Heavy Table Hot Five: April 6-12

hotfive-flames

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

Amy Rea / Heavy Table

1-new - one - hot fiveSplit Rock at Northern Coffeeworks
The Split Rock at Northern Coffeeworks is like a caffeine flight: You get a cool, light, sparkling iced tea, a bracing single shot of espresso, and a smooth, creamy, not overly sweet maple pecan cortado. Hot, cold, bitter, sweet, everything is here. Not available to go.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveTaza Chocolate Mexicano from Lakewinds Co-op
Taza’s Mexicano disks are formed from chocolate that was stone ground with small amounts of nuts. They make a dense, deeply flavored, transformative beverage that could go a long way toward improving ones attitude toward “spring” weather. You heat a cup of milk (or even water), break a disk into it, and beat with a whisk or molinillo to create a froth.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Jane Rosemarin]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fiveRed Jasmine Tea at Midori’s Floating World Cafe
Are we allowed to submit suggestions that are merely mild and soothing in flavor, but utterly spectacular in appearance? If so, here’s a beverage to consider: the aptly named art teas at Midori’s Floating World. Our mellow red jasmine tea looked like a specimen from a Victorian botanical garden, and it fascinated our table.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted from the East Lake Checklist by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveCopacetic Kölsch by Utepils
We fell in love with Kölsch many years ago when it kicked off Summit’s Unchained series of beers, and every time we find a good example of this crisp, light, clean, delicious beer it makes our day. Cheers to Utepils for putting out a version that hits all the right refreshingly understated notes.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #4 | Submitted by James Norton]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveStickney Hill Blueberry Chevre
The earthy, funky, tart, sweetness of wild blueberries brings a tremendous range of flavors to the clean, mellow neutrality of chevre, making this 4-ounce log a veritable one-stop-shop appetizer.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a review by James Norton]

Brooklyn Park’s Vietnamese Food Scene, Part 2

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

A few months ago, we ventured up to Brooklyn Park after hearing rumors that there was a lively and growing Vietnamese scene there. Turned out we’d heard right, and our first visit left us hankering for a return. So back we went, looking for three more Vietnamese eateries, and following the same simple rule as last time: no pho or banh mi, because those are everywhere. We wanted to try what isn’t so easily found.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Our first stop was Thanh Vi, an attractive, large restaurant in a small strip mall (which our server told us was owned by the restaurant owner). Like many of the restaurants we visited, Thanh Vi’s menu has its share of Americanized items, but then you come to the category marked Authentic Vietnamese Dishes, later followed by a section titled Thanh Vi Dishes, and things become interesting.

We began with an iced French coffee with condensed milk ($3.55), a classic Vietnamese drink, and one we’d thoroughly enjoyed at Phuong Trang. Thanh Vi’s was equally delicious, but while Phuong Trang served the coffee brewing with a phin filter, so diners get the full experience, Thanh Vi’s came already brewed and assembled in a plastic to-go cup with a straw — not the same experience at all.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

That, however, was our only disappointment at Thanh Vi. After much debate, we started with Com Tam Bi, Cha, Tau Hu Ky, Tom, Thit Nurong ($13.65), or broken rice with grilled shrimp, grilled pork, shredded pork, egg loaf, and shrimp paste in bean curd wrap. Both the grilled shrimp and grilled pork were tender and slightly sweet, with a nice amount of char to round out that sweetness. The egg loaf was mild and seemed design to be paired with the more assertive barbecued meats. The shredded pork was almost like a vegetable side dish, very mild and soft. Perhaps the most surprising thing was the shrimp paste in bean curd wrap. One person at the table noted that it had an egg roll vibe to it, but funkier, and enhanced by dipping in the traditional fish sauce. Altogether, it was a platter meant to combine and play with rather than eat one item at a time.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

We were excited to see that Thanh Vi offered several soups not in the pho category, and when we asked our server what he’d recommend, he pointed to Hy Tieu Nam Vang ($8.75), a soup made with noodles, barbecued pork, shrimp, squid, imitation crab, and fish and pork balls. This was a surprisingly delicate soup, almost Japanese in feel, mild but with a depth of richness. The thinly sliced pork practically melted in our mouths, and the fish and pork balls were soft and gentle. The soup came with a large plate of bean sprouts, jalapeño slices, and Thai basil, all of which added flavor and texture to this subtle soup.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The true surprise came with the Hu Tieu Bo Kho ($9.45), a beef stew with carrots, onions, noodles (choice of egg or rice noodles — we went with our server’s recommendation of egg), five-spice powder, and lemongrass. This was unlike any beef stew ever tasted by anyone at the table. The broth was more souplike than stewlike (by our American definition, of course) — complex, rich and intense, full of lemongrass flavor. Large chunks of tender beef had just a light taste of anise. It occurred to us to try adding a little sriracha (available at the table, along with several other Asian condiments), and to our surprise, a dollop of sriracha didn’t ratchet up the heat; instead, it almost disappeared into the broth and kicked up the lemongrass element instead — an entirely welcome development.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Having been more than happy with most of our choices at Thanh Vi, we knew that our next destination was starting at a bit of a disadvantage. Fortunately for Hip Sing BBQ, we were able to disengage from the previous stop by the sheer difference in environments and menus. Hip Sing is housed in what appears to be a former drive-in, with customer parking in the former drive-in slots. Inside, it’s a cheery, bright place, with several large round tables that have rotating glass plates on them, the better to eat family-style with a crowd. (And, in fact, Hip Sing offers fixed-price family-style dinners ranging from $128-$218, for 8-10 people.) Hip Sing has an extensive menu, with plenty of basics, but it also offers a large variety of deli and barbecue items, and that’s what attracted our attention — not to mention the vivid display of bright-red roasted ducks hanging behind the counter.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

So the first thing we asked for was Roast Duck ($13.95 half, $21.50 whole for red or plain). Our half red duck arrived glistening, and it proved to be wonderfully tender, tasting like well-cooked dark chicken meat with a rich, earthy sauce that had traces of hoisin and soy. It was fatty, there were little bones, but who cares? This is pick-it-up-with-your-fingers-and-gnaw-to-your-heart’s-content meat.

East Lake Checklist: Midtown Global Market

WACSO / Heavy Table

Our group of 11 gathered in the central hall of the Midtown Global Market. We shoved a few tables together and called that home base. Each of us was assigned a food vendor and given enough cash to order the specialty of the house along with something else that sounded interesting.

We returned with our offerings and set them down. Our table looked like a feast for a gluttonous king and his court. Soon the surface became strewn with the detritus of 11 people picking and poking at kolaches and pizza and lamb shanks and baba ghanouj. We used our grubby fingers and any available plastic utensil. We slurped and gnawed and grunted out our thoughts about the food. By the time we’d wiped away the drippings from our various tortas, tacos and dumplings, our thin, biodegradable napkins had pretty much biodegraded in our hands.

WACSO / Heavy Table

Then it was time for round two.

We loosened our belts, grabbed our cash, and did it all again. 17 different places, more than 40 menu items, all in a two-hour span.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

If you’re unfamiliar with the setup of the Midtown Global Market, imagine a large indoor bazaar with merchants offering cuisines and other goods from around the globe. So yeah, it’s pretty much what it sounds like: a global market. It’s housed in a gorgeous Art Deco stone building that towers over Lake Street like a capitol. This place once housed a bustling Sears store and catalog center. But where there were once stacks of tools and blue jeans and children’s toys, there are now stacks of tamales and baked goods and, yes, still a few children’s toys.

Prior to its opening in 2006, the Midtown Global Market was nothing more than the noble idea of a few local business owners. Today, it stands as a testament to the power of doggedly pursuing a vision. It could have been just another anonymous development. Instead, the Midtown Global Market is one of those special places that helps define a city. We’re lucky to have it.

Pro tip: You can get an hour of free parking in the ramp on the east side of the market. Just try not to forget to get your ticket validated as you stuff your face with … good lord, take your pick. — M.C. Cronin

This week’s checklist crew: WACSO, M.C. Cronin, Becca Dilley, James Norton, Josiah Norton, Peter Sieve, Jon Campbell, Blake Iverson, Dave Friedman, Jane Rosemarin, Ted Held

OTHER EAST LAKE STREET CHECKLIST INSTALLMENTS: Lake Plaza, Gorditas el Gordo to Pineda Tacos, Taqueria Victor Hugo to Safari Restaurant, El Sabor Chuchi to The Rabbit Hole, Midtown Global Market, Miramar to San Miguel Bakery, Mercado Central, Ingebretsen’s to Pasteleria Gama, La Alborada to Quruxlow, Midori’s Floating World to El Nuevo Rodeo, Urban Forage to Himalayan, Blue Moon Coffee Cafe to Merlin’s Rest, Hi Lo Diner to The Bungalow Club

ABOUT THIS PROJECT

The East Lake Checklist is the third Heavy Table illustrated travelogue to explore a major gastronomic thoroughfare in Minneapolis and/or St. Paul. The East Lake Checklist is the Heavy Table’s follow-up to our 55-restaurant survey of independent eateries on Central Avenue and our 72-restaurant series about restaurants on the Green Line. We’ll publish five-restaurant installments biweekly until we’ve documented every nonchain spot on East Lake Street between 35W and the Mississippi River. (We’re estimating 75 spots, but we’ll see how it shakes out.)

This series is made possible by underwriting from Visit Lake Street. Heavy Table retains editorial control of the series — as with Central Avenue and the Green Line, this tour will be warts-and-all.

“From the river to the lakes, visitors and residents can shop local and be social on Lake Street. More information at VisitLakeStreet.com.”

Andy’s Garage

Andy’s Garage is boldly and proudly a burgers-and-fries kinda joint, so that’s the way we went. We tried the bacon- and barbecue-sauce-bedecked Rugged Burger ($9.50, with an order of fries) and found that it lived up to its name: a charred, appropriately salty umami bomb on a respectable bun. Whatever you order at Andy’s Garage, make sure fries are part of the equation. It’s a treat to watch an employee grab a whole potato from a crate, smash it through an old-school metal fry-cutter, and fry up the strips while you watch. Our fries were delicious — simple, robust, well-seasoned.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

We weren’t as enthusiastic about our chocolate shake ($4), which suffered from anemic ice cream that was much more “ice” than “cream” and standard-issue pumps of Hershey’s Syrup (which always leans toward sugar as opposed to real chocolate flavor). The shake was, it should be said, nice and thick.

Heavy Table Hot Five: Oct. 13-19

hotfive-flames

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 fiveLox it Down! at the Hennepin Avenue Five Watt Coffee
The newly opened Hennepin Avenue location of Five Watt Coffee has a food menu that revolves around quality hot dogs, a couple of panini, and a lox-on-rye creation called the Lox it Down! We’ve eaten our share of smorrebrod (Scandinavian open-faced sandwiches), and this rye, lox, capers, arugula, and cream cheese sandwich definitely strikes a Nordic chord: It’s mild, mellow, and totally pleasing, with the dry rye toast counteracting any of the potentially unpleasant moisture of the lox, and capers bringing a touch of tartness to the party.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an Instagram post by James Norton]

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveYou Can Rum But You Can’t Hide from Hola Arepa
If you like a boozy cocktail, this is the drink for you. It’s built from Cruzan light rum, Cruzan dark rum, cinnamon grenadine, falernum, orange liqueur, lime, and grapefruit. Falernum, a cordial made from an infusion of citrus, spices, nuts, and sugar is what makes this drink so amazingly zingy. Drink responsibly.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Brenda Johnson]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fivePear-Chocolate Tart from Solomon’s Bakery
The beautiful pear-chocolate tart from Solomon’s Bakery at the Mill City Farmers Market is lighter than it appears. The chocolate filling is rich but delicate, as is the crust. The pears are from another Mill City vendor, and before being baked, they’re carefully cored, so the consumer has only to gently pull on the stem for the center to be easily lifted out. Autumn on a plate.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveQuesadilla de Flor de Calabazas at Don Chilo at Lake Plaza
The single most astonishing thing we ate while touring Lake Plaza on East Lake Street was the Quesadilla de Flor de Calabazas (around $8; no prices on menu). The tortilla was made on site and then filled with a combination of two cheeses, squash blossoms, mushrooms, onions, and peppers. It was chewy, tender, gooey, earthy, full-flavored, and downright elegant.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from this week’s East Lake Checklist by James Norton]

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveShrimp to Share at Tilia
I can’t think of one item on Tilia’s menu that we don’t like. Sitting at the kitchen counter is an epicurean overload … so enjoyable if you’re into that sort of thing. We watched as items were passed to the wait staff, trying to see something we have not had, and the shrimp caught our eye. Shrimp, peas, fermented black beans, spicy sauce, and grilled scallions are presented on an herby and decorative puree. Not a carb in sight to soak up the juice, but a spoon did the trick.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Brenda Johnson]

Northern Coffeeworks in Downtown Minneapolis

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Sometimes one has to wonder how many more coffee shops the metro area can hold. Then one visits the newest entry, Northern Coffeeworks on Washington Avenue South, and one thinks, “There’s room.”

Northern Coffeeworks (or NC, as it calls itself) is a collaborative venture started by the people behind Angry Catfish. The shop worked with Wisconsin’s Ruby Roasters and Illinois’ Intelligentsia Coffee, which also supply Catfish.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

But where Angry Catfish sells bikes along with its coffee, NC sells food. Here again is a bit of collaboration across the local food world: The NC developers reached out to J.D. Fratzke, who in turn connected them to NC’s chef, Cassandra Swanson, who has worked in the kitchen for Fratzke and Lenny Russo, as well as at Wise Acre Eatery, Co-op Creamery Cafe, and Mississippi Market.

The result is a sleek, light and airy coffee shop, somewhat akin to Anelace Coffee, but with food prepared in-house from a menu that’s far beyond a few baked goods. The menu notes that ingredients are sourced locally, including from the perennial favorites Ferndale Market and Peterson Craftsman Meats, with wild rice supplied by the Red Lake Nation and bread and pastries from Patisserie 46.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table
Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Those ingredients are put to good and interesting use. We tried the Avocado Toast ($8), which came looking surprisingly sparse or, to put it mildly, deconstructed — several slices of toasted country bread with pickled radishes and avocado slices liberally sprinkled with black sea salt. That was it? Nonplussed, we began assembling our toast. But the dish proved to be a good reminder that with good ingredients, you don’t need to fuss much; the avocado was at just the right state of ripeness, the bread toasted and barely buttered, the pickled radishes tangy without overwhelming the milder avocado.

Wesley Andrews in Whittier

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

It’s not as if the Twin Cities was facing a dire shortage of quality coffee and tea purveyors. Even so, Wesley Andrews, near Eat Street, has carved out a unique niche in that market, and it’s doing good work.

The shop’s tagline is “Conversation Complements,” and that goes both for the customers, who can enjoy a quality, hand-crafted beverage and for the owners, Johan Podlweski and Jared Thompson, whose approach to sourcing involves getting to know farmers and making sure they’re treated fairly and humanely.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

All of which is lovely but doesn’t mean much if the beverages are secondary to the shop’s mission. That’s not the case with Wesley Andrews. The menu is somewhat more limited than the average coffee/tea shop’s. While you’ll find add-ons like chocolate and honey, what you don’t see is an extensive line of vanilla-caramel-pumpkin-spice whipped-cream lattes and frozen drinks. The choices are clean and simple, and more oriented to the savory than the sweet, with the menu divided between coffee and espresso drinks and a variety of teas and kombucha. The shop doesn’t offer food items, but if you want a pastry with your coffee or tea, you’ll be fine; Glam Doll Donuts is just two blocks away.

The Lynhall in Minneapolis

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

It’s hard to be truly excellent at just one thing. Being excellent at a half dozen things is a lot trickier.

The Lynhall, a stylish new eatery in the Calhoun-Isles neighborhood of South Minneapolis, bills itself as a “market-inspired cafe, event space, kitchen studio, and incubator kitchen.” In one fell swoop, The Lynhall sets out to do quite a lot. In scope, space, and concept, it’s ambitious. To the everyday diner, this translates to a counter-service restaurant and bakery that offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily — along with an espresso bar, and wine, beer and cocktail service. There just happens to be a TV kitchen studio on site, and half the restaurant is sometimes shuttered for private dining events. Overall, we found The Lynhall to be a bit of a mess — but a sometimes appealing one.

Let’s start at the front door. Step into The Lynhall, and you’ll find yourself in a restaurant of some kind. What that restaurant is, and how it works, is a little mysterious at first glance.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

We found out, after a long period of oafish gazing, that you order food at a counter in the back — but first you must “enter through the gift shop,” as it were. On our initial visit to The Lynhall for dinner, we were greeted by a fully realized brand, hard at work. Aesthetically, the space is a meticulously curated Pinterest board come to life, teeming with Stuff White People Like: brass accents and white tile, marble, bold light fixtures, reclaimed wood, shelves full of brass and copper knickknacks that look straight out of a West Elm catalogue, flat paint finishes, candelabras, and creamy shades of green-gray. Upon entry, you are welcomed by a table full of merch emblazoned with The Lynhall’s motto (Eat. Drink. Gather. Grow.), and a sign exhorting you to “Join our online community!” Their Instagram handle and preferred hashtag are featured prominently.

Cool.

A greeting like that inspires our bullshit antennae to extend rigidly, expectantly, longingly. And yet with a concept as overflowing as The Lynhall’s, perhaps we can give it the benefit of the doubt, and not immediately assume that the mission-driven language and community-building goals described on its website are a cynical attempt to acquire a Scrooge-MacDuck-sized vault’s worth of free PR via its customers’ endless ‘Gramming. After all, it takes a lot of time, energy, and passion to create a place like this. And money. And while it’s clear that a lot of resources were poured into the space and the concept, the flavors of the food itself don’t yet live up to the promise held within the meticulous design and branding. After all, you can’t lick a light fixture. Or at least not without some kind of social penalty.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

So, let’s talk about the food. For dinner, we ordered what seemed an appealing variety of dishes. The menu is divvied up into Sandwiches, Salads, Sides, and From the Rotisserie. First up was the Brioche Open Faced ($11), essentially a gussied up avocado toast. Beautifully composed, with thinly shaved raw veggies and pickles, it looked the part, and we spied other diners snapping photos of the selfsame dish with their phones. But its flavor fell flat. Avocados need salt, and this sandwich was not seasoned. The raw veggies were watery. The pickled veggies were few and lacked the punchy zing we hoped for. The brioche that supported this beautiful mess was dry and tough. A total miss that an Instagram filter can’t make taste better.

Half Caff from Just Coffee Co-op

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

There are people who drink caffeine all day long. Then there are people who heroically avoid it and drink only decaffeinated products. But in between, there’s a third group: the half-caffers.

People go half-caff for a number of reasons, whether it’s because they want to give up some, but not all, of their caffeine for general health and well-being issues or they’re en route to weaning themselves from caffeine altogether. Coffee drinks like lattes and mochas can easily be customized this way, but for the home brewer, there isn’t always a lot of choice, other than trying to mix your own bean blends and hope they turn out OK. For a while, Minneapolis’ Peace Coffee offered Split Decision, a coffee available in whole bean or ground, but they recently announced they’re discontinuing it as part of an effort to freshen up their line.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative not that far away. Just Coffee Co-op in Madison, Wis., offers Half Caff, a blend of Guatemalan and Sumatran coffee beans that’s low-acid and rich and smooth in flavor. It’s something they’ve offered since the early 2000s, after a customer came to their booth at a farmers market and suggested the idea, noting that a lot of people would love to have the option of a half-caff blend.

Just Coffee tried the idea, playing with different roasts until they found a combination they liked, and it has been a popular item for them ever since. The beans are roasted separately, which gives staff the chance to sample them on their own and make sure they pair well with each other before combining them for sale. The decaf portion comes from beans that are water-washed, allowing Just to retain the organic label for them.

Half Caff can be ordered directly from Just Coffee in either whole bean or a choice of three grinds, at a price of $14 for 12 ounces, $32 for 2 pounds, or $73 for 5 pounds. Some Twin Cities co-ops, such as Eastside and Lakewinds, carry the 12-ounce size as well for $12-$14, depending on location.

Modist First Call Cold Press Coffee Lager

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

I love the cognitive dissonance created by pouring a glass of Modist First Call Cold Press Coffee Lager. If you read the words “cold press coffee” in a beer context, your brain immediately shuts off — you know that the liquid will be dark as tar, possibly equally thick, and swamped with a smoky, roasty, coffee-powered maltiness.

But no: Modist has made a coffee beer that pours golden amber in color. On the nose, it doesn’t even present as heavily coffee-driven. It’s got a bit of funk and brightness, preparing you in no way for what happens when this 6.5% ABV liquid hits your palate.

In fact, depending upon where the beer hits your tongue, you’ll get markedly different results. Up front, you’ll taste an almost fruity brightness and more hops than you might expect for the brew’s mellow 20 IBU. But as you roll the liquid around your mouth, you’ll get a serious coffee kick, one that shows up somewhere in the middle of each sip and grows dramatically as you swallow.

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

Is it refreshing to drink? Is it satisfying like a good cup of joe? Is it a clash, or a complement? This stuff is complicated enough to open up real debate. If someone said: “I can’t drink that stuff. It’s confusing and weird,” that would be a reasonable conclusion. If someone said: “I’m drinking this stuff non-stop. It’s delicious, and no one else is doing anything quite like it,” that’s legit as well.

If you’re easily confused, try your first glass blindfolded. It may help. Then again, it may not. Either way, it’s worth giving a try. It’s newly out in tallboy cans and guaranteed to get the beer people in your life talking (in, we suspect, a generally good way).

Piper’s Coffee and Burger Bar in Eden Prairie

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table
Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Back in 2009, when Eden Prairie was mostly home to chains and didn’t have the likes of Gogi Bros, Bay Leaf Indian Cuisine, and Tavern 4&5, Jenny and Mark Jundt opened JJ’s Coffee Company & Wine Bistro. The food offered had some execution issues, but the inviting space quickly drew a loyal following.

Times change, and there are now more independent eateries offering higher-quality food. And people change too, especially when they, as Jenny Jundt recently did, add a baby to the household. Now JJs has rebranded itself as Piper’s Coffee & Burger Bar, named after baby Piper, and the menu has been overhauled. While some of the previous menu items are still present, the focus now is on an extensive, intriguing list of burgers, from the basic cheeseburger to more exotic offerings.

A recent visit found that the rebrand (and, presumably, the baby) seems to have inspired something in the folks in Piper’s kitchen. We tried three burgers and were more than pleased. All of them had thick, hand-formed patties cooked to our specification and served on a rich, buttery brioche bun. The one lament was a lack of salt.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table
Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

The Hangover Burger ($12) would be an excellent cure for that condition, with generous slabs of oozing sharp Cheddar and smoky, thick-cut bacon, topped with a soft fried egg and hot sauce. It may not be the most original of the burgers we tried, but it was a solid rendition.

More interesting was the Farmer John ($13), which offered more of that thick-cut bacon (it’s on many of the burgers, and who can argue with that?) along with mushrooms and onions cooked in red wine and topped with provolone, rosemary, arugula, and aioli. The sweeter mushrooms and onions were a nice offset to the peppery arugula and pungent rosemary.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table
Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

The favorite of the visit — by a close margin — was the Whistlestop ($12). This iteration swapped out the bacon for some delicately crispy pieces of speck along with fried tomatoes and onions. There was also a sizable mound of Gorgonzola, not melted, as described in the menu, but as it turned out, that was fine. The sharpness of the cheese was balanced by the smoky speck and zippy arugula, a wonderful mix of textures and flavors. Even the non-blue-cheese fan at our table said she’d order this one again.

Burgers come with a choice of fries: regular, sweet potato, or Buffalo. The first two could have used more time in the fryer, coming out soggy rather than with a crunchy texture, but the Buffalo fries, drenched in Buffalo sauce, ranch dressing, chopped bacon, and red onions, earned approval from everyone at the table. They would be a great choice on its own along with some of the tap beers Piper’s is in the process of adding.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table
Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Piper’s Burger & Coffee Bar, 7942 Mitchell Rd, Eden Prairie, 55344; 952.974.1000; Mon-Thu 6 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri 6 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat 7 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

Heavy Table Hot Five: Nov. 4-10

hotfive-flames

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
James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - oneCroissants at Meritage
It stands to reason that a by-the-book, no-shortcuts, directly French-inspired place like Meritage might have good croissants. On that supposition, we ordered one last Sunday for brunch and were treated to what may have been among the 10 best croissants we’ve ever tasted. Chewy, full of flavor, and so buttery and flaky that it practically exploded upon handling, this is one of those croissants that reminds you of the dish’s potential. Credit goes to Meritage pastry chef Michael Moore. Croissants will be on offer this weekend as well, so get out to Meritage for brunch, which starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

2-new - twoBreakfast Pizza at Rose Street Patisserie
Rose Street Patisserie has added an all-day breakfast pizza to its seasonal lineup. It’s sized for sharing, and it’s a decadent start to the day: crisp flatbread covered with a generous coating of mozzarella, topped with soft eggs and crisp, smoky bacon. Rich (but full of protein!), and will make any day start off better.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #2 | Submitted Amy Rea]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - three

Lingonberry Apple Tart with Caramel Anglaise by Jim Kyndberg of FireLake Grill
Last week, I served on a food writers’ panel at the International Foodservice Editorial Council (IFEC) conference at the Radisson Blu downtown. The “Up North Lunch” that followed, crafted by FireLake Grill Chef Jim Kyndberg, was strikingly good (the braised short rib and heirloom-corn-crusted walleye main was terrific). It was rounded out by one of the nicest desserts I’ve had in ages: a tiny, perfectly crunchy lingonberry tartlet that balanced sweet and tart flavors with incredible elan. Much like perfect seasoning on savory dishes, you don’t really appreciate how much a proper sweet-tart balance means for a dessert until you taste it.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]
Ruthie Young / Heavy Table
Ruthie Young / Heavy Table

4-new four

Birchwood Cafe’s Autumn Savory Waffle
The savory waffle is a staple on Birchwood Cafe’s menu, but the ingredients used to compose it change with each season. This fall’s rendition is a pumpkin, currant, and Swiss cheese waffle topped with bacon lardons, a sunnyside up egg, pear allspice butter, and red onion jam. We loved the sweet tang of the currants cooked into the waffle, and the fatty bacon lardons are reason enough to order the dish. The red onion jam erred on the side of too savory for our tastes, but hey–we ate it all! This special waffle is a true tale of the season, each quadrant waiting eagerly to tell you its own short story.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Ruthie Young]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveSummit Unchained #23, Dark Infusión
The latest in Summit’s Unchained series, Dark Infusión, is a smooth, lightly carbonated brew with a creamy, cheerful, malty character and a lingering coffee aftertaste that is both natural and clean, standing in for hops to balance the beer overall. There’s nothing syrupy or aggressively bitter here. Drinking Dark Infusión should be an uncomplicated pleasure for anyone who enjoys the marriage of coffee and dark beer.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a review by James Norton]

Summit Unchained #23 and Lift Bridge Cowlaboration #5

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

Flavored beer can be a dreadful thing. It can be overly sweet, it can be syrupy, it can be acrid, and it can taste — in a word — fake. The use of flavors can taint a good product or render a mediocre product terrible.

Flavored beer can be a wonderful thing. Locally, we’ve got some examples that would do well nearly anywhere that beer is enjoyed — everything from Bent Paddle’s lovely Cold Press Black Ale to Surly’s Cacao Bender to the lovely Raspberry Tart of New Glarus Brewing Company. (We also have fond feelings about the beers in Schell’s Noble Star series.)

Along with the flood of pumpkin and Oktoberfest beers crowding the shelves right now come a couple of more intriguing customers from the old-school brewers at Summit in St. Paul and the newer-school craft-beer crew at Lift Bridge Brewing Company in Stillwater.

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

Summit’s new stout, Dark Infusión, is the 23rd in the Unchained series. As is often (perhaps uniformly?) the case with Unchained beers, this one is essentially bulletproof. You might’ve made different decisions from the brewer, but only due to personal taste, not due to anything being off-kilter or unpleasant. Unchained #23 is a smooth, lightly carbonated brew with a creamy, cheerful, malty character and a lingering coffee aftertaste that is both natural and clean, standing in for hops in terms of balancing the beer overall. There’s nothing syrupy or aggressively bitter here. Drinking this should be an uncomplicated pleasure for anyone who enjoys the marriage of coffee and dark beer. Dark Infusión gives the excellent (and perhaps reigning local champ) Bent Paddle Cold Press Black Ale a run for its money.

Lift Bridge’s Cowlaboration #5 Coconut Porter (brewed in collaboration with the Red Cow restaurant team), in contrast to Summit’s well-centered effort, is a pretty direct customer. Coconut is bold and present in the nose, and each sip starts mild and clean and ends with a serious coconut wallop. Compared to Summit’s offering, the beer is unidimensional — flavor rules the roost. Whether that’s a bad or good thing depends entirely upon how you feel about coconuts. And while the taste is pronounced, it’s not acrid or tainted with aggressive sweetness.