Blue Earth from Alemar Cheese Company

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

Fans of Alemar Cheese Company’s Bent River and Good Thunder have a new reason to stalk the cheese case. Founder and cheesemaker Keith Adams (below) isn’t leaving Minnesota without introducing Blue Earth, a Brie-style cheese that’s just starting to appear in Minnesota cheese shops, co-ops, and grocery stores. Named for Blue Earth County, where Alemar Cheese is located, this new cheese offers a new format and flavors to fans of Adams’ Camembert-style Bent River.

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

“We always made some larger-format pieces of Bent River when we had extra curd. The thing that was cool about it was that it tasted different because it was bigger and took longer to ripen. As time went on, I thought I would tinker with the cultures and do a larger piece and call it a Brie, or an ‘American brie,’” Adams says. “Sometimes I’m at the market or I’m demo-ing, and people are hell-bent on a piece of Brie. I try to steer them to Bent River and they’re like, “No, I want a Brie.” Part of making [Blue Earth] was to solve that problem, but it was also going to be its own cheese.”

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

In fact, the 2½-lb. wheels take twice as long to ripen as the petite Bent River, and by altering the levels of the cultures, Blue Earth takes on more buttery, grassy tones. But while imported Bries can veer into off-putting “morning breath” notes if they haven’t been handled properly or sold at the right stage of ripeness, Blue Earth retains a lightness and pureness that makes it extremely easy to enjoy. While cheese lovers won’t find any blue veining in Blue Earth, they will encounter a rich, luxuriously smooth paste tucked into a snowy-white rind that can open a meal with a green salad and slices of baguette or end an evening alongside berries and dark chocolate.

“There are five cultures or starters that go into both of the cheeses, but we’ve pulled back on one and bumped up the other. A lot of people get vegetal notes in Bent River, but we wanted to dial that back on the Brie to make it a little more accessible to the average palate as a starting point,” Adams says.



Sisyphus Tap Room and Crowdfunded Local Beer

Banner for the Toast: Drinking Well in the Upper MidwestIN THIS TOAST: We visit the newly open, comedy-friendly Sisyphus Brewing, then survey the impact of crowdfunding on local beer. Cheers!

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Sisyphus Brewing now open

Sisyphus Brewing has opened in an untapped area on the edge of downtown Minneapolis, a location that owner and brewer Sam Harriman hopes will draw business people and out-of-towners curious about the tap room scene. True, it is within walking distance of downtown hotels and skyways, but the area near Dunwoody, International Market Square, and the Basilica has its own distinct feel — like pragmatism, creativity, and spontaneity intersecting.

Located in a renovated warehouse space, the clean and bright brewery distinguishes itself from the beer flock for several reasons. The first is the small scale on which the beer is produced. A meek 2-barrel system allows for creative risk-taking and experimentation on the part of brewer as well as variation for drinkers. The name Sisyphus is a reference to the Greek mythological character who is forced to continuously push a boulder up a hill only to watch it fall again. In the case of the brewery, the rock has become a barrel, and each time it rolls down empty, it must be filled with more beer.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Current beer choices are clearly displayed on a digital monitor, and during opening weekend four beers were available. Harriman says he plans to add four more tap lines to the current four. Gutsy beer choices for Sisyphus’s debut further underscore the idea that this isn’t just another novice brewer trying to catch the tap room wave. In fact, even experienced drinkers might be hitting Wikipedia after approaching the bar.

Harriman’s wife and business partner, Catherine, calls the Oatmeal Pale Ale her favorite, though she notes it’s like choosing a favorite child. The oatmeal adds a slick element to the mouthfeel and anchors the malt, allowing it to stand up to the hops in a balanced way. And that’s the most vanilla beer they currently serve.



Announcing North Coast Nosh XII at Open Arms

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Heavy Table and Open Arms of Minnesota are pleased to announce the twelfth edition of the North Coast Nosh locavore sip-and-sample series for Friday, Aug. 15, 2014. Join your hosts Heavy Table, Open Arms, Peace Coffee, and Chowgirls, plus more than 20 local purveyors including cheesemakers, brewers, popsicle makers, artisan pizza bakers, and more for an evening of sipping, sampling, and great conversation.

The Nosh takes place Aug. 15 from 7-9:30pm at Open Arms of Minnesota (2500 Bloomington Ave. S.). Tickets are $27 via Eventbrite; Pre-Nosh tickets are $54 and include four special small presentations and sample sessions from 5:30-7pm before the main event. Proceeds go to Open Arms of Minnesota, with The Heavy Table taking a share for planning and publicity. Ticket price includes samples from all of our purveyors, plus a collectible piece of glassware. Guests must be 21 years of age or older. Our Noshes generally sell out, so please get your tickets sooner rather than later if you’re excited about the event!

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

Here’s the lineup*:

Alemar Cheese
Barnstormer Granola
Chowgirls
Family Lao-Thai
Faribault Dairy
Gray Duck Chai
Homegrown Foods
Meadowlands Chocolate Company
Open Arms

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

Peace Coffee
Poorboy Candy
St. Pops
Sunrise Market
Sweet Science
Tap Minneapolis
Tree Fort Soda
Triple Crown BBQ
Verdant Tea

And offering tastes of wood-fired pizza from their food truck will be:

Tru Pizza Neapolitan

*Provisional; the list always shifts a bit between the announcement and the event.

We hope to see you there!



Chowgirls Groundwork Series Promotes Sustainability

 

groundwork-logo-chowgirls

This post is sponsored by Chowgirls Killer Catering.

While embracing a deep commitment to environmental and social sustainability, Chowgirls Killer Catering creates delicious, approachable menus for events of all kinds. Chowgirls’ commitment to sustainable operations is put into practice with careful ingredient sourcing, thoughtful purchasing strategies, and waste reduction at every step.

Chowgirls’ approach to sustainability, in addition to supporting the local economy and benefiting the environment, pays off financially. The award-winning caterers have seen robust business growth in their 10 years, and they are preparing to move into a larger, more energy efficient facility in 2015. “Operating sustainably is part of who we are and it makes sound business sense for us. We think it does for our peers too,” notes Chowgirls Boss Lady Heidi Andermack.

As of March 2014, Chowgirls staff had recycled and composted their way to a 97% waste diversion rate / Chowgirls / Source: Eureka Recycling

As of March 2014, Chowgirls staff had recycled and composted their way to a 97% waste diversion rate / Source: Eureka Recycling

To share this knowledge and guide others through the maze of options, Chowgirls has partnered with Dylan Skybrook of Skybrook Group (pictured below) to host Groundwork, a workshop series that covers the basics of using sustainability strategies to run a food business. Groundwork is specifically geared toward owners, managers, and workers in the food service industry who want to learn more about how to make their operations more sustainable.

“We’re lucky in Minneapolis to have leaders like Alex Roberts (Brasa, Alma), Kim Bartmann (Barbette, Red Stag, Tiny Diner), and Tracy Singleton (Birchwood) who have shown that it is possible to thrive in the food business while supporting local farmers and being low waste,” says Andermack (pictured below). “With Groundwork, Chowgirls wants to help others learn about the basics in a comfortable setting so they can join us in our sustainability efforts.”



Gyst and Meadowlands Kickstarters and More

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Lots of local Kickstarter action with Gyst (A Fermentation Bar) cruising toward its $40K goal and bean-to-bar folks Meadowlands Chocolate angling for $8K. A nice profile on the Brake Bread team (we talked to them here). Our own James Norton and Becca Dilley are off to the North Folk Winery this Thursday for a Lake Superior Flavors event, and the book gets some nice ink in the Chicago Tribune. The MIA interviews owner Greg Hoyt and coffee buyer Stephanie Ratanas of Dogwood. A new classic-style steak and seafood place called The Salt Cellar will be opening on Cathedral Hill in St. Paul. Dara previews the next Kim Bartmann project, The Third Bird. And Bauhaus Brew Labs and Libertine are now open.