Heavy Table Hot Five: July 21-27

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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.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

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James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - one - hot five120-Day Aged Beef from the Chef’s Table at Cosmos
We’re increasingly convinced that the Upper Midwest’s killer culinary edge is going to come from the woods and water that surround us, so we’re always stoked to meet chefs who tap into foraging, gardening, hunting, and fishing as they cook. Timothy Fischer of Loews Minneapolis is one such chef. He led us last night through an epic chef’s table dinner that included everything from Minnesota crayfish to foraged mushrooms to vegetables and edible flowers from the hotel’s rooftop garden. The meal had a number of high points, but the peak may have been a perfectly cooked, exquisitely tender, medium-rare slice of beef served with thinly sliced truffles, bold verde and rojo sauces, and just enough greenery and pickled onion to set everything off.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveHomemade Celery Bitters Made from Skaalvenn Vodka
This week my CSA box from Clover Bee Farms accidentally contained celery tops instead of parsley. I made celery bitters using Skaalvenn vodka because it’s affordable but high-quality. Put greens in a jar, and add enough vodka to cover. Let sit for about a week at room temp. Try in a bloody mary or a gin martini.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]

James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fiveChocolate Hazelnut Tart at Brake Bread
Brake Bread has become our go-to St. Paul bakery, between its emphasis on delicious, accessible artisan loaves and the ever-changing catalogue of sweet treats. In that latter category: the chocolate hazelnut tart, a scratch-made riff on a Nutella-stuffed Pop-Tart that is sweet, creamy, nutty, earthy, rich, and downright delicious.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveBratwurst at Tanzenwald Brewing Company in Northfield
Topped with crispy kraut and beer-braised onions, this is one of the best bratwursts we’ve had in years, Wisconsin inclusive. It was snappy but not tough, smoothly textured without being pasty or squishy, and imbued with a coriander-driven spice bite that was clean, natural, and assertive without being overpowering. The bun was ample and had character without overpowering its contents, and the whole dish was a rare, ideal version of what a bratwurst can be.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveChar Siu Tacos by Chef Yia Vang for Local Crate
With its trademark blend of sweetness and spicy depth, there are few treatments more delicious for pork than char siu. As part of a collaboration between Local Crate and Chef Camp, we recently made and ate some killer char siu tacos from Chef Yia Vang that included a quick pickled veggie slaw and warmed-up tortillas.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]



The Hot Sauces of Isabel Street Heat of St. Paul

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Hot sauce isn’t always seen as the territory of culinary professionals. Every freelancer and amateur under the sun has seemingly concocted a hot sauce, and most of them have taken them to market. With few exceptions, there’s not a lot of substance: plenty of spicy heat, a cool label, a sting of vinegar, but little in the way of depth of flavor. Many lines of hot sauce have varieties differentiated only by the amount of raw heat manifestd in mild vs. medium vs. hot. Otherwise, the same uninspired base sets the tone for how they taste.

The sauces of Isabel Street Heat are a different prospect indeed. Founder Tony Stoy is a former restaurant chef, and his culinary brain has imposed upon his sauces some welcome traits — depth, balance, and substance — via the magic of fermentation. These sauces aren’t mere capsaicin vehicles; they’re legitimate condiments in their own right.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Cilantro Lime Serrano is a whirlwind of flavor — herbaceous brightness up front kicked to a higher plane by the application of acidic notes of lime followed by a moderate burn from the peppers that fades cleanly, setting the taster up for the next bite.

The Chipotle variety has a massive kick of natural smoke that plays with the funky, warm, modestly spicy nature of the peppers that power the sauce.



Bad Weather Due Date 2

Rick Didora / Heavy Table

St. Paul’s Bad Weather Brewing often flies under the radar. Even after a move and major expansion into its own space on West 7th Street in St. Paul, it continues to release high-quality beer with little publicity. With few brewing neighbors — only Tin Whiskers Brewing Company and the recently opened Barrel Theory Beer Company — the expansive taproom just west of downtown draws a crowd of regulars as well as those in town for events.

Bad Weather celebrated its fourth anniversary this spring, marking the occasion by brewing its first-ever lager, a helles-style beer, in addition to Due Date 2, a sequel to its first-anniversary beer.

Rick Didora / Heavy Table

Due Date 2 is similar in style to its predecessor but is ultimately in a league of its own. The English-style barleywine has dates added and was aged in brandy and port barrels. Having been cellared for the months since its April release, the bottle doesn’t have the alcoholic punch that barrels could add, but there is a heat to the aroma and the first few sips.

Caramel and fresh bread crust meet the nose, while cherry and fig esters come through as the glass warms to cellar temperature. The taste is golden-brown-marshmallow meets raisin-bread-pudding. The dates are found after swallowing, though the entire glass sings of rich, preserved stone fruit. The port barrel character is mild, while the brandy seems to underscore the rich fruit, and a light woody element is felt on exhale.

Pair Due Date 2 with caramelized-onion pizza or grilled plums. It’s perfect for breezy nights when the air conditioning can be turned off.

Bad Weather Brewing Company, 414 7th St W, St. Paul; 651.207.6627



Mike Nelson of North Mallow

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

This story is a product of Heavy Table’s first Listening Session, underwritten and hosted by the Lakewinds Food Co-op. On May 23, we interviewed 15 local food artisans over the course of eight hours, with a goal of taking a snapshot of the vibrant Minnesota food scene.

Locally made North Mallows are a far cry from the Jet-Puffed standard marshmallows that dominate local store shelves. They’re denser, they’re more fully flavored, and while they brown and soften under the assault of a campfire, they don’t ignite or even blacken. They can take a fiery blast and remain whole and intact. On a s’more, they’re a richer, bigger presence than a standard marshmallow, and North Mallow’s flavors (chocolate chip, caramel swirl, vanilla bean) are clean and bold but not overpowering or unbalanced. We sat down with North Mallow’s founder, Mike Nelson, to talk to him about what goes into building a better mallow.

HEAVY TABLE: Where does your marshmallow story begin?

MIKE NELSON: For 10 years, I was a camp counselor for the YMCA at Camp Kici Yapi in Prior Lake. I did many, many s’mores. I was always the guy to light the bonfires. But I was also the guy who hated when the marshmallows caught on fire. I would spend minutes way above the fire to get mine nice and brown.

HEAVY TABLE: You spent some time teaching, and then you jumped into business with North Mallow. Why?

NELSON: I wanted to get into the food world. I saw there was a move in that world back to good, natural products. There was the chocolate phase, where people shifted from Hershey’s to gourmet bars, and to popcorn like Angie’s — all these different products going to gourmet.

Chelsea Korth / Heavy Table

I did some research on the market size of marshmallows and saw there was some flexibility. This was three years ago. So I started making my own marshmallows, and a friend of mine wanted to do an event with my marshmallows, so I looked online and discovered this idea of a s’mores bar.

HEAVY TABLE: What’s your make procedure for North Mallows?

NELSON: It takes a long time. One of the most common questions I used to get was, was I literally taking Jet-Puffed marshmallows, melting them down, and adding flavor?

You can make from-scratch marshmallows. You mix water, sugar — most people use corn syrup; I use agave nectar — and you boil them and add gelatin to it. We use kosher beef gelatin. You mix it, pour it into a mixer, add more sugar, fluff it into a meringue almost, and then you add the flavor. Then you pour it in a pan right away, spread it out, and then let it set in a refrigerator or freezer. Then you go back and cut them. It’s an hour of making and an hour of cutting, with cooling time in between. We only have a 60-quart mixer. We make about 1,400 marshmallows in a batch.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

HEAVY TABLE: Your marshmallows cost a lot more than the standard competition: something like $8 a box versus around $2 a bag. Is that a challenge?

NELSON: When you look at chocolate, it’s a similar difference. A Hershey’s bar is 99 cents, but a good bar is $5 or $6, or $10. People care; they read the back of the box. We’re a local product using quality ingredients. A few people say it’s too expensive, but most people see the value.

HEAVY TABLE: In terms of taste, can you put a finer point on that value?

NELSON: It’s a smooth texture. You actually get flavor. Jet-Puffed uses artificial marshmallow flavoring, whatever that means. They use blue dye No. 1 to make it whiter. For our chocolate chip flavor, there’s a great chocolate taste, and there’s chocolate chips on top and chocolate chips in the middle. We use organic vanilla, and we make our own caramel. Most commercial sauces have corn syrup in them, so we make our own caramel to make sure it’s up to our standards.

HEAVY TABLE: A lot of artisanal products bank on exotic flavors to set themselves apart. Is North Mallow heading that way?

NELSON: I’m trying to stay close to the classic flavors. That said, mocha is crazy to people! It’s not that crazy, but I have to understand my market. For us, we’re going to go coffee, peppermint, the craziest one might be like pumpkin spice — really well-known flavors.

North Mallows are available at Hy-Vee Oakdale, The Wedge Community Co-op, Lakewinds Food Co-ops, Cooks of Crocus Hill, and other area retailers.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for readability.



The Picantes of Uncle Simon’s Traditions

 

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

This story is a product of Heavy Table’s first Listening Session, underwritten and hosted by the Lakewinds Food Co-op. On May 23, we interviewed 15 local food artisans over the course of eight hours, with a goal of taking a snapshot of the vibrant Minnesota food scene.

If you take your cues from the food media, you might think that the way to change your culinary world is through recipes. Learn a new dish, and suddenly a chunk of your day — breakfast, lunch, or dinner — is transformed. Overlooked in the constant churn of entrees and sides is a subtle but often more profound way to shift your culinary horizons: eating new condiments.

On the local front, there is everything from Minnesota-made barbecue sauce to harissa to kimchi and more. Among the noteworthy additions to the landscape are the Colombian picantes of Uncle Simon’s Traditions. On the scene since around 2010, the product line includes mild, medium, and hot varieties, plus a chimichurri sauce.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The beauty of Uncle Simon’s is its versatility. Wherever it’s spooned, its bell and habanero peppers, cilantro, and garlic add heat, acid, and richness. It’s an ideal way to kick up a salad or enhance a mellow, more neutral-tasting protein such as chicken or fish.