Heavy Table Hot Five: May 25-31

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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 fiveStrawberry Pie from The Bungalow Club
The Bungalow Club’s strawberry pie was the last official taste of our East Lake Checklist, and it honestly could not have been better. The crust was so crispy it was audible when cut with a fork. It was so buttery that its aroma preceded it to the table. The strawberry filling was a bit undersweet so that when it collided with the vanilla ice cream it was served with, it combined into something absolutely delicious. Talk about going out with a bang.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from the East Lake Checklist by James Norton]

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveMangonada at Hmongtown Marketplace
This sweet / tart / spicy / funky blend of chamoy sauce, mangos, lime juice, and chili powder offers a whole lot of complexity for a casual beverage, but that’s the appeal. You can get these on East Lake Street, too – they’re the beverage of choice for people who want two barrels of intense flavor.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from Snacking in the Bike Lane by Mecca Bos]

WACSO / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fiveLake and Marshall Bridge Burger at Peppers and Fries
The Lake and Marshall Bridge burger  looked simple enough on the menu – two 1/4 pound patties, American cheese, lettuce, onions, pickles and special sauce on a three-tier bun. Got it – kind of a play on a Big Mac. But no: The thing is a burger TOWER. It leans crazily over the plate, and it intimidates the riff-raff. The bun is pleasingly eggy, the sauce on point, the toppings in balance, and – this can’t be over-emphasized – the seasoning on the meat absolutely perfect, salty in a savory and encouraging way with plenty of pepper for balance. We destroyed this thing.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted from the East Lake Checklist by James Norton]

Kate NG Sommers / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveIraqi Flatbread at Al Amir Bakery
Yes, these massive pieces of Middle Eastern flatbread are chewy, but they’re also crispy, and they’re often warm when you stop by the bakery to buy them. They’re exceedingly popular and it’s easy to see why: they’re cheap (four massive pieces for $3) and brilliant for breakfast sandwiches, wraps, or just eating out of the bag resting on the passenger’s side of the car, as I often find myself doing immediately post-purchase.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a post by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveSicilian Pizza from the Paparazzi Pop-Up at Al Vento
It’s always fun to see restaurants evolve and experiment, as is the case with Al Vento’s pizza-focused restaurant-within-a-restaurant, Paparazzi. A 12″ Sicilian pie feeds about three (maybe four?) for $19.50, and it can be loaded down with as many premium toppings as you’d like. We thought the crust was delightful (light and almost fluffy with a crispy exterior) and in balance with its toppings. Pictured: A delicious Sicilian pizza with roasted fennel, kalamata olives, prosciutto, goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, and Parmesan.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #5 | Submitted from an Instagram post by James Norton]



Jorge Guzman Will Teach Pibil at Chef Camp 2018

Chef Camp

This post is sponsored by Chef Camp.

Chef Jorge Guzman is joining us for Chef Camp 2018! Guzman, a 2017 James Beard finalist for the Midwest region, will be teaching pibil, a signature method in the Yucatán, which involves digging a pit and cooking meat or fish, with aromatics and spices, for hours underground over hot stones. Raised in Mérida, Yucatán, a city with a rich Mayan heritage and strong culinary traditions, Guzman grew up cooking over fire.

“When you cook over live fire,” Guzman said, “your senses are even more attuned to what’s happening. You have to be aware of how the fire is behaving, the way the smoke billows and how the wind shifts. It’s not turning the stove to low and forgetting about it while you catch up on emails.”

Guzman came to last year’s camp as a guest, and as a special surprise for our campers he prepared the most delicious chorizo-and-egg breakfast burritos as a midnight snack. We’ve had the munchies ever since.

Memorial Day Weekend Sale

Chef Camp kicks off in just 99 days, and to get the countdown going we’re offering a $50-OFF SALE on tickets. Click here or use the code: GRILL50 before Tuesday to lock in a discounted price for the party of the summer.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

 



Snacking in the Bike Lane: East St. Paul

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

This is the fourth in a four-part series of stories underwritten by Sociable Cider Werks that trace a 22-mile bike route through Minneapolis and St. Paul, hitting markets and off-the-grid eateries along the way.

As a born and raised East Sider (third generation, thank you) I’ve continuously caught hell for calling my ‘hood “East St. Paul” in print. So I’m gonna go balls-out homegirl right now and say it loud and proud: East Side!

You see, when I refer to my hometown as “East St. Paul,” it’s like calling DUMBO “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.” It’s longhand for Those Who May Not Know.

East St. Paul—erm— the East Side has always been arguably the most no-man’s-land of all the Twin Cities. Say you’re from the East Side, and many people will just stare at some point on your forehead, trying to figure out what the hell you’re talking about. Which is strange, because it is also the most populous area in St. Paul. In other words, more people live on the East Side than they do any other neighborhood in the Paul.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

An influx of Southeast Asian and East African neighbors means more and better restaurants adding to neighborhood classics that have been doing business in the area for decades (R.I.P. original Red’s Savoy). Even with the eviscerating loss of places like the aforementioned classic pizzeria, new blood including Cook St. Paul, Ward 6, and Tongue in Cheek mean the potential for new classics for future generations in the evolution of this historic neighborhood.

Two of my all-time best kept secrets reside here, as well as a spot that’s gotten plenty of press of late, for good reason. My advice for conquering it, plus a couple bonus stops, because– East Side!

This series is underwritten by Sociable Cider Werks, makers of innovative libations that are best shared with a friend.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Alimama’s
Big ups to Metro State University for going beyond Subway and vending machines to fuel the minds of hungry students. Instead, find the official best sambusas anywhere in town, available in either beef or vegetarian, enlivened with the best green sauce in the state— seriously, do not miss the stuff.

But the curry plate (sometimes available in goat, but also chicken and vegetarian) is such an antidote to rainy weather, or homework, or just a plain old foul mood that it’s the very definition of comfort food. They’ve also thoughtfully offered it in a wrap, if you’re on the move— on a bike ride, say.

Alimama’s also offers garden variety gyros, falafel, and the like, but you’re wise to stick to their specialties if you want, you know, something special. Alimama’s also has food trucks by the same name– keep an eye peeled for them.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Morelli’s
The first time I walked into Morelli’s Market to buy a bottle of booze, was met with the unmistakable aroma of red sauce bubbling away on a stovetop. Initially, I wondered if the wind was carrying over aromas from the nearby red sauce institution Yarusso’s. Nope. One of St. Paul’s better kept secrets is that Morelli’s market has been grandfathered in, since its founding in 1915, to vend both booze and food on the same premises, as God intended. This is one-stop-party-shopping at its finest. Factor in that between sales, coupons, and rebates, Morelli’s sells hands-down the cheapest liquor anywhere locally, and your only regret, as mine was, is that you haven’t found this place sooner.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

It’s ground zero for all of your classic Italian eating needs, including substantial bricks of lasagna, tubs of marinara, all the Italian meats (real-deal butcher shop here) hubcap-sized frozen pizzas, the cheapest Reggiano by the pound, Pizelles (the fancy imported pinwheel cookie) and lots and lots more.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Morelli’s is the place everyone hates to see me write about, because they understandably want to keep its speakeasy feel in tact. But visit on a Saturday at prime time and you’ll see that the secret is already out— traffic cops and full-time carry out boys making the rounds with groaning dollies to car trunks make this tiny corner market look like Grand Central.

If you’re biking, you’d be wise to hitch your trailer, as you’ll want a little bit of everything, and wine by the case is the most economical way to go. Don’t forget that rebate ticket. Oh, and it’s cash (or check) only. They pass the savings on to you.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Hmongtown Marketplace
While two sprawling St. Paul Hmong marketplaces have been in foodie news for a relatively long time, I just can’t stop being excited about them. Many small vendors sharing a large space so they can actually make a daily living are the way smart food systems have been set up all over the world for centuries, and to see great examples of them we’ve traditionally had to travel. Not anymore. Plus, meters and meters of deliciousness packed into year-round walkable space. What’s not to love?

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Approach eating here the way that Hmong people have approached their own historical endeavor of eating and cooking— by being fearless and trying a little bit of everything. I’ve shopped the market with Hmong guides who have reminded me of the nomadic life of the Hmong, which accounts for the rich Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese influences in the cuisine. Turn to local Hmong chef and Yia Vang for a distilled look at his own interpretation of Minnesota-Hmong cooking, which is a natural evolution considering that the Twin Cities are home to the largest urban Hmong population in the world.

Simple preparations of meat, fish, and vegetables are perhaps more typically “true Hmong,” like the fried pompano you’ll find at many of the stalls, to pair with sticky rice or freshly boiled greens or whatever the day’s veg might be. Noodle-stuffed chicken wings are practically a Minnesota staple food at this point, but if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, consider a fresh bamboo shoot salad. Lemongrass-laced Hmong sausage is universally liked if you’re a pork eater, as are steamed pork rolls. But if you’re really eating Hmong, you won’t shrink at eating the whole beast, and various intestines and other squiggly bits are on full display here. Indeed, the best part about the marketplace is trying something you’ve never eaten, and if it simply becomes too much, soothe your tastebuds with a refreshing mangonada, a trusty made-to-order papaya salad, or even a big pile of fried rice.

Bonus: Mañana Pupuseria
The last time I visited Mañana, our most reliably delicious pupusas restaurant, I was gobsmacked to learn they’ve been in business for 12 years. This East 7th Street hidden-in-plain sight gem serves made-to-order Salvadorian classics, and beyond the Pupusas, be sure and have a look at the day’s specials, typically on full display bubbling away in various stews and braises. Usually garnished with curtidos (slaw) boiled potatoes, and hot sauce served to-go in a little plastic baggie. If you’re not feeling pupusas, most of the preparations can be had in an enormous, difficult-to-handle sandwich, and if you’re feeling hungover, Mañana is known for its excellent menudo.

Becca Dilley / Minnesota Lunch

Bonus-Bonus: Dariette Drive In
What could be more fun than a carhop delivering to your bicycle? A true relic of the East Side’s genial past, I’m elated year after year when the Dariette opens for business after the long winter. The classic Italian restaurant/ soft serve/ carhop spot (seriously, this is a place unto itself) has kept my family in spaghetti and meatballs and better-than-Dairy Queen (yeah I said it) cones since I was old enough to be conscious of the fact. It’s still family-owned and operated, and if you’ve never been, go, and if you have, go again. Here’s a gem of a Facebook post from April 16: “Due to the late winter, some speaker stands are blocked with snow. We are making all orders for take out.”

DIRECTIONS FOR THIS LEG, FROM HMONGTOWN MARKETPLACE TO ALIMAMA’S MEDITERRANEAN GRILL

88 ORIENTAL FOODS 291 University Ave. West, St. Paul to Hmongtown Marketplace [.6 miles]
Head west on University Ave. to Farrington St.
Turn right on Farrington St.
Turn right on Charles St.
Turn left on Galtier St. .3 miles
Cross Como Ave.

HMONGTOWN MARKETPLACE 217 Como Ave., St. Paul to Morelli’s [2.9 miles]
Head Southeast on Como toward Marion St.
Turn left on W Pennsylvania Ave. .1 miles
Turn left on Rice St. .3 miles
Turn right on W Sycamore St. .5 miles
Turn left on Jackson St. .2 miles
Turn right on E Cayuga St. .7 miles
Turn left on Bruce Vento Trail .5 miles
Turn right on Payne Ave. .5 miles
Turn right on Tedesco St., destination on right

MORELLI’S 535 Tedesco St., St. Paul to Alimama’s Mediterranean [.6 miles]
Head south on Payne Ave. .3 miles
Turn left on 7th St. E .3 miles

ALIMAMA’S MEDITERRANEAN GRILL 690 7th St. E, St. Pau

FIRST LEG: The Markets of Northeast Minneapolis
SECOND LEG: Tacos and Cemitas on East Lake Street
PREVIOUS LEG: The Markets of University Avenue
THIS LEG: The Streets of Saint Paul



Desert Island Top 10: James Norton

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

What if you were banished from civilization and had to choose just 10 local dishes to remember Minnesota by? Heavy Table’s Desert Island Top 10 asks local personalities about the dishes they can’t quit, the soulful stuff they crave and come back to.

We weren’t able to prevent our own editor from jumping in on the irresistible Desert Island Top 10 topic, so without further ado, a bio and some favorite local bites.

THE PERSON: James Norton got to his current position of Heavy Table editor through a circuitous and illogical path, serving as editor-in-chief of the Daily Cardinal at UW-Madison, editing Middle East news for The Christian Science Monitor, and helping to produce The Al Franken Show. He’s leaving the site at the end of the month and starting a new job as food editor for The Growler.

In addition to editing the Heavy Table, he’s one of the partners behind Chef Camp and the author of Lake Superior Flavors. He’s a committed author of fiction, with one completed unpublished novel called Knife Skills, a Kickstarted collection of fiction called The Wendigo’s Credit Card, and another novel on the way. He’s also an obsessive home cook and a founding member of a porron-swilling Basque-inspired men’s cooking club. Coffee Order: Dark roast, cream and sugar. Drink: an Old Fashioned, either Wisconsin-style or tastefully made, it’s all good.

THE DESERT ISLAND TOP 10 LIST:

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Beef Roll at Tea House

Sometimes a restaurant gets so comfortable it starts to feel like an extension of your living room in a really good way, and that’s how my family regards Tea House, which slings some of the nicest, most consistently executed Chinese-American fare around. The chewy, earthy, soft-and-yielding beef roll is one of the highlights of a menu full of highlights.

James Norton / Heavy Table

Baklava at Pita King

Good baklava has real honey flavor, nearly infinite and delicately volatile layers, and does not immediately send you into sugar shock because the sweetness of the honey is mellow and balanced, not sugary and insistent. Pita King makes beautiful baklava daily. (For two other great baklavas: Gyropolis and Filfilah.)

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Blueberry Pancakes at Al’s Breakfast

If you look at this list, over and over again you’ll see the adjective “chewy,” and I guess that’s a thing I find really pleasant – some fight, some substance, some elastic grace. That’s what the pancakes at Al’s are all about, plus some tiny flavor-bomb legitimately good blueberries. Add a bunch of history and gritty atmosphere and you’ve got one of the best breakfasts in the state, if not the country.

Pastrami at Cecil’s Deli

Periodically, I jones for deli food – corned beef, Dr. Brown’s, egg bread, and so forth. It’s a comfort thing. The pastrami at Cecil’s is rich and delicious cold and even better steamed and served with a smear of mustard on some toasted egg bread or rye. It makes a bad night OK, and makes a good night fantastic. It has also proven to be the best possible way to feed a bunch of hungry poker players.

WACSO / Heavy Table

WACSO / Heavy Table

Sticky Rice at Ha Tien Market

Back to chewy: the sticky rice at Ha Tien is cheap (about $4), and although it’s shrink-wrapped and presented on a little styrofoam tray, it’s almost always still quite warm when I buy it for lunch. It is mind-bogglingly glutinous, nutritionally dense, and packed with little meaty and herby bursts of flavor. You want comfort? Here’s your comfort, warm and wonderful.

James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

Shrimp Cocktail at Meritage

Before trying the wild-caught shrimp with house-made cocktail sauce at Meritage, I thought shrimp cocktail was a mug’s game – a way to dump bad seafood on gullible diners. But this stuff – shrimp that’s as full and meaty as a cold-water lobster, and bright, fresh-tasting cocktail sauce that plays well with the shrimp without smothering it – is another league of flavor. No matter how often I order a couple of these Goliath shrimps, they still manage to delight.

Kate NG Sommers / Heavy Table

Kate NG Sommers / Heavy Table

Iraqi Flatbread at Al Amir Bakery

Yes, these massive pieces of Middle Eastern flatbread are chewy, but they’re also crispy, and they’re often warm when you stop by the bakery to buy them. They’re exceedingly popular and it’s easy to see why: they’re cheap (four massive pieces for $3) and brilliant for breakfast sandwiches, wraps, or just eating out of the bag resting on the passenger’s side of the car, as I often find myself doing immediately post-purchase.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Carne Asada Burrito at Taqueria Victor Hugo

This is the burrito I crave: perfectly balanced between meaty / carby / veggie fillings, aggressively seasoned but not too salty, substantial but not disgustingly huge. If forced to nominate a best burrito in the state, I’d feel comfortable offering this emperor of Asada up for consideration.

Puppy Dog Tails at Isles Bun and Coffee

Cream cheese icing never tasted so good – or arrived in such luxurious profusion – as it does at Isles Bun and Coffee. The soft, sweet, super cinnamon-blasted pastries called Puppy Dog Tails are like homemade Cinnabons shrunk, twisted, and enchanted by some kind of beneficent god of breakfast. They’re small and tender but oh-so-sweet, so two’s a good limit.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Any Given Slice of Pizza at Hello Pizza

I only lived in New York City for a year and a half, but I got habituated to regular access to a big, foldable, chewy New York street slice and it’s frustrating that they’re not available on every other corner any more. Along with Andrea Pizza, Hello Pizza is one of the few places to really nail the experience, although purists might say that Hello’s slice is a little too classy and cleaned up to qualify. Whatever, it’s delicious, and it hits that spot.



Lao Food at Lemon Grass Thai in Brooklyn Park

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

While in the process of checking out a reader tip, we found ourselves in a very familiar part of the metro: the stretch of strip malls in Brooklyn Park that includes Crazy Cajun, Kim Anh, and Gramsky’s. We thought this must be a good omen, and so it was.

What we’d heard specifically about Lemon Grass Thai was that we should check out the Lao menu items. The owners/chefs are Laotian, and have apparently been adding Lao-specific dishes in recent months. Our server told us that most of the Thai dishes have a Lao twist to them, but yes, there are items more overtly Lao in nature.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

The dishes she recommended on that line included two appetizers, Sai-Oua E-sane ($9, above) and Nuea-Sawan ($9). Sai-Oua E-sane is a Lao sausage, made in-house from ground pork with a tinge of lemongrass and other herbs, flavorful but not hot-spicy.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

The Nuea-Sawan is the Lao equivalent of beef jerky, if beef jerky was cooked to order. The beef is cut thin and cooked somehow until it’s got that jerky chewiness, and yet was still slightly pink inside. Ginger and garlic were abundant, giving the pieces of meat just a slight heat level.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

The Laab beef salad ($14) came with our choice of heat, ranging from 1-5. We chose a 4, and they did not dumb it down. We were also given the choice of raw, medium, or well-done beef, and we went with medium. The meat was still tender, and there was a hint of lime juice, but the chiles were the star of the dish, and the side of sliced cucumbers and lettuce was most welcome. Still, the heat didn’t obliterate the flavor of the meat, although it was powerful.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

The final dish we tried was not on the menu, but is available upon asking: Nam Kao ($14). This is also technically a salad, comprised of rice balls that have been fried until crispy, then tossed with ground pork. onions and cilantro. It’s served with chopped peanuts and what could have been a frightening amount of whole chiles, but the dish itself was much milder in heat than the Laab. Texturally, it was the most fun to eat; the crisped rice and peanuts against the soft meats and herbs balanced well, especially when spooned into the lettuce leaves to make a wrap.

It also came beautifully plated, with flowers of carrots, and included some greens we weren’t familiar with. Our server explained that they were Vietnamese mint, which we found addictive to nibble on by itself, with a spicier, earthier taste than the mint we’re used to. The other was a sturdy, peppery green that was bitter but not unpleasant, and somewhat similar to kale both in flavor and texture. Together, the bitterness they offered was a sharp contrast to the general mildness of the rice and pork, and added some depth of flavor.

Lemon Grass Thai
Lao and Thai foods in Brooklyn Park

8600 Edinburgh Center Drive
Brooklyn Park, MN 55443
763-494-8809
HOURS:
Mon-Thurs 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sun noon-9 p.m.
BAR: Beer and wine
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Limited
ENTREE RANGE:
 $9-$20
NOISE LEVEL: Comfortable
PARKING: Lot