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 email@example.com.
The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.
Potato Flautas at Sonora Grill
Chicken cooked in the onion, garlic, and bell pepper mixture known as sofrito delivers tender texture and a wallop of flavor, and it’s a perfect partner to the mild, comforting potatoes and crunchy fried tortillas that sit beneath it in the Sonora Grill rendition of flautas. Flautas can be small, bland, boring little things, but here they’re a big, brash, rich plate of flavor.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]
Lamb Bacon from Finer Meats
We decided to try lamb bacon instead of pancetta in a carbonara sauce. Cooking it was essentially the same as pancetta and it rendered down nicely. Typically, lamb bacon is made from the belly of a sheep and has a more intense flavor … a bit more earthy, adding that gamey flavor you’d expect from lamb.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Brenda Johnson]
Tandoori Salmon at Gandhi Mahal
Gandhi Mahal’s sizzling salmon affirms our belief that sometimes less really is more. Cooked in a tandoor oven, the wild salmon arrives with a tasty crust and an extremely juicy interior and is accompanied by seared onions and fluffy rice. To take the dish to the next level, we recommend spooning raita over the fish, onions, and rice.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Joshua Page]
The Farm: Braised Oxtail Ragout from Handsome Hog
The Farm is braised oxtail ragout served with an enormous and dense biscuit and topped with a duck egg and a pickled squash blossom. It is a plate so fine to behold that the restaurant made it the first thing you see when you land on their website. The oxtail was well browned, slightly sweet, and supremely beefy. The duck egg was crisp on the bottom, with the large yolk still runny. Mixing the yolk with the oxtail and sopping it up with a biscuit — that is the essence of soul food. You could eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or all three in the same lucky day.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a review by Ted Held]
Millers & Saints Barrelled Gin
Millers & Saints Barrelled Gin is of the pre-Prohibition style, meaning that it is on the sweeter side, with botanicals that are similar to a London dry, but less potent in the juniper department. The aroma contains strong warm spice notes including allspice and cinnamon. The gin displays more barrel character than the Tattersall version, and the mix of botanicals is different from J. Carver’s Barrel Gin, which contains more citrus flavor and is brighter on the palate.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a review by Paige Latham]
The Weekend Starts Now podcast taped the second show of its second season at Indeed Brewing Company‘s Ox Room on Tuesday, April 12.
Join us Tuesday, May 10 at Indeed for our next taping session featuring beer, smart conversation, and the occasional non-sequitur.
This weekly podcast is a joint project of the Heavy Table and Secrets of the City, and it covers art, music, food, drink, culture, and more in the Upper Midwest.
The Weekend Starts Now is brought to you by Indeed Brewing Company. Indeed Brewing Company cultivates an artfully eclectic lineup of distinctive flagship beers, well-loved seasonal releases, and adventurous specialty brews from the heart of Northeast Minneapolis. Indeed Brewing: We’re not just brewing beer, We’re crafting experiences. We are thirsty creatures, Indeed. There’s more to explore at www.indeedbrewing.com.
Our podcast is also brought to you by Annie B’s Popcorn and Caramels. Annie B’s, making handcrafted caramels and popcorn right here in Minnesota since 1978. Enter the promocode “Weekend” at anniebs.com to take 20 percent off your order!
SEGMENT 1: INTRODUCTION
Taylor and James fire up season two of the podcast and welcome listeners to the swanky Ox Room at Indeed Brewing Company.
SEGMENT 2: AUTHOR RICK SHEFCHIK
Rick Shefchik talks Minnesota music vis-a-vis his new book, Everybody’s Heard About the Bird: The True Story of 1960s Rock ’n’ Roll in Minnesota.
SEGMENT 3: DANCE MAVEN MICHELE STEINWALD
We talk dance, artistic expression, and Law & Order with one of the country’s most interesting dance experts, Michele Steinwald.
SEGMENT 4: ERICA CHRIST AND GINA HOLMAN
SEGMENT 5: BOOKER AND PHOTOGRAPHER ADAM DEGROSS
Musical mainstay and Instagram phenom Adam DeGross talks with us about booking, photography, social media, and art.
In the fall of 2014, Millers & Saints Distillery quietly entered the local liquor scene with its vodka. Unlike the majority of craft spirit producers, the company has continued to operate somewhat under the radar, albeit successfully and with a hyperlocal following. This slow, focused growth is similar to that of Steel Toe Brewing, which shares space with the distillery and assists in brewing its washes.
When we first visited Millers & Saints, owner Joe Muggli was clear that the whiskey and bourbon, resting in stacked barrels in the small space, would not be rushed. The barrelled gin, however, was released months ago, seemingly to tide the public over.
Historically, gin was not put into barrels for flavor and color as other dark spirits were. A trend over the past four years or so, though, has been to rest the botanical spirit on wood. The motivation is broad — some distillers want to experiment with the technique to add smoothness, while others want to bring out characteristics akin to rum or tequila while still producing a more locally authentic product. (This means avoiding the traditional agave and sugar cane, which aren’t equipped to grow in Minnesota.)
Millers & Saints Barrelled Gin is of the pre-Prohibition style, meaning that it is on the sweeter side, with botanicals that are similar to a London dry, but less potent in the juniper department. The aroma contains strong warm spice notes including allspice and cinnamon. Although the label describes lemon and vanilla, the bulk of the flavor is cardamom and allspice with a hint of oak. There is a significant alcoholic heat throughout sipping, though it is 80 proof.
The gin displays more barrel character than the Tattersall version, and the mix of botanicals is different from J. Carver’s Barrel Gin, which contains more citrus flavor and is brighter on the palate. The Millers & Saints rendition will likely please the majority of juniper-loving gin drinkers, but the mix of flavors seems more appropriate for cooler nights than peak patio season.
Ever since the Hi-Lo Diner pitched up on East Lake Street — in all its stainless steel and neon glory — we have been standing on the curb, eagerly watching the windows for signs of life. Was it six months or a year? It seemed a century, during which rumors of milk shakes and doughnuts only increased our vigilant anticipation, so it’s no surprise that the place has been packed every meal of the day since it opened a few weeks ago.
And, now that we’ve been inside and had a bite to eat, we can say that it looks just like we hoped it would and early tastes are promising.
Prefabricated diners were originally designed to look like the sleek art deco train cars of the 1930s and to be trim enough for road travel from the factory to the restaurant site. The Hi-Lo has the efficient, neato feeling of a dining car. On one side, there’s a long counter and a row of floor-mounted stools, from which one can watch the bartenders and soda fountain at work; on the other, there are small, low-backed booths. A mirror runs above the center aisle, and someone said it’s there to help the bartenders spot empty drinks, but we liked watching the food roll out of the kitchen.
The Hi-Lo is compact, but it’s also light and airy — between the windows, gleaming stainless steel, and teal accents — and just loud enough that if we were initially aware of the neighboring diners, we soon forgot about them.
The grass is green in Mears Park. Any minute now, the St. Paul Farmers’ Market will move back to its outdoor home, and the crowds will be cheering for the Saints in their second season in downtown St. Paul. As the signs of summer return to Lowertown, the St. Paul neighborhood’s perennial boom shows no signs of bust. Enter Handsome Hog (203 E 6th Street, St. Paul): the latest chef-driven, semi-upscale eatery to open its doors with a burst of exuberant hype in the streets of Lowertown.
The Twin Cities have seen a expanding trend of Southern style restaurants in recent years. Both locations of Brasa are always packed, Revival is preparing to open a second location in St. Paul, and after years of accolades in Champlin, Q Fanatic has just opened a second location in Richfield. The trend of deconstructed food has passed, and now we seem to be crazy for smoke and spice — we want our food to be whole again.
We try not to be swept up in the hype, but in this case, it was very hard to contain our hopes. Billed as contemporary Southern food with a world-class bar, and helmed by chef Justin Sutherland, a veteran of the superb kitchens at St. Paul’s Meritage and Minneapolis’ late Brasserie Zentral, Handsome Hog made us giddy with expectation.
Compared to other recent openings, where an eternity might go by between the announcement, the pop-ups, the rumors, the months of radio silence, the hiring announcement, and the eventual opening, Handsome Hog opened relatively quickly. A spring opening after an announcement last fall is fast, and dadgummit, they might have benefited from a little more time to allow some of the promising aspects to fully gestate.
Over the course of a couple of visits, Handsome Hog left us impressed with a few things, and left us scratching our heads about a few more. Take, for example, the first item on the lunch menu, The Tator ($12). With a choice of meat (we chose brisket), jalapeno sour cream, cheese curds, and mustard greens, it sounded like a winner.
We could chalk it up to an ordering error on our part, but what we were served was a disappointing baked potato topped with scant brisket, cool cheese curds, and barely blanched greens. Whereas a fluffy baked potato with melted cheese and sour cream can be some serious comfort food, this tater was just on the fork-piercing side of crunchy, and with the lukewarm toppings, the dish just didn’t come together.
Somewhat better was the Skillet Hot Brown ($13), with shaved pork loin, Mornay sauce, and bacon over griddled Texas toast. The deep smokiness of the bacon and the richness of the Mornay saved this open-faced sandwich from the white meat’s blandness. We had to double check the menu to verify whether the meat was pork or turkey. And while it was brown, it was definitely not hot, despite the torch-browned bubbles on the top.