all this time to what food tastes like, ‘what is this note?’ takes a little bit away from what I’m trying to do, which is to get people together and eat, and to have fun,” he says. “The main thing is: come out and have a good time.”
Lagos x Minneapolis
Tuesday, Nov. 11, 6:30pm
Location To Be Announced, BYOB
Jollof Rice / Rice Pilaf
Asun / Peppered Goat Meat
Goat Pepper Soup
Egusi/ Melon Seed + Spinach Stew
Fufu / Cassava Paste
Dodo / Fried Plantains
Red Table Meat Company Ramps Up
When we spotted local charcuterie king Mike Phillips (above) at the Mill City Farmers Market a couple of months ago, we had to pinch ourselves to make sure we weren’t dreaming: His Red Table Meat Company has been fighting through curtains of red tape over the past few years, and there have been a number of false starts. But the doors (at The Digging food-business accelerator space in Northeast Minneapolis) are open, and Red Table Meat Company products are hitting the market in force.