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.



Bottled and Barrel-Aged Cocktails, Eastlake Brewing, 11 Wells MN13

Banner for the Toast: Drinking Well in the Upper MidwestThis month’s Toast features the sophisticated winter cocktail menu at Lyn 65 plus news of bottled cocktails. Enjoy a look at Midtown Global Market’s brand new Eastlake Brewery, and get acquainted with 11 Wells distillery.

lyn65-exterior

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Winter Cocktails at Lyn 65

A strip mall is not the place you’d expect to find remarkable beverages or creative, flavorful cooking, but at Lyn65, you will find both, and their bar program is getting serious results.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Immediately upon entering, we could see several small wooden barrels in the dining room, which is flanked by a substantial bar at which each stool was occupied.

The restaurant’s winter cocktail list debuts this week, and for the first time it highlights the barrel-aging program implemented by bar manager and co-owner Travis Serbus. The barrel aging of cocktails is catching on because it enhances flavor and adds depth, as it does for a Chardonnay or Russian imperial stout.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Serbus explains that two classic French drinks, a Vieux Carré and Boulevardier, have spent the last 6 to 8 months developing in virgin oak barrels. The barrels will be re-used, infusing additional flavor into a second generation of beverages.

For depth of flavor and pleasant spice, try the barrel-aged Vieux Carré. As one sips, a pleasant scent of anise and lemon becomes evident among the flavors of aromatic bitters and softened booze. The effects of aging on cocktails is not unlike what happens when you slow cook food — flavors are mingled and sharpness fades.

lyn65-drink

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Two year-round cocktails stood out, as well, not only for their superb flavor but also for their creative ingredients. The Cook Cut Stab Kill, an orange-marmalade twist on a whisky sour, is a textural delight featuring deep orange notes rather than pungent tartness. As a counterpoint to a heavy winter beverage, go with the Tijuana Brass Smash (above). Mild avocado and lime may sound like liquid guacamole, but they come into perfect balance thanks to cucumber vodka.



A Timeline of Italian Food in Minnesota

Sean Lynch / Heavy Table

Sean Lynch / Heavy Table

This timeline made possible by underwriting from Sunrise Market in St. Paul.

Traditionally, Minnesota’s ethnic breakdown was often conflated with immigration from Scandinavian and Germanic countries. And why not? Surely, when the Janssons and Engstroms arrived in Minnesota, they must have been glad to find a place that felt much like home.

But Southern Europe contributes plenty of its own threads to the Minnesota tapestry: Italians (and their food) have played a major role in the state’s development everywhere from the Iron Range to St. Paul to Duluth.

What was the draw for families arriving from Rome? From Sicily? What did they eat upon arrival, and how did their foods plant the seeds for generations of restaurants? These questions drove us to do a little digging into the Italian history of the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

A timeline like this can’t be all inclusive. This project aims to paint a picture of the breadth of Italian food here, from fine dining to red sauce to the ever-controversial “Hot Dago” sandwich. Most of all, we wanted to share what we found out about an often-overlooked part of Minnesota’s immigrant history.

Sean Lynch / Heavy Table

Sean Lynch / Heavy Table

1889 – The Italian Macaroni and Vermicelli Company is established in St. Paul¹
Italian immigrants established themselves as food merchants from their first arrival in the 1850s — selling fruit, vegetables, ice cream, and other foods, especially in the business district of Saint Paul. In 1889, the Italian Macaroni and Vermicelli Company was formed. By 1897, the company was successful enough to be featured in a “permanent display of home-manufactured goods”² at the Market Hall, alongside other vendors including the Hamm Brewing Company.

1899-1914 – Italian immigration to Minnesota gets underway / Saint Paul’s Little Italy¹ develops
Italian immigration to the United States began early in the 19th century, but of the six million Italians who came to America between 1820 and 1980, more than half arrived between 1899 and 1914. Roughly 10,000 immigrants from that period gave Minnesota as their destination, settling mostly in the Twin Cities and Duluth (80 percent of these immigrants settled in these two cities). Minnesota’s Italian-born population peaked in 1910, with the majority coming from agricultural towns with a deeply entrenched sense of community. Additionally, racism against Italians was widespread. Together, these forces encouraged an insular lifestyle, and led to the development of Italian neighborhoods, primarily in Saint Paul’s Upper Levee / Upper Landing and in Swede Hollow, where the Italian section was known as Railroad Island, because of the large number of Italians employed in the railroad trade. Lower Payne Avenue was lined with Italian shops, grocery stores, and restaurants run by and for Italians.



Shepherd’s Way Kickstarter, Surly About to Open, and More

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Shepherd’s Way Farms has kicked off its Kickstarter campaign to build new sheep barns. A look at Badger Hill’s new brewery in Shakopee, and a preview of this Friday’s opening of the new Surly megaplex. A recipe for pheasant and dumplings. And some changes (including a new chef) at Cook St. Paul.



Breakfast at The Ettlin’s Cafe in New Prague

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Going out for breakfast is one of life’s best treats. But it’s even better when you find a cafe that has a menu with breakfast basics as well as ethnic specialties, and does both equally well.

Such is the case at The Ettlin’s Cafe in New Prague. The diner, on the edge of New Prague’s downtown, takes pride in its breakfast offerings, as well it should. This is made-from-scratch cooking at its best. The dinner-plate-sized buttermilk pancakes ($2 each) are tender and mildly sweetened with honey from hives kept by the owners. Bacon is fried up crisp and smoky; eggs over easy are perfectly plated.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Where Ettlin’s really shines is in its Czech breakfast ($11), a hearty plate with a generous portion of jitrnice sausage (supplied by nearby Odenthal Meats), a Czech smoked sausage of pork and beef seasoned with garlic and paprika. While not spicy in a heat sense, it delivers a zippy flavor. The breakfast also includes housemade fried dumplings — little pillows of dough that are best covered in the accompanying rich gravy. Fluffy scrambled eggs finish out the plate, and there’s a side dish of fresh-baked kolacky (although you can swap it out for one of the sumptuous pancakes, if you like).