This summer, it has slowly but inevitably dawned upon me that a scratch-made Arnold Palmer is the ultimate nonalcoholic summer beverage. It’s an ideal balance of sweet, tart, and astringent, and it has both depth of flavor and brute chugability. It brooks no challengers.
Chance circumstances resulted in the creation of the best-tasting Arnie Palmer I’ve ever slammed. While making a batch of the beverage for a grill-out, I used the fruit I had on hand: lemons, yes, but also a couple of ripe oranges. The mellow depth of the orange juice married perfectly with the earthiness of the black tea and bridged the ade and tea halves of the beverage creating the tastiest version of the drink I’ve had to date.
The recipe below will get you a good Arnold Palmer, but you may want to tinker with the proportion of tea to citrus-ade, and potentially add less sugar (this is a reasonably sweet recipe, and it could work with three-quarters or even half of the sugar, depending upon your tastes).
THE PERFECT ARNOLD PALMER
Yield: 2 quarts
4 medium lemons
2 medium oranges
3 cups just-brewed black tea (I like Lipton loose-leaf Yellow Label tea, which you can find in most Indian markets)
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
1. Combine the fruit juice, ½ cup of sugar, and the 4 cups of water in a pitcher or bowl. Mix well.
2. Pour the hot brewed tea into a second pitcher or bowl along with ½ cup of sugar. Mix well and give it 10-15 minutes to cool down.
3. Add the citrus-ade to a larger pitcher (8+ cup capacity), and add some or all of the tea mixture. Taste for sweetness and balance, adding more tea and/or sugar as needed.
4. Refrigerate and enjoy.
Variants: You can add a handful of cut strawberries (4 or 5) to this drink, and you’ll be staggered by how much flavor they impart after a day or two in the fridge. It’s a really nice variant.
Garden mint is another optional addition, probably no more than 2 teaspoons finely chopped.
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.
Grilled Pork Banh Mi at Lu’s Sandwiches
This is one of our favorite renditions of the classic banh mi in a town full of good ones. The fillings are balanced, with pickled veg offsetting the rich flavors of pork and pate, and a house-made mayo tying everything together. The bread has some chew and is robust enough to carry its contents without being leathery (as is sadly sometimes the case with these sandwiches, particularly when they’ve sat around for a while).
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]
Homemade 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.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #2 | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]
120-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.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted by James Norton]
Cilantro Lime Serrano Hot Sauce by Isabel Heat Street
Cilantro Lime Serrano hot sauce from local maker Isabel Heat Street is a whirlwind of flavor pitched perfectly toward warm summer weather — 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.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a profile by James Norton]
Koubideh Combo at Caspian Bistro
The exceedingly tender texture and mild but persuasive flavor of minced, pressed chicken and a similar treatment of beef and lamb makes the Koubideh Combo at Caspian Bistro as pleasant an entree as you could hope for: It’s earnest, straightforward, and it tastes exceedingly healthful when presented with a plate full of rice and a roasted tomato.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]
Bad baklava is little more than a pancake of phyllo dough and an oozing pool of low-grade honey. But good baklava — as we’ve discovered at places like Gyropolis and Filfillah — strikes a balance between nuts, spice, honey, and pastry, and it holds its place among the world’s great desserts.
The Persian Baklava at Caspian Bistro (one of the many highlights of our Green Line Checklist tour down University Avenue) is good baklava. It’s got that perfect crisp-vs.-gooey contrast, a real presence of pistachio flavor and texture, and a cinnamon-kissed, spiced warmth. It also has enough honey to hold it together and to please the diner as a dessert without going overboard into syrupy, sugar-coma territory. It’s the perfect way to wrap up a simple, summery meal of rice and kebabs.
Caspian Bistro’s small but well-curated Turkish/Persian/Armenian marketplace is stocked with at least a half dozen baklava and baklava-esque desserts, too, so if this is sort of thing you like to finish a meal with, there’s no reason not to stock up (and maybe branch out a bit while you’re at it).
Caspian Bistro, 2418 University Ave SE, Minneapolis; 612.623.1113
This post is sponsored by Chef Camp and written by Chelsea Korth. Nettie Colón is a chef-instructor at Chef Camp Session 2 to be held Sept. 8-10 in the Minnesota north woods. Join us to experience her fireside cooking skills and stories in person.
Nettie Colón swings the screen door open with a “hello,” a big smile, and the offer of a glass of rosé. Her home is colorful and full of collections. I can see that the people who live here have traveled well and have stories to tell.
Colón leads me outside to her lush back yard. Smoke clouds escape from her grill in a rolling stream, and she blows air into the center, testing the fire’s readiness. Tiny glowing specks of ash spray out like magic. She transfers onto the grill a halved red onion, two Hungarian wax peppers, a head of garlic, and two Roma tomatoes drizzled with olive oil. Flames jump around the vegetables, blistering the tomatoes and peppers and blackening the thin skin of the garlic. She adds the charred vegetables to a pot of boiling water.
She demonstrates how to clean a whole octopus, then holds it inches over the rolling boil, the tentacles dangling, ready to dunk. Colón looks over at me with eyes that say, “Are you ready for this?” She submerges the octopus, and when she lifts the body out of the water, the tentacles have coiled into deep red twists the color of cooked lobster. She dunks the octopus twice more to tenderize the meat — the color turning more vibrant each time — before submerging it to simmer for another 45 minutes.
While the octopus simmers, Colón creates her grilled-lemon coriander sauce, a combination of halved, golden-yellow lemons, grilled and hand juiced, toasted coriander seeds, honey, parsley, serrano chilies, and a thin stream of olive oil — blended until the mixture is smooth. The sauce is creamy and bright green when finished. She pours it into a clay bowl ready for serving.
Once the octopus is cooled, she cuts each tentacle, at a diagonal exposing the white inner flesh. Just as she is about to put the tentacles on the grill, we hear thunder, and the trickle of raindrops quickly turns into a true storm. Colón grabs an umbrella and holds it over the fire, unfazed. She jumps back into a story about her upbringing in Puerto Rico, where she lived from the time she was four until age 15. Her expression softens as she remembers the summers she spent in Puerto Rico with her grandmother. Her playground was her grandmother’s land in Utuado, a mountainous region where coffee, passion fruit, mangoes, yucca, plantains, lemons, limes, oranges, and pineapple are grown. Everything Colón and her grandmother ate was made from what grew on the land.
The tentacles are now crispy on all sides, and the storm has rolled through as quickly as it came. We’re ready to plate. We gather the carefully crafted parts of the recipe and set the table as they do in Puerto Rican culture, where extra food is always ready for a neighbor who might stop by for a quick conversation. The anticipation of an extra guest has shaped Colón’s hospitality. “It is better to make the table longer than build a taller fence,” she says. She lives by this motto, and it’s her mission at her business, Red Hen Gastrolab. She believes that now — more than ever before — is the time to sit down at the table with neighbors and new friends from all walks of life.
“In Puerto Rico,” she says, “we always shared what food we had with others. It is what we were able to offer each other. Where one can eat, two can eat. Where two can eat, three can eat, and so on.” The act of taking care of and being with each other provides the extra nourishment.
It was her memories of Puerto Rico, the Yucatan and Sardinia that inspired this dish. The blended flavors and techniques pay homage to her life, upbringing, and travels.
“I grew up eating octopus escabeche with my dad,” Colón says, “and on a trip to the Yucatan, I tried a preparation from a Mayan chef who charred octopus and adobo. I fell in love with the dish and learned that dipping the octopus before submerging and cooking it helps to tenderize the meat. I was also inspired by my recent trip to northern Sardinia, a region that pulls many of their flavors from the Mediterranean coast of Spain.”
The octopus is served family-style in a shallow, wide handmade pottery bowl. Tender green kale and boiled new potatoes are layered first, with the octopus tentacles over the top, a beautiful contrast of charred, deep-red skin and bright-white inner flesh. Colón drizzles the salad with her green lemon-coriander sauce, and we toast our humid, sweating glasses of rosé to each other, as new friends seated at a generous table.
CHARRED OCTOPUS WITH GRILLED-LEMON CORIANDER SAUCE
3 oregano sprigs
3 thyme sprigs
2 Hungarian wax peppers, charred
1 head garlic, charred
2 Roma tomatoes, charred
½ red onion, charred
Pinch of salt
Pinch of black pepper
A 2-5 pound octopus (fresh, or frozen and defrosted)
1. Bring a large pot of water with all the ingredients except the octopus to a boil.
2. With the water at a rolling boil, hold the octopus with tongs and dunk it in the water, completely submerging it for 10 seconds. Repeat this 2 more times. The shock of the boiling liquid tenderizes the octopus. After the third dunk, leave the octopus in the pot to cook at a medium simmer for 45 minutes for an octopus of 2-3 pounds and an hour for an octopus of 4-5 pounds. Remove it from the pot, let it cool, and cut off each tentacle. (You can discard the head or use it.)
3. Once cooled, toss the octopus tentacles in olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Grill the octopus tentacles on one side until crisp. Flip, and repeat on the other side.
4. To serve, lightly coat the octopus with the Grilled-Lemon Coriander Sauce, and serve with grilled lemon halves atop roasted potatoes and kale.
Grilled-Lemon Coriander Sauce:
3 large lemons
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant, coarsely ground or crushed
½ cup parsley
⅔ cup olive oil
2 serrano chilies, stemmed and diced
2 tablespoons honey
Salt to taste
1. Cut the lemons in half and place cut side down on the grill until there’s a nice char marking on the surface of the lemon, 3-4 minutes. Flip and grill for 3-4 minutes more. Remove from the grill and cool completely.
2. Using a hand-held juicer, juice the lemons into a glass measuring cup. They should yield about ⅓ cup. Pour the lemon juice into a deep quart container and add the coriander, parsley, chiles, honey, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix with a hand blender, adding the olive oil in a thin stream and blending until the mixture is smooth.
This week in the Tap: Why restaurant reviews matter, a look ahead at upcoming restaurants, notes about spots that have closed, and about those that have recently opened.
In Defense of Reviewing Food
Last week, I had the good fortune to share a table with Mecca Bos, one of my favorite food writers anywhere. She’s a particularly dab hand with profiles, and her radar is finely tuned. This recent list of five perfect “regular spots” is nothing but hits.
Bos told me that in her new position at GoMN, her focus is shifting away from traditional reviews. In the same way that Eater, for example, doesn’t go anonymously to restaurants and evaluate the food and experience, Bos’s new gig will be more focused on storytelling and profiling people than writing about a plate of food dined upon anonymously.
The classic restaurant review is becoming an anachronism, she told me, and she may well be right. The review has declined in frequency and profile even at the big local dailies. In its place is a cavalcade of “softer” content — listicles, chef biographies, previews, and slideshows. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these styles of writing (and, in fact, Heavy Table publishes all of them). From a publisher’s perspective, all of these offer readers insight into new establishments without the expense or the unpleasantly candid evaluation of food and value that the review format demands.
That said, the Heavy Table was founded on the notion of providing honest and frequent reviews, and we’re committed to the format. Reviews offer:
1. Context and Expertise
Many people argue that traditional criticism has largely been replaced by Yelp (etc.). Displaced, sure; replaced, not precisely.
A good working critic has likely eaten at thousands of restaurants in dozens of cities, at all price points, and at locations from gas stations to chef’s tables. They will likely have a working knowledge of the finer points of barbecue and of some of the more distinct regional variations in Chinese and Indian cuisine. They will hold strong opinions on the best taquerias, dive bars, and purveyors of molecular gastronomy, and be familiar with many of the complicated techniques and varying approaches used to create modern dishes. They will have interviewed dozens (or hundreds) of chefs, owners, and purveyors. They may well have worked in the industry as a chef or server, or may be an obsessive home cook.
In short, it’s not that reviewers have “better” opinions than any given internet commenter; it’s that they’re drawing from a much deeper well of context when they write. You don’t get to see those depths when everything written is neutral or positive or fawning; a review is a chance to go deep.
2. Value Assessment
One of our constant complaints about preview dinners and special visits with chefs is that however good a dish may be, there’s no way to benchmark it against what a diner would pay. When you dine anonymously to conduct a review, you’re looking at an establishment from a diner’s perspective. A passable roast chicken that’s “just fine” at free feels outrageous at $19, for example. And you’re able to assess service as a diner, too. At the best places (at any price point), all guests receive the kind of treatment that a known food influencer might receive; at other spots, not so much.
3. Advocacy for the Diner
Much of the dining-related content published these days is a partnership between the restaurant or brand in question and the writer, either explicitly (sometimes with money changing hands) or tacitly (again, alas, sometimes with money changing hands). The writer and/or photographer seeks clicks and influence and revenue; the subject seeks an enhanced reputation (and, in part, revenue). In this situation, nobody is looking out for the interest or experience of the diner. A good critic is a diner’s advocate, and a nine-course free spread at a preview dinner has no bearing whatsoever on what a diner will eat (and pay for) on a Wednesday night.
If a critic commits an error while writing a review — anything from a misstated price all the way up to praising a sub-par restaurant — he or she can be held accountable, through comments, corrections, and conversation through the publication he or she works for. Commentators on social media can and do hit and run; critics have a home address.
The flip side of this is that critics provide accountability for chefs and owners. If a value prospect is off, or consistency is flagging, notice from a critic is a great motivator to tighten up the ship and refocus. In the end, everyone involved wins — the restaurant and the diner alike.
In conclusion, we’re in it for the long haul with reviews, regardless of how unsexy they get. They’re a critical lens through which to view the world of food. — James Norton
The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor James Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Barrel Theory Beer Company, 248 E 7th St, St. Paul | As per the Growler: “A partnership between Surly Brewing Company’s former director of technology Brett Splinter, former Surly brewer Timmy Johnson, and CPA Todd Tibesar.” Our preview is here.
- Hoops Brewing, 325 S Lake Ave, Duluth | Expectations have been high for this new brewery, a project of Dave Hoops, formerly of Fitger’s.
- Portillo’s, 8450 Hudson Rd, Woodbury | First Minnesota outpost of the famous Chicago hot dog empire. Here’s our take on it.
- 510 Lounge & Private Dining, 510 Groveland Ave, Minneapolis | Private event space and open-to-the-public lounge run by Chef Don Saunders (The Kenwood).
- Gray Duck Tavern, 345 Wabasha St, St. Paul | “Comfort food from all over the world.”
- 1.2.3. Pasta, 6508 Cahill Ave, Inver Grove Heights | Fresh pastas, pizza, and more from the owners of La Grolla.
- The Lynhall, 2640 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | “A market-inspired cafe, event space, kitchen studio, and incubator kitchen.”
- Town Hall Station, 4500 Valley View Rd, Edina | The latest in the growing Town Hall mini-empire.