While the Twin Cities craft beer scene is brimming with bold new brews, our beloved craft-beer-forward neighbor to the east, Wisconsin, is also within our thirsty reach. Hudson, a mere 25 miles from the Twin Cities, has many of its own craft-beer-centric establishments, some of which hit the mark, and others of which, though well intentioned, slightly miss. Here we highlight three types of establishments in the Exit 2 area: a brewery, a liquor store, and a gastropub.
American Sky Brewing, 1510 Swasey St, Hudson, WI 54016
American Sky Brewing is one of three breweries in Hudson. With an almost excessive amount of freedom and Americana imagery, puns and accoutrements, the brewery is genuine in its patriotism — the taproom has a wall with photos of patrons’ military-veteran loved ones, offers discounts with military ID, and has a creation story centered around one specific veteran, the owner/brewer’s father-in-law, who taught the owner how to brew. Their flagship, Tailgunner Gold, is the first recipe they brewed together.
The taproom, open Wednesday through Sunday, offers daily specials. But Sundays are best, not only because you can’t buy beer at liquor stores in Minnesota, and you may end up in Wisconsin anyway, but because American Sky Brewing offers a Beer and Bacon special: free bacon tastings from local butcher RJ’s Meats & Groceries, $2 off growler fills, and of course, the Vikings or Packers game on big screen TV.
This post is sponsored by The Third Bird.
The Third Bird is the latest Kim Bartmann-helmed restaurant to open in Minneapolis [read our review here], and one of the more collaborative when it comes to local culinary firepower. We had a chance to sit down and chat with Steven Brown (above left) and Lucas Almendinger (above right), the decorated chefs behind the menu who have worked with Bartmann and sommelier Bill Summerville to establish a new mainstay in a storied Loring Park location.
HEAVY TABLE: Lucas, you used to be a cabinet maker, and I hear you got in touch with Steven and you two have been cooking since. I’m curious about how you two struck up this mentor/protégé relationship in the kitchen.
STEVEN BROWN: Well first of all, turns out that not only did I grow up with and go to high school with Lucas’s father, but … On Lucas’ maiden voyage to the hospital, with his mother who was pregnant with him, my mother drove them, apparently, in my father’s Corvette. Although we’d never met, and I think the last time I’d seen his dad Rob had to have been 1981, the day we matriculated…
HEAVY TABLE: So you two have a history …
BROWN: Yes, unintended or otherwise!
LUCAS ALMENDINGER: Yeah, I was working at WA Frost, and I sent Steven a friend request on Facebook and he responded with, “Is your dad’s name Rob?” And then I found out they went to high school together. We ended up meeting up and talking; we were doing a catering event with Landon Schoenefeld, and I sort of invited myself along.
HEAVY TABLE: Had you been cooking much before then?
ALMENDINGER: Not a lot … my mom owned a restaurant when I was in high school, so I had done it, but I didn’t want to do it forever … so I went into guitar making, moved up here, fell into the cabinet making industry, got burned out on that, and decided to get into cooking again. And here we are.
HEAVY TABLE: Where did you two start working together first?
BROWN: Tilia. We struck up a friendship; we’d get together and have coffee on occasion, trade cookbooks.
HEAVY TABLE: And now you’re here at The Third Bird. So how did this all come together with Kim Bartmann? Seems like it’s been quite a collaborative effort.
BROWN: Yeah, I’ve known Kim for a long time, and admired her many and sundry places. She would occasionally have me do an event or wine tasting, or I’d see her in one of her restaurants. So she called me up and said, “Hey, I’ve got a new project coming up. Would you be interested in talking about it?” And I said, “Ah, I don’t know … I’d have to think about that a little bit.” And a few weeks later, I’d gone to Italy with Bill Summerville, and we’d struck up a friendship based on our traveling together. And Kim said, “Well I think Bill’s going to be involved in this too. …” So my level of interest went up a fair amount. So we just started talking about the things we know and are able to do, and to put them together, collaboratively, to see what the end result could be. Sometimes you’re a one-man band, and then all of a sudden you find an opportunity to not only do something different and new — which is always exciting to me — but to do it with people you admire and respect, and hopefully learn something along the way, yourself. So … it’s a great opportunity. Sometimes you get stylistically put in a position, and the press can put you in a place. It can be easy to become typecast a little bit.
For many of us, salad is our meal starter because, well, that’s how we think it’s supposed to be. We shovel down several forkfuls of lettuce and raw veggies so we can indulge in a richer main course. And while choosing such a strategy at the Uptown mainstay Barbette makes sense — especially when your meal includes the hearty (and salty) steak frites — chef Sarah Master provides an excellent reason to appreciate the salad course on its own merits. Case in point: a generous plate of field greens ($7.50).
It may be hard to imagine why a dish featuring just four ingredients — a toss of greens, pickled onions, celery hearts, and a dill vermouth vinaigrette – is worth mentioning beyond a sentence or two. There’s nothing fancy about this salad: no crumbly cheese, no pieces of prosciutto, no vegetables that have been roasted, grilled, or otherwise coaxed into lending the salad the ubiquitous umami flavor invading menus everywhere these days. But what it does offer works to such a degree that you’ll be thinking about this dish the next time you run through the cafeteria salad bar, hoping to capture the same satisfaction that Master achieves in her simple and sublime starter.
While that dressing, which walks the line between the sweetness of vermouth and the more savory, grassy dill, is key to the overall success of the salad, it’s not the be-all and end-all of the dish. The vinaigrette needs the kind of green that readily absorbs, and doesn’t fight against, the dressing’s strong flavors, and the choice of light, curly lettuces is much more suitable than thicker spinach or iceberg. The pickled onions pack a subtly briny punch to temper the vinaigrette’s sweetness, and the celery hearts ensure that any greens that may have received a extra dousing of dressing are balanced with the crunch and neutrality of an often-overlooked vegetable.
It may not be as sexy as the salmon Niçoise or lardon-laden frisée options at Barbette, but don’t miss a chance to savor the field greens the next time you find yourself seated at one of Barbette’s cozy tables. Appreciate the simple, sweet flavors of a plate of greens, and get your umami fix elsewhere. That steak will wait for you.
Barbette, 1600 W Lake St, Minneapolis; 612.827.5710
It’s almost October and the farmers markets are beginning to wind down. Zucchini and tomatoes are on the wane. Who would expect to see a vibrant, new food at the stands of three producers at the Mill City Farmers Market?
Meet fresh ginger in all its fragrant, magenta-tinged glory. This ginger is tender, virtually without fibers, and very hot. You can find it at the Stone’s Throw and Seven Songs booths for the next few weeks ($15-$16/lb), and Stone’s Throw expects to have enough to sell at the Mill City indoor markets this winter.
Melissa Driscoll of Seven Songs Farm in Kenyon, MN (above) is the pioneer of local ginger. She first learned that the spicy rhizome could be a cold-climate crop in 2011, while reading Growing for Market, a magazine she swears by. The article was written by the owners of Old Friends Farm in Amherst, Mass. It detailed the successful growing method they devised with the help of a Federal Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant.
This is Seven Songs’ third year growing ginger, but their first year selling it at Mill City.
Driscoll explains that growing ginger in the Upper Midwest is not easy. Even receiving the seed is a challenge. Seed ginger is shipped from Hawaii or North Carolina in February. It has to be specially packaged because it can’t survive at temperatures below 50°F. Any ginger can be broken into pieces and sprouted, but as with potatoes, having stock that is certified to be disease free gives the farmer greater certainty of success.
We’re spoiled in the Twin Cities. There are so many excellent South and Southeast Asian restaurants dotting the landscape that one couldn’t be blamed for feeling a little “ho hum” about green curry and tikka masala. If you find yourself seeking a cure for the same-old-curry blues, head to Friends Cafe, located in a strip mall at the intersection of Rice and Larpenteur. Sandwiched between a medical supply store and a pawnshop, this restaurant — with its welcoming but completely uninformative name — is the only place in town we’ve found serving Burmese cuisine. (Its “exotic food in far-flung metro location” profile reminds us of our visits to the Sri Lankan House of Curry in Rosemount.)
Friends Cafe is an inviting little room with clean, green walls and sparse decor that whispers, “Asian restaurant.” The tables are plain and decorated only with a bottle of fish sauce or soy sauce, if anything at all. It’s the kind of unstylish space that leaves the food with nothing to hide behind.
The cafe serves both Thai and Burmese food, and our server was quick to differentiate between the two. Burmese cuisine, she explained, is similar to Thai in that it is built around seafood and fish sauce, but it frequently contains bittersweet tamarind, and it isn’t spicy like Thai cuisine.
We skipped right past the familiar Thai dishes to the Burmese section of the menu and ordered shrimp and eggplant curry ($11). The dish was refreshingly simple. There were no surprise ingredients — just those on the marquee. The large, butterflied shrimp were expertly prepared: tender, yet firm. The succulent eggplant, heavy with oil, was a long, thin, purple-striped variety quartered lengthwise and cut into 2-inch sections. The oil-based sauce was heavy on garlic, with a taste of sweet chili and umami to spare. We ordered the stock version, but spice warriors can dial up the heat. Served with jasmine rice, the portion was generous, and the shrimp were almost as plentiful as the eggplant.