Wander North, Maple Island, and Fall Cocktails at Libertine

Banner for the Toast: Drinking Well in the Upper Midwest

This week, the Toast heads out to Uptown’s Libertine to sip fall cocktails that will keep the coming frost at bay for at least a few more weeks. (Libertine fans should also be aware: this weekend is the restaurant’s pop-up Hiroshima Dogs event.) Wander North is using Minnesota grain to make its vodka, and we stopped by for a chat. We also ventured out to Stillwater’s newest brewery, Maple Island.

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

Fall Cocktails and Pairings From Libertine

There is more to fall beverages than the ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte. Fall spirits usher in the cooler months with a welcome, warm buzz and gently remind drinkers of flavors to come. And while many Twin Cities restaurants are still passing out worn and stained summer drink menus, Libertine earns our endorsement for seasonality and creativity.

Libertine is the newest of the Parasole restaurants with one twist — conceptualization by Chef Tim Mckee, Minnesota’s first James Beard award winner.

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

Johnny Michaels is the buzzworthy force behind the bar at Libertine, so it is no surprise that the cocktail list is comprehensive. Two particular cocktails rise above the rest due to their application of seasonal ingredients that echo the changing temperatures. The first is the Late November (above right), a sour-sweet drink perfect for sunny days or cool nights. White rum is added to pumpkin spice syrup and unsweetened lime juice, a potent and striking combination. The mint note from Nardini amaro and the rosemary sprig creates a spicy backdrop and brings a savory element into balance.



Brewfarm for Sale, New Pizzeria Lola and More

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Pizzeria Lola is planning a new location in Northeast near Dangerous Man Brewing. WACSO checks out Meritage in St. Paul and The Well Fed Guide to Life visits Kyatchi. Lift Bridge Brewery is hiring a brewer and has wrapped up its $1 million expansion; and Dave Anderson and Pam Dixon are selling the Brewfarm (pictured above; here’s our visit). A local food blogger returns from Chicago and makes tarte tatin; another pens a remarkably searing and introspective post about divorce (and making pickles.) Plus: A review of Petunia’s Pumpkin Ale at Town Hall.



Jim’s Apple Farm, Home of Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Editor’s note: we visited Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store four years ago, and thought it time to revisit their sugary bounty.

What’s your sweet hankering? Cotton-candy- or pineapple- or banana-split-flavored saltwater taffy? Fresh-baked apple pie or strudel? Chocolate cookies or vintage candies? Huckleberry- or Dr-Pepper-flavored licorice? No? Not a problem — there are more than 80 more flavors of licorice to choose from. Baseball-bat-sized tube of jelly beans? Gummy bears and all other critters in all different flavors? Fudge, chocolate and maple? Nut brittles? Maple syrup and honey produced locally?

You can get your sweets in the form of things that are good for you, namely apples and a comprehensive collection of winter squash, including the mother of all squashes, the Hubbard. And you can find the equipment to make your own carnival funnel cakes as well as baking kits for all kinds of cupcakes, including red velvet.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

You’re in luck, at least through Thanksgiving weekend. Jim’s Apple Farm, home to the seasonal candy store that bills itself as Minnesota’s largest (we don’t know if it really is, but we’d be happy to learn of a store that’s bigger), is on Highway 169 south of Jordan (about 30 minutes from the Twin Cities). Jim’s, which has neither its own website nor a working phone number, started as an apple orchard and farm, with evidence of all those items for sale. But the big deal here is the candy.

Maybe you prefer something savory: Habañero popcorn? Pasta? Barbecue sauce? Meat? (Yes, real meat, primarily pork, in the form of cottage bacon, sausages, and chops.)



Saguaro in Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

There’s something about the word “chimichanga” that invites a diner to disregard it as a serious choice. Scratch that: there are several things. It seems festive to the point of being absurd. Just trying yelling it after you’ve had several margaritas — it sounds perfectly natural, if slightly unhinged. It’s (fairly or not) associated with often-terrible “fun Mex” dining. And despite semi-deep roots (some trace it back to Mexican immigrants to the southwest 70 years ago) it feels “inauthentic,” a far cry from mole and elote and tacos al pastor.

In fact, while chimichangas are often a deep-fried crime against gastronomy, they can be done beautifully. Case in point: the newly opened Saguaro restaurant on Lyndale Avenue. Saguaro’s chimichanga ($13) was lightly fried and crisp but not greasy. Its mix of beans, rice and meat (in our case pork) hit a golden ratio that made for substantial dining without any one filling overwhelming the others. Its poblano-cheese layer was comfortingly present but not a gooey pool of salty dreck. In short, this is a chimichanga worth traveling for. And the portion is large enough so that you’re likely to have half a chimichanga for lunch the next day.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Much of the rest of Saguaro was to our liking as well. With its short menu, reasonable price points, geographically specific name (in this case: the native habitat of the iconic saguaro cactus), and iron-branded wooden details (such as a tortilla chip holder), the concept feels like a riff on East Lake’s Sonora Grill. The sophistication of the concept is unsurprising; the restaurant’s owners also run the well-polished My Burger chain and the Nicollet Island Inn.



Coffee and Tea Ltd in Linden Hills

coffee-tea-geisha-daterra-kopi-tasting

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

A brief, modern history of coffee: First came Folgers. Then the ubiquitous green sea monster rose from Puget Sound. Now we’re in the “Third Wave Coffee” era.

This “Third Wave” business feels like revisionist history, or at least a bit like a marketing ploy to sell coffee brewed by a natty barista. In fact, fine coffee has been here all along if you know where to look for it. But if you are willing to grant that there is such a thing as the Third Wave, then Jim Cone of Coffee and Tea Limited in Linden Hills, like Neil Young to Pearl Jam, could well be considered the godfather of the movement.

coffee-tea-jim-cone-portrait

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

When you walk into Coffee and Tea Limited, the first thing you see is the drum roaster, sitting atop the catbird seat in the sunny front window of the shop. This hundred-year-old machine, with its filigree and leather belts, is the primary tool of Cone’s trade. It’s where you’ll find him carefully roasting the green coffee beans that form an aisle to the counter, which itself displays a grid of roasted coffee beans.

Most of Coffee and Tea Limited’s business is in bulk sale of coffee and tea, though we are here for the coffee. There is a steady stream of customers coming in for their weekly supply, and Jim knows many of them by name. At Coffee and Tea Limited, you can order prepared coffee or try a pour-over cup of anything you see (prices vary depending on the cost of the beans, topping out at $10 for the select items), but there is nary a table at which to sit and no Wi-Fi on which to Tumblr away the hours. This is a working coffee shop after all, not a cafe.