Heavy Table’s 24 Best of 2017: #24-17

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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.

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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!

Shop Local This Fall and Holiday Season at the Nordic Ware Factory Store

0 Courtesy of Nordic Ware

This post is sponsored by Nordic Ware.

Founded in 1946, Nordic Ware is a family-owned American manufacturer of an extensive line of quality cookware, bakeware, microwave and grilling products, and specialty kitchenware that is distributed worldwide. The Nordic Ware Factory Store is in St. Louis Park adjacent to the corporate headquarters and factory. The store features first-quality Nordic Ware products, kitchen tools, and accessories as well as Nordic Ware factory closeouts and irregulars. It’s also home to a contemporary demonstration kitchen where twice-monthly evening classes are held. Award winning local chefs, cookbook authors, and experienced cooking instructors teach cooking and baking techniques and sample delicious recipes. Find the class calendar online at https://www.nordicware.com/factory-store.

Courtesy of Nordic Ware

Half the size and twice the fun, Nordic Ware’s new Little Bundt® bakeware in signature gold gives you lots of beautiful options. Sometimes smaller is better.

Courtesy of Nordic Ware

Check out the Fall Harvest Bronze collection for beautiful harvest-themed bakeware and some of the spookiest Halloween cake pans you’ve ever seen.

In addition to its Gourmet Bundt® cake mixes, Nordic Ware has just introduced two new quick bread mixes — Salted Caramel and Pumpkin Spice, perfect for the new fall pans.

Courtesy of Nordic Ware

And for keeping your Bundt® pans in prime condition, be sure to get the new Ultimate Bundt® Cleaning Tool, perfect for getting every nook and cranny of your pans. Then keep them scratch-free in a soft muslin Bundt® Storage Bag.

Courtesy of Nordic Ware

Get the layer cake pans the pros use, now in an expanded range of six sizes for beautiful layered cakes or adorable mini cakes.

New microwave products make weeknight cooking quick and lunch packing easier. Look for the new Steam Cooker, Multi-Boiler™, Bento Soup ’R Mug®, and Bento Box.

If holiday baking is part of your tradition, but you can’t find grandma’s krumkake and rosette irons, you can always find new ones at Nordic Ware.

The Naughty Greek in Merriam Park, St. Paul

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Naughty Greek is crushing it.

The shop feels vibrant and full; it’s bright and airy, cheerfully painted with white and blue iconographic art that evokes Greece; the staff are friendly, helpful, and numerous; and the food is bold and balanced. We could end the review here, with an exhortation that all who read this will be rewarded by a visit to this shop, but we’ll take a moment to dig into exactly what’s going right, as it’s worth understanding (and emulating, should you happen to be in the food business).

Let’s begin with the most mundane aspect of The Naughty Greek’s success: the pita. We chatted with Angelo Giovanis, the shop’s cheerful and omnipresent owner, and he said it’s one of the few things not made in house. Instead, he buys pitas that are revived through a turn on the grill with Greek virgin olive oil, oregano, and lemon juice. It works. The gyros of The Naughty Greek come cradled in warm, soft, flavorful bread. If you’ve ever had dry, cardboardlike pita — and we all have, unfortunately — you’ll understand just how lovely a good version of the bread can be. (See also: Gyropolis, another shop that does pita justice.)

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Both of the gyros we tried (chicken and pork) were successful. The pork, through meat that was rich and tender, the chicken through a fantastic (and not excessive) grill-imparted char that lent depth and drama to what could have been a simple sandwich. A proper application of garlic- and cucumber-infused yogurt tzatziki gives lightness and tang to the sandwich without drowning it or sogging it into pieces, and delicate wisps of raw onion give a bit of crunch and assertive flavor without savaging the palate.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

We tried the Original Greek ($8.50, above) and Kale ($7.50) salads, and they’re lovely accompaniments to heavier parts of the menu. They’re light, simple, classic, and balanced, uniting bits of creamy cheese, tangy acid, and fresh-tasting vegetables.

Heavy Table Hot Five: Jan. 13-19

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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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Ted Held / Heavy Table
Ted Held / Heavy Table

1-new - oneChili 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. Like the game-changing cheeseburger, we hope to see imitations popping up on menus across town.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an upcoming review by Ted Held]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

2-new - twoReturn of the River Monster at Thai Garden
We always worry that our favorite tiny independent spots are going to up and change on us, so it’s a relief when they haven’t. Nearly a year ago, we went bonkers for the River Monster — a whole red snapper swimming in tom yum soup — at the then newly opened Thai Garden. We went back on one particularly cold day last week and found that things are still humming at this University Avenue gem; the food took a while, but it was worth the wait, and the chef checked up on us to make sure everything was excellent. And it was!
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

3-new - threeQueso Fundido at Pajarito
Although the melted cheese in this classic Tex-Mex dish is plenty rich, it’s also surprisingly light on the palate. There’s nothing grossly greasy about it; it’s just pure dairy pleasure. But that’s only half the story of the Queso Fundido at the newly opened Pajarito in St. Paul: The warm, thick, fluffy, tender tortilla rounds that accompany this stuff are perfectly suited to the task. It’s a decisive one-two punch.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted from a review by James Norton]

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

4-new four The Annual Panettone
In Northern Italy, at Christmastime, every good bakery turns out a light, buttery panettone that bears little resemblance to the ones available in boxes. To get a fresh, real-ingredient flavor, we make our own, and while we’ve tried three or four recipes, we always go back to Paul Bertolli’s from Chez Panisse Cooking (recipe at the bottom of this page). But we add a half teaspoon of fiori di sicilia, which makes it taste authentic, and we bake it in a paper panettone form, which makes it look authentic. We produce our own candied peel (but you can buy some), and we soak it and the raisins in Grand Marnier (that goes back to an old Craig Claiborne recipe). All in all, panettone is a delectable treat well worth baking at home. Try it spread with mascarpone, as Italians often do. It’s also supposed to make fabulous bread pudding, but we can’t imagine having leftovers.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Jane Rosemarin]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveCaldo Verde
We picked up this soup while living in a heavily Portuguese and Brazilian neighborhood in Cambridge, Mass., and it has become our go-to cold-weather buster. It’s a simple mix of chorizo, potatoes, kale, onions, and stock, but the flavor is deep and gets sublimely creamy and rich the day after you make it. We got our super-flavorful and funky chorizo at La Alborada, but you can make it work with standard-issue supermarket chorizo — it’s a hard soup to mess up. Check out the Instagram post for the recipe.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an instagram post by James Norton]

Jakeeno’s Pizza and Pasta in South Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Restaurants that keep their doors open year after year interest us. They must be doing something right to endure economic slowdowns, food trends, and intense competition. And Jakeeno’s has been going strong since 1975. It’s survived Generations X, Y, and Z.

What’s the key to Jakeeno’s longevity? Comfort. It’s familiar, unpretentious, and low-key. The staff is easygoing, and the customers clearly pick up the vibe. Even when busy, there’s none of the hustle, bustle, and, well, stress (on the part of staff and diners) that often characterize the latest “it” spots. Seemingly impervious to flashy trends, Jakeeno’s and its regulars are refreshingly comfortable in their own skins. Why else would we see such an embrace of what we’ve nicknamed the “Jakeeno’s lounge” — a laid-back posture more common on porches than in restaurants?

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

A little sign over a little table near the front of the restaurant won our hearts. It reads, “The table by the door is ‘The Worst Seat in the House.’ Dine here and receive 15% off your meal.” Now get this: The deal applies year round, and even when there are other tables available. Hell, when we inquired about the sign, our server encouraged us to move one table over and get the deal. (Though too earnest to move, we appreciated the suggestion.) Speaking of deals, Jakeeno’s has them all: cheap date night, happy hour, and all-you-can-eat pasta, to name a few.

Like the atmosphere and service, the food is comforting. It’s what “throwback” Italian-American restaurants throw back to. Unlike Mucci’s in Saint Paul (which we adore), Jakeeno’s doesn’t update the classics. In fact, we doubt the recipes have changed much over the last four decades. Of course, red sauce is the cornerstone of the menu: rich, flavorful, and slightly sweet (thankfully not too sweet), it’s well suited to pasta, pizza, and hoagies.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Of the pizzas we tried, a simple pepperoni pie (large, $16.45) stood out. Jakeeno’s crust is thin and well balanced (not too salty or sweet) and sturdy when not weighed down with too many ingredients. Although it lacks the snap associated with “cracker crust,” it holds its own. Covering thin slices of zippy pepperoni, the cheese is nicely browned without being burnt. As much as we enjoyed this option, we didn’t care for Jakeeno’s margherita (large, $21.75): The cheese was too thick, and the overwhelming garlic and flavorless tomatoes were way out of balance.

Giftable: The Frozen Snowflake Cakelet Pan from Nordic Ware

Courtesy of Nordic Ware
Courtesy of Nordic Ware

The post is sponsored by Nordic Ware. As the holidays approach, our Giftable series will feature a range of food- and drink-related items.

What are they? The Frozen Snowflake cakelet pan lets you share beautiful snowflake cakelets with all your friends.

Who’s it a good gift for? Bakers of any age who fell in love with all things “Frozen.”

Where’s it available? The Nordic Ware Factory Store, 4925 Highway 7 / Minnesota 25, St. Louis Park, MN 55416

The Nordic Ware Square Bundt Lab

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

This story is underwritten by Nordic Ware.

Over the past year or so, we at the Heavy Table have been falling in love with the concept of “labs,” multi-person jam sessions revolving around an ingredient or a family of flavors or a particular entree. When we saw Nordic Ware’s new Bundt Squared Pans, we were struck with the potential to play around in the kitchen and bake up some new-wave cakes that take advantage of the pan’s stylish appearance and hefty capacity.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

For our Square Bundt Lab we gathered a couple of stalwart Heavy Table contributors (myself and Becca Dilley) and two local bakers whose work we know and respect: Eva Sabet (above left) from the Swedish Crown Bakery in Anoka and Emily Rheingans (above right) of Mon Petit Chéri in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis.

After three or four hours of slaving away in a hot and impossibly fragrant kitchen, we had before us a forest of cakes ranging from a delicate Earl-Grey-infused Bundt to a double chocolate dreadnought. We’re excited about these recipes, and we hope you’ll give them a try – if you do, leave us a comment and let us know how they turned out. They should work in a regular bundt pan as well, although the capacity is slightly different (10 cups for square, 12 for normal.) Now: get baking!

horizontal_bundt-square-bannerNordic Ware, now in its 69th year, is a family-owned, American manufacturer of quality cookware, bakeware, microwave and barbecue products, and specialty kitchenware distributed worldwide. The Nordic Ware Factory Store is frequented by home cooks, chefs, and restaurant owners and hosts twice-monthly evening classes. 4925 Highway 7, St. Louis Park, 952.924.9672, www.nordicware.com.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

BITTERSWEET DOUBLE CHOCOLATE BUNDT

Baker: Emily Rheingans

Baker’s Notes: What can I say: I adore chocolate. One of the things that I love about it is the fact that you can create an incredible depth of flavor without cloying sweetness. That’s the case with this bittersweet double chocolate Bundt. It’s subtly sweet, as a good chocolate cake should be, but rich in flavor with the addition of melted bittersweet chocolate and strong coffee.

Cake:
1¼ cups brewed, medium-­dark-roast coffee
¾ cup Dutch process cocoa
2¼ cups sugar
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2½ cups flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1¼ cups buttermilk

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

2. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the sugar, whole eggs and yolk, canola oil, and vanilla extract.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together by hand the cocoa powder and the brewed coffee.

4. With the mixer running, slowly pour the coffee and cocoa liquid into the egg mixture.

5. Stop the mixer and add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well combined, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed.

6. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the buttermilk.

7. Pour the batter into a greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake for 45­ to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Glaze:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (chopped, or chips)
¾ cup butter
½ cup sour cream
2½ cups powdered sugar
¼ cup brewed, medium­-dark-roast coffee

1. To make the glaze, melt the butter and bittersweet chocolate in a small saucepan on very low heat, making sure to stir frequently.

2. Pour the butter and melted chocolate into a bowl with the sour cream, and whisk until combined.

3. Add the powdered sugar and whisk again. Once combined, slowly add about ¼ cup of coffee, until the glaze reaches the desired sheen and consistency.

4. Pour the glaze over the cake as soon as the cake has been flipped from the pan.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

ALL-IN-ONE BUNDT CAKE WITH FRESH FRUIT

Baker: Eva Sabet

Baker’s Notes: We found this recipe when we were cooking at the Grass Roots Cooperative and we were looking for a great dessert. It is from a baker/cook in Sweden and her recipes always seem to be foolproof. So we tried it, we loved it, and so did the customers. What is so wonderful about this cake is that it can be made with any fruit or no fruit at all. The flavor combinations can be endless and what I like the most is that it goes quickly – everything into one bowl, and mix.

Cake:
11 ounces fresh strawberries, blackberries or raspberries
8.8 ounces butter at room temperature (preferably salted)
Zest from 2 lemons or limes
6 tablespoons lemon or lime juice fresh
6 eggs
16.9 ounces flour
1 cup milk, at room temperature
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
Butter and unsweetened, shredded coconut for the pan

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

2. Butter the Bundt pan and line the inside with the shredded coconut, shaking out any excess.

3. Clean the strawberries and cut them into quarters, or leave whole if very small.

4. Put all the ingredients except the fruit in the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.

5. Pour the mixture into the pan. Distribute the fruit evenly over the top and press it down lightly into the batter.

6. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until the cake is dry in the middle. Turn the cake upside down and let it cool before taking it out of the pan.

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
¾ tablespoon lemon juice
¾ tablespoon elderflower syrup, or other fruit syrup.

1. Mix the glaze ingredients together while the cake is cooling. Spoon the glaze evenly over the cooled cake.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

BACON BREAKFAST BUNDT

Italian Beef at BJ’s Hotdog Shoppe in St. Paul

BJs Hot Dog Shoppe in St. Paul
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

EDITOR’S NOTE: BJ’s Hotdog Shoppe is closed.

There are three reasons to love BJ’s Hotdog Shoppe in St. Paul. In order of importance, they are: the service, the Italian beef sandwich, and the cake.

BJ’s is the sort of magical place that takes its customers by the hand. If you’re new to Chicago-style sandwiches and hot dogs, owners Bub and Jan (natives of Joliet, IL) lovingly guide you through the process, asking about your likes and dislikes, and carefully creating a sandwich just for you. Topping combinations are practically limitless, so it’s like edible OkCupid — BJ’s wants to find your perfect match.

From a list of hot dogs, Italian sausage, nachos, and tamale boats (you heard me), we were coupled with the Italian beef sandwich ($6), dripping with delicious meat juices (we ordered it “dipped”). The thing was the size of a missile. Juicy, salty, thinly sliced beef piled with wonderfully crunchy giardiniera, sauteed onions, and some melty Swiss was a serious love song to our most ravenous moments. BJ’s Italian beef is the sort of thing you want to wake up next to after a big, debauched night. Hey, it’s a cheap date, too.

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And the cake ($2.50 a slice)! Jan makes it herself, a rotating arsenal of Southern favorites like caramel cake, lemon cake, and red velvet cake. Oh, red velvet cake, that poor victim of trends. Jan’s makes it into something worth craving, with a close, angel-soft crumb and barely sweet cream cheese frosting.

This little shop is a blast of fresh air, steered by a pair of the kindliest souls to chop an onion. If their warmth and enthusiasm for filling bellies doesn’t get you buying 15 slices of cake to go, then you ought to see the Wizard about a heart.

BJ’s Hotdog Shoppe, 1990 Suburban Ave, Suite 1994B,  St. Paul, MN 55119; 651.528.7254

Bistecca alla St. Paul and Recipe Roundup

Lamb and garlic, lemon cake top pudding, spice rubbed pork chops, bistecca alla St. Paul, lemon bundt cake, kofte kebabs, and radish pizza.

Smoked Trout Spread and Recipe Roundup

Egg and cheddar BLT with sambal mayo, smoked trout spread, French yogurt cake, spaghetti with dandelion greens and wild ramps, and cucumber gazpacho.

Rhubarb Crunch Coffee Cake and Recipe Roundup

Tea sandwiches; cheese-stuffed millet patties; sun-dried tomatoes, ramps, and white beans; Madeira cake; asparagus and beef in shacha sauce; and rhubarb crunch coffee cake.

Homemade Yogurt and Recipe Roundup

Homemade yogurt (here’s our recipe for it), local turkey divan, flourless chocolate cake, and smoky tempeh and greens stew.