Zenith Bread Project, Urban Forage Winery, and 56 Brewing

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Crafty bread in Duluth, beer that evokes an Almond Joy, and a winery that uses foraged fruit in today’s edition of The Tap.

shepherd-song-tap-logo-final-keylineThe Tap is a biweekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm. “We raise 100 percent grass-fed lambs & goats traditionally, humanely, and sustainably.”

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The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor James Norton at editor@heavytable.com.

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Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Zenith Bread Project (Open)
Duluth, in various locations

In the past five years, the food culture of Duluth has blossomed — local and / or artisan food is booming, and the growth of businesses such as the Fitger’s mini-empire, Duluth Grill, and Northern Waters Smokehaus is testament to the change that’s afoot.

The unstuffily third-wave coffee of Duluth Coffee Company is also part of that story, as is one of the cafe’s baristas, Amanda Belcher. Belcher’s Zenith Bread Project combines her six years of professional baking experience (including work at Duluth’s Positively Third Street Bakery and Bars Bakery in St. Paul) with her observation that the Zenith City could use a bit more in the way of crusty, soulful, artisan bread.

We tried Zenith Bread Project’s za’atar bagels and English muffins. The bagels were unlike any we’ve had — a little breadier than our preference, but bready in a full-flavored, soulful, sourdough way. While we would have appreciated a bit more chew on the exterior, the overall flavor profile was excellent. The sumac, sesame seeds, sea salt, and thyme of the za’atar was subtle but seductive.

“They take a long time!” says Belcher of her bagels. “I use traditional ingredients like barley malt, and I do a long ferment overnight. I let them rise and refrigerate them for up to 24 hours, then I take them out and poach them real quick and bake them in a steamy oven to get that chew in the texture and the depth of flavor from the sourdough.”

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The English muffins were unimpeachable (unless you’re one of those people who demands crumpet-y dimples, in which case you’ll find them a bit flat and uniform). Pleasingly substantial with sourdough tang (but not so much that butter or jam or an egg is overwhelmed), the English muffins slice and toast beautifully. They are the perfect cornerstone of a fried egg sandwich.

“There wasn’t a local English muffin in town, and I thought, ‘That’s so weird!’” says Belcher. “So I started selling them at Duluth Coffee and people got super pumped — they’re like: ‘Where can I get ’em? Where can I get ’em?’ So I started selling them at the co-op. It’s really nice to see people get excited about something that was developed organically like that.”

Belcher’s baked goods are available at Duluth Coffee Company, Duluth Whole Foods Co-op, other cafes, and in a CSA-like bread share program available through her website. Coming up next: a possible food truck.

“I bought this old vintage trailer, and I’m hoping in the spring to do a mobile bakery,” says Belcher. “I would like to do a lot of breakfast sandwiches there.”

Screenshot via Kickstarter.com

Screenshot via Kickstarter.com

Urban Forage Winery & Cider House (Kickstarter in Progress)
East Lake Street location TBA, Minneapolis

It seems likely that 10 years from now, a large share of the area’s most compelling food and beverage companies will have community roots by way of Kickstarter, the crowdfunding site that helps creative start-ups gather capital (which is important) and public support (perhaps doubly so).

If it goes the distance, the East Lake Street-based Urban Forage Winery & Cider House will be among those companies. The project (which is a bit more than halfway through its Kickstarter drive and a bit more than halfway funded) takes crowdsourcing to a whole new level by (in effect) crowdsourcing its fruit, too.

“We’re planning to forage almost everything,” says Jeff Zeitler, who founded Urban Forage with his wife Gita. “This year, we scraped together enough apples to make 75 gallons of cider in the basement. I’m hoping to scale that up.” Urban Forage picks city trees, works with grocery stores to take bruised but otherwise good fruit, gathers orchard leftovers, and works with a non-profit that gleans fruit, in order to make the juice that turns into its wine and cider.

Natural variations in the type of fruit collected will mean that Urban Forage products will taste different from season to season. Zeitler views that as a feature, not a bug:

“Any good wine, from year to year, there’s variation,” he says. “People expect it with wine. People expect the 2012 will be different from the 2013, which is different from the 2014, but not so different that it tastes like you’re drinking a different product.”

Zeitler says that the continuity of winemaker (he’s been fermenting cider for 23 years, starting with an explosive batch he made as a freshman at the University of Minnesota), equipment, and flavor profiles will help control some of the variation that the fruit will introduce to Urban Forage’s wines and ciders. And he also extolls that variation as a reflection of the local scene: “Instead of looking at it like, ‘Oh. I’m not getting the same thing,’ instead of like McDonald’s, you’re tasting what the year 2015 tasted like in Minneapolis. This is what was available, this is what was locally plentiful.”

“When it comes to mead, honey is a little easier to source consistently,” he adds. “Honey, like fruit, will vary from year to year, but the differences will be more subtle.”

Urban Forage hopes to sell its products by March 2015, and bring a taproom online late in the year.

Screenshot from 56brewing.com

Screenshot from 56brewing.com

56 Brewing (February 2015)
3134 California St NE, Minneapolis

56 Brewing will enter the Twin Cities market early next year with a “garden-to-growler” profile, favoring local ingredients with an emphasis on hops and other items grown on site. That focus puts 56 Brewing among specialty craft brewers like Burning Brothers (gluten-free), Bang Brewing (organic), and Fair State (cooperatively owned). But while ingredient sourcing will help set 56 Brewing apart in the marketplace, community is at the heart of the new brewery’s identity.

“It’s Northeast,” says owner Kale Johnson, who has set up shop at the old Northgate Brewing location on California Street NE. “It’s a collaboration with the community. It’s locally sourced.”

Part of that means a brewery garden. “I’m a huge garden person,” Johnson says. “I love the idea of being as green as we can, not only in the production of craft beer, but in the facility. My goal is to be as locally sourced as possible, not just buying a huge batch and shipping it in at the best cost.”

56 Brewing’s beers include a honey kolsch, a helles, a keller lager, and “a stout beer we make with a little bit of toasted coconut in it — a milk-chocolate coconut stout, almost like an Almond Joy. But not overpowering.”

The brewery is also developing a CSB program (think CSA … but with beer), with subscription benefits that scale up with the cost of membership. Levels range from $100 to $500 annually, and feature some pre-release tastings and goodies for subscribers in their birthday months.

NOW OPEN

CLOSED / CLOSING:

  • Lynden’s Soda Fountain (closed until April 21, 2015)
  • Terra Waconia — closing end of February 2015
  • JJ’s Coffee + Wine Bistro (Lake Calhoun Location — 1806 W Lake Street — due for a “fun rebrand”)
  • The Left Handed Cook | Our review
  • Mosaic Cafe | Our review
  • Half Pint and Grain Stack at the MIA | Our visit
  • Parka (now Dogwood) | Our review | Our interview
  • Surly taproom (closing Oct. 25; reopening bigger and better as the Beer Hall in December)

COMING UP:

Minneapolis

St. Paul

Greater Twin Cities Area and Beyond

  • Belle Vinez Winery, River Falls, WI | 2015
  • The Meet Market, 1971 Whitaker St., White Bear Lake
  • Victor’s on Water, 205 Water St, Excelsior | 2014
  • Skaalvenn, 8601 73rd Ave N, Suite 28, Brooklyn Park | Awaiting licensing approvals
  • Voyageur Brewing Co., 233 W Hwy 61, Grand Marais | Early 2015

The Tap is the Heavy Table’s guide to area restaurant openings, closings, and other major events. The Tap is compiled and published biweekly by the Heavy Table. If you have tips for The Tap, please email James Norton at editor@heavytable.com.

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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