Heavy Table’s 24 Best of 2017: #8-1

hotfive-flames

As we wrap up 2017, we’re celebrating 24 of the most memorable and delicious things we tasted over the past 12 months via the Hot Five. We’re running this feature over the course of three days, counting down eight fantastic bites at a time. 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.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

James Norton / Heavy Table

#8: Chamoy Croquette from Travail’s Spotlight Dinner
There were plenty of highlights at this year’s Mexican-inspired feast by Travail Chef Benjamin Feltmann (everything from bold chicken mole to a house-made choco taco dessert to a fried grasshopper), but the most remarkable of all might have been a fried sphere containing brined fruit known as chamoy. Chamoy presents a full arsenal of flavor: sweet, tart, salty, and spicy in equal measure. This croquette was 100 pounds of gusto in a 2-ounce package. Travail may be getting older as an institution, but its ideas stay young and its execution remains strong. [James Norton]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

#7: Carne Asada Burrito at Taqueria Victor Hugo
The Carne Asada Fajita Burrito at Taqueria Victor Hugo may be the best burrito I’ve ever eaten. “Best ever” is not something to be tossed around lightly, if at all, but this burrito was the first thing that we tasted on this leg of the crawl, and I could feel myself wrecking my whole evening by going back for exploratory taste after exploratory taste. This is a meat-and-cheese driven burrito, not stuffed with rice or other filler ingredients, although a lettuce and tomato core helped cut the heaviness of the meat and provide a real counterpoint to the salt and fat of the dish. If this (massive) burrito had been any heavier, or any greasier, or any saltier, it would have been too much. But as it was, it was perfect — substantial, comforting, filling, savory, and compelling. [James Norton] Also read: our East Lake Checklist featuring Taqueria Victor Hugo.

James Norton / Heavy Table

#6: Pork Ramen at Meritage
It’s a shame ramen isn’t on the permanent menu at Meritage because this is the best we’ve had around here. This dish, part of the restaurant’s Japan installment in its World Tour series, featured house-made noodles with great al dente texture; a really rich, lovely broth with supreme depth of flavor; tender pork belly; and tenderloin. [James Norton]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

#5: Lefse Good Times Roll at the Rabbit Hole at the Minnesota State Fair
It’s a shame that this lefse + cream cheese + marshmallow + almond brittle + roasted pineapple + mint hand roll wasn’t available at the start of the fair, because it might have topped our list of state fair favorites. Between its creamy-chewy texture, the lovely crunch of the brittle, and the brightness of the mint, this is a dessert dish we’ve never tried before, and one we’d like to try again and again due to its perfect balance and the novelty “wow” factor. [James Norton] Also read: Our coverage of the food of the 2017 Minnesota State Fair.

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

#4: Kinoko Nabe at Kado no Mise
The flavor of the Kinoko Nabe (Mushroom Pot) at Kado no Mise brought me straight back to Japan. The hot clay pot contained a barely sweetened dashi in which young Japanese greens and a variety of mushrooms stewed. A grilled nebrodini mushroom lent its firm texture and smoky flavor, and a poached egg tied it all together. [Jane Rosemarin] Also read: Our review of Kado no Mise.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

#3: Wurst Plank at Waldmann Brewery and Wurstery
Some of Minnesota’s best bratwurst (and there are plenty of good ones in this highly Germanic state) are being served at the freshly opened Waldmann Brewery and Wurstery in St. Paul. Both the currywurst and bratwurst boast a fine, even grind, an ideal load of spices and seasoning, and a casing that snaps without being tough or chewy. The Red Table hot dog pictured at the center isn’t too bad, either. The Wurst Plank comes with three sides of your choosing, and the ones we picked (sauerkraut, dumplings, and limestone potatoes) were spot on. [James Norton] Also read: Our review of Waldmann Brewery and Wurstery.

James Norton / Heavy Table

#2: Sambusa from Ibrahim Restaurant
We liked so much about our trip to Ibrahim Restaurant on Lake Street that it’s hard to condense it down to a single experience. The hot sauce alone is worth a column. But we can at least start with the sambusa: a perfect filling-to-crust ratio, a crunchy-yet-chewy exterior, a diverse and deeply spiced filling (spicy but not excessively so). It may be the best in town. At the very least, it’s our favorite. If Waldmann is the epitome of traditional Minnesota German-inspired food, than Ibrahim is the epitome of the East African flavors that are keeping our state diverse and delicious. [James Norton]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

#1: Duck a la Presse at Meritage
As we wrote in our story about Meritage’s (extremely) special duck dish, Duck a la Presse isn’t just an entree, it’s an entire complicated, beautiful, and somewhat brutal process that plays out tableside, from duck deconstruction to squeezing to sauce-making. The end product is worth the fuss and expense. It’s one of the richest and most delicious duck dishes we’ve tried. It’s our #1 dish of the year not just because it’s delicious (it is) and not just because it’s a true feast (it is), but because it’s one of our favorite things about long-form, traditional dining: It can be an opportunity to pause, reflect, connect, and enjoy a story told through flavors and stunning visuals. [James Norton] Also read: Our story about Duck a la Presse at Meritage.



Heavy Table’s 24 Best of 2017: #16-9

hotfive-flames

As we wrap up 2017, we’re celebrating 24 of the most memorable and delicious things we tasted during the past 12 months via the Hot Five. We’ll run this feature over the course of three days, counting down eight fantastic bites at a time. 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.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

James Norton / Heavy Table

#16: Rush Creek Reserve from Uplands Cheese
Every year, Uplands Cheese rolls out its pricey ($25+) little wheels of Rush Creek Reserve, a raw milk cheese aged for 60 days. And every year, we go out and buy a wheel or two because there’s just nothing else like it — so creamy, so rich, so delicately earthy. It’s a flavor bomb, and it’s beautiful when spread on a Rustica baguette. [James Norton]

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

#15: Beef Tagine at Moroccan Flavors
A speedy, elegant lunch from a warming tray? Yes. In the heart of the Midtown Global Market, you can get an authentic, slow-cooked tagine. The beef is rich, sweet, and mildly spicy, and it’s served with apricots, prunes, and almonds over rice. Or choose chicken and squash served over couscous. [Bruce Manning] Also read: our East Lake Checklist barnstorming of 17 eateries at the Midtown Global Market.

Varsha Koneru / Heavy Table

#14: Butternut Squash Daiquiri at Cafe Alma
A butternut squash cocktail doesn’t sound like something you would want to order, especially in favor of the other great cocktail choices on Cafe Alma’s menu, but this one is worth trying. The squash notes are subtle but add a wonderful earthiness to the drink. There is a burst of lemon for freshness and acidity, which balances the mild sweetness of the squash. If that isn’t enough, the drink is served in an adorable hollowed gourd and topped with a velvety sage leaf, making it one of the best-looking cocktails around. [Varsha Koneru]

James Norton / Heavy Table

#13: Porchetta Bagel at Rise Bagels
The pork in this remarkable bagel sandwich is incredibly tender and gently fennel-flavored, the flavored cream cheese brings a wonderful garlic note to the dish, and the tomato and arugula are nice accents without overwhelming the dish as a whole. One of the best sandwiches in town right now. [James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table

#12: Raspberry Roselle from Fair State Brewing
Fair State has been crushing it this year, and the Raspberry Roselle is a lovely note to go out on. This (lightly) sour ale is flavored with raspberries, which imparts a mildly tart, earthy, berry-powered flavor. The sweetness on this brew is ideal, neither painfully tart nor irritatingly sugary. It’s just delicate, tasteful, and elegant. [James Norton] Also read: Our Central Avenue Checklist visit to Fair State.

James Norton / Heavy Table

#11: Mini Pop Tarts by Duluth’s Best Bread at Chef Camp
If you’re starting camp at 6:30 in the morning, as some guests at Chef Camp do, you need something with a bit of sweetness and substance to help you into the waking world. Enter the mini “pop tart,” cooked on site by the guest bakers of Duluth’s Best Bread. These jam-filled, iced pastries are surprisingly light and delicate, with none of the cardboardlike bulk of their commercial namesakes. These seemingly humble pastries were shockingly good. [James Norton] Also read: Our interview with Duluth’s Best Bread.

Lucy Hawthorne / Heavy Table

#10: Chili Cheese Dog at Revival St. Paul
Attention all lovers of Revival’s cheeseburger! The newly opened St. Paul Revival has a chili cheese dog that is easily in the same class as the cheeseburger. A hot link, with red flecks of chili and a charred, snappy casing, is topped with smoky, beefy burnt end chili. The whole mess is covered with melted cheese and a couple of giant pork rinds. In the bottom of the bowl is a pool of cheese sauce that soaks into the bun. As with the game-changing cheeseburger, we hope to see imitations popping up on menus across town. [Ted Held] Also read: Our roundtable discussion of Revival.

Briana Stachowski / Heavy Table

Briana Stachowski / Heavy Table

#9: The Davenport Double Standard at Al’s Place
The Davenport Double Standard, made with Redemption rye, Old Tom gin, lime, and raspberry, was a favorite in our sizable group. In fact, it was the biggest hit of the night. The berry is most noticeable in the drink’s pale pink color; its flavor is subtle. The combination of rye and gin is seldom seen, and at first it sounded like they could clash. To our surprise, the spice of the rye united with the botanical profile of the gin. [Paige Latham Didora] Also read: Our review of Al’s Place.

TOMORROW: We count down from 8 through 1, including tastes from Meritage, Kado no Mise, and Travail!



Heavy Table’s 24 Best of 2017: #24-17

hotfive-flames

As we wrap up 2017, we’re celebrating 24 of the most memorable and delicious things we tasted during the past 12 months via the Hot Five. We’ll run this feature over the course of three days, counting down eight fantastic bites at a time. 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.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

James Norton / Heavy Table

#24: Chicken Pot Pie at Savory Bakehouse
There’s a reason that Savory Bakehouse makes our Hot Five almost every time we visit — the food is made by hand with love and skill, and that always comes through in the flavor. The Savory Bakehouse Pot Pie has a lovely rich gravy that plays beautifully with its flaky crust, which manages the heroic task of being both delicious and durable. Peas, potatoes, and pulled chicken make this a formidable match for our current bout of cold weather. [James Norton] Also read: Our profile of Savory Bakehouse.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

#23: Coconut Cake at Delicata
Coconut, much like Brussels sprouts or durian, is one of those ingredients that has two faces to it. Cheap dried coconut flakes impart little flavor beyond mustiness, and they get caught in your teeth, ruining whatever dish they’re in. But when coconut is executed well, it’s toasty, nutty, sweet, and cheerful, and it can elevate a simple, moist vanilla cake from ordinary to divine. Delicata has its coconut cake completely dialed in, down to the light-as-a-feather frosting that complements the soft-spoken coconut character of the dessert. Dishes like these — at neighborhood spots like Delicata — were constant favorites for our team this year. [James Norton] Also read: Our review of Delicata.

James Norton / Heavy Table

#22: Oatmeal IPA by Bent Paddle
Prompt a hundred beer drinkers to finish a two-word thought starting with the word “oatmeal,” and 99 of them will say “stout.” (We don’t know what the other person would go with, but you have to assume at least one out of 100 people are habitual goofballs.) Bent Paddle’s new Valve Jockey brewer-showcase series kicked off with an Oatmeal IPA, and it’s easily one of the best beers to come out this year. As you’d think, the body of the beer is clean, classic, hoppy, and bold, but its finish is surprising — it’s mellow, sweet, and a bit buttery, nothing like the astringent snap you’re trained to expect. This makes Oatmeal IPA a lot less palate fatiguing than many of its brethren, and a lot of fun to drink. Even as Bent Paddle expands into a new taproom in Duluth and continues to grow its reach, it seems able to maintain quality and a passion for brewing new styles. [James Norton]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

#21: Fried Catfish at A & J Fish and Chicken
File this one under “we didn’t see it coming.” One of our best bites from our ongoing crawl down East Lake Street hails from the utterly unassuming A & J Fish and Chicken, which, as it turns out, does some of the best fried fish we’ve tried in the city. The catfish at A & J has the perfect level of crispy cornmeal crunch to the exterior, a moist and tender fish on the interior, and a classic presentation. “Catfish served with two slices of white bread in styrofoam the way nature intended,” as M.C. Cronin wrote in his recent Instagram post. [James Norton] Also read: Our East Lake Checklist featuring A&J Fish and Chicken.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

#20: Tattersall Grapefruit Crema Boilermaker
Combine a can of robust but not insanely hoppy IPA with ¾ ounce Tattersall Grapefruit Crema, and you get a refreshing, sessionable, surprisingly elevated summer cocktail. The Crema and the hops echo one another, but in a mellow way — this isn’t pucker fuel. You can scale it up, too, with 24 cans of IPA and a full bottle of Crema. (This is one of 12 recipes from Tattersall’s PDF of Cabin Cocktail Recipes; we tasted our way through it with the Tattersall team, and the drinks varied from good to stellar.) [James Norton] Also read: Our review of Tattersall’s Cabin Cocktail Recipes.

James Norton / Heavy Table

#19: Porchetta Sandwich at Smoqehouse
Easily one of the best sandwiches we’ve had in months — tender, full-flavored barbecued pork belly slathered in a bright, garlic-forward salsa verde that perfectly cuts the richness and fat, all balanced on a delicate but structurally sound ciabatta bun that ties the package together. Is it worth the drive to Faribault? Maybe. Is it a must-eat if you’re passing through? For sure. [James Norton] Also read: Our review of Smoqehouse.

James Norton / Heavy Table

#18: Culture Project One From Fulton Beer
The debut Culture Project beer from Fulton is a tart red ale — aged in oak wine barrels — that is notably dry with some lovely cherry notes and plenty of acid bite. Complex, and part of the “beer is the Upper Midwest’s wine” story we’ve been telling for the past eight years. [James Norton]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

#17: Sour Soup at Kolap
The sour soup at the increasingly and rightfully celebrated Cambodian hole-in-the-wall Kolap may be one of the best soups in the state. It’s got lovely sour kick, but that note is supported by deep, layered herbal flavor, crisp veggies, and properly cooked shrimp. Stellar! [James Norton] Also read: Our review of Kolap.

TOMORROW: We count down from 16 through 9, including tastes from Cafe Alma, Revival, and Fair State Brewing Cooperative!



Heavy Table Hot Five: Dec. 22-28

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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.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - one - hot fiveHot Corned Beef Sandwich at Crossroads Delicatessen
There aren’t all that many places around here that serve an old-school corned beef sandwich (we tend to end up at Cecil’s Deli in St. Paul) but the venerable Crossroads Delicatessen in Hopkins certainly deserves acknowledgement for putting out a stirring rendition of this classic. The sandwich’s caraway rye is both delicate in texture and strongly flavored (thanks to its numerous and assertive caraway seeds), and it makes a strong positive contrast with the fatty steamed meat within.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveRoyal Tea Service at Avalon Tea Room
At White Bear Lake’s Avalon Tea Room, tea sandwiches, scones, and sweets are all part of the Royal Tea Service along with fresh-brewed pots of tea (your choice from a four-page tea menu). Munch on delicate little cucumber sandwiches and sweet almond scones, and you will be entirely in a holiday mood.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fiveSambusa from Ibrahim Restaurant
We liked so much about our trip to Ibrahim Restaurant on Lake Street that it’s hard to condense it down to a single experience. The hot sauce alone is worth a column. But we can at least start with the sambusa: a perfect filling-to-crust ratio, a crunchy-yet-chewy exterior, a diverse and deeply spiced filling (spicy but not excessively so). It may be the best in town. At the very least, it’s our favorite.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted from an Instagram post by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveJapanese Sweet Potato at Young Joni
The delicate bonito flakes that wave atop this inspired appetizer lend both visual flair and earthy complexity, and the whole package is nicely offset by pickled Fresno pepper slices and bright, flavorful charred scallion crème fraîche. In total, the dish is warm, soothing, and complex — a terrific way to kick off a meal.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveSushi From Lakewinds Co-op
Supermarket sushi is generally a recipe for mediocrity, but we’ve found that whenever we’re in the general vicinity of Lakewinds between 10:30 and 11a.m., our visit to the store is rewarded by a sushi chef stocking the cooler with freshly made, tender, delicate rolls that are well worth the $7.50 purchase price.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]



Lucky Oven Bakery in Armatage, Minneapolis

 

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Red Wagon Pizza has been living in the shadow of the not-so-far-away Pizzeria Lola and the whole Ann Kim empire since its birth in 2014, and that’s a shame. It’s a remarkably consistent and well-loved spot, a reliable dynamo of both comfort and innovation. And it should come as no surprise to fans of the spot that when Kristy Dirk, a longtime Red Wagon pastry chef, spun off her own breakfast restaurant and bakery, called Lucky Oven, she managed to capture a lot of the same magic. You can see the through lines from Red Wagon to Lucky Oven — quality, scratch-made fare, and plenty of original culinary thoughts, without ever losing sight of deliciousness. The contributions of Patisserie-46-trained chef de cuisine Adam Beal are also no doubt shaping the menu and honing the quality of the baked goods that fill the restaurant’s cases.

The spot is not particularly large, but it’s sunny, anchored visually by a charming display of vintage Easy-Bake Ovens, and (on a recent Sunday morning) absolutely thronged by enthusiastic diners.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Let’s start with one of the most ambitious things on the menu, the Steak Sandwich ($14). We didn’t know that we needed a $14 steak sandwich for breakfast until we tried it, but we’re converts now. The steak is tender, marinated in a flavorful chimichurri sauce, and cut into small, easy-to-manage chunks that fill the interior of a housemade ciabatta roll. The steak swims in a potent mixture of aioli, beautifully caramelized onions, and pickled peppers that makes the whole sandwich a veritable umami body slam balanced with enough brightness and heat to even it out. It’s ravishingly good.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Our Brioche French Toast ($9) didn’t look like much on the menu or on the plate. It’s just a couple of big slices of rich bread drenched in eggs and dairy, sauteed on the griddle, and served with a generous schmear of fruit compote. Somehow, however, this stuff transcends its simplicity. The pieces we got were finished perfectly (deeply browned just to the point of charred, but not crossing that line) and had the slightly crunchy, slightly chewy texture that the best pain perdu tends to sport.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

It’s easy to steer an order of eggs Benedict into the realm of the inedible. All it takes is too much salt, too much richness, a broken Hollandaise, or a general sense of dreary excess. The Beeler Ham Benedict ($11) at Lucky Oven has none of those problems. The English muffin base is perfect: chewy and structurally sound but not clunky or difficult to cut. The ham is mellow and flavorful, the hollandaise balanced in terms of quantity and seasoning. The dish comes on in a mild, genial manner, but the more you eat the more you like it.

Lucky Oven’s dedication to scratch fare and sunny, modern ambiance seems to suit the neighborhood perfectly, and the place would seem to be facing just one major problem: whether to expand.

Lucky Oven Bakery
Bakery and Breakfast in Armatage Minneapolis

5401 Penn Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55419
612.252.2262
OWNER / CHEF: Kristy Dirk / Adam Beal
HOURS:
Daily 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
BAR: No
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Not really
ENTREE RANGE: $8-$15
NOISE LEVEL: Amenable din
PARKING: Limited street parking