The Porchetta Sandwich at Smoqehouse in Faribault, Minn.

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

Amid the hobby shops and shuttered storefronts that comprise the Faribo West Mall grows a hopeful green shoot: a relatively new barbecue-focused eatery called Smoqehouse, which is serving one of the best sandwiches in the state.

The dish is a porchetta sandwich, an adapted Italian classic that has become a North Country staple. The Smoqehouse version is a marriage between tender, earthy pieces of pork and the substantial herbal kick of a bright, garlic-heavy salsa verde. Bread plays a critical role, too. The Brick Oven Bakery ciabatta that the sandwich arrives on is light and crispy, substantial enough to hold the thing together, but not so doughy or massive that it buries the flavor within.

“While researching butchery, my husband (Andy Kubes) came across an Italian butcher (Vito Bernabei) who specializes in porchetta,” writes co-owner Heidi Kubes. “He became really interested in the process and made it a few times at home for our family. We knew if / when we ever opened something we would want it to be on the menu. The pork belly is topped with our fresh salsa verde to contrast and enhance the richness of the belly.”

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

Our lunch companion (a farmer, Tiffany Tripp, from Graise) vouched for the place across the board, and we’re sold on it. Beyond the porchetta are dishes including pulled pork, a brisket burger, and Cajun chicken, plus crispy, beautifully hand-cut fries ($3, or $5 for a large order) that could stand up proudly in a trendy North Loop bistro. The fries are cooked in lard and come with fry sauce (a Utah-beloved mix of mayo and ketchup). The result is heaven on a plate.

Smoqehouse has regional ambitions. Its second location opens in Northfield later this month. The quality food on its streamlined menu merits a visit the next time you’re within detour distance of either spot.

Smoqehouse, 200 Western Ave, Suite C5, Faribo West Mall, Faribault, MN; 507.334.1901. Or 212 Division St, S in the historic Archer House, Northfield, MN (opening soon).

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

Sunrise Market and Cafe

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Hibbing stalwart Sunrise Market, purveyor of porketta, potica, and pasties has opened a combo cafe / retail shop on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. That’s good news for fans of their products — and anyone in need of a hearty, soul-warming meal.

The menu at the cafe is small, but there’s nothing wrong with that when the items available are done well, and Sunrise has that down pat. The signature porketta sandwich ($9, below) is tender and juicy, with fennel and garlic overtones that aren’t overwhelming. It’s served on a softer-than-usual baguette, making the whole sandwich melty.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

In contrast, the chicken pot pie sandwich ($8) comes on puff pastry that’s almost impossibly delicate and flaky yet holds up to the pot pie mixture of chicken and vegetables in an aromatic, rosemary-infused gravy. The puff pastry gives the sandwich a lighter feel than a regular pot pie has, and the filling is kept to a reasonable portion, so you don’t feel like you’re eating an entire pie at one sitting. But be aware: This is a knife-and-fork sandwich. Don’t even think about trying to pick it up with your hands.

As good as the sandwiches are, the star of our visit was the porketta pizza ($4.50 per slice, $14 for a whole pie), upgraded to add giardiniera (50 cents per slice, $1.50 for the pie). It’s not surprising that seasoned pork would work well on a pizza, but the overall quality of the pizza was unexpectedly high. The crust was crisp on the edges and nicely charred, the cheese was of better-than-average quality, and the giardiniera was an inspired addition. Pickled celery isn’t the first ingredient that comes to mind when you think of pizza, but here, it’s a great tangy counterpart to the tender pork and the sweetness of the cheese.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

In the back of the cafe is a retail market where you can stock up on several Sunrise Market items, including the aforementioned porketta, potica, and pasties. The cafe and the market share counter service, staffed by friendly, enthusiastic porketta-lovers. The transplant from Hibbing is off to a hearty start.

Sunrise Market & Cafe,
Iron Range specialties in St. Paul

1085 Grand Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55105,
651.487.1913
OWNERS: The Forti family
HOURS:
Mon-Sat 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sun 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
PARKING: Street

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Jubilee Porketta from Chisholm

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

Arguably, one of the best traditions of the Iron Range is its porketta. The original Italian porchetta is a roast made from the meat, skin, and fat of a whole, deboned pig, all of which are rolled together with a spice mixture redolent of fennel, garlic and other seasonings. The Iron Range riff, phonetically spelled “porketta,” is a smaller, leaner variant. There are a number of purveyors of porketta on the Range, each with their own twist, and each worth a stop. Sometimes the source seems rather mundane, but this is why we don’t judge books by their covers.

The employee-owned Jubilee Foods in Chisholm is one such place. It looks like your average chain grocery store, but back in the meat department, employees are using a hundred-year-old recipe, brought to the Range by Italian immigrants, to season their pork roasts and turn out a tasty porketta ($5.50 / pound).

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

There are numerous variations on porketta involving a wide variety of spices, although fennel is usually a key ingredient. Some recipes use basil and oregano, others rely on sage and rosemary. Jubilee Foods’ version has a good dose of fennel, but in place of the other traditional herbs, it has dill and a touch of sugar (along with salt, pepper, and garlic). The result is a porketta that’s not quite as spicy as others, but the dill and sugar seem to act in a supporting role to the fennel, allowing it to shine.

If you happen to be heading to the Range, bring a cooler and stock up. Buy more than you need for one meal — the leftovers make great sandwiches and hash.

Chisholm Jubilee Foods, 130 1st St SW, Chisholm, MN 55719; 218.254.4961

Heavy Table Hot Five: Feb. 13-19

hotfive-flames

Each Friday afternoon, 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.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

1-new - oneNative Foods North Coast Nosh-inspired Dishes from at Cafe Minnesota at the Minnesota History Center
In honor of the upcoming North Coast Nosh curated by Sean “The Sioux Chef” Sherman, Chef Christian Pieper and Sherman are collaborating on some American Indian-inspired fare for the History Center’s Cafe Minnesota. This past week featured a profoundly comforting Dragsmith Farms Braised Rabbit Stew with Fry Bread and Wild Rice and Sunflower Sprouts (above); next week will feature an elk or bison dish to support the upcoming Nosh at the George Morrison “Modern Spirit” exhibit at the History Center.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Contributed by James Norton]

Ted Held / Heavy Table
Ted Held / Heavy Table

2-new - two18-Hour Porketta sandwich at Northbound Smokehouse Brewpub
This is Iron Range soul food at its best: slow roasted pork with sauteed onion, topped with melted Swiss, and sandwiched in an egg bun. The pork is piled high and fall-off-the-bone tender and the cheese and sweet onions know their place as supporting characters. Northbound adds no extraneous ingredients to detract from their excellent porketta.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Contributed by Ted Held]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - threeFennel Sausage Link from Black Sheep Pizza on Nicollet Ave
Black Sheep Pizza’s new location boasts a gorgeous grill operated by a bold metal wheel that brings food closer to or further away from the heat that pours up from below. We tried and loved the fennel sausage link starter — disarmingly light in texture and bright in flavor, but fire-charred and satisfying, complemented by pickled veggies and a scrap of bread.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #3 | Contributed by James Norton]

Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table
Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table

4-new fourHog Frites from the Surly Beer Hall
We love the unabashed flavor assault of the Hog Frites at the Surly Beer Hall: fries doused in pepper jack fondue and chunks of tender pork shoulder, all under a smattering of giardiniera. The piquant, vinegar veggies balance the rich cheese sauce in a Baja poutine that shouts Fat! Salt! Bitter! Spice! with each gooey forkful. All of a sudden, only stray carrots remained in the spicy oil at the bottom of our basket, and we couldn’t remember the last five minutes of our life.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Reviewed by John Garland]

Joshua Page / Heavy Table
Joshua Page / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveDuck Breast with Turnips, Leeks, Pickled Chilies, Chard, Ginger, Citrus, and Miso at The Strip Club Meat and Fish
This dish has it all: Exquisitely rendered skin, flavorful pink meat, tender turnips, and a lively, slightly spicy sauce (pro tip: order a side of bread for mopping up the sauce).
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Tweeted by Joshua Page]

Sandwiches at Jordan Meats and Deli

Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table
Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table

Strip malls are a blight on the landscape, and not just because they tend to be ugly and utilitarian, filled with dry cleaners, nail salons, and Subway sandwich shops. So it comes as a shock — in a good way — to find a strip mall tenant in Woodbury (and also in nearby Lakeland) that rises above its humble location.

Jordan Meats and Deli is a suburban version of the small-town butcher shops where family recipes are developed and curated with pride and care. Even better, they have a roster of deli sandwiches, made to order, that are a great bargain ($5), and depending on your appetite are large enough to share.

Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table
Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table

The corned beef deluxe (above) is a variation on a Reuben with a sturdy-yet-soft bun filled with house-cured corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing. The zingy corned beef more than holds its own against the other ingredients and is melt-in-your-mouth tender.

On the Discovery of Pork Shoulder Porchetta

Becca Dilley / Minnesota Lunch
Becca Dilley / Minnesota Lunch

Congratulations to Melissa Clark of the New York Times for personally discovering that you can make a simpler variant of Italian porchetta using a pork shoulder. It is exciting to hear that this dish is now enjoyed exclusively in a small section of Brownstone Brooklyn. She may be pleased and mortified in equal proportions to hear that time-traveling Italian immigrants from Minnesota’s Iron Range have stolen her recipe and turned it into a widely-known staple of North Country cuisine since the early part of the 20th Century.

Porchetteria at Terzo Vino Bar in Minneapolis

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The story is all too familiar: owner of successful restaurant (or coffee shop, bar, food truck…) rushes to expand and diversify, and the new ventures don’t measure up to the original. Thankfully, the opposite is increasingly familiar, at least here in the Twin Cities: restaurateur branches out and the accolades and loyal patrons keep rolling in. Such local wizards include Isaac Becker (Burch, 112 Eatery, Bar La Grassa), Alex Roberts (Alma, Brasa), Russell and Desta Klein (Meritage, Brasserie Zentral), and Sameh Wadi (Saffron, World Street Kitchen restaurant and food truck). With their collection of excellent Italian establishments on the corner of W. 50th Street and Penn in Southwest Minneapolis, Molly Broder and her three sons also belong on this list. Their new porchetteria is further evidence of the family’s golden touch.

From a window cutout of Broder’s wonderful wine bar, Terzo, the family is slinging rich, succulent slow-roasted pork (that is, porchetta) sandwiches from 11am to 5pm daily. If you’re into tailgating, there are six large plastic chairs (but only one large umbrella) for chowing down right there in the parking lot. You can also, like us, lunch on the patio of Broders’ Pasta Bar, which offers plentiful shade, tables, and comfy chairs. It’s a great space for an impromptu picnic.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The porchetta sandwiches showcase high-quality, sustainable Fresh Air Pork from Grass Run Farms in Iowa, roasted to perfection and chock-full of wonderful porky flavor. All four options (three pork and one vegetarian) are served on chewy, grilled ciabatta that manages to be sturdy but not tough. Our favorite sandwich, The Rapini, includes garlic paisley aioli and stalks and leaves from the eponymous vegetable ($9). The refreshing rapini adds pleasant tang and crunch that cuts the richness of the pork and aioli.

A combination of porchetta, radicchio and currant slaw, and Calabrian pepper aioli, The Calabrian ($9) is well balanced (with spice from the peppers playing off sweet from the currants) and super flavorful. The tasty truffle mushroom and porchetta ($10) delivers an awesome umami uppercut. But lacking rapini, slaw, or some other fresh element (maybe arugula?), the fungi and pork option teeters on the edge of over-indulgence. Speaking of which, lest we forget: house-made potato chips ($2) are exquisitely fried and salted. They’re absolutely worth the added cost.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Porchetteria at Terzo Vino Bar
Takeaway Sandwiches in Southwest Minneapolis
2221 W 50th St
Minneapolis, MN 55419
612.925.0330

HOURS:
Daily 11am-5pm
CHEF / OWNER: Thomas Broder / Molly Broder
BAR: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE PRICE: $9-10

 

The Dawning of George & the Dragon and Morning Roundup

The Wedge Co-op drops an “anti-union” law firm it had hired for labor negotiations, George & the Dragon debuts this week in the rebuilt old Heidi’s / Blackbird location, some Mother’s Day brunch suggestions from Rick, Chef Shack vs. Burger King?, a profile of Rob Miller from Dangerous Man Brewing, a tour of the Minnehaha neighborhood featuring Al Vento and 3 Tiers, a cheesemaker-for-a-day visit to Roelli Cheese in Shullsburg, Wisconsin, a profile of Minnesota’s oldest Dairy Queen, a photo of and notes on porketta, and praise for the burgers at JL Beers in Fargo.

America’s Test Kitchen Hits the Iron Range and Morning Roundup

America’s Test Kitchen heads to Hibbing in search of porketta; Zimmern trumpets the (as of yet unconfirmed) exodus of Dara from Minnesota Monthly to MSP Mag; photo outtakes from our Silver Whisk profile of Chef Alejandro Castillon of Sonora Grill; the almost invariably positive Southwest Journal writes that Eat Street Social “disappoints”; chefs from Travail, Saffron, and Haute Dish are among those cited by Food & Wine’s “People’s Best New Chef: Midwest” feature; a review of Mr. Pig Stuff barbecue in Shakopee; a taste of New Glarus Brewing’s Two Women Classic Country Lager; a gorgeous Minneapolis skyline cake (featuring that dratted cherry and spoon); thoughts on brunch at Muddy Waters; and a taste of The Ole Store Restaurant in Northfield.

Cheese Curd Central and Morning Roundup

A profile of the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery (AKA “the source of all curds”), there’s a new “Untamed” food cart serving up porketta sandwiches, Rachel checks out the revamped and relocated Wilde Roast, Chef Mitch from Hell’s Kitchen spin a long yarn of gastronomic physical abuse, how to eat fresh at the food shelf, and some thoughts on chilaquiles at Homi (inspired by our profile of the restaurant).

The Drinkin’ Spelling Bee and Morning Roundup

Insight into the 331 Club’s Drinkin’ Spelling Bee, an Iron Range pasties and porketta photo travelogue, a Chowhound knocks Forum (and its Creed soundtrack), photos from FEAST, a citrus fruit walk-through, how to deploy honey and maple syrup in beer, DeRusha loves the Dominguez Restaurant, and a new bill may widen raw milk sales.

December 1 Recipe Roundup

The Remains of T-Day wrap, grilled szechuan tofu with broccoli slaw and toasted almonds, Fischer Farms porketta, and sweet potato latkes.