The Heavy Table is pleased to announce the 16th edition of the North Coast Nosh, the Upper Midwest’s premiere sip-and-sample with local purveyors of artisanal food and drink. We’ll be co-producing the March 29 event with our partners at the Wedge Community Co-op and Linden Hills Co-op at the Food Building in Northeast Minneapolis.
The event runs from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Tickets are $36 plus taxes and fees and include all the local cheese, artisan meat, craft beer, and more that you care to sample. There will also be a special bread-focused class at Baker’s Field (in the Food Building) from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tickets for the Nosh + bread class are $56 plus taxes and fees. We have space for 20 attendees at the class.
NOTE:We’d originally planned to do an early Nosh session, from 4:30-6:30pm. That session has been cancelled and guests with tickets will be refunded.
The Nosh will be at the Food Building (1401 Marshall St NE) on the evening of Thursday, March 29.
If there were a physical embodiment of the North Coast Nosh ethos — scratch food prepared with care, an emphasis on process, a serious focus on quality — it would be the Food Building. The Food Building’s tenants, including Red Table Meat Company, Baker’s Field Flour and Bread, and The Draft Horse, are what we consider models of the future of Upper Midwestern food, and we’re excited to have them join us for this event.
In addition to sampling craft beer, cheese, meat, and many other foods, you will be able to join in conversation with the purveyors who create the food and drink. (Guests must be 21 years of age or older.) We keep our purveyor-to-attendee ratio low so that you’ll have plenty of time to connect with vendors and other attendees. We are planning to have 20-30 purveyors present at the Nosh, all local to the Upper Midwest.
To toot our own horn just a little bit, the Heavy Table / Wedge Community Co-op / Food Building North Coast Nosh local sip-and-sample is always an invigorating and thought-provoking event. With last Thursday’s Nosh at the Food Building behind us, the blur of smiling (and chewing) faces, the whirlwind of information from purveyors and conversations with friends, and most of all, the mind-numbing variety of tastes (an exemplary gathering of beers and spirits, meats and cheese, breads and broths, coffees and chocolates) crystallizes into a few themes. The most over-arching of which is that there is an immense variety of locally crafted comestibles and beverages, and a mind-boggling quantity of quality thought going into all of it.
There were bagels, two kinds. We’ve been raving about Rise Bagel Co. since the Lloyd sisters first started showing up at farmers markets. Their classic bagels have a chewy exterior and a soft interior as good as any bagel out east. Baker’s Field Flour and Bread, a Food Building tenant held the home field advantage. Their bagels were breadier, and tasted slightly sour, like a starter was involved and shared a lot of the rustic, wholesome character of their excellent breads. We talked to people who preferred one or the other – two excellent local choices and something for everybody.
We tasted two coffee stouts: Tin Whiskers’ Tiny Circuit tasted profoundly of (Tiny Footprint, pictured above) coffee, to the point that you could forget that you’re drinking stout. Fulton Beer’s War and Peace was more balanced with (Peace) coffee and malt hitting the tongue in turn. Sour beer seems to be finally reaching critical mass. Fair State, known for their sour program, poured Roselle, light, aromatic, and eminently drinkable; Bricoleur #4, a funkier sour complicated by a hoppy aroma; and Lichtenhainer: with smoke and sour in equal balance, it’s almost a think piece (we’ve had Lichtenhainer at the tap room and after tasting it again, we’re still not sure if we like it). Indeed Brewing poured their Wooden Soul #9, a wood barrel aged sour poured over fresh raspberries for a final fermentation stage. It was rare, aromatic, fruity, and drinkable all day long. Hopheads take note: of the four brewers at the Nosh, not one of them poured an IPA.
Like a giant charcuterie plate, the Common Room table offered Red Table Meat Company meats, Lone Grazer Creamery cheeses, and Baker’s Field breads. But if you didn’t stop to talk to Red’s Mike Phillips, you might have missed one of the best tastes of the night: salami made with ten percent liver that was soft, fatty, and delicious. Lone Grazer offered cheeses that ran the gamut from the kid-friendly fresh curds to the more adult-friendly aged cheeses.
To the side of the table, Redhead Creamery had left the kid-friendly cheese at home. We swooned for their crumbly (admittedly a little young for show time) Little Lucy brie and a rich, funky North Fork Whiskey Washed Munster that was ironically more brie-like in character. Both of their cheddars – garlic and plain – were outstanding.
Dumpling and Strand was in the house with a new, wild rice-based soba noodle appropriately named Minnesoba. As it turns out, the earthy, nutty flavor of wild rice and the earthy, nutty flavor of traditional buckwheat soba noodles have a lot in common, and the adaptation feels like a loving, locally made homage.
Bitter was big. As you entered the Nosh, you were immediately faced with dessert. Mademoiselle Miel offered a honey bon-bon made with a 100% cacao shell. The extreme sweetness of pure honey and extreme bitterness of pure chocolate made a beautifully balanced taste. Anelace Coffee and Spyhouse Coffee Roasters both poured lovely and similar African coffees that were pleasantly bitter, with green apple tartness, and Tiny Footprint Coffee was on hand to tell their carbon-negative sourcing and roasting story.
Bitters are big too. Bittercube Bitters showcased their diversity with the fruit flavored Abyss Sling, and the medicinal El Nordico. Far North Spirits showcased their Roknar rye whiskey, grown and distilled on the family farm way up north in Hallock, in the form of a punchy sazerac, with the aroma of bitters and citrus.
As for the rest of it, we loved Grlk’s gravity-defying airy sauces; Dumpling and Strand’s perfectly salted, chewy fettuccine; the obviously super-fresh vegetables and chicken in Draft Horse’s piping hot pot pies; the restorative complexity of Taking Stock’s chicken broth; Superior Switchel’s gingery introduction to old farmers’ favorite made new again (and the next kombucha?); and the proprietor of North Mallow’s willingness to bring his marshmallow-toasting four-burner spread to a Boundary Waters lake of our choice, if we cover the travel cost, so that we can enjoy the toasted sugary cubes on trail, and in luxury.
That’s not an endorsement of the holiday, mind you — it’s a statement of the facts. By fiat, we’re supposed to pull some kind of romantic rabbit out of a hat, our moods, resources, and other preferences notwithstanding.
Fortunately, this is precisely the sort of problem that creative restaurants and merchants live to solve. If you are in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, you’ve got options.
At the top of our list is a dinner that brings together a few components that we’re always pleased to tout: the culinary firepower of Chef J.D. Fratzke (who designed this menu), the easygoing excellence of beer stronghold Republic, and the artisan brews of Fulton Beer. For $38 (!), you’ll dine from 5-10 p.m. as follows:
SOCIAL — baguette, olives, and butter — paired with Lonely Blonde
SOUP — celery root and black truffle bisque — paired with Standard Lager
SALAD — broiled baby carrots with honey vinaigrette and brie — paired with 300 IPA
ENTREES — paired with Culture Project #1:
pork loin au lait with braised spinach and caramelized onion
roasted trout with winter squash and sauce citron
vegetable ragout with fried polenta
LE SWEET – Chocolate custard with creme chantilly, cocoa nibs, and Luxardo cherries — paired with War and Peace
The Kenwood is doing a three-course prix fixe for $55 a guest with optional wine pairings. We can’t say enough good stuff about Chef Don Saunders (above). He dials it in every time. Seatings are at 5:30 and 8 p.m., and check out this first course: a beet veloute with creme fraiche and tarragon-smoked salmon mousseline with cucumber, dill, and roe. Call 612.377.3695 for reservations.
The St. Croix Chocolate Company regularly elevates chocolate into art, so if you’re looking for treats that go above and beyond, this is a good place to start. The artfully decorated chocolate heart box (pictured top) is $7 for the 2-by-2-inch size and $10 for the 5-by-5-inch, and it’s a perfect vehicle for another little something special.
Elsewhere on the chocolates front, B.T. McElrath has a chocolate gift set, normally $36, on sale for $14, which is thrifty as the dickens. And Chocolat Celeste is introducing a new collection for Valentine’s Day featuring raspberry habanero, 64%, blood orange, 74%, ginger citrus, whiskey, and praline.
The independent-producer-focused wine shop Henry and Son has a detail-rich post on its blog about wines that pair beautifully with love. Owner Gretchen Skedsvold also writes, “We’re refreshing our 12 Under $12 rack to feature cheap rose wines in honor of Valentine’s Day.”
The Cafe Alma Bar is offering a special Valentine’s Day menu that includes a couple of cocktails by the Bittercube crew. The Old Fashioned Love features Copper & Kings aged brandy, beet syrup, hibiscus-infused Orange Bitters, and chocolate truffles; the Lover’s Carvings is made with Abyss gin, candied rose syrup, Meyer’s Lemon, sparkling rosé, and Bolivar Bitters.
If you’ve got $143 lying around, grab two burgers, two orders of fries, and a bottle of Dom Perignon at Burger Jones. “The Dom is at our cost!” writes Kip Clayton, Parasole’s vice president of marketing.
More affordable than burgers and Dom is the Minnesota OperaValentine’s Day dinner and live performance at The Dakota. It’s an evening of 20th-century American love songs, featuring (as per the press release) “music by composer William Bolcom, including a preview of Dinner At Eight, his new opera with librettist Mark Campbell, based on the play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. Soprano Bergen Baker will be performing a selection from the opera, which will see its world premiere with Minnesota Opera in March.” The dinner is at 6 p.m. It’s $110 a seat and includes some high-rolling tastes like veal aspic, crab Newburg, and leg of duck (there’s also a vegetarian selection).
We’re all about keeping it real and cooking (or baking) your own V-Day experience for the loved one of your choosing, and Nordic Ware is right on target with these two ideas. First, the 12-cup capacity Tiered Heart Bundt pan is right on the money for a celebratory mid-February dessert.
And the Conversation Heart Baking Pan bangs out adorable cakelets six at a time. Why eat a slice of dessert when you can eat an entire frosted cake? Or two? Or possibly three?
Draft Horse just killed it on a pre-Febgiving dinner that we attended this month, so we’re pleased to talk up their Local Lovers Valentine’s Dinner with Dangerous Man and Modist Brewing. It’s a six-course dinner with beer pairings on Feb. 14 from 7-10 p.m., and is $75+tax per person.
Red Stag‘s Cheap Date Night is a mere $36 a couple and features two entrees, dessert and a bottle of wine or a few beers. Hidden Stream Farm St. Louis ribs with baked potato, slaw, and peach barbecue sauce is your meaty entree; the vegetarian option is roasted vegetable lasagna. Reservations available by calling 612.767.7766 or through OpenTable.
The adorable Broders’ mini-empire is doing V-Day three ways: $50 three-course prix fixe reservations at Terzo, last-minute, no-reservation dining at the Pasta Bar, and a special Cucina takeout-and-reheat dinner for two for $43 (call 612.925.3113 x4 to preorder for pickup on the 14th).
The writer Jeanne Carpenter is one of Wisconsin’s foremost cheese geeks, and that’s saying a lot. America’s Dairyland has a 150-year-old-plus tradition of cheesemaking that has crafted more than a few world championship cheeses. Recent years have seen the state branch out more aggressively into small batch, artisanal cheeses that are giving Europe (and Vermont) a run for their money, and Carpenter’s blog (Cheese Underground) has been one of the best places to get the scoop.
Carpenter’s also the creator of a cheese-tasting extravaganza called Cheesetopia, which will be making its debut in Minnesota on April 9 at Aria, the former Jeune Lune theater in the North Loop.
HEAVY TABLE: What’s the history of Cheesetopia?
JEANNE CARPENTER: Cheesetopia is an event I conjured up a couple of years ago. This will be its third year. I’ve always been seeking the perfect event that connects the average consumer to artisan cheesemakers. Cheesemakers tend not to get out and about very much because they’re so busy making cheese, and everybody seems to want to know who makes their food these days.
So I thought if I could make an event where the people who buy the cheese could meet the people who make the cheese, it might be successful.
It keeps selling out! So, apparently it has found a niche.
Last year was in Chicago. 2015 was in Milwaukee. I launched Cheesetopia as a three-year project to hit the three major cities in the Midwest, so Milwaukee, Chicago, and Minneapolis. I was committed to do it for three years, but it has been so wildly successful that obviously I’m going to have to find another home for 2018 and beyond.
HEAVY TABLE: What will the Minneapolis event feel like for guests?
CARPENTER: It’s in the historic warehouse called Aria. Whenever Cheesetopia visits a city, I’m on the lookout for really cool spaces. It’s always been in historic, restored warehouses because I think the ambiance of the building should match the artistry of the cheese that’s inside. So if you haven’t been inside Aria yet, you’ll just be amazed. It has a huge, almost cavernous feeling — all brick walls, beautiful lighting — just a beautiful space. The first thing you’ll do when you walk in is you’re going to smell cheese. There’ll be about 40 people there sampling and selling cheese, and that is probably going to overwhelm you because there’ll be about 150 different cheese aromas.
It’s a fun, festive atmosphere because I require the cheesemaker to be there. It’s not a marketing person — the cheesemaker has to be there. You get to sample 150 different cheeses, and you can also buy them. It’s kind of like a farmers market, but it’s all cheese.
CARPENTER: I launched Wisconsin Cheese Originals in 2009, and that was my first attempt to connect consumers with cheesemakers. So for the last seven years I have been dreaming of putting on events and leading classes and doing tours, all with the goal of connecting consumers to cheesemakers. So I have been blessed to have a steady core of 200 members, and I want to reward those folks by giving them first chance at tickets [to Cheesetopia]. Membership in Wisconsin Cheese Originals is just $35 a year. And all of that membership fee goes for beginning cheesemaker scholarships (we donate about $3,000 a year in scholarships). And also U.W.-Madison is building a brand new Center for Dairy Research, and we’ve been donating money to that. That is how future cheesemakers are going to learn and current cheesemakers are going to keep being innovative.
My husband keeps yelling at me because I never seem to make any money at this, but I sure have fun! Wisconsin Cheese Originals is important to me because these cheesemakers are making such amazing products, and they work so hard, and they never have time to go out and meet the people who enjoy [the cheese]. I really think the cheesemakers enjoy this event as much as the people who go out to meet them. They’re literally treated like rock stars. People will get their autographs; they’ll get their selfies taken with these guys and women. The four hours go really fast.
Cheesetopia Minneapolis runs from noon-4 p.m. at Aria (105 N 1st St, Minneapolis) on April 9, 2017. Tickets are $75 and go on sale to the general public on Mar. 1.
Over the Labor Day weekend, I didn’t just head up to the cabin; I joined sixty other food-obsessed adults for a wilderness cooking retreat called Chef Camp, held at YMCA Camp Miller, where chef-led classes, gourmet meals, and classic camp activities converged in the Minnesota North Woods. What follows are my top five takeaways from the weekend.
ONE: How to shuck an oyster without sending yourself to the ER.
We had just finished breakfast. It was the first class at Chef Camp, and Sarah Master, the executive chef at Mr. Roberts Resort had us gather around a bonfire. Above us, tall red pines swayed. Before Master on a table were a blue mesh bag of oysters, a stack of linen towels, and a pile of oyster knives. We were handed a set of each so we could give oyster shucking a try.
To approach this like a pro, take a towel in your hand, along with the oyster, making sure the flat side of the shell is facing up. In the other hand, grab your oyster knife and wedge the knife firmly, vertically, right at the hinge of the shell, and wait until it pops open a bit. Then, use the knife blade to pry the rest of the shell open. Wipe the knife to remove any bits of shell or grime, and then work the knife under the oyster to remove it from the bottom shell, being careful to retain the oyster liquor.
Had I eaten plenty of oysters in my day? Yes. I’m at a foodie camp, after all. But shuck one? Never. It proved to be an easy check for some of us, harder for others, depending on how straight or rippled the shell was. We learned that East Coast oysters generally have a briny, mushroom flavor, while West Coast oysters tend to have more of a tart flavor.
Master’s oyster shucking prowess made more sense once I asked how she came to cooking. After studying pre-18th-century British literature in college, she decided she wasn’t hip on teaching. She blindly put a finger on a map of the U.S., and moved to New Orleans. Debating her path, and always knowing she loved food, she went to culinary school. We saw the richness of Master’s France-by-way-of-Southern influence in the classic mignonette we used to dress half the oysters. It was a mix of red wine vinegar, minced shallot, and freshly grated pepper. On the other half, we dolloped a spicy orange sambal-garlic butter. We cooked both versions over the fire for four or five minutes, until the edges curled slightly and the butter melted into the shell. Then, down the hatch they went, the perfect campfire delicacy.
TWO: Yeast can be harvested from anything.
Of the countless things I learned at camp, one that absolutely blew my mind is that sourdough starter can be made from pine cones. Ryan Stechschulte, a sous chef at Spoon and Stable, sent scouts to Camp Miller three months ahead of time to gather pine cones to use for a wild yeast culture. He boiled the pine cones in water and added flour to slowly develop the starter over several weeks. What resulted were naturally leavened sourdough loaves that beautifully integrated the tall-pine terroir of our North Star forest “classroom.”
We continued our bread education by taking turns rolling out dough for laffa, a Middle Eastern flatbread, and by listening to Stechschulte talk about berbere, an Ethiopian blend of chili peppers, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cardamom, cumin, black pepper, allspice, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, and coriander. The complexity came through in a simple sprinkling of this deep-red spice over hot, cast-iron grilled laffa drizzled with olive oil.
“If you want to be really good at something, you have to be ready to mess up,” Stechschulte tells us, as he moved on to making cornbread in a cast-iron Dutch oven. Later, as we ate spoonfuls of the moist cornbread straight from the pot, savoring the velvety crumb lent by the creamed corn in the batter, I silently wondered just how many times he’d messed up to get to this sigh-inducing moment.
THREE: Only one percent of mushrooms are actually edible.
For our wildly anticipated foraging class, we were led along the lakefront for a hike out to Jamie Carlson’s classroom on the camp’s point. Our eyes were keen to pick out any mushrooms on our wooded path. We found Carlson (who writes the blog You Have to Cook it Right) decked out in camouflage, sitting by his fire with a cast-iron pot and skillet on the stove in front of him. “The only two cooking instruments you’ll ever need,” he says. “I can make anything with these.” Earlier that day, Carlson had led a group of foragers on a hike, during which lobster mushrooms (not actually a mushroom, but a fungus that grows on certain mushroom species, giving them a reddish-orange hue) and black trumpets were found.
For our risotto class, we worked with giant puffball mushrooms. I picked up one that Carlson had foraged, and it was as heavy as a baby and as big as a basketball. As you’d imagine, they’re great for foraging because they’re easy to see. They’re best to eat when they’re about the size of a fist because they start to decompose once they get larger.
We helped Carlson chop onion and garlic for the risotto we began to cook over the wood fire. As the water boiled and the aromatics sauteed, we listened to Carlson share his passion for foraging and cooking in the wild. “There’s a certain magic in finding, hunting, and cooking something right where you found it, with the edibles present around you,” he says. His stories triggered that deep Minnesotan survival instinct (you know, the one akin to House Stark’s mantra that “winter is coming”), drawing us into the rugged appeal of living off the land.
We learned there are over 3 million types of mushrooms in the world, and yet, only 1 percent are edible. While scouting the Minnesota landscape for his bow hunts, Carlson developed an interest in the wild mushrooms he found in abundance on his path. He recommends Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest by Teresa Marrone and Kathy Yerich (above) to anyone beginning their foraging journey. Best part? The authors are from Minnesota and know our local flora.
FOUR: Using the “fruit” of your land creates food authenticity.
“It’s important to feel a connection to where you live,” says J.D. Fratzke, a chef-owner of Saint Dinette and The Strip Club Meat and Fish. “Centuries ago, just imagine how flavors were transmitted. People shared spices from their homeland saying, ‘I want you to taste where I come from.’ We learn to speak each other’s language by sharing flavors and food.”
Listening to Fratzke speak is a lullaby to anyone foodcentric. “Anything you’re inspired by, whether it’s history, art, or music, can be translated onto the plate,” he says. Fratzke’s interest in the merging of ideas and worlds is so primal in his cooking that you can’t help but be enveloped in his stories about the history of the spice trade, or how wild rice is harvested by native tribes, or how reading books rich in descriptive and sensory language feeds his soul for cooking. His top literary muses? The Collector of Worlds by Iliya Troyanov and Returning to Earth by Jim Harrison.
Fratzke’s style involves using native Minnesota foods with an homage to the countries, cuisines, and spices currently feeding his curiosity. Think freshly caught walleye fillets poached in coconut milk for meen molee (a dish from Kerala, in southern India) served over a fragrant bed of mixed basmati and wild rice. Or Korean ssam, butter lettuce leaves wrapped around trout, bright red crayfish tails, vibrant pink pickled cabbage, and cilantro. Fratzke holds sacred cooking outdoors in his home state. He has instinctively — not because it’s trendy or the right thing to do — created a culinary North by embracing local ingredients.
FIVE: Minnesota Nice is at work in our restaurant kitchens.
Call us Upscale Flannel, Team North, or Minnesota Nordic — we’ve got an unrivaled culinary scene happening in our state. How about this for Minnesota nice? Our chefs actually support one another. How do we get better? By getting better as a whole. “If one of my line cooks needs more hours, I’m calling a chef at a different restaurant to see if her restaurant needs more help,” Fratzke says. “Why would I do that? Because it helps everyone, and because I don’t get to spend time with my friends who are chefs; so this way, my cooks come back, mentored, sharing what they’ve learned, and I learn, too.”
Line cooks as pollinators for culinary and creative growth — sharing resources, and leaning on one another for fresh ideas. That’s what gives us our Minnesota Nice reputation, our culinary true North, and our depth of place. We don’t need to waste a second trying to emulate the big food cities; we’ve got what we need right here.
Powered by generous support from the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and by sheer force of will, the Heavy Table is barnstorming the fair’s new food offerings in a brutally thorough manner this year. Here’s your guide to our guides to the fair:
THURSDAY MORNING, AUG. 25 (THIS MORNING!) — SOCIAL MEDIA
Our team goes in early today, and from 9 a.m. until noonish, we’ll be posting live reactions to what we’re eating and drinking …
Heavy Table editor James Norton will tape a roundtable segment for All Things Considered on Minnesota Public Radio about his team’s fair finds.
FRIDAY, AUG. 26, 5 A.M. — FULL-LENGTH ONLINE PRINT RECAP
The massive Heavy Table Fair Food Guide goes live with 30-40 miniature food reviews including best- and worst-ofs, plus luscious photography and gratuitous commentary.
FRIDAY, AUG. 26, 9 A.M.-NOON — LIVESTREAM
Heavy Table editor James Norton will be at the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters booth in the Dairy Building doing a Facebook livestream review of all the fair’s new foods.
SUNDAY AFTERNOON, AUG. 28 — ONLINE VIDEO
A condensed (3-4 minute) video version of Norton’s livestream will post on the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters’ Vimeo account and be embedded in the original Heavy Table fair post as well as in its own post on the Heavy Table.
On July 16, a Foraged Feast was held for the benefit of Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters. The event was just as much a victory lap as it was a fundraiser: A petition to prevent sulfide-ore copper mining by Twin Metals (the Minnesota branch of a Chilean mining concern) in the watershed that contains the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildereness garnered 67,000 signatures in just 30 days, exceeding the expectations of the campaign, which seeks to preserve one of Minnesota’s most celebrated natural sites for future generations.
The feast was held at the Hawkins Family Conservation Farm on Amelia Lake in Lino Lakes. Purchased by Art and Betty Hawkins in the mid-1950s, the land, which had held a small decrepit dairy farm, was restored to native prairie grasses and forest. Art Hawkins, who died in 2006, was a student of Aldo Leopold at the University of Wisconsin, and he was a pioneering conservationist in his own right through his life’s work as a wildfowl manager and researcher at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Hawkins’ daughter, Amy Donlin, hosted the event at her home on the farm. Donlin’s daughter Piper Hawkins-Donlin, a staffer for Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters, organized the event. For the Hawkins family, conservation is a matter of heritage. And so it was for most of the attendees.
The evening started with cocktails prepared by Deb Gallop (former director of the Wargo Nature Center, master gardener, and forager) and hors d’oeuvres prepared by Gallop and Lukas Leaf, the former chef at Al Vento in Minneapolis. In keeping with the foraged theme, Gallop prepared a tincture for each of the two cocktails on offer using lilac flowers and elderberries. The drinks were garnished with black raspberries from the farm. The lilac cocktail was well balanced, floral, and fruity. The elderberry cocktail must have been good too, because by the second round (delayed for this guest by conversation and the aforementioned hors d’oeuvres), it had disappeared.
Picked fiddlehead ferns, labneh, and a smoked lake trout spread made by Gallop were highlights of the hors d’oeuvres and hinted at the foraged delicacies to come once we adjourned for dinner to the long white table nestled in a narrow clearing between the forest and the restored prairie grass.
Dinner opened with a duo of chanterelle mushroom dishes: crostini and soup. Both the charred bread with meaty mushrooms and the lemon-scented, richly creamy soup paired well with a stony Château de Chamilly Côte Chalonnaise pinot noir. Leaf said that he finds the best mushrooms in wildlife management areas, which are open to the public for recreational (and hunting and foraging) use.
It’s probably best if we get my personal biases out of the way first. I think pretty much everything about the new US Bank stadium is gross. Its design and monolithic domination of our skyline is gross. The fact that I helped a billionaire pay for it is gross. The Wilfs in general are super gross. The NFL, with all of its concussed brains, is gross.
And yet this week, I found myself deep within the bowels of our publicly-paid-for sand crawler, in a vast, garish room that looks exactly like the inside of a Hummer-party limo as designed by casino bartenders. Along with a sweaty herd of Minnesota food and media folks, I spent a few hours cramming an insane amount of calories into my face hole.
This chum-bucket feeding frenzy, however disgusting in its own oddly delightful way, led me to discover what’s great about the new stadium, since it’s here now, and we might as well get over it and look at the bright side: the Vikings, Aramark, SMG, and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority have clearly gone out of their way to make an impressively strong commitment to partnering with Minnesota-born food brands and businesses. From small shops and emerging companies to big names, mainstays, and award-winning chefs, the roster is deep and broad — and most importantly, it features nine businesses that are owned by women of color.
Let that sink in for a minute. Nine! This kind of spotlight — a NFL stadium partnership — is typically reserved for the Caucasian men who receive disproportionate media coverage in our fair city (pun intended) … remember this fiasco? We give the Vikings and those in charge of these decisions some major points for diversifying their partnerships.
Sure, the big names are what will be trumpeted in most of the press. Andrew Zimmern looms large over the proceedings, partnering with Gavin Kaysen (of Spoon and Stable) on hoagies and rotisserie meats; Revival is bringing its excellent Southern-fried grub to the game-day masses; and Ike’s, Kramarczuk’s, Prairie Dogs, Rusty Taco, and Murray’s are all represented. Everything we tried from these beloved institutions, chefs, and brands was just fine. Zimmern’s AZ Canteen gave us an Italian Porchetta Hoagie that mostly delivered where his failure of a sandwich at Target Field did not; Revival’s fried chicken sandwiches and cheesy pork rinds satisfied appropriately; and all else was fairly straightforward, good, and non-gimmicky.
It’s an impressive bunch, yet it’s the presence of the lesser-known Minnesota businesses that is truly surprising, and most welcome. Among the minority and woman-owned and -operated outfits in the general concessions, there is Be Graceful Bakery & Catering out of Edina, serving specialty sandwiches, and Lola’s Café, which will be featuring their “Louis King” wings. In the clubs, suites, and catering operations, there is A Peace of Cake, Alimama’s Sambusa, Chocolat Celeste, Gramsky’s, Thomasina’s Cashew Brittle, and T-Rex Cookie Company. All women, all nonwhite, all Minnesotan, all delicious.
Yet another local concept, “Twin Cities Foodie,” was intriguing — despite the dumb name. A troika of great local chefs — Tammy Wong of the beloved Rainbow Chinese, Matt Bickford of Icehouse MPLS, and Shawn Smalley of Smalley’s Carribean Barbecue — are somehow tied together under this banner, and all of them had tasty stuff to share (Smalley’s jerk bacon sandwich stood out; Bickford’s excellent smoky chicken nachos hit the right notes, and Wong’s lemongrass meatballs were simple and tasty.) Whether this concept will rotate with different chefs or retain these three, we aren’t sure, but it’s a promising idea.
Still not Minnesotan enough? Fine — there will also be foods plucked from the Minnesota State Fair (curated by Andrew Zimmern, of course), and a collaboration with the Twin Cities’ Northeast Brewers and Distillers Association (NEBDA) to bring in beer from Fair State Brewing Cooperative, Northgate Brewing, Insight Brewing, Sociable Cider Werks, Bauhaus Brew Labs, and 56 Brewing. Also making appearance throughout the stadium will be Summit, 612Brew, Surly, Lake Monster, Lift Bridge, Fulton, and Finnegans. That’s a solid list of options to keep the MillerCoors swill at bay.
Taken together, this is a huge win for the Minnesota food community. It might be the most locally rich representation of a city’s food scene within any sports stadium in the country. We’re looking forward to checking it all out again while we watch grown men try to crush each other.
’Tis the season to sweat, eat and drink among the sticky masses at outdoor music festivals, and the second Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival looks to be expanding its food and beverage offerings to match the excellence of its musical lineup. Last year, the food was disappointing — carnival-style fare, for the most part, and not enough of it. This time around, they’re bringing in a long list of regional food trucks, vendors, and carts from Minneapolis / St. Paul, Madison, and Eau Claire.
Here’s the full rundown of food and drink you can expect to find on August 12 and 13.
EAUX CLAIRES 2016 FOOD & DRINK LINEUP
9 Degrees (Eau Claire)
Mackinac Island fudge ice cream
Mint chocolate chip ice cream
Strawberry ice cream
Mocha mud pie ice cream
Clear Water BBQ (Eau Claire)
At Fäviken, Magnus Nilsson’s restaurant 400 miles north of Stockholm, the prix fixe tasting menu involves (among many other exquisitely, obsessively local things) lichen, raw cow’s heart, vegetables cooked over “autumn leaves,” foraged scallops smoked over juniper branches, pig’s blood, and cow’s colostrum.
His first book, also called Fäviken, is not, then, really a cookbook. It’s another way to experience a restaurant that only a dozen people a night can enjoy, and only at great expense and through great good fortune. (You want reservations? Good luck.) It’s an invitation to think differently about food and flavors and where those things come from, divorced entirely from the modern need to put dinner on the table every night, and yet knotted tightly to the way people in the north of Sweden and Norway once survived.
Naturally, then, when I picked up Nilsson’s second book, The Nordic Cookbook ($50, Phaidon), the dish I immediately decided to make was Flygande Jakob — Flying Jacob. It became something of an obsession: roast chicken, a packet of dried Italian dressing mix, whipped heavy cream, Heinz chili sauce (apparently, the brand is important), peanuts, bacon, and — this delights me no end — bananas.
Flygande Jakob. It’s ridiculous. It’s crazy processed — an absolute salt bomb, by the way. It’s childishly exotic. It comes from an entirely different planet than does smoked reindeer lichen. And it proves that Swedes, all this new Nordic artistry notwithstanding, are just like us. (Milk-cheeked children eating nothing but berries and salmon and rye crackers after hiking the fjords — pshaw.)
Of course they are. I knew that. You knew that. But how wonderful it is to see it proven in a casserole that would be right at home next to a Jell-O salad.
When I asked some friends in Sweden and Finland to confirm that such a thing as Flygande Jakob existed, one replied, “Sadly, yes.” And the other, a Finn, presented it as evidence of Swedes’ “adorable weirdness.” (It had crossed my mind that this recipe was somehow akin to Van Halen’s touring rider requiring that all brown M&Ms be removed from the green room: a way of testing out who had actually read the book.)
Nilsson himself describes Flygande Jakob with gentle, nostalgic love in the recipe header:
“This dish is one that every Swede who grew up after 1980 has a relationship with, and most of those growing up before too for that matter. … The combination of chicken, cream, Heinz chili sauce, salted peanuts and one of Sweden’s most cherished fruits, the banana, is truly spectacular and one of the strongest lasting cultural expressions of the early 1980s, at least in my opinion. … Serve flygande Jakob with white rice, shredded iceberg lettuce and cucumber (no vinegar, please), then lean back, close your eyes, and pretend you are me eating in 1989 and enjoy yourself.”
Are you the sort of person who brings a (shatter-proof) French press into the wilderness? Do you demand decent coffee no matter how wild the setting? Then you’ll want to head to Northeast Minneapolis on Saturday, May 14 to attend Baristas Gone Wild. You’ll join the award-winning roasters of Spyhouse Coffee as they prepare you for a wild summer of camping, canoeing, and coffee brewing.
And you’ll also learn more about Chef Camp, the Sept. 2-4 camp retreat featuring some of Minnesota’s best chefs teaching open-fire cooking.
Baristas Gone Wild will feature demonstrations on coffee roasting and various styles of brewing (with tastings!), and a coffee mixology tutorial with an emphasis on coffee drinks that would be ideal when made and enjoyed in the great outdoors.
Where: Spyhouse Coffee — 945 Broadway St NE, Minneapolis 55413
We sampled more than 30 bites and sips at last week’s Heavy Table + Wedge Community Co-op North Coast Nosh. (I know. Tough job.) Not a single one of them disappointed, but there were a handful that stuck with us — and might even subtly change the way we cook and shop and look at food.
I have a few culinary regrets in my life. And after the Nosh, I have at least one more: I regret every time I walked past the long line at Rise Bagels at the farmers market. I regret thinking, “A line for bagels? Have we no self-respect?” Because, damn, these two sisters make a fine bagel. A beautiful bagel, inside and out. A chewy bagel with a deeply developed flavor in the dough. A bagel worth a few minutes in line. And now you can learn from my mistakes by following Rise Bagels wherever they may show up.
Poorboy Caramel Sauce
This is my favorite instance of culinary synergy — pretty much ever. The Lone Grazer has vats of whey left over after making cheese. Whey is a thin liquid, but it’s packed with protein and milk sugars. Poorboy, makers of delicious caramels, takes that whey, boils the heck out of it to reduce the liquid, and makes jars of rich tangy-sweet caramel sauce unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.
Lone Grazer Ricotta with Curry, Cilantro, and Caramel
Culinary synergy, part 2: The Lone Grazer was showing off its whole-milk ricotta in a dip that I never in a million years would have dreamed up. Hold your judgment until you try it: ricotta mixed with curry powder and cilantro, then drizzled with Poorboy Caramel Sauce — the stuff made with Lone Grazer whey. It was like the caramel had come home. Smoky, sweet, herbal. Perfect. (Sorry, you can’t buy the dip; you’ll have to make it yourself.)