Heavy Table’s 2016 Local Food Gift Guide

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

It’s that time of year again — time to find the perfect gift / stocking stuffer / thank you / hostess item for all the wonderful people in your life. If you’re reading this, you probably love food, as do most of the people in your closest circle. Here are items for any price range, from “a little something” to “wow, I really do love you,” all with eating, drinking, and entertaining in mind.

All capsule reviews written by Amy Rea and James Norton.

The Appetizers: Gifts Under $10

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Two Ravens Hopstopper Black IPA chocolate bar | $2 | Golden Fig
This Minneapolis-based chocolatier has the perfect stocking stuffer for the person in your life who’s a fan of both fine chocolates and craft beers: a bite-sized bar that’s a mixture of organic Peruvian cacao beans and hops. The result is the best of both worlds; there’s a rich chocolate taste along with a more citrusy hoppiness.

Tom Bumble Nutty Bar | $2.50 | France 44
It’s small but mighty, and pretty much what Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups could only dream of becoming. Peanut butter along with peanuts, vanilla, chocolate, and sea salt give a wide variety of sweet and savory flavors and a mix of textures.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Cloth napkins | $4 each | El Burrito Mercado
Who says the holidays have to be primarily red? Change the holiday table up with these cheery, festive cloth napkins.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Obviously Delicious | $5.59 | Surdyk’s Cheese Shop
This may be the friendliest-looking item in this guide. It’s essentially a turtle bar without the cloying cuteness of the turtle shape. The focus instead is on creating a thick, rich bar full of sea-salt caramel and pecans that is then dipped in chocolate (both dark and milk available). It’s not overly sweet, but has a richness missing from most commercial candy bars.

Fine Cheese Co. Charcoal Black Crackers | $6 | Surdyk’s Cheese Shop
These crackers will provide a nice color contrast on your holiday table. Made with charcoal powder (just a little, affecting the color but not the flavor), these are buttery little cookies, not so much crispy as crumbly. The butter flavor is delicate enough so that it does not overwhelm any cheese you choose to pair the crackers with.

Becca Dilley Photography

Becca Dilley Photography

Sponsored by Gorkha Palace: Gorkha Palace offers two gifts that are perfect for holiday giving. The first is a spicy Chili Chutney. It’s a hot and sour blend of jalapeño, serrano and Thai chilies mixed with Indian spices and organic lemon juice. It’s perfect with everything from omelets to fried rice to curries to noodles to guacamole to cheese and crackers! Gorkha Palace also sells The Nourishing Ghee, made in small batches in the kitchen of the restaurant. Ghee is a staple of Indian cooking. It lasts much longer than butter, has a splendid aroma, and makes food taste much more flavorful. Chutney and ghee are available at the restaurant or the Mill City Winter Market.

Casa Madaio Tozzetti di Bufala crackers | $6 |  Surdyk’s Cheese Shop
You could use these crackers as a base for cheese, and they’d be lovely, but they’re also a perfect little snack on their own. Made of flour, white wine, buffalo butter, and salt, they’re mild in flavor but still have a sweetness and a hint of nuttiness that’s appealing by itself.

Biking Viking Chocolate Bars | Milk with Cardamom $7; Dark With Coffee $13 | Ingebretsen’s
This three-way partnership comprised of Minneapolis’ Peace Coffee, B.T. McElrath Chocolatiers, and Scandinavian retailer Ingebretsen’s, brings us a most satisfying pair of products, themed around the metro’s favorite form of transportation. The chocolate bars come in two flavors, milk chocolate with cardamom and dark chocolate infused with Peace Coffee. The coffee itself is a medium roast with a lightly smoky flavor.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Terroir Chocolate bars | $7 | Golden Fig
There’s some serious chocolate-making going on in Fergus Falls. Using the bean-to-bar approach, Terroir makes a wide range of chocolate bars, with everything from Basil Raspberry White Chocolate to Scorpion Pepper Dark Chocolate. The Cardamom Krumkake, made with 60 percent cacao dark milk chocolate, still provides some of that earthy dark chocolate flavor balanced with the sweetness of a bit of milk and cardamom, and just a bit of crunch from the Scandinavian holiday cookie.

Courtesy of K'ul

Courtesy of K’ul

Sponsored by K’ul Chocolate: K’ul Chocolate of Minneapolis offers two products that are perfect for the holidays: a variety pack (which comes gift-wrapped and is available online) and chocolate-dipped fruit. The fruit includes orange peel, ginger, apricot, and fig and is sold by the pound and packaged in a cello bag with ribbon. It’s available only at the K’ul Store, 2211 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis.

Formaticum Cheese Bags |  $7 | Surdyk’s Deli
Manufactured in France and using professional-quality, two-ply paper, Formaticum simultaneously allows cheese to breathe while maintaining humidity levels so the cheese doesn’t dry out, similar to the way a cheese cave works. A great stocking stuffer for the cheese-lover in your life.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Madi’s Biscotti | $7.50 | Surdyk’s Deli
Minneapolis-based Madi’s produces these bags of sweet and savory biscotti, and they’re a treat. Not as rock-hard crunchy as some biscotti, these have some crispness to them, but also a bit of chewiness. Each package’s flavor is handwritten on the label, and the date they were baked is on the back. The citrus-pistachio had a light sweetness with just a touch of lemon cutting through.

Katherine Anne Confections marshmallows | $8 | Surdyk’s Deli
These marshmallows bear virtually no resemblance to the Stay Puft varietal at the grocery store. Katherine Anne’s are almost impossibly fluffy and delicate, but they pack a lot of flavor, and not just of the sugary kind. A brown-sugar-grapefruit marshmallow is sweet with a little sour tang and would be a perfect addition to a cup of hot tea.

Small Plates: Gifts $10-$25

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Scandinavian Butter | $10 | Golden Fig
Sold under the Golden Fig label, this butter is made from Hope Creamery butter with lingonberries, cardamom, and vanilla bean. It’s delectable on its own, but if eating butter from the jar seems a bit over the top, feel free to spread it on anything you’d normally spread butter on — toast, bread, muffins, scones, or other pastries. It would probably be good even on popcorn.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Coffee Mug | $10 | El Burrito Mercado
Warm up your holiday table with these bright, cheerful mugs from Mexico. Midwest winters call for hearty hot beverages, and these vessels are up to the task of holding them.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Serving Platter | $10 | El Burrito Mercado
This striking blue-and-white platter would be an attractive centerpiece on a mostly white table. Fill with appetizers or heap with ornaments.

Terroir Chocolate Maple Toffee | $10 | Golden Fig
A maple-syrup-based toffee that uses chocolate nibs for the crunch rather than nuts? Yes, please, and several boxes if possible.

Hidden Ridge Cashew Crunch | $10 | France 44
Sweet and wonderfully crunchy — don’t try to have a conversation with anyone while munching on these — this brittle is made by Amish families on kerosene stoves. It just goes to show you don’t always need the higher-tech equipment to get results.

Northern Clay Center

Northern Clay Center

Sponsored by Northern Clay Center: With the advancement of ceramic arts as its mission, this not-for-profit art center has grown over the last 25 years to have an impact both locally and globally. In addition to year-round artists, Northern Clay Center is now showing the work of special-guest holiday artists. Whether it’s artful and affordable tableware you crave, or a one-of-a-kind piece to impress, NCC has it and will gladly wrap it for you.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Ceramic Bird Mugs  | $10 each | Ingebretsen’s
What better way to celebrate the winter holidays than with these cheerful mugs, each adorned with some of our avian residents? Choose chickadees, cardinals, or nuthatches.

Lift Bridge Biscotti seasonal beer

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Biscotti Belgian Dark Ale | $10 | Lift Bridge
One of our favorite local beer releases is timed and themed perfectly for the holidays – it’ll be in stores next week. Malty, rich, gently sweet and stoutly alcoholic without being barleywine strength, Biscotti’s a hostess gift that any beer lover is likely to enjoy.  We’ll be judging cookies at this year’s Biscotti release party, cookie contest, and potters show at the Lift Bridge Brewery on Saturday, so come on out and join us (and chefs from Smalley’s, Phil’s Tara Hideaway, and more) for a great many sweet treats.

Sweet Goddess Espresso Sea Salt Bark | $11 | Golden Fig
Bloomington’s Sweet Goddess Espresso Sea Salt Bark is a bestseller for Golden Fig. It’s an addictive blend of dark chocolate, pungent espresso, and sea salt, combined with its crunch and snap, make it a most satisfying treat.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

American Spoon Pumpkin Seed Salsa | $11 | France 44
No, this is not a leftover from pumpkin spice season. Instead, toasted pumpkin seeds are the star here, along with chile de arbol, tomatoes, and red bell peppers. It’s got a bit of a kick, but nothing to scare anyone away.

Peter’s Yard Crispbread | $12 | Surdyk’s Deli
A traditional Scandinavian crispbread, shaped bagel-like with a hole in the middle. These are thin and shatteringly crispy, and could be used as the base for a variety of other foods: cheese, of course, but don’t stop there. Think olive spreads or roasted vegetables or meats. Snack or meal — your choice.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Bees Knees Spicy Honey | $13 | Surdyk’s Deli
If you like your sweet to come with a bit of heat, this is for you. Made only of wildflower honey and chilis, this gives a one-two punch of flavors and would be great on anything from cornbread and biscuits to more unusual partners, like ice cream.

Beurre de Baratte | $13 | Surdyk’s Deli
If someone on your gift list doesn’t understand that no two butters are the same, this will be an education for them. Beurre de Baratte is no ordinary butter; it’s hand-churned and molded after being allowed to rest for several hours, giving it the chance to develop more flavor than most commercially produced butters.

Wei Organic Shallot Oil | $13.50 | France 44
The shallots are fried before being infused in the oil, giving the oil a toasty flavor that works well in its traditional use in Vietnamese foods. The oil is also great in a vinaigrette or tossed with roasted vegetables, chicken, or fish.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Duluth Coffee Company Coffee | $14-50 for a one-pound bag | online or at the DCC Cafe in Duluth
We were initially intrigued by Duluth Coffee Company because its founder, Eric Faust (above right), was a regular contributor to the Heavy Table. We became sold on the coffee because it is thoughtfully sourced and skillfully roasted. We bring it with us when we travel and sling it around for gifts. Plus, the beans come in full one-pound bags — you’ve gotta love that.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Cheese from the Wedge Community Co-op | $14.50-$24 a pound
One of the many ways in which Minnesotans are blessed is the generous cheese selection available at our local co-ops. We stopped by the Wedge to see what we might be able to throw together for a holiday cheese plate and came up with three great local choices with just about zero effort: the creamy, funky, tangy North Fork Munster from Redhead Creamery, The Lone Grazer’s buttery, earthy Hansom Cab, and the insanely hot habanero-spiked Rattlesnack Cheddar from Deer Creek.

Becca Dilley / Lake Superior Flavors

Becca Dilley / Lake Superior Flavors

Smoked Fish | $15 and up | Northern Waters Smokehaus
There may be no food more emblematic of this part of the world than smoked fish, and there may be no one smoking it more beautifully than the team at Northern Waters Smokehaus in Duluth. The company’s website offers everything from smoked lake trout from Lake Superior to smoked salmon pate, so dig in.

Handmade Flour Sack Towels | $15 each | Golden Fig
These bright, sturdy flour sack towels are not only useful and long-lasting, they’re cheerful and eye-catching. Put them in your own kitchen, or use them to wrap a hostess gift.

Courtesy of J. Carver

Courtesy of J. Carver

Sponsored by J. Carver Distillery: Distilled in Waconia, Minn., Sevilla is a wheat whiskey-based liqueur made using locally produced grains with the addition of fresh orange peel and natural vanilla bean aged in Minnesota barrels. A touch of sweetness allows this spirit to be enjoyed straight, on the rocks — and it allows the mixologist to create myriad cocktails including the Old Fashioned. (80 proof) www.jcarverdistillery.com

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Big Spoon Roasters Almond Ginger | $15 | France 44
There’s almond butter, but then there’s almond butter with crystallized ginger from Big Spoon Roasters. The zingy ginger cuts through the sweetness of the nut butter, and the result can be used anywhere you’d use peanut butter, including as the base for an Asian sauce.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Kitchen Cloths | $15 each | Forage Modern Workshop
These cheerful, sturdy linen kitchen cloths add a bright touch to any kitchen and will soften with each wash. Each one has a cotton loop for hang-drying.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Blank Slate flavored simple syrups | $16 each | Golden Fig
Sure, you can — and should — make a basic simple syrup yourself at home, easy-peasy. But Blank Slate takes the simple syrup concept a bit farther by infusing their palm-sugar liquids with additional ingredients. The bird’s eye chili syrup has an initial sugary syrup taste, quickly followed by a fiery counterpart. It would be an excellent addition to cocktails and desserts that would benefit from a savory touch. Other flavors include vanilla and black pepper.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Rancho Gordo Chocolate | $16 | Surdyk’s Deli
The fine folks behind dried heirloom beans now have chocolate tablets sourced from small farmers and producers in Mexico. The cacao is roasted in a clay pan over a wood fire, then stone ground with unrefined sugar and cinnamon. It can be used for anything from a rich sipping chocolate to a homemade mole.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Rustichella Pistachio Paste | $16 | France 44
Think of this as an intensely high-grade nut butter, where the pistachios are mixed with a quality extra-virgin olive oil, giving it a somewhat sweet taste and decadent, buttery texture.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Miniature Soup Tureen with Cover and Spoon | $17.50 | El Burrito Mercado
What could be more charming than individual soup tureens, complete with covers and spoons? Nothing says special like “This is for you, and you alone.”

Carr’s Ciderhouse Cider Vinegar | $18 | Golden Fig
It’s a shame that wine turned bad is often described as having turned to vinegar. That’s a slander undeserved by this cider vinegar, which is produced in small, numbered batches in an heirloom orchard in Massachusetts. The resulting product, while tangy, is a tad sweeter than regular cider vinegar and will bring that touch of sweetness to any dish.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Runamok Syrups | Sugarmaker’s Cut $18; Elderberry and Pecan Wood Smoked, $21.50 each | France 44
Besides the cheeky name, Runamok’s syrups have some interesting twists on maple syrup, including a smoked variety. The flavor combination is not just a fancy; open the bottle, and the first scent that whiffs out is smoke. The result is, not surprisingly, as delicious as maple syrup poured over pancakes and bacon. The company also does syrups aged in rum, rye, and bourbon barrels.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Col Pabst Worcestershire Sauce | $18 | France 44
“You can drink this right from the bottle,” said the France 44 employee of this Worcestershire sauce from Milwaukee. We might have wondered why anyone would want to do that, but decided to take it as a dare, and what do you know? While you wouldn’t want to swig down a bottle at one sitting, this is not your grocery-store Worcestershire sauce. It’s made with beer, tamarind, Madras curry, and cinnamon sticks, and is much more smoothly flavorful than regular Worcestershire. It would add a wonderful depth to Bloody Mary mixes, meat marinades, and soups. Or, you know, just drink it straight out of the bottle.

Lift Bridge Brewery

Lift Bridge Brewery

Sponsored by Lift Bridge Brewery: Stop by Lift Bridge Brewery’s taproom in Stillwater, and buy some swag for that special someone, and a growler to share for the holidays. When the growler is empty, you can sign up for a free tour of the brewery online at www.liftbridgebrewery.com, and get that growler refilled.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Dick Taylor Chocolate Drinks | $18 each | France 44
Drinking chocolates seem to be a thing this year, with various iterations showing up at retailers. Dick Taylor’s comes three ways: single origin from Ecuador, single origin from Belize, and peppermint. Make no mistake, these are not kin to the instant hot cocoa mixes with dried-up marshmallows that don’t rehydrate. Instead, they have a full and decadent chocolate taste, and the mixes could be used for other purposes such as for making mochas or adding a chocolaty undercurrent to a pot of chili.

Courtesy of Nordic Ware

Courtesy of Nordic Ware

Big Sheet Pan | $18 | Nordic Ware Factory Store
Sometimes the best gift for the holidays is something to help the recipient celebrate the holidays with even more intensity. Take, for example, The Big Sheet Pan by Nordic Ware. Its generous dimensions (35 percent bigger than a typical half sheet pan) makes mega batches of cookies but still fits standard ovens.

Porcelain Spoons | $10.50-$27 | Forage Modern Workshop
Sleek and lighter in weight than you might expect, this collection of porcelain spoons is pleasing to the eye and highly functional. Put them on your own holiday table, or wrap up one or more in a kitchen towel as a gift.

James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

Eight-Piece Winter Honey Bon-Bon Set | $19 | Mademoiselle Miel
Saint Paul rooftop honey is the not-so-secret ingredient that flavors this chocolate collection, which includes two each of Orange with Peel, Ginger-spiced Chai, Maple Caramel, and Warm Cherry Honey bonbons.

Hekla Candle | $19 | Ingebretsen’s
What better representation of Minnesota’s Scandinavian heritage than this candle, with its Scandinavian knitted sweater motif? Like a bulky Nordic sweater, the candle is large and sturdy and will provide warmth for a good long while.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Bare Honey | $20 | Golden Fig
St. Paul’s Bare Honey is exactly what its name implies: pure, unadulterated honey, no chemicals, carefully harvested by beekeepers who are diligent about preserving and expanding the honeybee population. No wonder it tastes so sweet.

Boska Cheese Kit | $20 | Surdyk’s Deli
For the cheese lover in your life who’s always been curious about the process of making cheese. This kit has everything needed to make 15 batches of mozzarella. Add-on kits allow home cooks to make other soft cheeses as well as butter.

James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

Milk Street Magazine Subscription | $20
The release of the charter issue of Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street magazine was a highlight for us in 2016 (admittedly a rough year in most other respects). Kimball’s focus and intellect are unbowed since his departure from America’s Test Kitchen and may, in fact, have been liberated by the new format. A great gift for any serious home cook.

Courtesy of Nordic Ware

Courtesy of Nordic Ware

Oven Bacon Pan | $22 | Nordic Ware Factory Store
Nordic Ware’s Oven Bacon Pan takes a good idea (baking, rather than sauteeing your bacon) and perfects it. Grease drains away thanks to the design, and hot air circulates so there is no need to turn your rashers.

taste-scandinavia-gift-guide-2016Sponsored by Taste of Scandinavia Bakery: For almost 25 years our local, family-owned business has been baking up traditional recipes the good old fashioned way — from scratch! That means a lot of butter, sugar, flour, and hand-cracked eggs. During the holidays, we get so excited as we hear from our customers planning their celebrations and ordering their favorites for their family and friends. From Jule Kage, Kransekake, Authentic Potato Lefse (real potatoes and cream, and an array of cookies that do not allow you stop at one. Our made-from-scratch cookies include Almond Kringler (pictured), Holly Berry Sandwiches, Ginger Hearts, Spiced Shortbread Angels, Butter Pecan, Russian Teacakes, Lemon Zest, White Chocolate Cherry Thumbprints, Rugelach, and new this year our Merrydoodle and Kriskrinkle Scoop Cookies. Our bakery and cafe locations can be found in Bloomington, Little Canada, and North Oaks.  All three locations offer a full menu for dining in or to go — breakfast all day, lunch, and dinner. We are proud to bake and prepare food that tastes as great as it looks!

ojakangas-homemade-cover

Homemade by Beatrice Ojakangas | $23 | University of Minnesota Press
Beatrice Ojakangas is the dean of Minnesota’s Scandinavian-inspired home cookery experts, and that’s saying something. Her latest work, Homemade, is packed with anecdotes, recipes, and reflections. You can meet the author and have your book signed on Dec. 15 from 1-2 p.m. at Ingebretsen’s.

Hell’s Kitchen Holy Trinity Peanut Butter Trio Set | $23
Lovers of Hell’s Kitchen’s justifiably famous peanut butter will be thrilled by this collection of three 8-ounce jars of the stuff; people who don’t love it obviously haven’t yet tried it, and this is the perfect opportunity.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Kid’s Trays | Numbers $24; Cutlery $28 | Forage Modern Workshop
These simple, sturdy plastic trays can take the abuse a toddler can give them and still look adorable. They’re perfect for those just starting to learn numbers or to use various pieces of tableware.

Festive Entrees: Gifts $25-$50

Danish Iron Candle Holder | $26 | Ingebretsen’s
Simple, sleek, elegant. The Danish iron candle holder can stand alone as a decoration, or you could combine it with colorful table linens or other holiday decor to create a captivating centerpiece for your table. Other shapes and sizes available for varying prices.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Triangle V Trivet | $26 | Forage Modern Workshop
Made of cast stone with a cork bottom, these trivets also work as modules. Buy multiples to fit together top to bottom to protect your table from heated dishes during your holiday dinner.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Ori Pepper Grinder | $29 | Forage Modern Workshop
This sleek, pentagonal grinder comes from the Norwegian design team of Anderssen Voll. It contains an adjustable ceramic grinder that can produce either coarse or fine grinds, and works well with both peppercorns and sea salt. Also available in light grey.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Peppermint Bark | $30 for 14.5 ounces | Annie B’s
Minnesota-made candy that packs a surprising amount of depth: white and dark chocolates complement each other, and both are enhanced by the liberal sprinkling of crushed peppermint candy that coats each square. There might be a more holiday-appropriate candy out there, but we can’t think of it.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Tea of the Month Club | $30 a month | Verdant Tea
The folks at Verdant Tea have been importing and brewing seriously thoughtful flavors for years now, and their Tea of the Month Club offers a fascinating gateway into some of the best and most unusual teas that China has to offer. Verdant works with small family tea farmers in China, and each month is represented by a different grower. We tried the November box, which included white teas aged for three years and / or picked exclusively from buds. The flavors were layered, complex, and often (surprisingly) rich and creamy.

pazzluna-gift-guide-adSponsored by Pazzaluna: For every $100 in gift cards you purchase at Pazzaluna you will receive five $20 promotional cards, one each for The St. Paul Grill, M ST. Cafe, The Lobby Bar, Tria, and Kendall’s Tavern & Chophouse. The gift card promotion is available through Dec. 31, 2016. Promotional cards are valid Jan. 1 to Oct. 31, 2017.

Frescobaldi Laudemio Olive Oil | $30 | France 44
This highly regarded extra-virgin olive oil from Tuscany is no shrinking violet. A bright, peppery flavor rises first, followed by a lingering, pleasantly grassy flavor. This is a lovely gift that should be used in foods where olive oil can have a starring role or be the finishing touch, drizzled over grilled meats or stews.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Plover Oven Mitt | $30 | Ingebretsen’s
The stalwart plover stands against a soft geometric pattern on this attractive oven mitt. During the holidays, there’s no shortage of overly cute kitchen textiles, but this mitt brings some dignity back to the kitchen, and it can remain there long after the holidays have passed.

James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

Figgy Pudding | $35 ($9 for a pint of brandy hard sauce) | Surdyk’s Deli
The prototypical English Christmas dessert, immortalized in song and celebrated by popular culture, has arrived in Minnesota — and done correctly, too. This is no grocery-store clunker of a fruitcake — it’s a substantial, homemade confection made with organic baking ingredients and rum- and brandy-soaked figs, golden raisins, cherries, and cranberries. The optional but highly recommended hard sauce brings this up from a casual hostess gift or teacake into the realm of serious dessert for 8-10. Prep is a snap. Wrap in foil, and heat for 20-25 minutes at 350°F, and then spoon on some cold hard sauce, which will melt over the cake. The result: a warm, spiced, boozy, fruity hug of a dish – is our new favorite Yuletide flavor.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Raven Apron | $38 | Ingebretsen’s
As with the oven mitt, aprons can be a hot mess of holiday excess this time of year. That’s why this simple apron with its raven motif stands out as a piece of elegant sanity. And like the oven mitt, it can remain in the kitchen after the holidays.

Boska Cheese Curler | $39 | Surdyk’s Deli
Why slice your cheese when you can curl it instead? Use the curler to make delicate curls that will impress your guests and make them feel like you went to great lengths for them. Bonus: The curler works on chocolate as well.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

North Coast Nosh Tickets | $40 | Heavy Table
The Heavy Table’s North Coast Nosh returns Feb. 16, 2017, this time sipping and sampling at the gorgeous Food Building in Northeast Minneapolis, with support from the Wedge Community Co-op. Expect more than 20 purveyors and an event that features quality product, friendly purveyors, and a felicitous guest-to-artisan ratio that means you can actually learn a little something while you eat and drink to your heart’s content. Tickets are quite limited, and are available via Eventbrite.

Northern Clay Center

Northern Clay Center

Pottery | Various | Northern Clay Center
We’re big fans of the Northern Clay Center, which is part art gallery, part teaching space, part retail shop. It offers visitors a chance to browse a ridiculously varied array of pottery handmade by artists both local and national. Theme, price, and practicality varies from piece to piece, but we’ve always managed to find a one-of-a-kind item to impress, and we love that NCC’s stuff sits so squarely at the intersection of art and craft and decorative and useful.

Courtesy of Tiny Footprint

Courtesy of Tiny Footprint

Costa Rica Las Lajas Micromill Honey Series of Coffees | $45 for three 12-ounce bags | Tiny Footprint Coffee
Local coffee roasters Tiny Footprint are offering a package that would make an ideal gift for serious coffee fans: three bags of coffee processed in manner known as miel (honey in French) or pulped natural. The skin of the coffee cherry is pulped leaving most of the fruit intact before it is dried on raised screens. As per the Tiny Footprint website: “When done well, honey processed coffees are more complex with viscous body and softer acidity; the trade off being a reduction in acidity and some loss of clarity.”

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Breakfast Lover’s Holiday Gift Package | $45 | Wise Acre Eatery
Wise Acre has made its name by bringing quality, locally produced food into the city, and this breakfast-centric gift package is an extension of that philosophy. It includes a half-pound of house-made granola, an 8-ounce container of Walsh Ride Maple Syrup from Pepin County, Wis., a 6-ounce jar of Tangletown Farm honey, 2 dozen pasture-raised Tangletown Farm eggs, and a choice of breakfast meats — bacon, ham steak, or sausage links.

Courtesy of Dunn Bros.

Courtesy of Dunn Bros.

Fresh Roast Coffee Subscription Service | $48 for 3 months | Dunn Bros.
Local coffee drinkers know that Dunn Bros. can be relied upon for a solidly crafted cup of Joe. That craftsmanship will no doubt shine through in the company’s new coffee subscription service. Gifters can choose quantity, roast level, and number of months and then send giftees on a caffeinated journey around the world.

Becca Dilley / Lake Superior Flavors

Becca Dilley / Lake Superior Flavors

Abbey Cake | $50 | 3½ pounds | The Jampot
This is the fruitcake to end all fruitcake: a bourbon-blessed monk-made confection featuring dark raisins, walnuts, and molasses. It’s moist and delectable. Properly wrapped, it stays wholesome for months and will get you through the holiday season — and the whole winter, for that matter — in good spirits.

Nordic Ware

Nordic Ware

Sponsored by the Nordic Ware Factory StoreFor this holiday season, bake a Cranberry Santa Loaf in the Nordic Ware Santa’s Sleigh Loaf Pan, then carry it to a party in Nordic Ware’s new loaf cake keeper, sized just right for many loaf bread recipes. Find more holiday gifts and ideas at the Nordic Ware Factory Store, a family-owned, American manufacturer of quality cookware, bakeware, microwave and grilling products, and specialty kitchenware — now celebrating its 70th anniversary. The Factory Store in St. Louis Park is frequented by home cooks, chefs, and restaurant owners, and it hosts twice-monthly evening classes. 4925 Highway 7, St. Louis Park; 952.924.9672; www.nordicware.com.

Tasting Menu with Wine Pairing: Gifts Over $50

James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

Local Crate Gift Subscription | $54-$96
We’ve been digging the kit meals from Local Crate that we’ve added to our homemade / take-out / delivery rotation. They’re reasonably quick and easy, use quality local food, and often teach a technique or ingredient that is new to our repertoire. A gift (anything from $54 for 4 servings up to $96 for 8 servings) can be a welcome introduction for a friend or family member, and a nice way to help a burgeoning home cook polish his or her chops with some good local grub.

Courtesy of Draft Horse

Courtesy of Draft Horse

“Everything Northeast” Gift Box  | $60 | Draft Horse
This is our kind of gift box – a Food Building-heavy collection that includes 1/4 lb. Lone Grazer Northeazy cheese, Red Table Meat Co. Caliber Salami, a voucher for bread or stone-milled flour from Baker’s Field, Beez Kneez Creole Mustard, 10oz bag of Spyhouse Division Fair Trade and Organic Coffee, and a Dangerous Man Mini Growler and fill.

James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

Homegrown Foods Organic Meal Delivery | $60+
Like Local Crate, Homegrown Foods stresses connections to local purveyors and restaurants, and presents inventive and relatively straightforward meal kits for its subscribers. And unlike Local Crate, Homegrown Foods supplies the recipes for what you’re making, which can save you some reverse engineering time. Pictured above: chicken pot pies that featured some of the tastiest, flakiest crust we’ve yet experienced on this dish, plus the innovative idea of using chicken thighs rather than breasts (they have a richer flavor and taste moister after a long bake.)

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Multi-piece serving tray | $50 | El Burrito Mercado
This large tray with removable bowls is ideal for casual, appetizer-based gatherings. Fill the bowls with a variety of dips and spreads without the worry of any of them melting into their neighbors.

Courtesy of Bittercube

Courtesy of Bittercube

Bitters Variety Pack | $57 | Bittercube
Bittercube makes cunningly compounded, artfully balanced bitters that enhance any cocktail they touch. A variety pack of six different bitters is enough to keep a home barkeep happily busy for at least a calendar year, at which point there’s always the option of giving them another variety pack. …

Courtesy of Nan's

Courtesy of Nan’s

Sponsored by Nan’s Naughty and Nice: Nan’s Naughty And Nice is the perfect gift this year for the Bloody Mary lover in your life. Nan’s is all natural and gluten free, and it pairs well with vodka and beer. www.nansnaugthtyandnice.com

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Black and White Marbled Enamelware Serving Pieces | Medium Basin, $26; Benson Basin, $72 | Forage Modern Workshop
These enameled metal serving pieces, available in black and white or blue and white, will give your holiday table a new spin on festive decor. The colorful pieces are sturdy and are available in a wide range of sizes. They’re capable of being used on the stove or in the oven to keep things warm. Or fill the basin with ice to keep your beverages cold. Matching mugs are available.

Cider Sampler | $75 | Urban Forage
The team at Urban Forage is turning city fruits into delicious wines and ciders, and pushing the boundaries on what “local” means in the process. Urban Forage’s sampler pack surveys their whole year of production and includes six 375-milliliter bottles of cider (semisweet cider, dry cider, apricot cider, pear cider, cherry cider, and mead). It’s available only at their shop on East Lake Street.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Horn-Handled Butter Spreader | $79 | Ingebretsen’s
This beautiful spreader was handmade by Bengt Westberg. The carved handle comes from reindeer horn and feels solid yet compact in your hand. It could bring a sense of gravitas to the simple act of spreading butter on bread.

Amy Rea / Heavy Table

Amy Rea / Heavy Table

Proteak Cutting Board | $148 | Cooks of Crocus Hill
This is as much a conversation piece as it is a practical piece of kitchenware. Teak is a renewable resource that’s also moisture-resistant and strong, making it an excellent choice for a cutting board. The board’s intricate checkered pattern is eye-catching and makes it a good choice for a serving tray as well. Various sizes and styles available.

Kenwood Electric Water Kettle | $150 | Cooks of Crocus Hill
A perfect gift for the hot-beverage enthusiast in your life. This kettle doesn’t just heat water — it heats water to a specific temperatures, depending on the beverage you’re brewing. This will get your water to 158°F for white tea or 185°F for oolong, and it has five other settings. Also: Protection against boiling dry.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Gray French Press | $150 | Forage Modern Workshop
A beautiful matte finish on this ceramic press gives it a quiet elegance. It holds 8 cups, and its ceramic body helps it maintain a consistent temperature throughout the brewing process. The press includes a fine-mesh steel filter and ca opper pull, and comes with brewing instructions.

WACSO / Heavy Table

WACSO / Heavy Table

Fair State Brewing Cooperative Membership | $200
Few gifts have more impact or cred than granting someone a piece of an (excellent) working brewery. Fair State Brewing Cooperative members receive a host of benefits and are part of a craft beer movement that has utterly remade the local culinary scene. And as long as we’re talking about Fair State and holiday giving, stop by the brewery from 1-6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17 to attend the Craft Condiment Market, featuring assorted locally made hot sauces, krauts, mustards, ketchups, and more.

Dualit Toaster | $260 for two-slice, $340 for four-slice | Cooks of Crocus Hill
Part retro, part spaceship, the classic toasters from Dualit are stylish enough that they deserve a permanent place on the kitchen counter rather than being buried away in a cupboard or under a cozy. There’s a defrost setting, and Dualit promises that replacement parts and repairs will be available for the life of the toaster.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Hand-Carved Wooden Bowl | $300 | Ingebretsen’s
This gorgeous, meticulously hand-carved wooden bowl can be functional — are instructions are included — but it can also stand alone as a striking piece of table art. Place it against a contrasting table linen, and let it shine on its own, or fill it with holiday decor. It’s a timeless piece that can be used year round, but it adds a particularly handsome touch to December festivities.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Cow Pool (Eighth Share) | $375 | Grass Fed Cattle Co.
There’s nothing quite like a big gift that gives right back to yourself. An eighth share of a cow from Grass Fed Cattle Co. is 44 pounds of grass-fed beef, a perfect amount to split between yourself and a good friend (or between yourself and three friends, if you’re OK with everyone receiving a mere 11 pounds of quality meat. This is the definition of “going big,” and will no doubt spawn countless thank-you barbecues, steak nights, and other pay-it-forward moments.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Chef Camp | Sept. 1-3, 2017 | $600 for an all-inclusive ticket
Inevitably, we arrive at the point in life where more stuff just feels like … more stuff. Those looking to skip the bulky boxes and give an (unforgettable) experience can pick up a ticket to Chef Camp, an immersive, Northwoods food retreat that runs Sept. 1-3, 2017. (Chef Camp is a project co-created by Heavy Table’s editor, James Norton.)

Chef Camp guests stay in the cabins of YMCA Camp Miller, 90 minutes north of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Campers take wilderness-themed cooking classes over open fires from some of the most talented local chefs, sip artisan coffee and cocktails, participate in classic camp activities (think archery, canoeing, and crafts) and feast under the stars in an open-air mess hall.

Discounted pre-sale pricing starts at $600, and includes all food, beverages, lodging and activities.

And through the end of the year, tickets will also come with a print copy of the 2016 Chef Camp cookbook. The cookbook includes recipes like:

  • Lake Trout and Crayfish Tacos from Chef J.D. Fratzke of The Strip Club and Saint Dinette
  • Wild Pine Cone Sourdough Starter from Ryan Stechschulte of Spoon and Stable
  • Lavender Cold Press Elixir from Tiny Footprint Coffee

chef-camp-holiday-book



Details on Gavin Kaysen’s Upcoming Bellecour Project

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Spoon and Stable Chef Gavin Kaysen (above left) has announced details of his second restaurant. The eatery, to be called Bellecour, is slated for downtown Wayzata in the former Blue Point space. The theme: “Classic French dishes with Midwestern ingredients.” As per a press release (below) Bellecour is shooting for a spring opening in 2017.

Chef and Owner Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable officially announces his second restaurant, Bellecour (739 Lake Street, Wayzata), set to open in the first quarter of 2017.

The name Bellecour comes from the Place Bellecour in the center of Lyon. The restaurant is a nod to Kaysen’s relationships with close friends, mentors, and lauded chefs Daniel Boulud and Paul Bocuse. Chef Boulud was born in Lyon, and Chef Bocuse is based there. The Place Bellecour connects the old town and the new town and is a place where Kaysen spends time and finds inspiration during his travels to Lyon for the Bocuse d’Or.

Before finding the space in Wayzata, Kaysen spent months walking through others to find the perfect location for his second restaurant. Of finding the Bellecour location, former home of The Blue Point, Kaysen says, “Once I walked through these doors, I felt an immediate connection to the charm and the natural character of the building, the town, and the smell of the lake nearby.”

Kaysen and the team are currently hard at work on a menu. It will feature a mix of classic French dishes like escargot and French onion soup, along with seasonal Midwestern ingredients and flavors. A bakery by Pastry Chef Diane Yang will welcome guests to the restaurant. Guests at Bellecour can expect the same attention to quality and hospitality that they’ve come to know at Spoon and Stable.

Linda Kaysen, Chef Kaysen’s wife, is collaborating with Shea Design and Zeman Construction on the look and feel of the space at Bellecour. Linda Kaysen, Shea Design, and Zeman Construction also worked together for the design and build-out of Spoon and Stable. The atmosphere at Bellecour will be casual while still bringing guests exceptional cuisine and thoughtful hospitality.

For more information and updates on opening please visit www.bellecourrestaurant.com.

About Bellecour

Bellecour is located in downtown Wayzata, and opening in the spring of 2017. The menu offers Chef and Owner Gavin Kaysen’s interpretations of classic French dishes, with Midwestern ingredients. The bakery at Bellecour will be open for breakfast and the full restaurant will be open for dinner. Guests are encouraged to check bellecourrestaurant.com for more information. Bellecour is also on Twitter, and Instagram.



Tullibee at the Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

I spent $24 on two Hewing Old Fashioneds at Tullibee last week, and I don’t regret it.

Part of it is because they were so smooth, so balanced, and so shockingly light that the experience of becoming drunk was less of the usual face-forward fall down a flight of cement stairs than a sublime gliding sensation, like surfing down from a cumulus cloud atop a giant golden lotus.

And part of it is because while Tullibee is expensive, it’s also delivering real value to its diners. That puts this new establishment at the door of an elite club that includes its neighbors Spoon and Stable and Bachelor Farmer as well as Meritage in St. Paul, Alma, and a select few other institutions.

For a hotel restaurant like Tullibee to waltz into that kind of crowd and successfully keep time is no small accomplishment, and it’s due to a few critical factors.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

First, the place (and the surrounding Hewing hotel) oozes style. Its “hipster North” vibe — besweatered front-of-house staff, lumberjack tchotchkes, that deer-head thing that keeps getting Instagrammed everywhere — could have become insufferable, but it’s done with a light enough touch that it’s both comforting and enjoyable. You feel as though you’re in a place with personality, but that personality isn’t in your face constantly insisting that you appreciate it.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Second, Tullibee is taking a whole-animal approach to cooking, fabricating (which is to say, disassembling) whole animals and working with the meat in a tail-to-snout fashion. Rabbits hang atop the rather spectacular grill that anchors the open kitchen, and the sight calls you back to a (much) earlier era of dining. All this, of course, would be irritating hand-waving if the meat on the plate didn’t back it up, but it did. Our Pork Chop ($25, above) was one of the best we’ve had — supple, perfectly cooked, rich in flavor, and uncomplicated. The quality of the meat did the talking, not a sauce or a heavy spice rub, and it reminded us most directly of the time Lenny Russo brought out a piece of Mangalitsa pork to demonstrate (successfully) that better meat can make a dramatic impact on the palate.



The Tap: An Open Letter to Publicists

Banner for the Tap: Food and Drink News

This week in the Tap: Some thoughts for food and restaurant publicists, and local restaurant openings and closings.

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.

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

WHY WE SAY “NO”: AN OPEN LETTER TO RESTAURANT PUBLICISTS

The Heavy Table gets invited to a lot of media events. A typical week might involve 2-3 invites; some weeks it’s closer to 10. With few exceptions, we politely decline.

The not terribly subtle quid pro quo on these things is this: You show up, you drink free cocktails, you’re fed a (free) series of small plates (or a meal, or a splendid banquet), and then you gush about the food and atmosphere. With proper disclosure, the idea of larger media organizations going to these things bothers me not at all.

But it rarely serves our readers. It’s not representative of the kind of treatment and food they’ll enjoy at the place — while there may be some common threads, the two experiences often have little to do with one another. Moreover, we’re likely to be treading the same ground as other media organizations at the event.

And it also doesn’t serve the Heavy Table. We’re depriving our readers of legitimate editorial content, and (unlike sponsored content) we’re not earning any money that we could spend to generate other stories.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Sometimes we do say “yes.” We will sometimes go to these events when the medium is the message. The circuslike rollouts for vendors at stadiums or particularly flashy hotels, for example, might feature enough variety of food and enough entertaining subtext that the event itself makes for good coverage.

We also get invited, frequently, to eat a (scheduled, and monitored) meal on the house at some new hotspot and write about it. We don’t do this. If we’re going to do a proper review of a place, we’ll spend our own money. And if we’re going to do a chef profile or longer feature on a place, we’ll do it because we know the person and the place have a real story to tell, because of our own experiences and because of recommendations from people we trust.

Most of all, we would like for every publicist who pitches us to know the following: We have an eternal backlog of local, independent restaurants and chefs who we’d like to write about. Many of them lack the resources for a marketing campaign or professional PR. If we are going to divert editorial resources from those stories to your story, well — why does that make sense? But that’s your bar: Justify your client in the context of an ever-changing universe of food.

I’m not saying that we can’t be bought. Sponsored content and other advertising is available to anyone who wants to reach our readers, and we’ll use the money so obtained to pay writers, editors, designers, illustrators, and photographers to make a magazine. But we can’t be bought for a free meal.

A gym membership, though? Let’s talk. — James Norton

NOW OPEN

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • Dumpling, 4004 Minnehaha Ave S, Minneapolis | Not to be confused with Mrs. Dumpling at Lyn-Lake. Some love for their food in the Hot Five.
  • Tullibee, 300 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis | Nordic fare from nationally known chef Grae Nonas at the Hewing hotel.
  • Punch Bowl Social, The Shops at West End, St. Louis Park
  • Tropicana, 2585 W 7th St., St. Paul | Potentially intriguing: Specially for Ethiopians and Eritreans you will feel like back home,” as per the Facebook page.
  • Scratch Burgers and Beer, 408 3rd Ave N, Minneapolis
  • Cafe Alma, 528 University Ave SE, Minneapolis | Drinks, snacks, and meals on the main floor of the new Hotel Alma, and next door the the newly reopened Restaurant Alma.
  • Sum Dem Korean Barbecue, 735 E 48th St, Minneapolis
WACSO / Heavy Table

WACSO / Heavy Table

  • Ha Tien Grocery (second location), 1959 Suburban Ave, St. Paul | One of our favorite stops on our Green Line Checklist has opened a second location.
  • McKinney Roe, 530 4th St S, Minneapolis | Contemporary American food by the owner of O’Donovan’s Irish Pub and Lola’s Lakehouse.
  • Blacklist Beer, 120 E Superior St, Duluth |  Taproom in the once notorious, now rehabbed former Last Place on Earth location.
  • Tori Ramen, 161 Victoria St N, St. Paul | Chicken-focused ramen shop in the former Lee and Dee’s.
  • Augustine’s Bar and Bakery, 1668 Selby Ave, St. Paul | Another spot from the owner of The Happy Gnome, with an odd bakery-bar hybrid thing going on.
Joe Krummel / Heavy Table

Joe Krummel / Heavy Table

  • Fitzgerald’s, 173 Western Ave N, St. Paul |Pub fare in a casual setting, replacing the Salt Cellar. A first look in our recent article.
  • Mercury Dining Room and Rail, 505 Marquette Ave S, Minneapolis | Scratch fare from the Blue Plate Restaurant Company in the old Brasserie Zentral space. Here’s our report on some of their cocktails.
  • Crisp and Green, 755 East Lake Street, Wayzata | Owned by restaurateur Ryan Burnet (Burch, Bar La Grassa); menu will feature salads and grain bowls. A North Loop location will open next spring in the former Sapor space.


Old Southern BBQ Smokehouse in Hudson, Wis.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

It’s been a 20-year on-again-off-again affair for Dave Anderson and Famous Dave’s, the national chain of barbecue restaurants that bears his name. But the man must have barbecue sauce running in his veins, because he just can’t stay away from the barbecue business. In 2015, he opened the first branch of Old Southern BBQ Smokehouse in Hayward, Wis. (the same town in which he opened his first Famous Dave’s), and just one year later, there are additional Old Southern BBQ locations in Rice Lake and Hudson, Wis.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

We visited the Hudson location, tucked inconspicuously into a strip mall a short jaunt off Interstate 94. Friday lunch found the restaurant busy, with every table occupied and a line from the register to the door. It’s a light and airy room, with an indoor pergola, unfinished pine paneling, lots of windows, and a faux farmers market stand, complete with real fruit and vegetables (probably the restaurant’s stock). All of the signage is in the style of chalk drawings — cartoonish and colorful.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

We had a Southern Sampler ($22), which includes a little of each meat, and we found it all to surpass the quality of Famous Dave’s. In ranking order from fair to outstanding, we tried the Texas hot link, beef brisket, pork, ribs, and chicken. The Texas hot link was mediocre, a little too much like a plain hot dog. There was nothing particularly “Texas” or “hot” about it. The brisket split the table. It had a mild smokiness, it was tender and juicy like properly slow-cooked brisket, and the beefy flavor really came through. The pulled pork had a great fall-apart texture and a whiff of real wood smoke, but it could have benefited from more aromatics. The ribs had a great crusty exterior and were likewise tender. The definite highlight was the chicken. It had a deeply infused smoky flavor and was well-spiced and juicy as can be.

None of the meats really wanted for barbecue sauce, but the full line of colorfully branded bottles on each table called out for meat. So we obliged. Again in order from meh to yeh: the Southern Sun was a disappointment, too mustardy and Heinzy, ironic for a Carolina-style sauce. The Southern Gal’s was too sweet. Chicago Blue was a little peppery, so just use the Dixie Red, which was more peppery. We liked the Diablo’s Batch, which falls short of satanically hot but has a tricky heat that sticks with you and multiplies, even after you stop eating it.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

We found the sides ($2 for a single portion) to be a little spottier than the meat. The mac and cheese, normally a pretty low bar to clear, was a disappointment: dry and more cheese-colored than cheesy. We were divided on the potato salad. The tubers themselves were bland, and one diner suggested that the potatoes would have benefited from being boiled in saltier water. The dressing was creamy with a dill flavor, and the salad had a nice celery crunch. It rose to the level of a solid grocery store version. The tangy slaw might have oversold its tang, but with all the meat, a lightly dressed vinegar slaw hit the spot. It was crunchy and refreshing.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

You can order meat and sides or sandwiches as at any barbecue joint. But where Old Southern has broken the mold is by applying the “Chipotle effect” to barbecue and offering bowls ($8). It’s basically meat and sides served right on top of one another and drizzled with barbecue sour cream. There are three pre-made options, but you can create your own with a choice of one meat and two bases (generally starches and beans), and with as many toppers (pickled onion, pickled cukes, corn etc.) as you’d like. The Dixie Bowl (rice and barbecue beans, tangy slaw, pork topped with tomatoes, jalapeños, and corn) was a harmonious balance of flavor and texture that we’d definitely order again. For the price, it’s an enormous value. On a later visit to the Hayward branch, we tried the Soul Bowl (mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, chicken, and creamy coleslaw), which we found to be a mess of starch and cream. Creamy coleslaw, mac and cheese, and mashed potatoes can live on a plate together, but all in one bite they do not create a symphony.

It’s impossible not to compare Old Southern with Famous Dave’s. One could easily imagine that Old Southern is what Dave Anderson would have done with Famous Dave’s if he had his druthers. The concept appeals to the modern fast-casual diner’s taste and DIY preference. Most importantly, the food is well made and consistently enjoyable. This feels like a readily scalable concept, so if you live in the Twin Cities, and Hudson is too far for you to travel, give it time: We wouldn’t be surprised to see an Old Southern BBQ pop up in the cities sooner or later.

Old Southern BBQ
Fast casual barbecue and smokehouse in Wisconsin

2421 Hanley Rd
Hudson, Wis 54016
715.245.8900
Hours:
Daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Vegetarian / Vegan: Very limited
Entree range: $5-$22
Sound level: Noisy, but no need to shout
Parking: Lot