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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.
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.
[Debuting on the Hot Five |Submitted by Varsha Koneru]
Moon Tea from Sacred Blossom Farm Tony DiMaggio grows, dries, and blends the herbs that go into Sacred Blossom tea at the Gilmanton, Wisconsin farm of the same name. We tried the lavender- and chamomile-forward Moon blend and found it to be profoundly soothing – it’s a bright floral touch of summer, and lacks any of the dusty or weedy notes that sometimes mar herbal teas. You can order this local brew via the farm’s Kickstarter campaign, which wraps up in about week. Dogwood Coffee and The Produce Exchange at Midtown Global Market will also begin carrying retails packs of Sacred Blossom tea next week.
[Debuting on the Hot Five |Submitted by James Norton]
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, served with apricots, prunes and almonds over rice. Or choose chicken and squash, served over couscous. [Debutingon the Hot Five |Submitted by Bruce Manning]
Cry Baby Burger from Jimmy’s Billiards The Cry Baby Burger from Jimmy’s Billiards is as feisty as its name sounds. Jalapeño peppers, pepper Jack cheese, and a small but mighty dose of hot sauce will clear those sinuses in no time. Spring for the sour cream for the fries as a heat-reducing dairy product.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #4 | Submitted by Amy Rea]
Apple, Grilled Cabbage and Prosciutto Salad at Burch This salad was a nice balance of sweet, tart, and slightly salty … an excellent complement to most of the rich menu items at Burch. “Grilled cabbage” suggests a salty and/or smokey flavor profile, but there was no hint of the grilling in either taste or temperature. Below the mound of green apple bites and shredded cabbage was a generous layer of thinly sliced prosciutto. A touch of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a few chives on top enhanced each of the individual flavors.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Brenda Johnson]
As compensation for brutal winters, Minnesotans are blessed with endless enviable summer activities. Deciding which outdoor movie, block party, or food fest to attend can be daunting. Now we’re adding one more item to your summer activity “to do” list. Unlike many of the others, this one isn’t free. It’s not even cheap. But it’s sure worth it. So here’s the plan:
1. Go to Burch at 5pm on a sunny day. You may need to leave work early, but this step is critical. Arriving at opening ensures an hour or two of peaceful eating and chatting before dinner service ramps up.
2. Sit at the bar. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and professional. And the bar! It’s beautiful, long, and wide enough for amassing plates and glasses, and the high-backed chairs are super comfy. Most importantly, the sun shines through the floor-to-ceiling windows, basking the bar in a warm summer glow.
3. Order a drink and sample the “bar food.” Technically, Burch doesn’t do bar food, but its small plates are absolutely worth a leery look from your coworker when you breeze out early. Our current favorite combo:
Lamb Tartare ($13): Featuring extremely fresh, lean lamb from Niman Ranch, this cool dish is a summer treat. Whole mustard seeds, roasted fresno peppers, flake salt, and mint combine for serious flavor, mellowed skillfully by sheep’s milk yogurt. Our only critique (and it’s a very small one) is that the lamb flavor gets a bit lost among the other, strong components.
In the last few years, the Twin Cities has gained a national reputation as a hotbed of handcrafted, high-quality pizza. With the opening of Pizzeria Pezzo, White Bear Lake is getting in on the action. And if the overflowing crowd of happy diners on a sub-zero Tuesday evening is any indication, the newest coal-fired shop is a welcome addition to the area.
With financial backing from the late Jim Kowalski (of Kowalski’s markets), Pezzo’s owner and chef, Gary Bougie, seemingly spared little expense on this large (borderline massive) restaurant. It’s modeled on Bougie’s original pizzeria, Slyce, located in a northern suburb of Chicago. Pezzo is big enough to accommodate a large bar area, a very large dining area, and a sizable room for private parties. But because there’s so much space, Pezzo lacks intimacy and, as one of our party pointed out, that dreamy “pizza smell.” Still, eager diners won’t face long waits for a table at this popular new restaurant, which is a huge plus, and the place is well-staffed with incredibly welcoming servers — we were thanked for coming in at least a half dozen times. For better or worse (depending on your view of super cheery, super attentive service), Pezzo’s staff exemplifies “Minnesota Nice.”
The Tap loves restaurant tips from readers, so we’re awarding a Heavy Table pint glass to the best tipster each month. 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 Jason Walker at email@example.com.
Hiding in plain sight for a while now, chef Jimmy McMullan’s Thrivent Cafe is open to the public for breakfast and lunch with an ever-changing menu and several stations that offer pizza, sandwiches, and more.
McMullan moved to Minnesota eight years ago from New York, where he worked at the swanky St. Regis Hotel after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America. Thrivent hired him a couple years ago when it decided to revamp and completely remodel its former restaurant, and the new cafe concept opened late last year: several stations (breakfast, salad, entree, pizza, etc.) that offer a daily special as well as some build-your own options. The entree line may serve carved prime rib, tater tot hot dish, salmon or fire-roasted cod; at the “exhibition” station McMullan might whip up Szechuan chicken, a risotto, or stir fry.
“Our big things are freshness, being house-made, and when it’s in season I try to use as much local as I can,” McMullan said. “We really push wellness, we steam our vegetables, and, if anything, use olive oil or nothing at all because we want to leave vegetables as pure as possible. We’re also very gluten-friendly, too.
“That’s what we’re shooting for is being able to have food for everybody: vegetarians, vegans, so we’re not excluding anybody and also offering something for vegetarians, say, that’s not just grilled vegetables. We put a lot of effort into making good food for everybody.”
Diners can build a personal pizza on house-made white or wheat dough, or just get a slice; there’s also a daily deli sandwich and soup. McMullan said his salad station was especially popular, including Wednesday’s taco salad special.
“Last week I ran a version of Thanksgiving with a salad of diced white turkey, choice of greens, candied pecans, mini marshmallows, and a Cranberry vinaigrette,” he said.
Breakfasts include made-to-order omelets, biscuits and sausage gravy, an espresso bar, and pastries. And, fro-yo alert: there’s even a frozen yogurt bar. See, hiding in plain sight, all this stuff.
The Thrivent Cafe is open to the public for breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday.
Did I mention vegans? Seward Cafe is adding dinner service next month and will include a variety of dishes for omni- and herbivores alike.
According to a news release, in addition to comfort food like brats, mac and cheese, and hot sandwiches, the expanded Seward “aims to serve healthier alternatives to highly processed soy products used as meat substitutes,” like a veggie burger made with mung beans and another with wild rice. Hey, as a meat eater I still love a veggie burger when it’s well-made in-house, so creative attempts like that are A-OK.
The Seward Cafe is also adding beer and wine at dinner and will be open until midnight weekdays and 1 a.m. Friday-Saturday. Also, the news release said the Seward Cafe has been open since 1974 and is the “oldest collectively run business in the Midwest.” That gives me a pang for the long-shuttered and collectively run Paradise Cafe of my Lawrence, KS, college years, where I took my ultra-conservative grandparents for breakfast on my wedding day and was served by a flamboyantly gay waiter. Happy memories.
It’d be shoddy not to mention Burch Steak and Burch Pizza Bar, the upstairs-downstairs colossus that opened last week from Isaac Becker, the James Beard Award-winning chef behind 112 Eatery and Bar La Grassa. Housed in the former Burch Pharmacy building at Franklin and Hennepin, Burch Steak offers two sizes of various cuts of sustainably raised beef; a “raw” menu of tuna, lamb tartare, oysters, and the like; a full line of dumplings; and several non-steak entrees. The pizza bar downstairs offers nine pies, small plates, and desserts.
The whole thing is pretty ambitious by size alone, but if anybody has the chops to pull off three constantly packed restaurants, it’s Becker. And given its Lowry Hill location, it’s not hard to imagine Burch becoming this year’s most successful new restaurant.
The Tap is the Heavy Table’s guide to area restaurant openings, closings, and other major events. The Tap is compiled and published biweekly by Heavy Table writer Jason Walker. If you have tips for The Tap, please email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org.