If there was any doubt that the Twin Cities has established itself as a forerunner in the national food scene then last weekend surely diminished it. Three Minnesotans had just returned as winners designated by the James Beard Foundation, Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain were at the State Theater for Bourdain’s Guts and Glory tour (Zimmern being one of the JBF awards recipients), and the eighth — and sold out — North Coast Nosh was in full swing at the newly renovated American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis.
More than 35 local purveyors, restaurateurs, brewers, and roasters lined the exterior of the sun-soaked ballroom with delights ranging everywhere from small sippers of Aquavit to whoopie pies to — as expected now with every Nosh event — sausages and cheese. The room was full, the samples generous, and the participants jovial. And even though there were mild threats of getting down to skivvies by those manning the Modern Cafe booth (let’s blame the bourbon punch they were serving alongside the smoked paprika sauasge and celery root slaw) the night was really just good, clean, filling fun. There was a solid sense of community and support — two traits Minnesotans are noted for — as it was common to see cross-promotion between booths (such as Kalona SuperNatural half & half in cups of Peace coffee) as well as purveyors darting around the room to taste (and promptly compliment) samples from one another.
(Below, left to right: Saint John’s Abbey, Sweet Science Ice Cream, Caves of Faribault, and Verdant Tea.)
For the second time, Nosh attendees had the option to upgrade their tickets to a special Pre-Nosh (pictured above): an intimate presentation of four local purveyors. This event’s included Caves of Fairbault cheeses, samples from St. John’s Abbey’s self-sustaining food community, a generous dollop of Sweet Science Roasted Cherry Chocolate Chunk ice cream, and a sampling of Verdant Teas.
Pre-Nosh purchasers spent roughly 20 minutes in four different rooms, each dedicated to a different purveyor. Rueben Nilsson of Caves of Fairbault passed out plates with five different cheese samples of varying ages: Alemar Blue (75 days), Gorgonzola (94 days), St. Pete’s Select (116 days), and two reserve cheeses (207 days and 270 days). Not only did Nilsson cover the taste and texture behind each cheese, he covered the science behind its production. “You want protein breakdown because it adds smoothness to your cheese,” he said as he described the reserve cheeses. “I’d pair any of our cheese with a porter-style beer. I really like it paired with Indeed Brewery’s Midnight Ryder or Summit Oatmeal Stout.”
(Below, left to right: Fulton Beer, 45th Parallel Spirits, Barbette, Golden Fig, Fresh Bar, Cocoa and Fig, Fika at the American Swedish Institute, Kaveli Foods, Thousand Hills Cattle Company and Chowgirls Killer Catering, and Boom Island Brewing Company.)
A trio of presenters covered the sustainable food ecosystem at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville. “We’ve always been a self-sustaining community,” says Lew Grobe. “We even have our own fire department because we’re in our own zip code.” Nosh-ers sampled maple syrup tapped from their collection of 1,000 maple trees and learned about the effects of climate on food sources. “Last year we only had 30 gallons of syrup because of the mild winter. This year we had 600,” says Grobe. The syrup isn’t for sale because of the limited production and St. John’s donates their bottles. One ticket holder won one.
Ashley Olds of Sweet Science ice cream shared her lifelong love of ice cream. “I recently found a photo of myself at age five wearing a T-shirt with the words ‘ice cream’ written across it,” she says. Sweet Science isn’t available in retail yet. Olds is hosting monthly tasting events at the Foodcrafters Collective retail space in St Paul. She encourages tasters to arrive early. Last month almost 500 people came to taste, with a line going out the door and down the street. The next event will be hosted in a warehouse with accompanying live music.
(Below, left to right: Bad Weather Brewing, Gnocchi.me, Triple Crown BBQ Sauce, Gamle Ode Aquavit, Bread Star Rising, Gerhard’s Brats, and details from the American Swedish Institute, Saint John’s Abbey, and Peace Coffee.)
David Duckler and his team at Verdant Tea discussed the origin of their line of teas. Duckler had received a grant from the CIA to interview Chinese farmers about their origins and was inspired to connect the farmers and their tea leaves directly to his peers at home. “I went there as a student of literature and philosophy and came back as a student of something else,” he says. Samples included an earthy, grounding, fresh-picked spring green tea and an oolong from northern China. Verdant also revealed their plans to open a tea bar in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis in June.
And in brief… a tour of North Coast Nosh VIII. 10,000 Licks offered bite-sized popsicles in three flavors, including chocolate sea salt. Just next door the pair behind Gnocchi.me were pan-frying warm plates of potato gnocchi with 10,000 Hills short rib and parmesan gremoulade. Next stop, three selections from Gamle Ode Aquavit (including a punchy dill-infused flavor). Barbette wowed with half-dollar sized bites of crunchy pied du cochon croquettes with a sweet gribiche sauce. Petite Sweets Pastries had a table filled with five different flavors alongside tiny shots of milk with polka dot straws. There were whoopie pies, Bourbon Butterscotch, and their own take on horchata — which was kind of like rice pudding sandwiched between two moist cookies. “I’m the scientist and he’s the taste tester,” joked owner Melissa Gallant of her boyfriend (who was helping man the booth).
(Below, left to right: Badger Hill Brewing Company, Corner Table, Angie’s Artisan Treats, Sassy Nanny Farmstead Cheese, Patisserie 46, Wild Run Salmon, and 10,000 Licks.)
Bad Weather Brewery served two of their three beers: Windvane red ale and Migration blonde ale. “As of right now I think we’re the newest brewery in town,” says co-owner Joe Giambruno. FIKA (the cafe within the ASI building) served small bites of compressed cucumber with creme fraîche, shallot jam, radish, and dill pollen. A new food start-up called Kaveli was on hand with samples of their pre-packaged Indian cooking blends — including a spinach-and-potato pakora fritter and their take on tandoori chicken and naan. And what would a North Coast Nosh be without the Corner Table? In addition to the standard and popular pâté en croûte there were samplings of three-hour smoked pork sausage alongside sweet corn madelines and remoulade. Stack them together and it’s their version of an open-faced sandwich. At the end of the night attendees trickled out, buzzing about their favorite stories, tastes, and sips.
(Below, left to right: Modern Cafe, Lucid Brewing, Petite Sweets Pastries, Crapola Granola, Fika Coffee of Grand Marais, Kalona Supernatural, Alemar Cheese, Joia Soda, and Peace Coffee.)