The North Coast Nosh, which has now hit double digits and is steaming along toward legal drinking age, is more than just a chance to eat and drink and observe the evolving facial hair styles of Twin Cities 20- and 30-somethings. It’s a chance to talk with some of our area’s most passionate food and drink advocates, to learn about what makes them so good at their craft, and, sometimes, what makes them tick as individuals.
Here’s what we learned while we wandered around at Nosh XI at the Soap Factory with our adorable souvenir jam jar / glass on Saturday afternoon:
We should never drink bellinis again.
The bellini, the one-note diva of brunch drinks, has had her time in the sun. It’s time for something a little livelier. The team from Peace Coffee was shaking up their signature Café Milano cocktails: Yeti Cold Press concentrate, Campari, and Grand Marnier. The Campari adds back the bitterness and depth that ultra-smooth cold press lacks, and Grand Marnier has all the sweetness this drink needs. If not for the existence of bloody Marys in this world, this might be our new favorite brunch drink. (Need a recipe? Add 2 oz cold press concentrate, 1 / 2 oz Campari, and 1 / 2 oz Grand Marnier to a shaker. Shake with ice, strain, and serve.)
Judge a brewery by its pilsner.
The way Ben Flattum, of Fulton Beer, explains it, big hoppy and malty flavors can hide a multitude of sins in other styles of beer (not that Fulton brewers would ever need to do that). But a true pilsner needs to be in perfect balance, so it’s the best way to gauge a brewer’s chops. At the Nosh, Flattum poured Fulton’s light, bright, and hard-to-find Ringer American pale ale and debuted their upcoming farmhouse ale, the super-herby Maitrise. Both beers will be easier to find after Fulton opens its new brewery and bottling facility in Northeast Minneapolis in July. (Don’t worry: the downtown taproom isn’t going anywhere.) Remember, all this started in a Minneapolis garage.
Bonus lesson: Pelletized hops looks like rabbit food.
Chocolate nibs must be ground into pieces smaller than the thickness of a human hair.
That was one of the many lessons learned by Clyo Howard and Beryl Wells Hamilton of Meadowlands Chocolate as they perfected their chocolate-making technique. They measure the chocolate with a micrometer as they grind it down, aiming for 17–19 microns. The average human hair: 100 microns. That’s how they make their product silky smooth, while the snap comes from painstaking, eagle-eyed tempering. Howard and Hamilton make single-origin, bean-to-bar chocolates with just two ingredients (cocoa beans and sugar). But the cocoa beans themselves have such complex flavors — from the fruity Bolivian to the caramely Dominican to the citrusy Venezuelan — that you’ll start to wonder about those fools who put bacon and habañeros in their chocolate.
Bonus lesson: Horse-syringes make excellent tools for filling chocolate molds.
Never eat sushi after yogurt.
Kyatchi, with an assist from The Fish Guys, showed off creamy, delicate yellowtail nigiri, but — rookie Nosh mistake — we wandered over there after tasting Kalona Supernatural’s brand-new Greek yogurt with Birchwood’s granola. Two great tastes that do not taste great together. We had to cleanse our palate with Minneapolis tap water (a long-time Nosh participant) and go back for round two. (Totally worth it.)
Bonus lesson: Kalona buys its milk almost exclusively from Amish farms surrounding tiny Kalona, Iowa.
Looking for the hair of the dog? Bake bread.
Warm bread is fantastic hangover food: warm, comforting, easy to digest. But you don’t want to be messing with yeast (or measuring, frankly) on the morning after. Enter Just Add Beer Bread. It is, as founder Mitchell Schwartz says, a two-step process. Step one: Add beer (any beer). Step two: Bake bread. You’ve probably got a bottle of beer left over. Everything else you need is in the mix. The slices Schwartz was toasting at his table drew Nosh guests over by their noses, like in an old cartoon. Find the fantastically easy mix at Ruby Bird in Bloomington or (very soon!) at Cost Plus World Markets nationwide.
There’s no such thing as too much good cheese.
Frankly, we already knew this. And you probably did, too. But the Nosh really drove it home. Alemar Cheese showed off the cheese that put them on the map (Camembert-style Bent River) and their newest achievement (the funky, washed-rind Good Thunder, above). Shepherd’s Way showed us what 20 years of hard work can achieve, with their ultra-sheepy, fresh Shepherd’s Hope and their seasonal Morcella. (Me: “Hey, congrats on 20 years!” Jodi Ohlsen Read of Shepherd’s Way: “What? Oh, my goodness. You’re right. Thanks for reminding me.”) The Caves of Faribault showed off the power of natural limestone caves with their celebrated St. Pete’s Select, grass-fed Verdant blue cheese, and grass-fed St. Mary’s gouda. And they all demonstrated that cheese makers are always worth taking the time to chat with.
Bonus lesson: St. Mary’s gouda is probably the only grass-fed gouda in Minnesota. What? You haven’t seen it in your local cheese shop? Me either. Ask for it!
You can tie marshmallows in knots.
No, really. Well, maybe not you. Maybe not any mere mortals. But the wizards at Patisserie 46 can. They whip the sugar mixture even longer than usual to make the final product a little sturdier, pipe this through fat pastry tubes, coat with cornstarch and powdered sugar, and let the little tubes set before tying them into soft, sweet little knots. These magical little knots of sugar and gelatin stole the show, eclipsing even the grown-up brown-butter financiers.
Minnesota apples make the best cider. (We’re biased.)
Cider for the craft beer palate — that’s Sociable Ciderwerks’ goal. And you can taste it in a glass of their signature Freewheeler: it’s super dry, it’s extra bubbly, it’s light, it’s drinkable — and it’s interesting enough to give you something to talk about. Sociable uses a mix of the quintessential Minnesota apples: Honeycrisps, Haralsons, and Sweetangos.
Bonus lesson: Look for Freewheer in cans in June. That’s right, cans. Zero light penetration. Zero air leak. A better beverage delivery device.
It never hurts to ask.
If you were a Minnesotan looking for an evocative local business name, you might think, “Gray Duck! Perfect. But, surely, it must be taken already.” As recently as 2011, you would have been wrong. “We couldn’t believe it when we did the legal search,” said Jon Alden, now proud co-owner of Gray Duck, LLC. He ladled up Arnie Palmers made with Gray Duck Nine-Spice Blend and hot, milky chai made with Gray Duck Burnt Sugar-Ginger Chai concentrate — a welcome change from the syrupy sweet stuff served at most coffeeshops.
Minnesotans will always line up for bratwurst.
In fact, I think we like it even more when we do. There were well over two dozen delicious things to taste at the Nosh. The tables were carefully arranged throughout the Soap Factory, so that there was plenty of space around each vendor and it was easy to see where the crowds were so you could plan to hit those tables later. And yet there was a line for Gerhard’s Brats. We saw patient noshers send off emissaries to get drinks and provisions, so they could continue to wait in line for bratwurst. Of course, this was brat worth waiting for. Gerhard Riautschnig makes brats with his Austrian grandmother’s recipe: salt, pepper, garlic, pork. Fresh and smoked and, in a nod to local tastes, one version laced with American cheese. They were so good that the staff at the table had to keep reminding people to take the sauerkraut, too. After, all, they’d waited so long.
Finally, don’t wear a hot dog suit to a wedding.
This should go without saying. But Craig Johnson learned the hard way. “The mother of the bride hit on me,” he said. Johnson is the chef behind Prairie Dogs, along with restaurant consultant Tobie Nidetz. Johnson served up lamb merguez with feta, all while his brain was going a mile a minute, coming up with new dogs. Look for a double-smoked Andouille with crayfish aioli and wild salad, and a smoked trout sausage at the next pop-up event, May 18, 1-8 pm at First Course. And, if you happen to know of the perfect location for a hot dog restaurant, these guys are on the prowl.
Next Nosh: Friday, August 15, at Open Arms.