Heavy Table Hot Five: July 8-14

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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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Peter Sieve / Heavy Table
Peter Sieve / Heavy Table

1-new - onePirikara Yasai Donburi at Kyatchi
The Pirikara Yasai Donburi at Kyatchi is summer in a bowl. Alternately warm and cool, rich and spicy, and sweet and savory, it’s a pitch-perfect balancing act and supremely refreshing. Ripe avocado and fresh heirloom tomato mingle with cool celery and cucumber, all tossed in a spicy sesame sauce and draped over Kyatchi’s excellently seasoned sushi rice. Some bites evoke the childhood joy of crunching into peanut-buttery ants-on-a-log. The best part? It’s only $6 at happy hour — a crazy great deal for a well-rounded meal’s worth of food.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Peter Sieve]

Varsha Koneru / Heavy Table
Varsha Koneru / Heavy Table

2-new - twoSmoked Cheese Curds from Northbound Smokehouse
If you need your cheese curds fix before the state fair next month, head over to Northbound Smokehouse for the white-cheddar curds. These little morsels are lightly smoked and dipped in a sweet pancake batter, creating a great balance of sweet, smoky, and salty. No fancy-schmancy berry ketchup here, just some old school ranch, which pairs perfectly with the curds.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Varsha Koneru]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - threeTinto de Verano
Hot, muggy weather calls for drastic measures. The Spanish resort to something called tinto de verano — red wine on ice cut with soda, generally orange Fanta. It sounds like an abomination; it’s actually lovely and refreshing, in a sort of downmarket sangria way. (If you want a great local incarnation of the stuff, head over to Mucci’s Italian and get the Mucci Juice.) We made ours with a rose Rio Madre rioja (in the cooler at Elevated Beer Wine and Spirits), a seriously big ice cube, and (yes) Fanta.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

4-new fourThe Bloody Mary sandwich at Pat’s Tap
Properly equipped, a Bloody Mary can be a meal. Pat’s Tap goes a step further with a Bloody Mary sandwich: tomato bread slathered with a sharp Worcestershire aioli, sliced tomatoes, bacon, and two fried eggs. And garnishes, of course. The result is more like a cross between a Bloody Mary and a BLT, but who cares? Bonus: no buzz. Unless you get some vodka on the side.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveBlack Lemonade Brulee at Peace Coffee
As long as we’re banging the refreshment gong, let’s put a plug in for the Black Lemonade Brulee at Peace Coffee, a blend of lemon, burnt sugar, and carbonated water. Despite its seeming simplicity, this is a drink with real depth and a wonderful sparkly charge that makes a lovely thing to drink when the temperature soars above 80 (or 90). It’s less a lemonade than a sophisticated nonalcoholic cocktail.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an Instagram post by James Norton]

Cheese Curds from The Lone Grazer and Redhead Creamery

String Cheese from the Lone Grazer
John Garland / Heavy Table

Lots of good things are happening with Minnesota cheese. Veteran cheesemakers are expanding production and distribution, while a few budding operations are beginning to make their mark. You may have noticed the debut of some local curds at your cheese counter so far this year. Alise Sjostrom’s Readhead Creamery recently introduced curds to Kowalski’s (they’ve been in local co-ops for a while now). And in the last few weeks, Rueben Nilsson’s The Lone Grazer Creamery brought inaugural batches of cheese curds and string cheese to market.

Nilsson is a seven-year veteran of the Caves of Faribault. He spent the last year developing this new creamery venture with Kieran and Seamus Folliard and the rest of the 2 Gingers Whiskey team. The Lone Grazer (first announced as Skyway Creamery last year) operates near the Grain Belt Brewery on Marshall Avenue in Northeast, a part of the same local production enterprise as Mike Phillips’ Red Table Meat Company. The building is currently seeking a third artisanal food tenant, and should have a communal tasting room open in the fall.

Rueben Nilsson at The Lone Grazer
Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table

Nilsson sources grass-fed cow’s milk from two small Minnesota farms. His curds are exactly the squeaky, salty little gobs of perfection you’d hope for, and his string cheese  — a low-moisture mozzarella that wicks away into into needle-thin strands — is outstanding as well. You can find The Lone Grazer’s products for sale at Surdyk’s, France 44, Lake Wine & Spirits, and a host of local co-ops. Expect to start seeing them at neighborhood restaurants, such as The Anchor Fish & Chips, which recently used Nilsson’s curds in a curry poutine.

The Lone Grazer will focus on bringing fresh cheese — including a hand-dipped ricotta — to market, while experimenting with soft-rind French-style cheeses this summer. Nilsson hopes to debut a semi-aged product before the end of the year. Until then, stay tuned for upcoming creamery tours, where visitors can take a sneak peek at the meat and cheese stronghold taking shape in Northeast.

Leisure Hour at Cafe Maude at Loring Park

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

Happy hour always sounds like a good idea. A few drinks. A few nibbles. Unwind a little after work. But then comes the wave of regret that tastes distinctly of cheap beer and fryer grease. Your ears are ringing with bad bar music, you board the bus tipsy, and you’ve ruined your dinner.

Maybe it’s a matter of expectations. Maybe “happy” is just too much to shoot for. Maybe we should aim for a few moments of leisure instead? And you know who has the leisure formula down pat? Cafe Maude at Loring Park. The downtown sister of the Southwest Minneapolis favorite (of the same name) serves up one of our very favorite happy — or, rather, “leisure” — hours.

Inside Cafe Maude, the booths and bar are rich and comfortably luxe (the sort of place that makes you want to say “lezh-yoor” instead of the pedestrian “lee-zher”). But, if you sit outside you get the full Loring Park experience, even if you are staring at the trees and the footbridge past the parking lot and a bored valet.

The menu is ideal for a light meal at the end of the day — a few tiny bites to keep the drinks flowing, like spiced popcorn and hummus, along with enough heartier choices to keep you lingering at the table.

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

Speaking of hearty, the cheese curds — the Faribault Dairy Caveman Curds ($6) — stopped us in our tracks. It was one of those moments when your companion casually takes a bite of food, then stops dead still, lets her eyes grow wide, and motions urgently that you must. try. this. now. — even before she finishes chewing. The crust was tempura-light and perfectly crispy, even when the curds cooled (and how on Earth did we even let them cool?), flecked with paprika and a hint of the North African spices that set Cafe Maude’s global comfort food apart. Dipped in the sweet and complex tomato coulis, they were perfect. Perfect.

Alongside those high-brow / low-brow curds, we had a distinctly high-brow Smoked Fish Plate ($7). There’s nothing more leisurely than holding a triangle of buttery toast between two fingers and topping it with creme fraiche; smoky, tender, slow-cooked salmon; and salmon caviar — the kind that’s salty and sweet and pops just right in your mouth. The languid assembly slows down the moment and stretches out the conversation.

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

Those are the absolute high points at Cafe Maude’s leisure hour, the ones that keep us coming back. We also highly recommend the slightly spicy lamb slider ($3), served with the same tomato coulis, and the thin-crust deep-dish pizza ($6.50). What makes the contradiction work is a papadum-like crackly crust cradling a spoonable layer of tomato sauce and gooey fresh mozzarella.

And the icing on our classic Loring Park cake? Just after our food arrived, Scott Seekins strolled past, a canvas under his arm. The artist, known for practically taking up residence in the Loring Cafe when that boho-luxe hangout was the place to be, seems to have found Cafe Maude to be a worthy successor. He paused a beat, surveyed the bounty on our table, and looked as if he might, in fact, invite himself to take a seat and share a moment of leisure with us. Regrettably, he strolled on.

We enjoyed our leisure without him. And, yes, we did ruin our dinner. And we didn’t regret it one bit.

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

Cafe Maude at Loring Park
Bar and restaurant in Loring Park

1612 Harmon Place
Minneapolis, MN 55401
612.767.9080
OWNER / CHEF: Kevin Sheehy / Matt Kempf
HOURS: Leisure hour Tue-Fri 4-6pm, Sat-Sun 2-6pm
BAR: Full
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: Yes / Not for Leisure Hour
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $3–$7

Stout’s Pub in Falcon Heights

DWITT / Heavy Table
DWITT / Heavy Table

St. Petersburg in Robbinsdale and Morning Roundup

A boozy voyage to St. Petersburg Restaurant & Vodka Bar in Robbinsdale, WACSO draws El Taco Riendo, beer from the Port Huron Brewing Company in the Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin cleans up at the World Dairy Expo, Lift Bridge Hop Dish IPA comes out in bottles, a tour of four of Madison’s best deep fried cheese curds, and a taste of Big Ed’s Gouda from Saxon Creamery.

Dutch Babies and Recipe Roundup

Fried cheese curds, smoky grilled chicken wings, Wow Cupcakes, shrimp and grits with sweet corn, Dutch baby pancakes, summer heirloom tomato salad, oven roasted tomato sauce, and summer tomato sauce.

Mango Salsa and Recipe Roundup

Summer lake trout chowder, sweet potato and Wisconsin cheddar cheese curd gratin, quick onion pickles, mango salsa and how to cut up a mango, blueberry kuchen, strawberry cardamom molded dessert, raspberry-blueberry cream cheese shortcake, and snap pea chutney.

September 30 Tweet Rodeo

October 1 is National Sake Day in Japan, as well as @MotoI2Go’s first anniversary — to celebrate, they’re offering buy-one-get-one-free sake all day and premium sake, @MplsFarmMarket reviews Eichten’s “Zesty” cheese curds, @CookingWithKARE offers a whole host of recipes, including how-tos for Saffron’s asparagus salad and @DakotaJazzClub’s carrot cake, @HotDishBlog announces the Strib “Taste” section’s 7:30pm showing of “Mildred Pierce” tomorrow night at the Heights, and @Peace_Coffee and @HigherGroundsTC face off about baseball and Michigan’s brewing talent.

September 3 State Fair Roundup

Seems like we gotta run out of State Fair stuff soon, right? Not quite yet: Cafe Cyan wraps up Minnesota Cooks at the State Fair and her Fair food tour, Rick Nelson’s Top Ten bites from the Fair, and via our Flickr pool: funnel cakes, idyllic caprese on a stick, and Gizmo sandwiches awaiting baking by uisgeaon, plus Mouth Trap cheese curds by Pfutz.

Five Minnesota State Fair Pairings

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Sharing a bench with a jostling crowd of strangers may not have the same cachet as sitting down to a table topped with a white linen table cloth, but a pairing at the Minnesota State Fair can be as classic or sophisticated as a recommendation from a sommelier. The criteria for a pairing at the Minnesota State Fair involves more than taste. Proximity, portion, and price are key factors to a perfect State Fair pairing.

Sweet Martha’s Cookies and Milk

As long as there have been cookies people have been dunking them in milk, thereby transforming the texture of the cookie and flavoring the milk. It’s a classic pairing at home, but at the State Fair it goes beyond just having milk — for Sweet Martha’s cookies, you have to ensure you have enough milk. A regular ($5) or large ($6) cone of cookies comes piled high, often requiring two hands and sometimes the assistance of a friend to balance. A bucket of cookies ($14) is filled with an entire sheet, approximately 4 dozen cookies. For that many cookies one glass of milk from Sweet Martha’s ($2) just won’t do. Next to the barns is the all-you-can-drink milk stand where you can get a bottomless cup of chocolate or regular milk for a dollar.

Cider Freeze and Peach Glazed Pork Cheeks

Pork and apples are about as classic a food pairing as they come. The hefty serving of tender pork cheeks dished up by Famous Dave’s ($5) brings a bit of heat and a lot of bulk — pair it up with the $1 Cider Freeze from the Agriculture Building. The Freeze lasts a shockingly long time, and it is as cooling and naturally sweet as the cheeks are hot, meaty, and spicy.

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Roasted Corn and Lemonade

Nestled at the base of the Grandstand, the Roasted Corn stand fills the air with smoke and sweetness. Two ears ($3 each) can easily be held in one hand by the husks that are pulled back and wrapped with a napkin. Across the street at the Fresh Lemonade and Cheese stand (the one with a giant lemon on top) is the lemonade that is a perfect pair with an ear of corn. You can get a regular ($3.50) or a jumbo ($5) — either way, the tart attack of the lemonade is a natural complement to the mellow sweetness of the corn.

Summit-on-a-Stick and a Flowering Onion

The Fair’s finest flowering onion ($8, with free sides of ranch, cheese, or ketchup) can be had near the haunted house. Once you’ve obtained it, wander over to the Summit stand at the International Bazaar, queue up, and then order a Summit-on-a-Stick ($7.50). The hole-y souvenir paddle holds three 7 oz. glasses filled with EPA, Oktoberfest, and Horizon Red. Armed with three different beers, you’re set to conquer the giant onion, an item that might otherwise get boring; sipping three different beers helps to keep each bit of fried onion goodness compelling to the end.

Pronto Pup and a Pickle-on-a-Stick

A pairing doesn’t always mean a food and drink. The Pronto Pup ($3.50) and pickle on a stick ($2.50) is the perfect State Fair double fist. Located in front of the Frontier Saloon is the Pickle Dog stand; as fate would have it, it’s right next to a Pronto Pup stand. You can turn around and watch people get launched in the ejection seat and you take alternating bites of your meal on sticks. A side of chips on a stick would be the only thing that could make this a better pairing.

Minnesota vs. Iowa: Battle of the State Fair Food

Sara Rice / Heavy Table
Sara Rice / Heavy Table

Even for a region of the country renowned for the wholesomeness and popularity of its state fairs, the Minnesota and Iowa fairs deserve special recognition. While the Iowa State Fair has had books, musicals, and a movie made about it, Minnesota has got sheer size on its side — it has the highest average daily attendance rate in the nation.

In an effort to crown an undisputed champion — at least as far as food is concerned — a comparison of the two fairs’ edibles seemed appropriate. From each rival, we sampled two fair standbys, one new item to each fair, and one longtime favorite. (In all the composite photos taken for this story, the Minnesota item is shown on the left, Iowa on the right.)

Standbys: Corndog

Sara Rice / Heavy Table
Sara Rice / Heavy Table

Judging criteria: Dog flavor, cornbread flavor, freshness, and overall quality.

Minnesota’s corn dog had a light, sweet batter that was cooked perfectly crisp on the outside, leaving just the right amount of corn batter goodness on the inside. The oil was clearly fresh, and the dog had great flavor, with hints of mace that delicious dogs boast.

Iowa’s, too, had a crispy outside, but was more overdone than Minnesota’s (you can see the slightly burned edges at the top in the photo), although it maintained a sweet and moist inside, perhaps indicating the frying oil temperature was off. Its dog worked well with the batter, but it wasn’t particularly flavorful. It earns points for being hand-sticked and battered, but not enough to take this round.

Corndog winner: Minnesota, for a more flavorful dog and more evenly cooked cornbread coating.

Sara Rice / Heavy Table
Sara Rice / Heavy Table

Standbys: Cheese Curds

Judging criteria: Cheese flavor, freshness, and overall quality

There are only a small handful of cheese curd vendors at either fair, but if location count isn’t an indicator, the wait times in long lines are evidence enough of their popularity.

Minnesota’s cheese curds (multiple locations and vendors; we sampled The Original Cheese Curds at Underwood and Carnes) were delicious — still hot and greasy (OK, very greasy), with just the right amount of saltiness to let a decent cheese flavor come through. And they were still squeaky, to boot.

Curiously enough, Iowa’s cheese curds (multiple locations; we sampled the ones at the Midway entrance) are sold by the same vendor as the ones we sampled at the Minnesota State Fair. The difference: they add flour before frying the curds in Minnesota, but they don’t in Iowa. The flour reduces the saltiness, and in theory, would diminish the flavor because it’s a filler. But not so with cheese curds, apparently. Iowa’s curds, although crispy and fresh, were tasteless and “all oil,” according to my travel companion.

Cheese curd winner: Minnesota, for superior cheese flavor, although it was a close victory.

Sara Rice / Heavy Table
Sara Rice / Heavy Table

New fair item: The Frydog vs. Frozen S’mores on-a-stick

Judging criteria: Gastronomic innovation, flavor, long-term potential, and portability.

Minnesota’s Frydog, found at Blue Moon Drive-In (Carnes and Chambers), is a hot dog-on-a-stick that has been coated in smashed waffle fries, deep fried, and served with your choice of dipping sauce. It’s the love child of the all-American meal of corndogs and French fries. Unfortunately, this seemingly tremendous combination of two of the most-loved Fair items just doesn’t deliver. The fry coating is uneven, leaving some spots chewy and over-cooked while others are a thick pillow of mashed potato. And with an uneven fry coating comes issues with portability: The shell started coming off after the first bite. By the last two inches (of a roughly six-inch dog), it had completely fallen off and I was using my hands. If not for the basket, it wouldn’t have lasted even that long. The bright spot? The dog was the best I’ve had at a fair all year. Clearly 100% beef, the flavor shone through, one delicious, salty, beefy bite after another. The dipping sauces were a nice addition, but once again failing on the portability front, arriving in condiment cups. Innovation aside, it’s unlikely to rise to the same ranks as other treats, such as Fudge Puppies or funnel cakes.

Iowa’s new Fair item, frozen s’mores-on-a-stick (Pavillion, street level), were equally lackluster. The item really wasn’t frozen (lukewarm, at best), so the marshmallow was sticky; the ratio of graham cracker-to-marshmallow- to-chocolate was thrown off by coating the whole thing in chocolate. Moreover: It was even less portable than the frydog, falling off of its stick after two bites (of four). You’d be better off making them in your microwave if you can’t get your campfire fix. It’s a terrible value proposition at $3.50, and, overall, it doesn’t stack up against even the underwhelming Frydog.

New fair item winner: Minnesota, for innovation and a hot dog with fantastic flavor.

State Fair-on-a-Stick

Lori Writer / Heavy Table
Lori Writer / Heavy Table

My State Fair regimen is rigorous.

First: There are my Must-Do’s, the things I do and see because I’ve always done and seen them. It wouldn’t be the State Fair otherwise: crop art; butterheads; the big pig; the DNR fish pond; 4-H exhibits; Little Farm Hands; the Little Brown Jug (God willing).

Next are the secondary items, the ones I only have time to rotate through bi- or triennially. Naturally, the more times any given activity appears in rotation, the more likely it will attain Must-Do status, further crowding my overly demanding schedule.

And then there’s the food. Must-Do’s: cheese curds, cream puffs, French fries, Sweet Martha’s cookies, honey sunflower seed ice cream, Pronto Pup, milkshake, corn roast, spaghetti and meatball-on-a-stick. And whatever improbable food item is new this year, bonus points if it has been pierced by a stick, is deep-fried, or involves potatoes in any form. Last year that was the Pig Licker. In 2006, Tater Tot Hot Dish-on-a-Stick.

This year, I have my sights on Blue Moon’s Fry Dog, which the food finder describes as “a French fry covered, deep fried hot dog on-a-stick.” Stick? Check. Fried? Check. Potatoes? Check. Clearly, a Must-Do.

I once was able to accomplish all of my Must-Do’s — culinary or otherwise — in a single, intense, sweaty day. Start early; wear practical shoes; watch out for stroller people. Lately, it’s expanded to two full days. And let’s face it, folks, things aren’t getting done, despite tense negotiations with my spouse over whose Must-Do’s need to get pushed into secondary rotation. For instance, I can’t understand why we need to wait in line every year to beg a free Star Tribune when a perfectly nice one appears on our doorstep every morning. He doesn’t understand the point of 10 quiet, blissful minutes in the Meditation Tent.

I’m in serious danger of failing at State Fair, one of my most sacred responsibilities as a Minnesotan. (And there are only two others: navigating the treacherous Mother’s Day vs. Fishing Opener Conflict and mastering the deadpan delivery for that joke about Minnesota having only two seasons.)  I’ve considered calling in sick to work, but haven’t. Yet.

Something needs to change.

In the interest of efficiency, marital harmony, and continued employment, I present to you to the  Heavy Table’s proposed new food item for the Great Minnesota Get Together, 2010: State Fair-on-a-Stick, an entire State Fair meal, from cheese curd appetizer to caramel apple dessert, dunked in a beer batter and deep-fried. On a stick, one stick. Consult your Blue Ribbon Coupon Book’s two-for-one coupon for a fizzy Alka-Seltzer chaser. No more racing from booth to booth, just one easy stop.

Sure, you’ll look silly carrying it, but what’s a small dent in your ego compared to losing your Minnesota cred?

Lori Writer / Heavy Table
Lori Writer / Heavy Table

State Fair-on-a-Stick

Serves 1

1 sheet of caramel
1 wedge of Zestar apple (Aamodt’s Apple Farm)
½ hot dog (Kramarczuk’s or St. Joseph’s Meat Market)
1 cross-section, ¾-inch wide, of Minnesota-grown sweet corn on the cob, cooked
1 cheese curd ( U of M Dairy Salesroom)
1 wooden skewer
Canola oil, for deep-frying

Almost Pronto Pup Beer Batter:

1 c all-purpose flour (Gold Medal or Pillsbury)
1 c cornmeal (Swany White)
¼ c rice flour
2 tbsp powdered milk
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp salt
12-oz bottle beer (Summit India Pale Ale)

Toppings:

Ketchup, for drizzling on cheese curd (Chef Shack recipe)
Butter, for dolloping on corn (Hope Creamery)
Mustard, for drizzling on hot dog (Hell’s Kitchen)
Honey, for drizzling on caramel apple (U of M)

Instructions:

  1. Cut your bamboo skewer to slightly under the width of your deep-fryer.
  2. In a deep-fryer, heat oil to 375°.
  3. Wrap caramel around apple wedge, trimming any excess with kitchen shears. Pinch closed.
  4. Slide each item onto skewer in the reverse order that you would eat them: dessert (caramel apple first), then hot dog, corn, cheese curd.  Leave enough room at the bottom of the skewer for you to be able to hold it.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together batter ingredients until there are no lumps. Spoon beer batter over loaded skewer.
  6. Using kitchen tongs to hold skewer at the bare end, lower skewer into deep-fryer.
  7. Fry until coating is golden brown, turning once or twice, about three minutes.
  8. Remove with kitchen tongs.
  9. Drizzle with toppings.

By the way, if you just wanted to enjoy some battered and fried cheese curds at home? Say, in the dead of winter when you wish the weather would channel late August for just a day or two?  Cheese curds+the above beer batter recipe+steps 2, 5, 7, & 8+Chef Shack’s bacon ketchup turns out pretty darn tasty.