To toot our own horn just a little bit, the Heavy Table / Wedge Community Co-op / Food Building North Coast Nosh local sip-and-sample is always an invigorating and thought-provoking event. With last Thursday’s Nosh at the Food Building behind us, the blur of smiling (and chewing) faces, the whirlwind of information from purveyors and conversations with friends, and most of all, the mind-numbing variety of tastes (an exemplary gathering of beers and spirits, meats and cheese, breads and broths, coffees and chocolates) crystallizes into a few themes. The most over-arching of which is that there is an immense variety of locally crafted comestibles and beverages, and a mind-boggling quantity of quality thought going into all of it.
There were bagels, two kinds. We’ve been raving about Rise Bagel Co. since the Lloyd sisters first started showing up at farmers markets. Their classic bagels have a chewy exterior and a soft interior as good as any bagel out east. Baker’s Field Flour and Bread, a Food Building tenant held the home field advantage. Their bagels were breadier, and tasted slightly sour, like a starter was involved and shared a lot of the rustic, wholesome character of their excellent breads. We talked to people who preferred one or the other – two excellent local choices and something for everybody.
We tasted two coffee stouts: Tin Whiskers’ Tiny Circuit tasted profoundly of (Tiny Footprint, pictured above) coffee, to the point that you could forget that you’re drinking stout. Fulton Beer’s War and Peace was more balanced with (Peace) coffee and malt hitting the tongue in turn. Sour beer seems to be finally reaching critical mass. Fair State, known for their sour program, poured Roselle, light, aromatic, and eminently drinkable; Bricoleur #4, a funkier sour complicated by a hoppy aroma; and Lichtenhainer: with smoke and sour in equal balance, it’s almost a think piece (we’ve had Lichtenhainer at the tap room and after tasting it again, we’re still not sure if we like it). Indeed Brewing poured their Wooden Soul #9, a wood barrel aged sour poured over fresh raspberries for a final fermentation stage. It was rare, aromatic, fruity, and drinkable all day long. Hopheads take note: of the four brewers at the Nosh, not one of them poured an IPA.
Members of the Chef Camp team were also at the Nosh, talking about their Sep. 1-3 wilderness culinary retreat at YMCA Camp Miller. The event features feasting, camp activities, and chef-led instruction, and is all inclusive (lodging, food, beverages, classes, activities) for attendees. (See our feature about last year’s camp here.)
Like a giant charcuterie plate, the Common Room table offered Red Table Meat Company meats, Lone Grazer Creamery cheeses, and Baker’s Field breads. But if you didn’t stop to talk to Red’s Mike Phillips, you might have missed one of the best tastes of the night: salami made with ten percent liver that was soft, fatty, and delicious. Lone Grazer offered cheeses that ran the gamut from the kid-friendly fresh curds to the more adult-friendly aged cheeses.
To the side of the table, Redhead Creamery had left the kid-friendly cheese at home. We swooned for their crumbly (admittedly a little young for show time) Little Lucy brie and a rich, funky North Fork Whiskey Washed Munster that was ironically more brie-like in character. Both of their cheddars – garlic and plain – were outstanding.
Dumpling and Strand was in the house with a new, wild rice-based soba noodle appropriately named Minnesoba. As it turns out, the earthy, nutty flavor of wild rice and the earthy, nutty flavor of traditional buckwheat soba noodles have a lot in common, and the adaptation feels like a loving, locally made homage.
Bitter was big. As you entered the Nosh, you were immediately faced with dessert. Mademoiselle Miel offered a honey bon-bon made with a 100% cacao shell. The extreme sweetness of pure honey and extreme bitterness of pure chocolate made a beautifully balanced taste. Anelace Coffee and Spyhouse Coffee Roasters both poured lovely and similar African coffees that were pleasantly bitter, with green apple tartness, and Tiny Footprint Coffee was on hand to tell their carbon-negative sourcing and roasting story.
Bitters are big too. Bittercube Bitters showcased their diversity with the fruit flavored Abyss Sling, and the medicinal El Nordico. Far North Spirits showcased their Roknar rye whiskey, grown and distilled on the family farm way up north in Hallock, in the form of a punchy sazerac, with the aroma of bitters and citrus.
As for the rest of it, we loved Grlk’s gravity-defying airy sauces; Dumpling and Strand’s perfectly salted, chewy fettuccine; the obviously super-fresh vegetables and chicken in Draft Horse’s piping hot pot pies; the restorative complexity of Taking Stock’s chicken broth; Superior Switchel’s gingery introduction to old farmers’ favorite made new again (and the next kombucha?); and the proprietor of North Mallow’s willingness to bring his marshmallow-toasting four-burner spread to a Boundary Waters lake of our choice, if we cover the travel cost, so that we can enjoy the toasted sugary cubes on trail, and in luxury.