Tucked away in the old Grain Belt Brewery in Northeast Minneapolis is a bar with a taproom feel and a small restaurant: The Community Keg House. The recently opened establishment includes a main room with a bar that looks into the tap area as well as two side rooms: one with a large flat screen TV, games, and a boardroom table, and the other, a soon-to-be patio. The latter currently houses an old-school Nintendo surrounded by a half dozen chairs.
Although the Community Keg House does not brew its own beer, the space feels like the lovechild of a warehouse brewery taproom and a coffee shop — Fulton Brewery bones with Common Roots flesh, but with the lifeblood of the Solar Arts Building, complete with local artists’ work on the walls.
The biggest draw is the self-serve tap line. But it could also be the bar’s biggest problem during a busy time or on a late, rowdy night, not that we witnessed these situations. It works like a reverse Yogurt Lab. First you pay for your empty pint glass, $6 flat rate. Then, empty glass in hand, you wander around the tap island, called the “pour room,” reading the beer lists, admiring the tap handles, and making your decision.
Unlike pouring beer from a picnic tap in your buddy’s Kegerator or from a glass or can, pouring from a CO2-carbonated bar-level tap line feels like a feat of strength. “Taptenders” stationed in the area help you hold your glass at the right angle to avoid overflow and excessive head (as they monitor the area for legal reasons). Before you commit to a beer, you can ask them to help you try a few samples. Behind the taps in the “pour room,” the visible keg cooler hums away, allowing the visitor to view the tap lines running from the kegs over the walkway and into the island.
Currently, beers in the sixteen taps are clustered by style and theme: Hoppy Minnesota (includes First Light, some of the first kegs in town from Able Seedhouse & Brewery’s; and Fair State’s Pomp Le Moose), Beers of Winter (features Bauhaus Tallander and Indeed Stir Crazy), Belgian Beers of Minnesota (showcases Boom Island Witness and Insight Sunken City), and Alternative Options (has at the moment Sociable’s Freewheeler and Loon Juice — two ciders will always be on tap). The goal, according to owner Nate Field, is to act as a gateway to some of the many breweries Minnesota has to offer. So while customers may not be able to go to each brewery in the four corners of the state, they will be able to sample them in one space.
Dissatisfied with the freshness and availability of beers at beer bars around the country, Field developed a self-serve model designed around helping patrons feel more at home and involved with the beer. The beer-hall seating with exposed brick and the variety of communal activities replicate the typical taproom feel, as does the lack of table service (except for the runners who deliver orders).
However, unlike most taprooms, the Community Keg House serves food — made almost entirely from scratch — out of a small kitchen. The chef is training a new team in the simple cooking setup. Ordering is easy: Once you set up a tab at the entrance to the pour room, you can order at the food counter using one of the networked iPads.
Montgomery is a small town not far from New Prague, a quiet town perhaps best known for being the self-proclaimed Kolacky Capital of the World, due to Franke’s Bakery’s prowess at baking the Eastern European delicacy. But right across the street from Franke’s is Pizzeria 201, situated in a charming, historic building (Montgomery’s downtown is a collection of charming, historical buildings). If you associate small town pizza with the dreck of Domino’s or Pizza Ranch, take heart — Pizzeria 201 is an entirely different operation.
First of all, much of what is on the menu could be considered farm-to-table. The pizzeria’s owners have a family farm, and they bring pork and beef from their farm to nearby Odenthal’s Meats for processing before serving it on their pizzas and in their sandwiches. They mostly use seasonings and herbs they’ve either grown themselves or purchased locally.
Which is all great, but wouldn’t really matter if the pizza were terrible. Fortunately, Pizzeria 201 delivers not only a good pizza provenance, but good pizza execution. The thin crust pizza was delicate and crunchy in a crackerlike way, yet it held up to the toppings just fine. Besides the usual choose-your-own-toppings option, there are 23 specialty pizzas ($14.50 for a 12 inch, $16.50 for a 14 inch). The list is rather a fun read — how could you not be tempted by pizzas called Chicken in a Grass Skirt or Roman Holiday?
Tempted, yes, but in the end we were more attracted to a couple of other choices. The Steakhouse (above) had incredibly thinly sliced, tender steak over ranch sauce (rather than tomato sauce) with some nicely crunchy vegetables (red onion, green pepper) and three kinds of cheese (mozzarella, provolone, and pepper jack). The end result was a rich, decadent pizza with lots of contrasting flavors and textures.
This recipe is sponsored by Shepherd Song Farm.
The lamb loin, also called a saddle, contains meat from the three most prized cuts, equivalent to the T-bone, porterhouse and tenderloin in beef. The famous tenderloin lies protected under the backbone and is a very small strip. The loin meats are delicately marbled, with an elegant flavor that brings a note of luxury to any meal. The fat of grass fed lambs should taste clean and fresh.
In this recipe, the backbone will be removed (see steps in video) leaving the meat to be rolled and tied before grilling. The result is a very tender roast, easy to carve and with a minimal amount of fat. With no bones and a nice cylindrical shape, can be easily sliced into medallions and served. It is perfect to enhance a special occasion.
LAMB LOIN ROAST: HERBED AND ROLLED
Photo, video, and recipe by Ben Spangler
1 Loin roast untrimmed (or loin saddle)
20 fingerling potatoes
1 small sunchoke (Jerusalem artichoke)
1 garlic clove
a large handful each of sage, rosemary, and parsley
1 cup watercress
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon olive oil or enough to coat the pan
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Prepare the herbs:
1. Remove large stems from herbs and finely chop leaves. You should have about 6 tablespoons of mixed herbs. Set aside.
2. Chop and mince garlic. Finely dice shallot. You should have 1 teaspoon of each. Set aside.
3. Discard green parts of leeks, and thinly slice remaining whites into small rings. Set aside.
Prepare the roast:
1. While preparing the loin roast, boil potatoes on medium heat until tender. Drain potatoes and allow to cool to room temperature.
2. Trim extra fat from the bottom of the loin. Remove tenderloins (on both sides of the backbone) and retain.
3. Using a boning knife, separate the backbone from the loin eye. Do not separate the 2 halves at the center of the backbone. Then carefully remove the backbone from the meat resulting in 1 boneless piece of meat (see boning video).
4. Season the inside surface with salt, pepper, 5 tablespoons of the chopped herbs, and the shallots and garlic. Roll and tie with 100 percent cotton string. Season the exterior with salt and pepper.
5. Grill lamb saddle with indirect heat, and move coals as needed to allow a consistent temperature and good caramelization. Slow cook — don’t rush.
6. When the internal temperature reaches 120°F for rare or 130°F for medium to medium rare, remove from grill and allow to rest.
Finish and Serve:
1. While meat rests, heat a cast iron skillet.
2. Cut the cooked potatoes in half.
3. Set the pan over a medium high heat source. Add olive oil to the pan to coat. Add a tablespoon of butter, and sear and caramelize the potatoes. Add the remaining tablespoon of the herb mixture, the leeks, and salt and pepper to taste, and slowly cook the mixture.
4. When leeks are tender, add the last tablespoon of butter and then add watercress. Using a vegetable peeler or mandoline, slice the sunchoke onto the potatoes. Mix together, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Drizzle meat and potatoes with additional oil and fresh parsley.
For a visual overview of the full recipe, please see our video on YouTube.
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.
Meat Pie from Heirloom
We’ve never had a meat pie like this before. But we’ll definitely have it again. The combination of cracker crust, shredded chicken and pork, fruit, mustard, and pickled green tomatoes is delicious, balanced, and soulful. And the pie is just so damn adorable.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | From an upcoming review by Joshua Page]
Chocolate Raspberry Bismarck from Taste of Love Bakery
The Chocolate Raspberry Bismarck from Taste of Love Bakery in West St. Paul is not filled with curd or even jam — it’s filled with tart, macerated berries. The berry flavor is intensely bright and sour, in contrast to the ganache frosting. A welcome — and affordable — departure from the typical filled pastry.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham]
Barrel-Aged Silhouette Imperial Stout from Lift Bridge Brewery
It was a surprise to encounter one of the world’s best fruitcakes in liquid form, but that’s exactly what happened when we tried this year’s edition of the bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout known as Silhouette. The monks of the Holy Transfiguration Skete on Lake Superior’s Keweenaw Peninsula make a confection called Abbey Cake, a dense, molasses-based, bourbon-soaked, dried-fruit-studded wonder that lasts just about forever when wrapped in cheesecloth and sealed in plastic, and it always tastes like a rich, funky dream. Silhouette takes many of those flavors (notably the molasses and dried fruit, plus the pleasantly boozy kick of bourbon) and translates them into a drinkable, 10 percent ABV dream. Best served approaching room temperature so all those lovely cocoa and spice notes express themselves fully.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted by James Norton]
BBQ Pork Banh Mi at Ha Tien Deli
Easily one of our favorite banh mis on University Avenue, and we’ve tried a few: It arrives wrapped in tinfoil and stuffed with great jalapeno heat, tons of cilantro flavor, and the crowning glory of big pieces of pork. The meat is rich in fatty flavor and a bit of char, touched with sweetness but not overly sauced, and uniformly tender.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton in advance of the Green Line Checklist series]
Adapted Tarte Tatin with Gjetost
The recipe is pretty simple: Fill one cast iron pan with quartered apples, butter, and sugar. Top with a crust, heat until bubbling, and then melt thin strips of the caramel-like Scandinavian cheese called gjetost for a dessert that is easy, primal, and delicious.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]
The post is sponsored by Mississippi Market. As Valentine’s Day approaches, our Giftable series features a range of food- and drink-related items.
Mississippi Market’s Chocolate Tasting & Gift Fair
Saturday, Feb. 13
11 a.m.–3 p.m.
All three St. Paul locations:
740 E 7th St
622 Selby Ave
1500 W 7th St
Are you a chocolate lover or someone in need of a unique Valentine’s Day gift? Try something sweet at Mississippi Market’s Chocolate Tasting & Gift Fair! Mississippi Market’s annual sampling and educational event highlights local and artisan chocolates and gifts to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
The Chocolate Tasting & Gift Fair offers you a chance to taste some of our favorite artisanal chocolates, to shop for fair trade and local Valentine’s Day gifts, make valentines with your kids, win prizes, and enjoy a number of limited-time-only sales at all three Mississippi Market locations.
While supplies last, shoppers receive a FREE goodie bag full of chocolate and body care samples with any purchase of $50 or more! The West 7th Street location will also have a harpist for shoppers to enjoy from noon-2 p.m.
About Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op:
Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op has been offering local, organic food at a fair price to its St. Paul neighbors for more than 35 years. As a consumer-owned grocery store and Certified Organic Retailer, Mississippi Market provides high-quality, fair-priced goods and services, and works toward a sustainable local economy and global environment.