Three years ago a bunch of passionate food purveyors and a bunch of passionate food eaters got together at Peace Coffee for the very first North Coast Nosh. They sampled; they sipped; they talked. They decided to do it again.
And so they did. Eleven times.
After North Coast Nosh XII wrapped up Friday night, we took a little time to think about why we still love the event. So here are six reasons to love the North Coast Nosh.
1. You see brand-new food businesses get their start
We all want to be able to say, “We knew them when,” right? (It’s pretty much Kickstarter’s business model in a nutshell.) Well, if you come to the Nosh, you can.
Aleks Till, a Minneapolis entrepreneur, launched Homegrown Foods in June. She brought fiery jerk chicken wings to the Nosh to show off the kinds of meals you can make at home if you subscribe to her meal-delivery service. (She plans, shops and does some of the prep. You just cook. And eat.)
Tin Whiskers has been available retail for a couple of years, but they opened their own taproom in downtown St. Paul in May. Turns out, to nobody’s real surprise, the taproom is a huge favorite with families, who bring in pizza or a picnic on late Saturday afternoons and relax. At the Nosh, the brewery sampled five beers on tap, including the light and fruity Wheatstone.
Tru Pizza began parking their truck in downtown Minneapolis at the start of the summer. In a move that pretty much defines the phrase, “Better him than me,” they put a fully functional wood-fired oven inside the truck. Pizzaiolo Jason Montgomery says it’s not so bad, “It’s a dry heat.” While the truck is new, Montgomery’s pizza roots go way back. He managed his uncle’s pizza place in Shakopee for years. This time around, though, he’s gone full Neapolitan, with a chewy, charred crust with a deep tang. “That’s Kingfield sourdough you’re tasting,” he says.
2. You can find new old favorites
“So, how long have you been open?” It’s a good way to open a conversation with a vendor at the Nosh. Some of them, as we said, are just pushing off the starting blocks. Occasionally, however, you hear, “Oh, about 18 years.” Oops. The folks from Lao Thai were ladling out coconut soup and handing out lettuce cups while chatting optimistically about how the opening of the Green Line should bring adventurous transit riders to check out their family restaurant on University.
Sunrise Bakery has been around more than five times as long as that and is still bringing old family recipes for porketta (peppery braised pork), potica (the ultimate coffee cake) and pasta down from Hibbing. (And to the Nosh.)
Schell’s Brewery is staring down its 200th birthday and still looking spry. They were sampling Arminius, a hoppy pale lager, the grapefruit-spiked Shell Shocked, and their tribute to 89.3 The Current, but the real fun will come at the State Fair: Schell’s is making a special brew mixed with blueberry syrup. They plan to put it in a slushy machine to make frozen beer foam that can also be dunked in porter for a “black and blue” float. Over the top? Yes. Because that’s exactly what the fair is supposed to be.
3. You can bond with your parents and grandparents
You could make a lot of assumptions about the demographic that might decide to spend their Friday evening having intense (sometimes) conversations with cheesemakers and brewers. You’d be at least partially wrong.
While we were waiting for our Tru Pizza, we had a lovely conversation with three generations of food lovers: a young woman, her mother, her aunt — and grandma and grandpa. All three generations loved the pizza.
4. You can watch food entrepreneur love matches being made
Eva Duckler of Tree Fort Soda poured us a generous glass of ginger beer, a drink so tingly with real ginger root it tasted like it might possess actual curative properties. We were still carrying it and raving about it when we got to the Tin Whiskers stand. “Oh no,” we said, “We can’t have beer yet. We are going to drink every last drop of this ginger ale.”
Ginger ale? The brewer’s ears perked up. He had been thinking of putting some on tap. After one sip, he scurried off to chat with Eva. Was a nonalcoholic love connection made at that moment? Will kids at Tin Whiskers soon be drinking Tree Fort soda? Who knows. But it’s events like this that give busy entrepreneurs a chance to find exciting new partners.
5. You get to hear and see the purveyors’ passions — in their own words
Behind every table at the Nosh is someone who absolutely loves what they do. Making food is that sort of business: No matter how profitable or unprofitable it is, you wouldn’t keep brewing that beer or hand-rolling those caramels or babying those wheels of cheese if you didn’t love it.
And every purveyor at the Nosh wants to do more than just hand you a sample on a napkin. They really, really want to talk to you.
You can hear that passion in David Duckler’s voice when he talks about the farms in China where he buys the tea for Verdant Tea. You can hear it when Kevin Halgrimson and Mike LaPoint talk about how they suddenly found themselves making Poorboy caramels or when Ashlee Olds talks about the wild flavors she creates for Sweet Science Ice Cream. You can hear it from every single person at every table.
6. You’re helping a great cause
Open Arms Minnesota not only hosted North Coast Nosh XII, but will also receive a portion of the proceeds. Visitors to the Nosh learned about Open Arms’ upcoming Cookathon, on Sept. 26. (Hint, hint.) They’re still looking for teams to raise money or to prepare meals in a round-the-clock cooking extravaganza.