Heavy Table’s 24 Best of 2017: #24-17

hotfive-flames

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

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

James Norton / Heavy Table

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

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

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

James Norton / Heavy Table

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

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

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

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

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

James Norton / Heavy Table

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

James Norton / Heavy Table

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

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

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

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

Delicata in Como, St. Paul

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

J.D. Fratzke and Matty O’Reilly have been busy. Between summer 2016 and March 2017, they opened two restaurants, Red River Kitchen and Bar Brigade. And now they’ve added Delicata, a casual Italian eatery in the Como neighborhood of St. Paul helmed by Noah Barton (former executive chef at Chino Latino). The newest member of the family has a lot in common with Punch Neapolitan Pizza. Like that local institution, Delicata offers a concise, pizza-focused menu emphasizing fresh ingredients in a family-friendly environment. And like the newer Punch locations, Delicata is counter-service only.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

But this newbie isn’t a knockoff. It adds unique twists to familiar dishes, often with great success (though limited, at times, by poor execution, but more on that in a bit). Take the Antipasto Platter ($12), for example. With sweet, plumped grapes, spicy giardiniera, savory gigante beans, salty cured meats and olives, and crunchy almonds, it’s a delicious adventure in flavor and texture.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Another starter, the Grilled Artichokes ($7) is a refreshing departure from standard artichoke dips: A quartet of smoky hearts pairs brilliantly with bright, nutty romesco sauce. Heaped on expertly bronzed crostini, the “dip” is spot on. The Big Mixed Salad ($12) also excellently updates a classic: We’d be thrilled if pickled onions, gigante beans, prosciutto, sliced egg, and marinated tomatoes became staples in pizza parlor salads.

Several pizzas showcase the Delicata team’s creativity and commitment to killer ingredients. The humbly named Pork Sausage ($12) is one of the most satisfying pies we can recall. It’s piled high with zesty meat, pillowy ricotta, and tender fennel slices; vibrant oregano and punchy romesco pull the aggressive elements into a cohesive whole.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

The Delicata Pizza, made with the eponymous winter squash ($12, top) is another inventive eye-opener. We were skeptical that combining naturally sweet squash and balsamic vinegar with salty prosciutto and blue cheese would work. But where we expected a power surge, instead we got a great balance of sweet and salty (if perhaps a bit too much blue cheese). A veggie option ($13, above) with artichoke, spinach, feta, and olives on rich red sauce doesn’t break new ground, but it’s as tasty as the more adventurous combos.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Delicata’s short list of desserts distances the restaurant from the pack. We’d travel far and wide for the Coconut Cake ($6). As one of our dining partners exclaimed, “That’s what dessert should look like — just stupid good.” Topped with small peaks of light meringue, the cake is moist, airy, and just the right amount of sweet. Slightly burnt shredded coconut is the secret not-secret ingredient, adding depth and texture to an already great slice of cake.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Both types of gelato we tried — pistachio and strawberry ($5 each) — held their own against the pastry. A little less dense and a little creamier than average gelato, these offerings explode with flavor. Given that Delicata bills itself as a pizza and gelato joint, we were surprised that it serves gelato from Sonny’s and Zia’s Gelato rather than make it in house.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Our excitement about Delicata’s desserts was, nonetheless, unable to smooth over the restaurant’s inconsistency. Some pizzas arrived crisp and adorned with beautiful leopard spots, while others showed up floppy and without char. Depending on the night, the Cheesy Garlic Bread ($5) was unappetizingly greasy or well-balanced and satisfying. Even the Big Mixed Salad varied visit to visit. After winning us over during on our first trip, it bombed on the second — limp greens seemed like they’d been dressed earlier in the evening rather than to order.

Delicata has the right ingredients to become an excellent neighborhood restaurant: a friendly vibe, comfortable indoor seating, a spacious patio, interesting yet approachable food, and rosé on tap. Given Fratzke’s and O’Reilly’s respective track records, we’re confident that Delicata will fix its consistency issues and, with a little luck, enjoy Punch-style success.

Jane Rosemarin edited this story; James Norton has worked closely with Noah Barton at Chef Camp.

Delicata
Pizzeria and Gelateria in the Como neighborhood of St. Paul

651.756.8123
1341 Pascal St
St. Paul, MN 55108
CHEF/OWNERS: Noah Barton / J.D. Fratzke and Matty O’Reilly
BAR: Beer and wine
VEGETARIAN/VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $9-$14
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
HOURS: Mon-Fri 4 p.m.-10 p.m.
Sat and Sun 10 a.m.-10 p.m. (Brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m., beginning Sept 23)
PARKING: Street

Heavy Table Hot Five: Aug. 18-24

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 fiveCoconut 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.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveKinoko Nabe at Kado no Mise
The flavor of the Kinoko Nabe (Mushroom Pot) at Kado no Mise brought me straight back to Japan. The hot clay pot contained a barely sweetened dashi in which young Japanese greens and a variety of mushrooms stewed. A grilled nebrodini mushroom lent its firm texture and smoky flavor, and a poached egg tied it all together.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Jane Rosemarin]

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fiveJacktober Märzen-Style Beer at Jack Pine Brewery
Jack Pine Brewery, in Baxter, Minn., does its part to uphold the reputation of out-state breweries. Visitors to the space are welcomed to a small, north-woods-esque taproom with a line of sight into the brewery. Try the Jacktober, a classic Märzen-style beer with a subtle hop finish that builds, sip by sip.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]

James Norton / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveAlt 1848 by Utepils
Maybe we were swayed by the gorgeous copper can this beer arrived in or by the setting (a friendly backyard poker game) but Utepils Alt 1848 is one of the most gregarious, easygoing, enjoyable craft brews we’ve tried this summer. Smooth and malty, mellow and just a touch earthy, this is a beer of real substance but no rough edges. It’s approachable and cheerful, and downright fun to drink.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveMeatball and Egg Roll Rice Plate at iPho by Saigon
When we ordered the meatball and egg roll rice plate at iPho, we weren’t expecting what we got: five thick red strips of minced, sauteed meat that looked vaguely hotdoglike scattered atop the rice perpendicular to the egg roll. But, by golly, it works. The meatball strips are tender, flavorful without being pungent or overly spicy, and a perfect fit for the rice with some fish sauce, hoisin, and sriracha mixed in for good measure. It’s a substantial lunch that isn’t heavy, and because it’s iPho, it arrives at your table pretty much before you have time to put your menu down after ordering.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Heavy Table Hot Five: Aug. 11-17

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 fiveCold Chasoba at Kado no Mise
Green-tea-infused soba noodles are the heart of cold Chasoba, a feather-light vegetable-and-noodle soup that might be the world’s best entree for warm summer weather. Kado no Mise has a light touch, and that sort of minimalism really works with a dish like this. All the flavors are mild, the textures delicate, and the overall impact is calming and cooling.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveLion’s Mane Mushrooms from Cherry Tree House
No, it’s not a tribble. It’s a lion’s mane mushroom, available (occasionally) from Cherry Tree House Mushrooms at the Mill City and Kingfield farmers markets. The lion’s mane is a slightly sweet, rich-tasting mushroom, almost lobsterlike in texture and flavor. It works well as the base of a stir fry or pasta sauce, but it’s also delicious simply sauteed in butter until crisp.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fiveCafe Miel at Botany Coffee
Botany Coffee recently opened at 38th and Cedar Ave and the space is beautiful. With specialty, single-origin beans and a purposeful selection of espresso beverages, it’s a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Try the Cafe Miel, with moderate sweetness and excellent balance. You’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into Instagram with a warm beverage in hand.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]

James Norton / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveArugula Salad at Delicata
Nothing quite cements a pizza place in our hearts like a great salad. It’s one of the reasons we fell so hard for Black Sheep Pizza back when it opened. St. Paul’s Delicata offers an arugula salad that doesn’t look like much on the menu. It’s just arugula, roasted grapes, almonds, and a Kalamata-based dressing — but it’s so nicely seasoned and balanced that it’s absolutely irresistible. And the sweet, tender impact of the grapes is such a perfect offset to the tartness of the vinegar and the richness of the olives that it’s a wonder they’re not standard issue in salads everywhere.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveTomato and Mayo Sandwich with Loon Organics Tomatoes and Rustica Bread
In the children’s classic Harriet the Spy, the overly nosy Harriet insists that her nanny, Ole Golly, make her the same lunch every day: tomatoes and mayo on white bread. I re-create this every summer, upping Harriet’s game with good bread (in this case, a baguette from Rustica) and heirloom tomatoes from Loon Organics at the Mill City Farmers Market. Is there anything better than fresh tomatoes in the summer? I think not. Turns out Harriet was onto something with her lunch, if not her snoopiness.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]