Heavy Table Hot Five: Feb. 16-22

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

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

1-new - one - hot fiveWinter Rose Pastry at Rose Street Patisserie
I’ve seen this before … almost. In the spring of 2016, John Kraus offered a cheerful raspberry-and-white-chocolate version of this pastry to celebrate the opening of Rose Street Patisserie. The winter version is more subdued in color (a faded rose?) but has the compelling, deep flavor of gianduja (Piedmont, Italy’s ground-hazelnut milk chocolate in the form of tiny prisms wrapped in gold foil). The Winter Rose is a gianduja mousse with a caramel cremeux (a kind of pudding) center. The creamy elements sit on a crunchy hazelnut cookie slicked with marmalade. It was a joy to break a bit of the surrounding chocolate spiral and eat it with a forkful of mousse and cookie. Please don’t utter the word Nutella!
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Jane Rosemarin]

Joshua Page / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveOat Milk Cappuccino at Peace Coffee
During our recent break from dairy, a barista at Peace Coffee recommended an oat milk cappuccino (Peace uses Oatly). Though skeptical, we took his suggestion. And it was damn good. Unlike watery dairy alternatives, oat milk is creamy, froths nicely, and blends really well with espresso. It has a pleasant, subtle oat flavor, but is otherwise neutral. While not as sweet as milk, it’s one hell of an alternative. Even though we’re back on dairy, we’re still ordering “oat caps.” (Tip: The Seward Co-op on 38th Street sells Oatly.)
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Joshua Page]

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fiveRoast Duck at Hip Sing BBQ
Our half Red Duck at Hip Sing 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.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a story by Amy Rea]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveSomali Soup at O-City
The soup that started our recent East Lake Checklist visit to O-City was complicated enough that we could have broken it into three Hot Five items all by itself. First of all, it was a creamy take on vegetable soup — deeply (but not overwhelmingly) spicy-hot, comforting-but-not-boring. Second, with the addition of a squeeze of lime, it picks up a beautiful, bright, acid note that changes its character. And third, you can stir in some of the hot, hot, hot spicy green sauce that’s on your table and give it a roaringly fierce kick.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an upcoming East Lake Checklist by James Norton]

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveHam and Gruyere Crepe at Penny’s Coffee
The Ham and Gruyere Crepe at Penny’s Coffee in downtown Minneapolis is a satisfying meal in an unlikely place. Located on the ground floor of a nondescript office building, Penny’s has a substantial menu in addition to premium coffee and pastries. The crepes are served with a frisée-and-herb salad, a crisp counterpoint to the creamy ham and cheese.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #4 | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]

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.

The El Pato Loco Pizza at San Pedro Cafe

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

It was on one of the many recent frigid days that we stopped by the cheerful, boisterous (and very warm) San Pedro Cafe in Hudson. There were many tempting Caribbean items on the menu — jerk chicken, Cuban meatloaf — but when we asked our server what she’d recommend, she pointed to the wood-fired pizza column of the menu. Pizza isn’t the first thing you’d think of ordering at a Caribbean restaurant, but she assured us we wouldn’t regret it.

She was right. The El Pato Loco ($13) came on a delicate, crackerlike crust topped with a heady mixture of sweet and spicy — a soft marinara sauce, sweet corn in chunks that looked like they’d just been sliced off a cob, and a slightly sweet smoked duck breast paired with a generous serving of jalapeños, zippy pepperoni, and an “it catches up to you” habanero aioli. Lots of pieces and parts, flavors and textures, that equaled a much better whole than might have been expected.

San Pedro Cafe, 426 2nd St, Hudson, WI, 54016; 715.386.4003; Mon-Thu 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat 8 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun 8 a.m.-10 p.m.

Heavy Table Hot Five: June 10-16

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

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

1-new - onePeking Duck (Three Tastes) at Peking Garden
The menu at St. Paul’s Peking Garden is a monstrous, dazzling, multi-faceted affair, but we were guided on our recent Green Line Checklist visit toward a clear highlight: the Peking duck. For $31, you can have a whole duck prepared one of three ways: served with pancakes, greens, and hoisin (think moo shu); served as a stir fry over white rice; or served as a simple soup with greens. But for a mere $5 extra, you don’t have to choose — you can have your duck all three ways. Can and should. It turns a single enjoyable dish into a veritable feast. Although duck can be prepared in ways that render it overly fatty and / or cloyingly sweet, all of Peking Garden’s preparations are light and elegant.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from an Instagram post by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

2-new - twoZingiber Cream Ale by Summit
It’s a testament to the brewing talent at St. Paul’s Summit that the company is 22 beers deep into its Unchained series and it’s still dishing out noteworthy surprises. The newly released Zingiber Cream Ale is an ale / lager hybrid with a touch of Hawaiian ginger. It’s crisp and refreshing up front with a malty, ginger-kicked sweetness on the back of each gulp. As the heat index climbs toward 100, this is a beer that’ll refresh without getting dull; conversely, it’s busy enough to be interesting without tasting overwhelming or overloaded.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

3-new - threeKimchi Jigae from Gogi Bros. House
The kimchi jigae from Gogi Bros. arrives at the table boiling hot — literally — and packs a spice-based heat as well. Pork and melty tofu are abundant in a chili-laced broth finished off with onions and some cooling rice.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

4-new fourKimchi Ramen at Spoon and Stable
We don’t dine out late nearly often enough, it seems. Spoon and Stable’s kimchi ramen with chashu pork, spring onion, toasted nori, and a soft poached egg — an after 10:30 p.m., bar-and-lounge-only treat — hinted at a whole magical world of late-night treats that needs exploration. We found this to be one of the best ramens we’ve tried in town. The broth in particular had an almost saucelike richness and depth that made everything swimming within it taste a little bit better.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted from an Instagram post by James Norton]

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

5-new -fivePink Robot Kombucha by Prohibition Kombucha
Pink Robot is a kombucha brewed by Prohibition and sold on tap at nearly 20 locations. It’s cool, light, and refreshing without a hint of vinegar or funk and with a subtle taste almost like a flavored bubbly water.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Brenda Johnson]

Farms in the Lens: Wild Acres

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

About the Farms in the Lens series: Much of what we write within these pages is focused on the restaurants of Minneapolis and St. Paul. But much of what we eat at those tables comes from farms around the state. With underwriting from Clancey’s Meats and Fish, we’ve set out to document a half dozen of these farms, focusing on the relationship between humans and animals. Check out our complete Farms in the Lens series, including: Wild Acres, Hidden Stream, Shepherd’s Way, Redhead Creamery, Twisted Suri Alpaca Ranch, and Paradox Farm.

Pheasant hunting has an air of romance to it — the combination of hunters, dogs, and prairie evokes a Victorian novel made real right here in Minnesota. Beyond Brainerd, off the highway, then onto a gravel road, past the hunters and a log cabin, a complex series of barns, buildings, and enclosures houses Wild Acres Hunting Club and Shooting Preserve, and also thousands of the area’s most treasured poultry birds.

Wild Acres supplies turkeys, ducks, chickens, and pheasants to many Twin Cities restaurants and shops. They control the whole process: They supply their own eggs, hatch the birds, raise them, process them on site, and deliver them.

clanceys-shirt-bannerWhat began as a shooting preserve in 1978 became a pioneering farm that in the 1980s was among the first to sell free-range chickens. The farm has been a favorite of many food professionals, including Wolfgang Puck, Charlie Trotter, and numerous Twin Cities chefs.

“Most of my chefs will say, ‘It’s not what we do with it; it’s a good product when it comes in,’” says Pat Ebnet, who owns and runs the bird-growing side of the business. (His mother, who is semiretired, runs the game preserve.) “Going to one of the restaurants and seeing the end preparation, that is the end benefit. That is the ‘wow,’ that these people really appreciate what I do,” says Ebnet.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

A single flock of geese roams around the property during the summer. Many are sold at Christmas time.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Wild Acres started as a shooting preserve and still has a shooting club. Since Ebnet took over, the poultry operation has vastly outpaced the shooting preserve. Pheasants are hatched twice a year and live outdoors. Ebnet processes about 4,000 pheasants each year for restaurants and markets including local coops and Clancey’s.

Meritage Oysterfest Photos, Some St. Paul Farmers’ Market History, and Morning Roundup

Nom Nom Foodie beautifully shoots and writes up Meritage’s Oysterfest 2012, SPNN’s Emily Noble has a great video interview on the St. Paul Farmers’ Market’s Xang Vang, Zen Box Izakaya has some photos from their one-year anniversary, Peter Groynom walks through making your own simple syrupsCity Pages briefs Gray House, and Ryan on MNBeer considers the possibility of a Surly Brewery in Prospect Park (also Strib). Lastly, Jamie Carlson hunts duck and shares a recipe for duck heart tartare. Quack.

Fresh Blueberry Pancakes and Recipe Roundup

Raw cashew cheesecake, smoked duck with blueberry sauce, raspberry jam with mint and/or basil, millet and chickpea salad, sparkling sangria, Russian black bread, baked cream cheese wontons with garlic scapes, and fresh blueberry pancakes.

The New Urban Bean and Morning Roundup

A tasty selection of local cheeses, Trout Caviar breaks down the details of smoking a duck breast, Omar from Surly makes the cover of Beer Advocate, a sneak peek at the new Urban Bean on Lyndale, and Andrew Zimmern wears a disguise and promotes CASCAL soda (which, incidentally, is great stuff).

Summits and Schell’s Beer Dinners and Morning Roundup

Minnesota pie legend Marjorie Johnson appears on Dr. Oz (we have a great photo of her, which ran with the recipe for her excellent Toffee Walnut Apple Pie), Perennial Plate cooks a duck from beak to tail, and two beer dinners: a Summit dinner at Bank and a Schell’s dinner at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe in Duluth, MN

Jena Modin / Heavy Table

The sign on the building says “Taran’s Market Place,” the menus say “At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe,” but to the regulars it is known as the most locally sourced meal you can get in town. General Manager Andrew Mattila says: “When people ask ‘What does your restaurant stand for?’ we say we stand for sustainability.”

Seven years ago, Carla Blumberg and Barb Neubert reopened Taran’s Market Place with the new names “At Sara’s Table” and “Chester Creek Cafe” with the goal of creating a farm-to-table restaurant that was sustainable. “Carla has always been interested in the farmer aspect and the sustainable aspect, getting the good food to the people,” says Mattila. Sourcing 80 percent of food locally in the summer and 45 percent in the winter, a percentage based on the amount of product used in the kitchen, their focus on local foods and sustainability has made Chester Creek Cafe become for Duluth what Common Roots Cafe is for Minneapolis.

Bay Produce, Larry Schultz, Thousand Hills Cattle Company, Kadejan, Flying Snakes, and Stickney Hill Dairy Farms are among the farms that the restaurant uses. “It grows over time,” says Mattila. “After you’ve met one farmer, they introduce you to someone else.” Mattila has seen the restaurant add more farmers to their menu each year, and this year, “the Duluth Community Garden Club is going to start selling us green onions.” The restaurant’s staff has also started growing their own herbs, sprouts, Swiss chard, and other vegetables on site.

The duck ($17), a recent menu item, is Mallard sourced from Wild Acres in Pequot Lakes. Whole ducks are purchased; the breasts are used for the dinner entree and the carcass for making duck stock. Beet marmalade accompanies the duck with beets, from Flying Snakes Farm at Chantrelle Woods Preserve in Bayfield, WI, alongside a mint panzanella salad made with ciabatta from Franklin Street Bakery in Minneapolis.

Jena Modin / Heavy Table

Every six to eight weeks the menu changes. AM Chef Peter Ravinski, PM Chef Bruce Wallis, owners, and managers sit down for a brainstorming session to create new menus. A theme is selected and the menu is based on flavors and dishes that reflect the theme and what is available locally. “Sometimes you have to go with a flavor profile and see what you can find here. We don’t want to import Asian food here; we would rather pick their flavor and try to find something to match it locally,” says Mattila.

At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe has led the community not only in using local foods but also in composting; they are a drop off center for the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District. Anyone in the community can pick up biodegradable plastic bags for compost and drop them off at the restaurant. “Very little garbage leaves the restaurant,” says Mattila. Along with recycling and composting food waste, “we don’t use a lot of oil, but our used peanut oil for frying goes to a guy locally who uses it to make bio-diesel.”

The only meat that is not sourced locally is the Alaskan salmon from Simple Gifts Syrup and Salmon. The salmon is line-caught by Duluth local Dave Rogotzke. “The salmon is flash frozen and stored in a warehouse in Washington,” explains Mattila. “Sure, we feel bad about shipping it half way across the country, but we are also trying to support this local business.” The salmon ($20) is served with a miso glaze, black barley pilaf, and house-grown sprouts. The salmon is moist with a light crust from the miso glaze that is both sweet and savory.

Jena Modin / Heavy Table

“Other places in town are trying the best they can [to purchase local and organic], but we feel we are a bit ahead, we are trying to make it our one thing,” says Mattila. As the restaurant continues to work with farms and build community support, their goal of being 100 percent local and organic is within sight. Using more local cheese, finding quality local wines, and using organic butter are part of the vision for the future. Mattila says, “[Local] is like a buzz word now; everybody is saying local is the new thing for this year. And we look at it and say, ‘This year?'”

At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe
Locally sourced food restaurant in Duluth

1902 E 8th St
Duluth, MN 55812
218.724.6811
OWNERS:
Carla Blumberg and Barb Neubert
HOURS:

Mon-Sat 7am-9pm
Sun 7:30am-4pm
BAR:
Beer + Wine
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: Yes / Not needed
AVERAGE ENTREE: $10-$20

The Ducks of Au Bon Canard in Caledonia

Alli Wade / Heavy Table
Alli Wade / Heavy Table

During the three hour drive from the concrete and buzz of city life to the romantic farming community of Caledonia, one can’t help but welcome the unexpected change in landscape. You’re no longer surrounded by a flat plains, but rather the rolling hills of bluff country amongst the self-proclaimed “mountains of Minnesota.” It’s easy to understand what drew the French-born Christian Gasset and his wife Liz to this breathtaking pocket of land. The views and ambiance are not unlike where he grew up in France.

Alli Wade / Heavy Table
Alli Wade / Heavy Table

The Gassets are the owners and operators in charge of Au Bon Canard, a Minnesota duck farm supplying locals with breasts, wings, and all other parts duck. Perhaps most notable, however, is their foie gras (pronounced fwah-grah). According to French rural code, foie gras is the liver of duck or goose, fattened by gavage — a force-feeding technique that has been targeted by animal rights activists and defended by Michael Pollan, among others. The mouthwatering delicacy was historically considered an elite treat in France until its popularity and demand migrated across the Atlantic, where it’s now a regular item on American menus. Some examples of its presence in local restaurants are the Foie Gras Meatballs at 112 Eatery and seasonal dishes at La Belle Vie and Heartland. (La Belle Vie is currently offering a Seared Foie Gras with Buttercup Squash and Pistachio, while foie gras appeared on Heartland’s daily-changing menu last week.)

Au Bon Canard is one of three foie gras producers in the country. Compared to the competition, they operate on a highly artisanal scale, delivering roughly 2,000 ducks per year – Sonoma Foie Gras in California and Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York produce around 10,000 per week. Also unlike larger producers, Christian and Liz operate as a two-person team, only bringing in outside assistance during the slaughter. An additional bonus for Minnesota residents – sales are limited to Minnesotan restaurants and distributors. Around 90 to 95 percent of their product stays in state and they utilize a local distributor, Great Ciao, based in Minneapolis.

As of late, it seems we’ve all jumped on the “Where does my food come from?” bandwagon. This consumer curiosity is a comfortable match with the absolute open-door policy shared by the Gassets. During a recent tour of the farm, Christian walked through every step of a duck’s life at Au Bon Canard, from their initial arrival to the packaging room.

Alli Wade / Heavy Table
Alli Wade / Heavy Table

“Hey guys,” he gently murmurs, knocking on the door of the first stop on the tour, the small barn that is the duckling home. Ducks arrive to the farm as one-day-olds and are quickly shuttled in here. The breed, Moulard, is a cross between Muscovy and Peking. (The eggs come from France, but the ducks are born in California.) Gasset clucks his tongue as he swings the barn door open, careful not to startle them or disturb their emotional state. One of the beliefs behind a quality foie gras product is that the ducks endure the least amount of stress possible. “Stress is the number one factor behind taste,” says Gasset in a thick French accent. “That’s why I like to raise them myself, so they know me. When I do the feeding, they know I’m not going to hurt them.”

October 30 Morning Roundup

Michael Agnew, Surly Darkness skeptic, is won over by this year’s vintage, and serves up a thoughtful essay on pairing beer and cheese, the joy of reverse trick or treating, expect massive crowds downtown during Halloween this weekend, Kitchen Bitch critiques the ad campaign for the Affair, Tangled Noodle celebrates a year of blogging, Teddy from Hungry in SW encounters the most decadent pasta of his life at Tosca, and duck and berry musings at the always excellent Trout Caviar.