Heavy Table’s 2016 Local Food Gift Guide

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

It’s that time of year again — time to find the perfect gift / stocking stuffer / thank you / hostess item for all the wonderful people in your life. If you’re reading this, you probably love food, as do most of the people in your closest circle. Here are items for any price range, from “a little something” to “wow, I really do love you,” all with eating, drinking, and entertaining in mind.

All capsule reviews written by Amy Rea and James Norton.

The Appetizers: Gifts Under $10

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Two Ravens Hopstopper Black IPA chocolate bar | $2 | Golden Fig
This Minneapolis-based chocolatier has the perfect stocking stuffer for the person in your life who’s a fan of both fine chocolates and craft beers: a bite-sized bar that’s a mixture of organic Peruvian cacao beans and hops. The result is the best of both worlds; there’s a rich chocolate taste along with a more citrusy hoppiness.

Tom Bumble Nutty Bar | $2.50 | France 44
It’s small but mighty, and pretty much what Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups could only dream of becoming. Peanut butter along with peanuts, vanilla, chocolate, and sea salt give a wide variety of sweet and savory flavors and a mix of textures.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Cloth napkins | $4 each | El Burrito Mercado
Who says the holidays have to be primarily red? Change the holiday table up with these cheery, festive cloth napkins.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Obviously Delicious | $5.59 | Surdyk’s Cheese Shop
This may be the friendliest-looking item in this guide. It’s essentially a turtle bar without the cloying cuteness of the turtle shape. The focus instead is on creating a thick, rich bar full of sea-salt caramel and pecans that is then dipped in chocolate (both dark and milk available). It’s not overly sweet, but has a richness missing from most commercial candy bars.

Fine Cheese Co. Charcoal Black Crackers | $6 | Surdyk’s Cheese Shop
These crackers will provide a nice color contrast on your holiday table. Made with charcoal powder (just a little, affecting the color but not the flavor), these are buttery little cookies, not so much crispy as crumbly. The butter flavor is delicate enough so that it does not overwhelm any cheese you choose to pair the crackers with.

Becca Dilley Photography
Becca Dilley Photography

Sponsored by Gorkha Palace: Gorkha Palace offers two gifts that are perfect for holiday giving. The first is a spicy Chili Chutney. It’s a hot and sour blend of jalapeño, serrano and Thai chilies mixed with Indian spices and organic lemon juice. It’s perfect with everything from omelets to fried rice to curries to noodles to guacamole to cheese and crackers! Gorkha Palace also sells The Nourishing Ghee, made in small batches in the kitchen of the restaurant. Ghee is a staple of Indian cooking. It lasts much longer than butter, has a splendid aroma, and makes food taste much more flavorful. Chutney and ghee are available at the restaurant or the Mill City Winter Market.

Casa Madaio Tozzetti di Bufala crackers | $6 |  Surdyk’s Cheese Shop
You could use these crackers as a base for cheese, and they’d be lovely, but they’re also a perfect little snack on their own. Made of flour, white wine, buffalo butter, and salt, they’re mild in flavor but still have a sweetness and a hint of nuttiness that’s appealing by itself.

Biking Viking Chocolate Bars | Milk with Cardamom $7; Dark With Coffee $13 | Ingebretsen’s
This three-way partnership comprised of Minneapolis’ Peace Coffee, B.T. McElrath Chocolatiers, and Scandinavian retailer Ingebretsen’s, brings us a most satisfying pair of products, themed around the metro’s favorite form of transportation. The chocolate bars come in two flavors, milk chocolate with cardamom and dark chocolate infused with Peace Coffee. The coffee itself is a medium roast with a lightly smoky flavor.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Terroir Chocolate bars | $7 | Golden Fig
There’s some serious chocolate-making going on in Fergus Falls. Using the bean-to-bar approach, Terroir makes a wide range of chocolate bars, with everything from Basil Raspberry White Chocolate to Scorpion Pepper Dark Chocolate. The Cardamom Krumkake, made with 60 percent cacao dark milk chocolate, still provides some of that earthy dark chocolate flavor balanced with the sweetness of a bit of milk and cardamom, and just a bit of crunch from the Scandinavian holiday cookie.

Courtesy of K'ul
Courtesy of K’ul

Sponsored by K’ul Chocolate: K’ul Chocolate of Minneapolis offers two products that are perfect for the holidays: a variety pack (which comes gift-wrapped and is available online) and chocolate-dipped fruit. The fruit includes orange peel, ginger, apricot, and fig and is sold by the pound and packaged in a cello bag with ribbon. It’s available only at the K’ul Store, 2211 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis.

Formaticum Cheese Bags |  $7 | Surdyk’s Deli
Manufactured in France and using professional-quality, two-ply paper, Formaticum simultaneously allows cheese to breathe while maintaining humidity levels so the cheese doesn’t dry out, similar to the way a cheese cave works. A great stocking stuffer for the cheese-lover in your life.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Madi’s Biscotti | $7.50 | Surdyk’s Deli
Minneapolis-based Madi’s produces these bags of sweet and savory biscotti, and they’re a treat. Not as rock-hard crunchy as some biscotti, these have some crispness to them, but also a bit of chewiness. Each package’s flavor is handwritten on the label, and the date they were baked is on the back. The citrus-pistachio had a light sweetness with just a touch of lemon cutting through.

Katherine Anne Confections marshmallows | $8 | Surdyk’s Deli
These marshmallows bear virtually no resemblance to the Stay Puft varietal at the grocery store. Katherine Anne’s are almost impossibly fluffy and delicate, but they pack a lot of flavor, and not just of the sugary kind. A brown-sugar-grapefruit marshmallow is sweet with a little sour tang and would be a perfect addition to a cup of hot tea.

Small Plates: Gifts $10-$25

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Scandinavian Butter | $10 | Golden Fig
Sold under the Golden Fig label, this butter is made from Hope Creamery butter with lingonberries, cardamom, and vanilla bean. It’s delectable on its own, but if eating butter from the jar seems a bit over the top, feel free to spread it on anything you’d normally spread butter on — toast, bread, muffins, scones, or other pastries. It would probably be good even on popcorn.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Coffee Mug | $10 | El Burrito Mercado
Warm up your holiday table with these bright, cheerful mugs from Mexico. Midwest winters call for hearty hot beverages, and these vessels are up to the task of holding them.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Serving Platter | $10 | El Burrito Mercado
This striking blue-and-white platter would be an attractive centerpiece on a mostly white table. Fill with appetizers or heap with ornaments.

Terroir Chocolate Maple Toffee | $10 | Golden Fig
A maple-syrup-based toffee that uses chocolate nibs for the crunch rather than nuts? Yes, please, and several boxes if possible.

Hidden Ridge Cashew Crunch | $10 | France 44
Sweet and wonderfully crunchy — don’t try to have a conversation with anyone while munching on these — this brittle is made by Amish families on kerosene stoves. It just goes to show you don’t always need the higher-tech equipment to get results.

Northern Clay Center
Northern Clay Center

Sponsored by Northern Clay Center: With the advancement of ceramic arts as its mission, this not-for-profit art center has grown over the last 25 years to have an impact both locally and globally. In addition to year-round artists, Northern Clay Center is now showing the work of special-guest holiday artists. Whether it’s artful and affordable tableware you crave, or a one-of-a-kind piece to impress, NCC has it and will gladly wrap it for you.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Ceramic Bird Mugs  | $10 each | Ingebretsen’s
What better way to celebrate the winter holidays than with these cheerful mugs, each adorned with some of our avian residents? Choose chickadees, cardinals, or nuthatches.

Lift Bridge Biscotti seasonal beer
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Biscotti Belgian Dark Ale | $10 | Lift Bridge
One of our favorite local beer releases is timed and themed perfectly for the holidays – it’ll be in stores next week. Malty, rich, gently sweet and stoutly alcoholic without being barleywine strength, Biscotti’s a hostess gift that any beer lover is likely to enjoy.  We’ll be judging cookies at this year’s Biscotti release party, cookie contest, and potters show at the Lift Bridge Brewery on Saturday, so come on out and join us (and chefs from Smalley’s, Phil’s Tara Hideaway, and more) for a great many sweet treats.

Sweet Goddess Espresso Sea Salt Bark | $11 | Golden Fig
Bloomington’s Sweet Goddess Espresso Sea Salt Bark is a bestseller for Golden Fig. It’s an addictive blend of dark chocolate, pungent espresso, and sea salt, combined with its crunch and snap, make it a most satisfying treat.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

American Spoon Pumpkin Seed Salsa | $11 | France 44
No, this is not a leftover from pumpkin spice season. Instead, toasted pumpkin seeds are the star here, along with chile de arbol, tomatoes, and red bell peppers. It’s got a bit of a kick, but nothing to scare anyone away.

Peter’s Yard Crispbread | $12 | Surdyk’s Deli
A traditional Scandinavian crispbread, shaped bagel-like with a hole in the middle. These are thin and shatteringly crispy, and could be used as the base for a variety of other foods: cheese, of course, but don’t stop there. Think olive spreads or roasted vegetables or meats. Snack or meal — your choice.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Bees Knees Spicy Honey | $13 | Surdyk’s Deli
If you like your sweet to come with a bit of heat, this is for you. Made only of wildflower honey and chilis, this gives a one-two punch of flavors and would be great on anything from cornbread and biscuits to more unusual partners, like ice cream.

Beurre de Baratte | $13 | Surdyk’s Deli
If someone on your gift list doesn’t understand that no two butters are the same, this will be an education for them. Beurre de Baratte is no ordinary butter; it’s hand-churned and molded after being allowed to rest for several hours, giving it the chance to develop more flavor than most commercially produced butters.

Wei Organic Shallot Oil | $13.50 | France 44
The shallots are fried before being infused in the oil, giving the oil a toasty flavor that works well in its traditional use in Vietnamese foods. The oil is also great in a vinaigrette or tossed with roasted vegetables, chicken, or fish.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Duluth Coffee Company Coffee | $14-50 for a one-pound bag | online or at the DCC Cafe in Duluth
We were initially intrigued by Duluth Coffee Company because its founder, Eric Faust (above right), was a regular contributor to the Heavy Table. We became sold on the coffee because it is thoughtfully sourced and skillfully roasted. We bring it with us when we travel and sling it around for gifts. Plus, the beans come in full one-pound bags — you’ve gotta love that.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Cheese from the Wedge Community Co-op | $14.50-$24 a pound
One of the many ways in which Minnesotans are blessed is the generous cheese selection available at our local co-ops. We stopped by the Wedge to see what we might be able to throw together for a holiday cheese plate and came up with three great local choices with just about zero effort: the creamy, funky, tangy North Fork Munster from Redhead Creamery, The Lone Grazer’s buttery, earthy Hansom Cab, and the insanely hot habanero-spiked Rattlesnack Cheddar from Deer Creek.

Becca Dilley / Lake Superior Flavors
Becca Dilley / Lake Superior Flavors

Smoked Fish | $15 and up | Northern Waters Smokehaus
There may be no food more emblematic of this part of the world than smoked fish, and there may be no one smoking it more beautifully than the team at Northern Waters Smokehaus in Duluth. The company’s website offers everything from smoked lake trout from Lake Superior to smoked salmon pate, so dig in.

Handmade Flour Sack Towels | $15 each | Golden Fig
These bright, sturdy flour sack towels are not only useful and long-lasting, they’re cheerful and eye-catching. Put them in your own kitchen, or use them to wrap a hostess gift.

Courtesy of J. Carver
Courtesy of J. Carver

Sponsored by J. Carver Distillery: Distilled in Waconia, Minn., Sevilla is a wheat whiskey-based liqueur made using locally produced grains with the addition of fresh orange peel and natural vanilla bean aged in Minnesota barrels. A touch of sweetness allows this spirit to be enjoyed straight, on the rocks — and it allows the mixologist to create myriad cocktails including the Old Fashioned. (80 proof) www.jcarverdistillery.com

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Big Spoon Roasters Almond Ginger | $15 | France 44
There’s almond butter, but then there’s almond butter with crystallized ginger from Big Spoon Roasters. The zingy ginger cuts through the sweetness of the nut butter, and the result can be used anywhere you’d use peanut butter, including as the base for an Asian sauce.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Kitchen Cloths | $15 each | Forage Modern Workshop
These cheerful, sturdy linen kitchen cloths add a bright touch to any kitchen and will soften with each wash. Each one has a cotton loop for hang-drying.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Blank Slate flavored simple syrups | $16 each | Golden Fig
Sure, you can — and should — make a basic simple syrup yourself at home, easy-peasy. But Blank Slate takes the simple syrup concept a bit farther by infusing their palm-sugar liquids with additional ingredients. The bird’s eye chili syrup has an initial sugary syrup taste, quickly followed by a fiery counterpart. It would be an excellent addition to cocktails and desserts that would benefit from a savory touch. Other flavors include vanilla and black pepper.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Rancho Gordo Chocolate | $16 | Surdyk’s Deli
The fine folks behind dried heirloom beans now have chocolate tablets sourced from small farmers and producers in Mexico. The cacao is roasted in a clay pan over a wood fire, then stone ground with unrefined sugar and cinnamon. It can be used for anything from a rich sipping chocolate to a homemade mole.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Rustichella Pistachio Paste | $16 | France 44
Think of this as an intensely high-grade nut butter, where the pistachios are mixed with a quality extra-virgin olive oil, giving it a somewhat sweet taste and decadent, buttery texture.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Miniature Soup Tureen with Cover and Spoon | $17.50 | El Burrito Mercado
What could be more charming than individual soup tureens, complete with covers and spoons? Nothing says special like “This is for you, and you alone.”

Carr’s Ciderhouse Cider Vinegar | $18 | Golden Fig
It’s a shame that wine turned bad is often described as having turned to vinegar. That’s a slander undeserved by this cider vinegar, which is produced in small, numbered batches in an heirloom orchard in Massachusetts. The resulting product, while tangy, is a tad sweeter than regular cider vinegar and will bring that touch of sweetness to any dish.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Runamok Syrups | Sugarmaker’s Cut $18; Elderberry and Pecan Wood Smoked, $21.50 each | France 44
Besides the cheeky name, Runamok’s syrups have some interesting twists on maple syrup, including a smoked variety. The flavor combination is not just a fancy; open the bottle, and the first scent that whiffs out is smoke. The result is, not surprisingly, as delicious as maple syrup poured over pancakes and bacon. The company also does syrups aged in rum, rye, and bourbon barrels.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Col Pabst Worcestershire Sauce | $18 | France 44
“You can drink this right from the bottle,” said the France 44 employee of this Worcestershire sauce from Milwaukee. We might have wondered why anyone would want to do that, but decided to take it as a dare, and what do you know? While you wouldn’t want to swig down a bottle at one sitting, this is not your grocery-store Worcestershire sauce. It’s made with beer, tamarind, Madras curry, and cinnamon sticks, and is much more smoothly flavorful than regular Worcestershire. It would add a wonderful depth to Bloody Mary mixes, meat marinades, and soups. Or, you know, just drink it straight out of the bottle.

Lift Bridge Brewery
Lift Bridge Brewery

Sponsored by Lift Bridge Brewery: Stop by Lift Bridge Brewery’s taproom in Stillwater, and buy some swag for that special someone, and a growler to share for the holidays. When the growler is empty, you can sign up for a free tour of the brewery online at www.liftbridgebrewery.com, and get that growler refilled.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Dick Taylor Chocolate Drinks | $18 each | France 44
Drinking chocolates seem to be a thing this year, with various iterations showing up at retailers. Dick Taylor’s comes three ways: single origin from Ecuador, single origin from Belize, and peppermint. Make no mistake, these are not kin to the instant hot cocoa mixes with dried-up marshmallows that don’t rehydrate. Instead, they have a full and decadent chocolate taste, and the mixes could be used for other purposes such as for making mochas or adding a chocolaty undercurrent to a pot of chili.

Courtesy of Nordic Ware
Courtesy of Nordic Ware

Big Sheet Pan | $18 | Nordic Ware Factory Store
Sometimes the best gift for the holidays is something to help the recipient celebrate the holidays with even more intensity. Take, for example, The Big Sheet Pan by Nordic Ware. Its generous dimensions (35 percent bigger than a typical half sheet pan) makes mega batches of cookies but still fits standard ovens.

Porcelain Spoons | $10.50-$27 | Forage Modern Workshop
Sleek and lighter in weight than you might expect, this collection of porcelain spoons is pleasing to the eye and highly functional. Put them on your own holiday table, or wrap up one or more in a kitchen towel as a gift.

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

Eight-Piece Winter Honey Bon-Bon Set | $19 | Mademoiselle Miel
Saint Paul rooftop honey is the not-so-secret ingredient that flavors this chocolate collection, which includes two each of Orange with Peel, Ginger-spiced Chai, Maple Caramel, and Warm Cherry Honey bonbons.

Hekla Candle | $19 | Ingebretsen’s
What better representation of Minnesota’s Scandinavian heritage than this candle, with its Scandinavian knitted sweater motif? Like a bulky Nordic sweater, the candle is large and sturdy and will provide warmth for a good long while.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Bare Honey | $20 | Golden Fig
St. Paul’s Bare Honey is exactly what its name implies: pure, unadulterated honey, no chemicals, carefully harvested by beekeepers who are diligent about preserving and expanding the honeybee population. No wonder it tastes so sweet.

Boska Cheese Kit | $20 | Surdyk’s Deli
For the cheese lover in your life who’s always been curious about the process of making cheese. This kit has everything needed to make 15 batches of mozzarella. Add-on kits allow home cooks to make other soft cheeses as well as butter.

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

Milk Street Magazine Subscription | $20
The release of the charter issue of Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street magazine was a highlight for us in 2016 (admittedly a rough year in most other respects). Kimball’s focus and intellect are unbowed since his departure from America’s Test Kitchen and may, in fact, have been liberated by the new format. A great gift for any serious home cook.

Courtesy of Nordic Ware
Courtesy of Nordic Ware

Oven Bacon Pan | $22 | Nordic Ware Factory Store
Nordic Ware’s Oven Bacon Pan takes a good idea (baking, rather than sauteeing your bacon) and perfects it. Grease drains away thanks to the design, and hot air circulates so there is no need to turn your rashers.

taste-scandinavia-gift-guide-2016Sponsored by Taste of Scandinavia Bakery: For almost 25 years our local, family-owned business has been baking up traditional recipes the good old fashioned way — from scratch! That means a lot of butter, sugar, flour, and hand-cracked eggs. During the holidays, we get so excited as we hear from our customers planning their celebrations and ordering their favorites for their family and friends. From Jule Kage, Kransekake, Authentic Potato Lefse (real potatoes and cream, and an array of cookies that do not allow you stop at one. Our made-from-scratch cookies include Almond Kringler (pictured), Holly Berry Sandwiches, Ginger Hearts, Spiced Shortbread Angels, Butter Pecan, Russian Teacakes, Lemon Zest, White Chocolate Cherry Thumbprints, Rugelach, and new this year our Merrydoodle and Kriskrinkle Scoop Cookies. Our bakery and cafe locations can be found in Bloomington, Little Canada, and North Oaks.  All three locations offer a full menu for dining in or to go — breakfast all day, lunch, and dinner. We are proud to bake and prepare food that tastes as great as it looks!

ojakangas-homemade-cover

Homemade by Beatrice Ojakangas | $23 | University of Minnesota Press
Beatrice Ojakangas is the dean of Minnesota’s Scandinavian-inspired home cookery experts, and that’s saying something. Her latest work, Homemade, is packed with anecdotes, recipes, and reflections. You can meet the author and have your book signed on Dec. 15 from 1-2 p.m. at Ingebretsen’s.

Hell’s Kitchen Holy Trinity Peanut Butter Trio Set | $23
Lovers of Hell’s Kitchen’s justifiably famous peanut butter will be thrilled by this collection of three 8-ounce jars of the stuff; people who don’t love it obviously haven’t yet tried it, and this is the perfect opportunity.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Kid’s Trays | Numbers $24; Cutlery $28 | Forage Modern Workshop
These simple, sturdy plastic trays can take the abuse a toddler can give them and still look adorable. They’re perfect for those just starting to learn numbers or to use various pieces of tableware.

Festive Entrees: Gifts $25-$50

Danish Iron Candle Holder | $26 | Ingebretsen’s
Simple, sleek, elegant. The Danish iron candle holder can stand alone as a decoration, or you could combine it with colorful table linens or other holiday decor to create a captivating centerpiece for your table. Other shapes and sizes available for varying prices.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Triangle V Trivet | $26 | Forage Modern Workshop
Made of cast stone with a cork bottom, these trivets also work as modules. Buy multiples to fit together top to bottom to protect your table from heated dishes during your holiday dinner.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Ori Pepper Grinder | $29 | Forage Modern Workshop
This sleek, pentagonal grinder comes from the Norwegian design team of Anderssen Voll. It contains an adjustable ceramic grinder that can produce either coarse or fine grinds, and works well with both peppercorns and sea salt. Also available in light grey.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Peppermint Bark | $30 for 14.5 ounces | Annie B’s
Minnesota-made candy that packs a surprising amount of depth: white and dark chocolates complement each other, and both are enhanced by the liberal sprinkling of crushed peppermint candy that coats each square. There might be a more holiday-appropriate candy out there, but we can’t think of it.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Tea of the Month Club | $30 a month | Verdant Tea
The folks at Verdant Tea have been importing and brewing seriously thoughtful flavors for years now, and their Tea of the Month Club offers a fascinating gateway into some of the best and most unusual teas that China has to offer. Verdant works with small family tea farmers in China, and each month is represented by a different grower. We tried the November box, which included white teas aged for three years and / or picked exclusively from buds. The flavors were layered, complex, and often (surprisingly) rich and creamy.

pazzluna-gift-guide-adSponsored by Pazzaluna: For every $100 in gift cards you purchase at Pazzaluna you will receive five $20 promotional cards, one each for The St. Paul Grill, M ST. Cafe, The Lobby Bar, Tria, and Kendall’s Tavern & Chophouse. The gift card promotion is available through Dec. 31, 2016. Promotional cards are valid Jan. 1 to Oct. 31, 2017.

Frescobaldi Laudemio Olive Oil | $30 | France 44
This highly regarded extra-virgin olive oil from Tuscany is no shrinking violet. A bright, peppery flavor rises first, followed by a lingering, pleasantly grassy flavor. This is a lovely gift that should be used in foods where olive oil can have a starring role or be the finishing touch, drizzled over grilled meats or stews.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Plover Oven Mitt | $30 | Ingebretsen’s
The stalwart plover stands against a soft geometric pattern on this attractive oven mitt. During the holidays, there’s no shortage of overly cute kitchen textiles, but this mitt brings some dignity back to the kitchen, and it can remain there long after the holidays have passed.

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

Figgy Pudding | $35 ($9 for a pint of brandy hard sauce) | Surdyk’s Deli
The prototypical English Christmas dessert, immortalized in song and celebrated by popular culture, has arrived in Minnesota — and done correctly, too. This is no grocery-store clunker of a fruitcake — it’s a substantial, homemade confection made with organic baking ingredients and rum- and brandy-soaked figs, golden raisins, cherries, and cranberries. The optional but highly recommended hard sauce brings this up from a casual hostess gift or teacake into the realm of serious dessert for 8-10. Prep is a snap. Wrap in foil, and heat for 20-25 minutes at 350°F, and then spoon on some cold hard sauce, which will melt over the cake. The result: a warm, spiced, boozy, fruity hug of a dish – is our new favorite Yuletide flavor.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Raven Apron | $38 | Ingebretsen’s
As with the oven mitt, aprons can be a hot mess of holiday excess this time of year. That’s why this simple apron with its raven motif stands out as a piece of elegant sanity. And like the oven mitt, it can remain in the kitchen after the holidays.

Boska Cheese Curler | $39 | Surdyk’s Deli
Why slice your cheese when you can curl it instead? Use the curler to make delicate curls that will impress your guests and make them feel like you went to great lengths for them. Bonus: The curler works on chocolate as well.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table
Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

North Coast Nosh Tickets | $40 | Heavy Table
The Heavy Table’s North Coast Nosh returns Feb. 16, 2017, this time sipping and sampling at the gorgeous Food Building in Northeast Minneapolis, with support from the Wedge Community Co-op. Expect more than 20 purveyors and an event that features quality product, friendly purveyors, and a felicitous guest-to-artisan ratio that means you can actually learn a little something while you eat and drink to your heart’s content. Tickets are quite limited, and are available via Eventbrite.

Northern Clay Center
Northern Clay Center

Pottery | Various | Northern Clay Center
We’re big fans of the Northern Clay Center, which is part art gallery, part teaching space, part retail shop. It offers visitors a chance to browse a ridiculously varied array of pottery handmade by artists both local and national. Theme, price, and practicality varies from piece to piece, but we’ve always managed to find a one-of-a-kind item to impress, and we love that NCC’s stuff sits so squarely at the intersection of art and craft and decorative and useful.

Courtesy of Tiny Footprint
Courtesy of Tiny Footprint

Costa Rica Las Lajas Micromill Honey Series of Coffees | $45 for three 12-ounce bags | Tiny Footprint Coffee
Local coffee roasters Tiny Footprint are offering a package that would make an ideal gift for serious coffee fans: three bags of coffee processed in manner known as miel (honey in French) or pulped natural. The skin of the coffee cherry is pulped leaving most of the fruit intact before it is dried on raised screens. As per the Tiny Footprint website: “When done well, honey processed coffees are more complex with viscous body and softer acidity; the trade off being a reduction in acidity and some loss of clarity.”

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Breakfast Lover’s Holiday Gift Package | $45 | Wise Acre Eatery
Wise Acre has made its name by bringing quality, locally produced food into the city, and this breakfast-centric gift package is an extension of that philosophy. It includes a half-pound of house-made granola, an 8-ounce container of Walsh Ride Maple Syrup from Pepin County, Wis., a 6-ounce jar of Tangletown Farm honey, 2 dozen pasture-raised Tangletown Farm eggs, and a choice of breakfast meats — bacon, ham steak, or sausage links.

Courtesy of Dunn Bros.
Courtesy of Dunn Bros.

Fresh Roast Coffee Subscription Service | $48 for 3 months | Dunn Bros.
Local coffee drinkers know that Dunn Bros. can be relied upon for a solidly crafted cup of Joe. That craftsmanship will no doubt shine through in the company’s new coffee subscription service. Gifters can choose quantity, roast level, and number of months and then send giftees on a caffeinated journey around the world.

Becca Dilley / Lake Superior Flavors
Becca Dilley / Lake Superior Flavors

Abbey Cake | $50 | 3½ pounds | The Jampot
This is the fruitcake to end all fruitcake: a bourbon-blessed monk-made confection featuring dark raisins, walnuts, and molasses. It’s moist and delectable. Properly wrapped, it stays wholesome for months and will get you through the holiday season — and the whole winter, for that matter — in good spirits.

Nordic Ware
Nordic Ware

Sponsored by the Nordic Ware Factory StoreFor this holiday season, bake a Cranberry Santa Loaf in the Nordic Ware Santa’s Sleigh Loaf Pan, then carry it to a party in Nordic Ware’s new loaf cake keeper, sized just right for many loaf bread recipes. Find more holiday gifts and ideas at the Nordic Ware Factory Store, a family-owned, American manufacturer of quality cookware, bakeware, microwave and grilling products, and specialty kitchenware — now celebrating its 70th anniversary. The Factory Store in St. Louis Park is frequented by home cooks, chefs, and restaurant owners, and it hosts twice-monthly evening classes. 4925 Highway 7, St. Louis Park; 952.924.9672; www.nordicware.com.

Tasting Menu with Wine Pairing: Gifts Over $50

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

Local Crate Gift Subscription | $54-$96
We’ve been digging the kit meals from Local Crate that we’ve added to our homemade / take-out / delivery rotation. They’re reasonably quick and easy, use quality local food, and often teach a technique or ingredient that is new to our repertoire. A gift (anything from $54 for 4 servings up to $96 for 8 servings) can be a welcome introduction for a friend or family member, and a nice way to help a burgeoning home cook polish his or her chops with some good local grub.

Courtesy of Draft Horse
Courtesy of Draft Horse

“Everything Northeast” Gift Box  | $60 | Draft Horse
This is our kind of gift box – a Food Building-heavy collection that includes 1/4 lb. Lone Grazer Northeazy cheese, Red Table Meat Co. Caliber Salami, a voucher for bread or stone-milled flour from Baker’s Field, Beez Kneez Creole Mustard, 10oz bag of Spyhouse Division Fair Trade and Organic Coffee, and a Dangerous Man Mini Growler and fill.

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

Homegrown Foods Organic Meal Delivery | $60+
Like Local Crate, Homegrown Foods stresses connections to local purveyors and restaurants, and presents inventive and relatively straightforward meal kits for its subscribers. And unlike Local Crate, Homegrown Foods supplies the recipes for what you’re making, which can save you some reverse engineering time. Pictured above: chicken pot pies that featured some of the tastiest, flakiest crust we’ve yet experienced on this dish, plus the innovative idea of using chicken thighs rather than breasts (they have a richer flavor and taste moister after a long bake.)

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Multi-piece serving tray | $50 | El Burrito Mercado
This large tray with removable bowls is ideal for casual, appetizer-based gatherings. Fill the bowls with a variety of dips and spreads without the worry of any of them melting into their neighbors.

Courtesy of Bittercube
Courtesy of Bittercube

Bitters Variety Pack | $57 | Bittercube
Bittercube makes cunningly compounded, artfully balanced bitters that enhance any cocktail they touch. A variety pack of six different bitters is enough to keep a home barkeep happily busy for at least a calendar year, at which point there’s always the option of giving them another variety pack. …

Courtesy of Nan's
Courtesy of Nan’s

Sponsored by Nan’s Naughty and Nice: Nan’s Naughty And Nice is the perfect gift this year for the Bloody Mary lover in your life. Nan’s is all natural and gluten free, and it pairs well with vodka and beer. www.nansnaugthtyandnice.com

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Black and White Marbled Enamelware Serving Pieces | Medium Basin, $26; Benson Basin, $72 | Forage Modern Workshop
These enameled metal serving pieces, available in black and white or blue and white, will give your holiday table a new spin on festive decor. The colorful pieces are sturdy and are available in a wide range of sizes. They’re capable of being used on the stove or in the oven to keep things warm. Or fill the basin with ice to keep your beverages cold. Matching mugs are available.

Cider Sampler | $75 | Urban Forage
The team at Urban Forage is turning city fruits into delicious wines and ciders, and pushing the boundaries on what “local” means in the process. Urban Forage’s sampler pack surveys their whole year of production and includes six 375-milliliter bottles of cider (semisweet cider, dry cider, apricot cider, pear cider, cherry cider, and mead). It’s available only at their shop on East Lake Street.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Horn-Handled Butter Spreader | $79 | Ingebretsen’s
This beautiful spreader was handmade by Bengt Westberg. The carved handle comes from reindeer horn and feels solid yet compact in your hand. It could bring a sense of gravitas to the simple act of spreading butter on bread.

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

Proteak Cutting Board | $148 | Cooks of Crocus Hill
This is as much a conversation piece as it is a practical piece of kitchenware. Teak is a renewable resource that’s also moisture-resistant and strong, making it an excellent choice for a cutting board. The board’s intricate checkered pattern is eye-catching and makes it a good choice for a serving tray as well. Various sizes and styles available.

Kenwood Electric Water Kettle | $150 | Cooks of Crocus Hill
A perfect gift for the hot-beverage enthusiast in your life. This kettle doesn’t just heat water — it heats water to a specific temperatures, depending on the beverage you’re brewing. This will get your water to 158°F for white tea or 185°F for oolong, and it has five other settings. Also: Protection against boiling dry.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Gray French Press | $150 | Forage Modern Workshop
A beautiful matte finish on this ceramic press gives it a quiet elegance. It holds 8 cups, and its ceramic body helps it maintain a consistent temperature throughout the brewing process. The press includes a fine-mesh steel filter and ca opper pull, and comes with brewing instructions.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

Fair State Brewing Cooperative Membership | $200
Few gifts have more impact or cred than granting someone a piece of an (excellent) working brewery. Fair State Brewing Cooperative members receive a host of benefits and are part of a craft beer movement that has utterly remade the local culinary scene. And as long as we’re talking about Fair State and holiday giving, stop by the brewery from 1-6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17 to attend the Craft Condiment Market, featuring assorted locally made hot sauces, krauts, mustards, ketchups, and more.

Dualit Toaster | $260 for two-slice, $340 for four-slice | Cooks of Crocus Hill
Part retro, part spaceship, the classic toasters from Dualit are stylish enough that they deserve a permanent place on the kitchen counter rather than being buried away in a cupboard or under a cozy. There’s a defrost setting, and Dualit promises that replacement parts and repairs will be available for the life of the toaster.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Hand-Carved Wooden Bowl | $300 | Ingebretsen’s
This gorgeous, meticulously hand-carved wooden bowl can be functional — are instructions are included — but it can also stand alone as a striking piece of table art. Place it against a contrasting table linen, and let it shine on its own, or fill it with holiday decor. It’s a timeless piece that can be used year round, but it adds a particularly handsome touch to December festivities.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Cow Pool (Eighth Share) | $375 | Grass Fed Cattle Co.
There’s nothing quite like a big gift that gives right back to yourself. An eighth share of a cow from Grass Fed Cattle Co. is 44 pounds of grass-fed beef, a perfect amount to split between yourself and a good friend (or between yourself and three friends, if you’re OK with everyone receiving a mere 11 pounds of quality meat. This is the definition of “going big,” and will no doubt spawn countless thank-you barbecues, steak nights, and other pay-it-forward moments.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Chef Camp | Sept. 1-3, 2017 | $600 for an all-inclusive ticket
Inevitably, we arrive at the point in life where more stuff just feels like … more stuff. Those looking to skip the bulky boxes and give an (unforgettable) experience can pick up a ticket to Chef Camp, an immersive, Northwoods food retreat that runs Sept. 1-3, 2017. (Chef Camp is a project co-created by Heavy Table’s editor, James Norton.)

Chef Camp guests stay in the cabins of YMCA Camp Miller, 90 minutes north of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Campers take wilderness-themed cooking classes over open fires from some of the most talented local chefs, sip artisan coffee and cocktails, participate in classic camp activities (think archery, canoeing, and crafts) and feast under the stars in an open-air mess hall.

Discounted pre-sale pricing starts at $600, and includes all food, beverages, lodging and activities.

And through the end of the year, tickets will also come with a print copy of the 2016 Chef Camp cookbook. The cookbook includes recipes like:

  • Lake Trout and Crayfish Tacos from Chef J.D. Fratzke of The Strip Club and Saint Dinette
  • Wild Pine Cone Sourdough Starter from Ryan Stechschulte of Spoon and Stable
  • Lavender Cold Press Elixir from Tiny Footprint Coffee

chef-camp-holiday-book

The Tap: An Appreciation of Mitch Omer

Banner for the Tap: Food and Drink News

This week in the Tap: We say goodbye to the founding chef of Hell’s Kitchen and reveal participants in the pre-Nosh event for February’s North Coast Nosh.

The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor James Norton at editor@heavytable.com.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

An Appreciation for Mitch Omer of Hell’s Kitchen

The death of Chef Mitch Omer this past Friday (the Strib obit is a good starting point) leaves the local firmament short one major star. Omer was one of the state’s great wild chefs — even for a culinary professional, he had an outsized reputation, based to some extent on his stormy past and a looming physical presence that was generally the most interesting thing in the room.

But the heart of his reputation came from how he conceived and cooked the unique brand of food that made the original location of Hell’s Kitchen as much of a cult favorite as the current location is a tourist-friendly juggernaut. Dishes like Omer’s house-made peanut butter on sausage bread are local touchstones for a reason — they’re primal and unpretentious, and so simple only a great chef could have conceived of them.

In 2009, Omer and company hosted a party at Hell’s Kitchen to celebrate the release of the restaurant’s cookbook, Damn Good Food. Many of the details are fuzzy at this point in time, but a few things stick with me. One, that the meal’s first course was a caramel-pecan roll (a bold move), two that there was raucous and excellent live music, and three, that all of the party’s attendees were given a printed copy of a recipe that couldn’t be included in the book for various unspecified but understandable reasons. It was a set of directions for making pot brownies.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Omer’s cooking made fervent converts. I worked for Al Franken’s radio show in the mid-aughts, and the future senator was a devoted fan of Hell’s Kitchen mahnomin porridge. It’s a legitimately great breakfast — nourishing, rich, and full of flavor. But it’s more than that. It’s a symbol in a bowl, something a talk show host and future politician could fully appreciate. Omer’s porridge represents a Minnesota throughline from precolonial times to the present, a little bit lakes and woods, a little bit big city, and all comfort.

Our part of the world has become a little less in the wake of Omer’s passing, but his life made it a little more: his food, his book, and his restaurant live on.

Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table
Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table

If you’re moved to remember Omer, there will be a memorial service at the restaurant tomorrow (Wednesday, Dec. 23) at 1pm.

Also, the following text comes from a Hell’s Kitchen email we received this week:

To those of you who called about flowers or memorials: Mitch’s heart would sing if you’d instead consider a donation to one of his very personal causes:

EMBARRASS FIRE DEPT (who made the pyromaniac an honorary firefighter during our blizzard trip to the Iron Range for a fundraiser)

SERENA HOWE (a young family friend single-handedly trying to cover her mother’s funeral expenses after recently succumbing to cancer)

TRENT SPANGLER (toward crushing medical bills for a 13-year old aspiring chef battling cancer. When Mitch heard Trent wanted to meet him, he invited him to be Chef for a Day, but on the big day, Mitch was too sick to be there, so our staff rallied for a great experience.)

Checks can be made out to recipient of choice and mailed to
Hell’s Kitchen, 80 S 9th St., Minneapolis MN 55402

James Norton

Christmas cookies
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Holiday Publishing Schedule, North Coast Nosh

The Heavy Table will be relaxing for the holidays on Dec. 24-25 and Dec. 28, but look for new content including a bite from the newly opened Draft Horse and a Year in Review feature next week.

Worth reiterating, as tickets are already going fairly quicky: The North Coast Nosh is back! Heavy Table is co-producing this sip-and-sample extravaganza (named “Best Foodie Event” by Minnesota Monthly) with the Wedge Community Co-op, bringing more than 30 purveyors of chocolate, beer, cheese, and much more to the Solar Arts by Chowgirls space in Northeast Minneapolis on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016.

Confirmed vendors include Alemar Cheese, Meadowlands Chocolate, Du Nord Craft Spirits, Lift Bridge Brewing, and many more. Our exclusive pre-Nosh event will feature Red Table Meat Co., The Lone Grazer Creamery, the Wedge, and Chowgirls Killer Catering. Full purveyor details to come in January.

Get your tickets while you have the chance; they sell out quickly.

James Norton

NOW OPEN

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • The Draft Horse, 1401 Marshall St NE, Minneapolis | New restaurant at the Food Building featuring food made from products from The Lone Grazer Creamery and Red Table Meat Co., along with grab & go sandwiches on Patisserie 46 baguettes, salads, and soup.
  • Upton43, 4312 Upton Ave S, Minneapolis | This spot, by Victory 44’s Erick Harcey, is a chance for the much lauded chef to bounce back from the bust-up of Stock and Badge and rollup of the ambitious but shaky Parka. Closed for the holidays, Dec. 22-26.
  • Heirloom, 2186 Marshall Ave, St. Paul | W.A. Frost chef Wyatt Evans hopes to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors (such as Russell Klein and Lenny Russo) and found a new St. Paul gastronomic institution. “Modern but … approachable … slow food” sounds pretty good to us (quotes from the Pioneer Press preview).
  • Scena Tavern, 2943 Girard Ave S, Minneapolis
  • Savory Bake House, 3008 36th Ave S, Minneapolis | Located across the street from Merlin’s Rest, “Savory is a new twist on the old school rustic bakery everyone knows and loves,” or so says their Facebook page. Baker is Sandra Sherva from Merlin’s Rest and formerly of Birchwood.
  • Saint Genevieve, 5003 Bryant Ave, Minneapolis | This Steven-Brown-helmed restaurant has begun to dish up approachable French fare.
  • ie, 4724 Cedar Ave, Minneapolis | AKA “Italian Eatery.” Scratch pastas, with an eye toward the style of Bar La Grassa.
  • Bluefox Indian Bar & Grill, 5377 W 16th St, St. Louis Park | South Indian bar and restaurant with a full bar and craft drink program, utilizing Dan Oskey of Tattersall Distilling as a consultant.
  • SSSDUDE-NUTZ, 317 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis | Crazy new-school doughnut shop in Dinkytown opened by a couple recent U of M grads.
  • The Sheridan Room 337 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis | Some details via Minneapolis St. Paul. Business Journal.
  • Domo Gastro, 1032 3rd Ave NE, Minneapolis | An Asian-inspired gastro pub — shows some real promise. Looking forward to trying the Korean-style fried chicken in particular.
  • Able Seedhouse and Brewery, 1121 Quincy St NE, Minneapolis | Read our tasting notes from their Black Wolf Stout.
  • Lake Monster Brewing, 550 Vandalia St, St. Paul | From the press release: “The 3,000 square foot taproom is housed in a turn-of-the-century brick warehouse, and features a large horseshoe bar and space for over 200 guests. There is also a small private event space available for rent. The December 4 grand opening will feature four brand new beers available for the first time exclusively at the taproom, including a nitro Milk Stout and a Sour Brown Ale.”
  • The Unofficial Dive Bar and Grill, 3701 Stinson Blvd, St. Anthony
  • Lakes and Legends Brewing Company, 1368 Lasalle Ave, Minneapolis
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Out-of-Towners’ Guide to Minneapolis 2015

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Welcome to the Twin Cities! Don’t know where to find interesting, high quality food and drink? Whether you’re looking to splurge or eat on the cheap, we’ve got you covered. Looking to drink killer cocktails and treat a hangover the next morning? No problem. Want to know where the locals get their doughnuts, sausage, tacos, and coffee? You’ve come to the right site.

The guide is a collection of places our contributors take out-of-towners (or suggest others take visitors). It’s not a “best-of” list. It’s also not comprehensive. To keep the guide from getting unwieldy, we limited the number of categories and suggestions within each category. Therefore, there are numerous places that we love that didn’t make it into the guide. If you asked us where to eat, drink, and hang out, this is what we’d tell you (and then we’d list a bunch of back-up spots). Together, the interactive map (posted at the end of this article), the list, and the corresponding Foursquare list will help you plan your gastronomic tour of the Twin Cities.

After considering feedback on last year’s inaugural guide, we decided to split the document into two parts, one for each of the Twin Cities. We published the St. Paul guide last month, and now bring you the Minneapolis version. To avoid duplication, we have not included restaurants on the St. Paul list that have Minneapolis locations: Black Sheep Pizza, Brasa, and Colossal Cafe.

Locals: Along with using the guide and sending it to folks visiting town, we hope you will add your recommendations in the comments section (and tell us why our suggestions are completely off base). We update the guide annually, so your feedback helps us improve the document as well as provide out-of-towners with additional suggestions.

Worth the Splurge

Brasserie Zentral logo
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Brasserie Zentral; 505 S Marquette Ave, Minneapolis | Our review

The Central European vibe at Brasserie Zentral is unlike that at just about any other place in town. The white-tablecloth atmosphere is welcoming without being fussy, and “fancy” in the best possible meaning of the word. Dishes are made with impeccable consistency using top-notch ingredients. At Zentral, the fine cuisine of Vienna meets the country charm of Hungarian folk dishes and Jewish heritage food, and the foie gras menu is long and lovely.

Kenwood Restaurant; 2115 W 21st St, Minneapolis | Our review

A sunlight-infused casual spot just off the north end of Lake of the Isles, The Kenwood features seasonal fare that’s approachable, elegant, and often playful. Along with lunch and dinner, The Kenwood serves a full brunch every day, with a range of beautifully executed classic egg dishes as well as more Midwestern-inflected options.

Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table
Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table

Corner Table; 4537 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis | Our discussion with owner Nick Rancone and chef Thomas Boemer

For a pork-forward, impeccably executed, disarmingly comfortable taste of the Upper Midwest by way of the mid-South, a meal at Corner Table is the way to go. The restaurant’s sourcing and technique are both killer, and the ever-changing menu has a host of twists and surprises that make every visit a rewarding adventure.

Spoon and Stable; 211 1st St N, Minneapolis | Our review

The brainchild of chef-owner Gavin Kaysen, Spoon and Stable is at the leading edge of what we might think of as “comfortable fine dining.” The food isn’t flashy — there aren’t bells and whistles, meat glue, or liquid nitrogen. But it is precise, beautiful, and delicious. Spoon and Stable’s desserts — the handiwork of pastry chef Diane Yang — are exquisite, and the beverage program is first rate. The restaurant also boasts one of the more popular and well-regarded brunches in the Twin Cities.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Bachelor Farmer; 50 N 2nd Ave, Minneapolis | Our review

The restaurant that drew national attention for capitalizing on a “new Nordic” trend has created a nice niche for itself in the Twin Cities. Owned by Target heirs Eric and Andrew Dayton, the space feels like a slightly fancy, modern take on an old-fashioned, imagined Scandinavian heartland. And the food doesn’t disappoint — don’t miss the shareable toasts, which arrive on a tiered silver tray and feature flavors like lox and steak tartare. Make an evening of it: Head downstairs before or after your meal for cocktails in the living-room-esque Marvel Bar. If you’re in town in mid-August, don’t miss The Bachelor Farmer’s rendition of kräftskiva, a Swedish crayfish festival — it’s a fun event replete with local music, boozy snowcones (aquavit luge, anyone?), and of course crayfish.

Heyday; 2700 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | Our review

With inventive food, funky style, and good cheer, this restaurant exemplifies the Lyndale-Lake neighborhood. Skillfully blending creativity and restraint, chef Jim Christiansen delivers interesting, high-quality, tasty creations. And the desserts are some of the most inventive and scrumptious the area has to offer.

Joshua Page / Heavy Table
Joshua Page / Heavy Table

Piccolo; 4300 Bryant Ave S, Minneapolis | Our review

Combining non-traditional ingredients, flavors, and techniques, Chef Doug Flicker puts out unique, addictive fare. Take Piccolo’s signature dish, “Scrambled brown eggs with pickled pig’s feet, truffle butter and Parmigiano.” It may sound strange, but the flavors and textures work brilliantly. The five-course tasting menu ($59) is a great way to sample Flicker’s creations. This is the spot for adventurous, super high quality food in a casual atmosphere.

Restaurant Alma; 528 University Ave SE, Minneapolis | Our interview with chef / owner Alex Roberts

Well-executed, seasonally-driven three-course tasting menus are the name of the game here. There is almost nothing about Alma that’s flashy — in fact, it’s so unassuming you’ll probably drive right by. Sometimes a low-key, unpretentious evening of fine dining — one where you can hear your companion(s) talk, and hear yourself think — is just what the doctor ordered, and Alma’s the place to go. If you’re looking for something a bit more everyday, check out chef / owner Alex Roberts’ other restaurant, Brasa Premium Rotisserie, for a killer pork sandwich and yuca fries.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Saffron; 123 N 3rd St, Minneapolis | Our interview with Sameh Wadi

The smart new-Mediterranean food of Saffron combines Middle Eastern flavor with an cosmopolitan attention to detail and technique, and the result is some of the area’s most stunning food — both in terms of appearance and flavor. This is a place where you can have a beautifully crafted cocktail and journey somewhere new via the magic of a creative menu.

Broders’ Pasta Bar; 5000 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis | Our reflections on Broders’ Pasta Bar and reviews of Terzo Vino Bar and Porchetteria

[Editors’ Note: Broders is less expensive than the other restaurants in this category, but meals at Terzo tend to fall into “splurge” territory.]
Broders’ consistently kicks out perfectly cooked, seasonally sauced housemade pasta. Whether you’re snuggled with your sweetie at the bar with a couple glasses of wine and a piece of Bestia Nera flourless chocolate cake or at a table passing plates of pasta and risotto to share among friends, Broders’ knows how many of us at the Heavy Table like to eat — good, unpretentious food at reasonable prices, and a great wine list to boot. We’re also huge fans of the Broder family’s wine bar, Terzo, located across the street from the pasta bar. Porchetta sandwiches (also served through a window facing the parking lot during the day), thoughtful small plates, top-notch entrees (especially the branzino), and a wine program (that slants toward Northern Italy) are all dynamite.

Casual Eats

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Revival; 4257 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis | Our review

The little sibling of Corner Table (see above), Revival offers amazing Southern fare. It’s rightly known for fried chicken with exceptionally moist and tender meat and gorgeously crispy skin. But it’s not just a chicken joint. The cheeseburger is one of the best in the Twin Cities, and sides like fried green tomatoes, collard greens, and hush puppies are delicious. And if banana pie is on the menu, get it!

The Rabbit Hole; 920 E Lake St, Suite 101, Minneapolis | Our review

Looking for traditional Korean food? Head elsewhere. You won’t see the standard bulgogi / bibimbap / soondobu / japchae formula here. But if you’re craving a good, decidedly boozy drink and gastropub fare beyond the usual fried whatever, this place will be your jam. As a second-generation Korean-American hailing from LA, chef / owner Thomas Kim grew up with his mom’s cooking, but he draws from his experience working with Roy Choi and others to create his own spin on food. This results in things like kimchi-and-curry gravy-slathered poutine, truly addictive Brussels sprouts, and rice bowls loaded with things like soft-shell crab and habanero oyster sauce. Arrive early enough to explore the other shops in the Midtown Global Market, then lose track of time in one of the dark pojangmacha-styled booths and hang out late into the night.

Nachos in the Minnesota Room at Hell’s Kitchen

Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table
Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table

If you spent a day being a tourist in your own city, where would you go? From history to art, theater to outdoor spaces — some serious criteria would be required to narrow down the immense pool of options. And while landmarks abound, perhaps more difficult would be choosing where to eat and drink.

For many out-of-towners, Hell’s Kitchen makes the list. From legendary house-made peanut butter to holographic bathroom art, the subterranean lair boasts captivating appeal without becoming tacky.

Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table
Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table

While their flagship burger, the Juicy Lucifer, may be underwhelming, even locals know that world-class breakfast and a steal of a happy hour are right in their own backyard. As of January, there is another draw: the Minnesota Room, which is a locally dreamed and fabricated space wherein all 804 Minnesota cities are represented.

Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table
Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table

The space avoids the nauseating pitfalls of kitschy decor and instead opts for genuine local pride, elevated to a level that is inviting rather than distracting: a fireplace inlaid with stones submitted from all over the state, a bison head veneered in chrome. While the Minnesota room can be rented for private events, it is still congruent with the restaurant as a whole, and is used for ordinary seating throughout the week.

Juicy Lucifer at Hell’s Kitchen

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Hell’s Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis recently got into the jucy lucy business with its “Juicy Lucifer.” Honestly, we were a little nervous to try a burger that has been pulled “straight into Hell.” Food named in honor of the devil will generally set your mouth — if not your stomach — ablaze, daring you to keep eating. If it doesn’t steal your soul, it will at least excite and entice.

Our apprehension was unwarranted: the Juicy Lucifer ($13.95) is tame — an expensive run-of-the-mill sandwich that’s ostensibly on the menu to please tourists wanting the “authentic” Twin Cities experience of eating a burger filled with cheese.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Chopped jalapenos in the meat and a side of “spicy red pepper jelly” supposedly make the Lucifer devilish. However, we couldn’t taste the jalapenos and the jelly was so sickly sweet we didn’t want to taste it. The only remotely frightening feature was the scalding hot cheese. The Lucifer is prepared in the two-patty variation: Two relatively thin beef patties are fitted around American cheese and grilled to medium-well. With little prodding, the cheese oozes out the side of the high-quality, flavorful meat, making a gooey sauce. The bun was decently chewy and the red onion, dill pickles, and lettuce were adequate (the tomato slices were utterly flavorless, however). Floppy, seemingly old fries were almost inedible, and off-putting ketchup tasted of tomato paste and applesauce (we dipped the few fries we did eat in the meaty cheese sauce, instead). When will restaurants realize that old-school ketchup doesn’t need gussying up?

While we get going to Hell’s Kitchen’s for breakfast (lemon-ricotta hotcakes are worth the trip into downtown), there’s no reason for locals to shell out 14 bucks to eat the Juicy Lucifer. You can get a similar style of burger for cheaper and with better fries (and regular ketchup!) at Matt’s Bar, the 5-8 Club, or Blue Door (which serves the best of the two-patty ju[i]cies). Or you can go to the Nook for our favorite cheese-filled burger, the Juicy Nookie. The St. Paul institution forms the burger around the cheese and cooks the single thick patty to a juicy, pinkish medium. Served with fantastic fries, the Nookie is downright heavenly.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Hell’s Kitchen, 80 S 9th St, Minneapolis, MN 55402; 612.332.4700

Butcher Salt, Sonora Grill Reviewed, and More

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

A positive notice for Sonora Grill on Lake Street (pictured above; here’s ours). Wisconsin Cheese Originals opens the door for applications for its $2500 Beginning Wisconsin Cheesemaker scholarship. Hell’s Kitchen is throwing a lemon ricotta hotcakes fundraiser for the Embarrass Fire Department and the Regional Fair. The Well Fed Guide to Life dines at Pham’s Deli. And a snapshot of the upcoming food truck Butcher Salt.

Kangaroo – From Australia to Hell’s Kitchen’s menu

Dale Yasunaga / Heavy Table
Dale Yasunaga / Heavy Table

Hell’s Kitchen, the ever-popular establishment that resides underfoot in downtown Minneapolis, is known for many things: bison burgers, huevos rancheros, caramel pecan rolls, and lemon-ricotta hotcakes. The culinary team works with the goal of creating “damn good food,” balancing great flavors with the growing demand for organic, healthy, and eco-friendly options. And so, when Chef de Cuisine Joseph Wuestenhagen went looking for something new and exciting to bring to the menu, he ended up with a rather unique protein that is sure to turn a few heads.

Kangaroo is a relative newcomer to the food scene here in the U.S., and restaurants that serve it are few and far between. Proponents of kangaroo consumption point to the positive attributes of the protein: It has a low environmental impact and provides a healthy alternative to red meat. Kangaroo meat is very lean, containing even less fat than an equivalent serving of chicken. Populations of wild kangaroo produce far less methane than cattle and, since they lack hooves, kangaroo cause less damage to farm and grazing land.

As strange as serving kangaroo may sound, it is actually quite befitting of Hell’s Kitchen. The eco-friendly meat fits naturally into a menu that already features free-range bison, free-range eggs, and organic beef. The particular variety served at Hell’s Kitchen comes from Australia, hunted from a population of free-range kangaroo. Hell’s Kitchen Co-owner Mitch Omer is excited about serving a product that is not only better for the customer, but also better for the environment: It’s “something we have to serve.”

After testing the new protein as a special, and receiving universally positive feedback, Hell’s Kitchen added a kangaroo entree to its regular menu last Wednesday. It was met with enthusiastic interest, selling out on its first night. On Friday, Hell’s Kitchen served up 46 orders of kangaroo, another sellout.

Dale Yasunaga / Heavy Table
Dale Yasunaga / Heavy Table

Regardless of the many virtues of kangaroo’s use as an alternative to red meat, flavor is the ultimate factor for many adventurous gourmands. Hell’s Kitchen’s preparation features a medium-rare loin of kangaroo served alongside sweet corn and aged cheddar polenta, pickled vegetable salad, bacon maple chutney, and a blackberry gastrique. Despite its natural leanness, the kangaroo loin was delicious and incredibly tender. The kangaroo had a “beefy” chewiness to it with a slightly sweet, mild game flavor. The spice rub on the loin added a hit of smokiness. The rest of plate expertly complemented the kangaroo and provided a very well-balanced tasting experience.

For those interested in trying something new, hop on down to Hell’s Kitchen and try this for yourself. Wuestenhagen and his team are certainly turning kangaroo into some “damn good food.”

Hell’s Kitchen, 80 S 9th St, Minneapolis; 612.332.4700

New Year’s Eve Specials 2012-2013

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

New Year’s Eve is meant to be big, and here in Minneapolis and St. Paul, there are options galore for a delicious evening.

Hell’s Kitchen, for instance, is featuring a duo of steak and lobster tail with linguine, and Brit’s Pub is handing out bubbly toasts. La Chaya Bistro is spinning classic proteins like filet mignon with spicy Latin elements, and Saffron‘s tasting menu ($65; $75 with foie gras, $25 extra for wine pairing) will showcase trout, short ribs, and foie gras. Dinner at Sontes in Rochester draws inspiration from 1960s dining, and The Sample Room in Minneapolis will serve an ultra affordable ($45) six-course meal with a deconstructed dessert sampler. In Season is offering a stunning prie fixe menu ($80; +$35 for wine pairing or +$65 for premiere wine pairing) with a saddle of lamb from Shepherd’s Song, and The Kenwood makes the night special with beef tenderloin, Abalone Mushrooms, and pastry-baked Bent River Camembert. Gandhi Mahal is offering a buffet and champagne celebration from 5-10pm ($25 for adults, $10 for children) followed by live music, cash bar, and kids’ activities from 10pm-1am ($10 door charge). The already talked-about, still-to-open Borough is doing a five-course dinner ($50 / $75 with wine pairing with optional oyster, foie gras, and cheese supplements for additional charges).

Below are five other dinners that particularly struck our fancy. But whether or not you indulge on December 31, Tilia is serving brunch for the bleary-eyed starting at 9am on the first day of 2013. Cheers!

Citizen Cafe
The menu: This South Minneapolis cafe is going old school. Expect champagne cocktails and five courses of classic, supper club standbys. Each course includes a few options, so you can style the evening to your particular retro wishes. Think Oysters Rockefeller, shrimp scampi, and a crisp wedge of iceberg with blue cheese for starters. Filet Mignon and Coq Au Vin are just a few of the strapping entrees. Baked Alaska, Bananas Foster, and other goodies finish the whole thing off with a saccharine flourish.
Libations: No specific drink pairings, beer and wine available
Reservations: Encouraged
Price: A la carte, entrees $20-$25

Citizen Cafe, 2403 E 38th St, Minneapolis, MN 55406; 612.729.1122

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Lynn on Bryant
The menu: One of Minneapolis’ newest neighborhood spots is going big and debuting two unique (one vegetarian), three-course five-course [corrected 12/21/12] dinners on New Year’s Eve. The Blue Cheese and Pear Souffle (present on both menus) sounds especially festive. Crispy lobster tails and short ribs fill out the non-vegetarian menu, while an imaginative vegetable and tofu Napoleon and bitty pumpkins filled with chestnut custard make the vegetarian side sound swoon-worthy. Rich riffs on celebratory dishes in a gorgeous space.
Libations: Optional wine pairing and a complimentary champagne toast.
Reservations: Encouraged, for both dining room and cafe
Price: $80 / $115 with wine pairing

The Lynn on Bryant, 5003 Bryant Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55419; 612.767.7797

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Heartland
The menu: Probably the most Minnesotan evening you’ll find. Chef Lenny Russo’s (above) four-course meal has three variations, and each one celebrates a different local habitat. Enjoy goose and snapping turtle soup from the Forest and Prairie, or smoked trout, crayfish risotto, and black bass from our Rivers and Lakes. And finally, a vegetarian feast from Farms and Fields includes a kale torte and pumpkin-filled buckwheat crepes. A unique dessert accompanies each option.
Libations: No specific drink pairings, but beer and wine are available.
Reservations: Required, must be secured by credit card
Price: $75 / a la carte at the bar

Heartland, 289 E 5th St, St Paul, MN 55101; 651.699.3536

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Wise Acre Eatery
The menu: Things get a little southern and cozy over at Wise Acre Eatery in Tangletown. Their seven-course meal features lots of corn and a kaleidoscope of comforting beans and meats. Dinner starts with corn and crab bisque or a beautiful-sounding Painted Pony Bean Chowder. Choose from duck and grits, pork and beans with garlicky greens, roasted squash and pilaf, or bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin with purple potato cakes. Minnesota’s own Buffalo Creek sheep’s milk cheese — which we can attest, is delightful — makes an appearance at the end.
Libations: Optional wine pairing
Reservations: Required
Price: $80 / $120 with wine pairing

Wise Acre Eatery, 5401 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55419; 612.354.2577

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table


The Bachelor Farmer

The menu: If you like levels (uh, literally) of activity in your New Year’s night, The Bachelor Farmer’s got them. While Chef Paul Berglund’s seven-course dinner is already booked up, the Farmer’s got a few other special things going on. The second floor of the restaurant (in lieu of Marvel Bar) will be open for pre-dinner social hour. Sip a few fireside drinks and snack on complimentary hors d’oeuvres as the Jeremy Walker Trio does its smooth thing in the background. Marvel Bar will open later at 9pm, flush with champagne, New Year’s punch, and tunes by DJ Jonathan Ackerman.
Libations: Champagne, punch, and standard drink menu
Reservations: Not necessary for the second floor and Marvel Bar
Price: A la carte

The Bachelor Farmer, 50 2nd Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55401, 612.206.3920

Thanksgiving Dinner Takeout

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

There are a million reasons to play chef on Thanksgiving Day. And there are a million reasons not to. For those who’d rather trust their turkey dinner to one of the restaurant industry’s finest, observe the following list. From classic starchy sides and spiced pies to little sparks of seasonal innovation, a feast is just a phone call away.

Jill Lewis / Heavy Table

Be’Wiched
The details: The Warehouse District sandwich shop is doing Thanksgiving dinner takeout with a bit of a Southern skew. In addition to classics like stuffing, dressing, and sweet potatoes, there are tamales, collard greens, coleslaw, and chocolate pumpkin empanadas. Dessert glosses over pumpkin pie and instead includes riffs on apple and pecan, cobbler, and pineapple upside-down cake.
The bird: Cooked or uncooked Wild Acres turkeys are priced by the pound. Oh, and there’s also turducken.
Price range: A la carte
Order deadline: November 20

Birchwood Cafe
The details: If the prospect of skipping cooking entirely isn’t appealing, Birchwood offers a pared-down dinner that requires a little elbow grease. Take home a trio of cranberry chutney, squash, and stuffing mix, and a loaf of bread to sop up the dregs. Already-baked pies include variations on pumpkin (also comes in gluten-free), apple, pecan, and key lime.
The bird: Uncooked Wild Acres turkeys priced by the pound.
Price range: A la carte
Order deadline: November 18

Colossal Cafe
The details: Colossal Cafe means to give every individual a turkey dinner. Not only are they providing large portions to plunk down in front of a crowd at home, they’re also serving individual meals on Thanksgiving Day. There will be sweet potatoes, dressing, green bean casserole, and plenty of bread. Count on five different pies, including chocolate pecan and two kinds of apple.
The bird: Ferndale Market turkeys. Individual diners get a personal turkey breast.
Price range: A la carte or $13 for an individual meal.
Order deadline: None. On Thanksgiving Day, the cafe is open until noon for dine-in, and until 2pm for takeout.

Hell’s Kitchen
The details: A Hell’s Kitchen Thanksgiving is great for a crowd. Dinner comes in four sizes, for feeding parties of up to 24. Each package includes cranberries, rolls, and pie(s) from sibling shop Angel Food Bakery. To round it out, choose a few sides like sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and stuffing.
The bird: A relevant-sized turkey and ham come with each package.
Price range: $195-455
Order deadline: November 19

Lucia’s
The details: Uptown’s to-go queen is keeping Thanksgiving simple and seasonal with squash soup, autumnal vegetables, and wild rice salad, rounded out with the holiday’s standard stuffing, yam, and mashed potato foot soldiers. For dessert, choose from apple pie, pumpkin pie,and pumpkin bars.
The bird: Brined, uncooked free-range turkeys, uncooked Ferndale Market turkeys, and turkey breasts.
Price range: A la carte
Order deadline: November 18

Angel Food Bakery & Coffee Bar in Downtown Minneapolis

Angel Food Bakery in downtown Minneapolis
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Like a mirage in a pastry desert, Angel Food Bakery & Coffee Bar opened softly on April 30, beckoning to workaday downtowners desperate for a morning doughnut or midday guilty pleasure just steps from Nicollet Mall and their office doors. Co-owner Cynthia Gerdes calls Angel Food Bakery a natural extension of Hell’s Kitchen, the 10-year-old downtown breakfast mainstay and music venue she owns with her husband Mitch Omer.

According to Gerdes, Hell’s Kitchen has always turned out its own scratch baked goods, led by pastry chef Katherine Gerdes. And “little by little,” she says, “word-of-mouth spread about her desserts, which was great, but we then ran out of space in the tiny baking corner of the kitchen.” Until Angel Food was born and installed just above Hell’s basement lair.

When speaking of bakeries, downtown Minneapolis is parched. Unlike South Minneapolis with its Patisserie 46 and Sun Street Breads, there’s little in the way of accessible specialty baked goods for pedestrians and people stuck in meetings or bound by half-hour lunch breaks. Angel Food seems like an excellent solution, filling the retail gaps left by Cocoa & Fig and Wuollet, and offering delicious Peace Coffee as a substitute for the nearest Starbucks.

Angel Food Bakery in downtown Minneapolis
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

There are other cool things about the bakery. For one thing, it echoes that smirking and flashy Hell’s Kitchen aesthetic, but in a lighter, fluffier way. White and tinsel frame the bakery’s open kitchen, where you can sit at the bar and watch the bakers knead dough or torch meringue. The bakery also offers bread (created by Craig Nelson, a New French Bakery alum), catering, delivery, wedding cakes, and basically any special service you can imagine.

And yet.

The bakery’s most important aspect — its execution of pastry classics — is poor, and on the whole, the product does not reflect the kind of years-deep experience and pastry finesse the Hell’s Kitchen team claims to have.

Let’s start with something iconic: the golden, coveted croissant ($2). Though beautiful, the one at Angel Food is salty and supple, without the delicate outer crunch and stretchy, swelling inner layers of an expert croissant, and its buttery flavor is more schmaltzy than sweet and authentic. Take a look at our story on the many examples of a righteous croissant in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Angel Food’s doesn’t hold a dripping candle to them.

The raised glazed doughnut ($1.50) was a bit of a disaster. On one occasion it had a moist, underfried inside, and on another day it was chewy and dense instead of bouncy and light. This fluffy-looking yeasted treat is as deceptive as a rosy, grinning baby with indigestion. A blueberry lemon scone ($2.50) was similarly disappointing. There were none of the flaky layers essential to scones. It was soft, moist, cakey. Calling it a muffin would have made more sense.

Angel Food Bakery in downtown Minneapolis
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

A carrot cake cupcake ($3), on the other hand, was a standard specimen made delightful by the best cream cheese frosting I’ve ever had. It was light and just barely cheesy without being gooey, dense, or wearisome. The cupcakes in general cater to decadence and greed, with whimsical colors and plentiful frosting. The Anti-depressant Cupcake ($3) was a decent combination of chocolate cake and delicate chocolate whipped cream, but the dollop of caramelized chocolate on top would have done more exciting things as a filling.

Angel Food also makes muffins, tarts, cookies, and brownies the size of a saucer. Like the cupcakes, the brownies call to the id with words like “turtle,” “rocky road,” and “Butterfinger.” But again, they fall short. Though large and heavy, the chocolatey bases of both the Rocky Road and Butterfinger ($3.50) were bland, with a scant supply of their namesake flavors and just a tiny well of ganache in the center. Decadence they are not.

There are also baguettes and several sorts of large, golden loaves of bread for sale at Angel Food, and their sourdough’s ($4.25) thick crust hides a tight, slightly sweet crumb that makes for a sturdy slice of toast. In fact, the bread basket may be where Angel Food’s biggest asset lies. Being able to grab a loaf of decent, homemade bread before heading home from work, and in the same breath find a great cup of coffee, second-rate sweets, and an option for catered office meetings is an anomaly in downtown Minneapolis. And that’s just it — Angel Food Bakery is a great idea. But the food could be a lot greater.

Angel Food Bakery & Coffee Bar

Rating: ★☆☆☆ (Notable)

Full-service bakery in downtown Minneapolis
86 S 9th Street (above Hell’s Kitchen)
Minneapolis, MN 55402
612.238.1435
OWNER / CHEF: Cynthia Gerdes and Mitch Omer /  Katherine Gerdes and Craig Nelson
HOURS:
Mon-Fri 6:30am-6:30pm
Sat 7:30am-6:30pm
Sun 7:30am-3pm
BAR: Espresso
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: None
GLUTEN FREE / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: Under $6

Angel Food Bakery and Coffee Bar, The Left Handed Cook, Cupcake St. Paul and more

Readers: Win Heavy Table pint glasses

The Tap loves restaurant tips from readers, so we’re awarding a Heavy Table pint glass to the best tipster each month. The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor Jason Walker at jason@heavytable.com.

March’s winner: Heidi Panelli of Fridley

Angel Food Bakery and Coffee Bar (opens late this month)

86 S 9th St, Minneapolis | hellskitcheninc.com

A new bakery from the owners of Hell’s Kitchen, Angel Food opens later this month and will churn out all kinds of treats, cakes, and breads, as well as a coffee bar featuring Peace Coffee, in a street-level space right above the restaurant. The bakery, led by current Hell’s Kitchen pastry chef Katy Gerdes and new hire Craig Nelson, will be the source for all the desserts and breads at Hell’s Kitchen as well as serve doughnuts, treats, and coffee to passersby.

Co-owner Cynthia Gerdes said the idea was born because Hell’s Kitchen pastry chefs simply didn’t have enough room in the restaurant’s basement kitchen.

“We looked upstairs at turning that space into a commissary,” she said, “and then we thought, there are some great bakeries in Minneapolis – Rustica, Sun Street, Patisserie 46 – that we’re not trying to compete with, but let’s just be downtown’s bakery. It’ll be full-service, with craft breads, treats, and sweets.”

The new space is unique, Gerdes said, because the layout will make customers feel like they’re a part of the action.

“When you walk in, you’re going to feel like you’re in the middle of a working bakery, where there’s nothing separating you from the staff,” she said. “You’re going to sit at a counter where 12 inches away the pastry chefs are frosting the wedding cakes. It’s a small, intimate space, with seven stools. This isn’t a Starbucks where you spread out for your workday, it’s a downtown bakery where you really have a working bakery, not a cafe.”

As a former resident of the apartments above Angel Food, The Tap is excited to see how the new bakery enhances the building’s already exquisite smell. With Hell’s Kitchen, Bombay Bistro, The Melting Pot, and Jimmy John’s, walking into that building is always an aromatic delight.

After its soft opening, Angel Food will celebrate its official grand opening on Mother’s Day, May 13.

The Left Handed Cook (opens in May)

920 E Lake St, Minneapolis (Midtown Global Market) | Find it on Facebook

Aiming for a blend of Asian flavors and American comfort food, Thomas Kim and Kat Melgaard are set to open their new restaurant in the Midtown Global Market next month. Kim, a former Los Angeles restaurateur, has sketched out a menu of small plates, rice bowls, sandwiches, and entrees.

Kim points to three dishes emblematic of his cooking style: a soft-shell crab sandwich with a Thai aioli, avocado cubes, and arare rice crackers; fried chicken with Asian and Latin spices with an aji tarragon vinaigrette; and a steak served with ssam sauce of rosemary, garlic, sesame oil, citrus zest, and Korean chili paste and miso.

Also on the menu: starters like roasted sweet corn, asparagus with poached egg, and truffle parmesan fries; rice bowl choices like pork belly, chicken, ribs, fish, and veggies; and 48-hour braised short ribs.

Opening in the former La Sirena Gorda stall, Kim said he’s hoping to open May 15 but “definitely by the end of May.”

Cupcake (opens this summer)

949 Grand Ave, St. Paul | cup-cake.com

Cupcake St. Paul is back on. The St. Paul City Council had previously denied owner Kevin VanDeraa a parking variance for his proposed bakery and wine bar, but mayor Chris Coleman worked with VanDeraa to find enough parking to satisfy the zoning code and thereby the councilmembers.

“Thank you to Mayor Coleman for working on behalf of small businesses,” VanDeraa said. “We are eager for this to be resolved so that we are able to open in St. Paul early this summer.”

NOW OPEN

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

  • Fulton Brewing Taproom, 414 Sixth Ave N, Minneapolis | 612.333.3208 | fultonbeer.com
  • Uncle Moe’s Deli & Drafts, 1501 University Ave SE, Minneapolis | 612.886.2553 | unclemoesdeli.com
  • Lucio’s Grill, 433 S Robert St, St. Paul | 651.414.9060 | Find it on Facebook
  • Patron Mexican Restaurant, 207 N Chestnut St, Chaska | 952.479.7053 | Find it on Facebook
  • Dr. Chocolate’s Chocolate Chateau, 579 Selby Ave, St. Paul | 651.379.3676 | chocolatechateau.wordpress.com
  • The Dog House, Alliance Bank Skyway, St. Paul | Find it on Twitter
  • Tibet Kitchen, 1833 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis
  • Eat Street Social, 14 W 26th St, Minneapolis | 612.767.6850 | Our take

CLOSED/CLOSING

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Caribe, 791 Raymond Ave, St. Paul. Closing April 15. | www.caribemn.com
  • Nick and Eddie, 1612 Harmon Pl, Minneapolis
  • The Lunch Box, 950 Nicollet Ave (Retek on the Mall skyway), Minneapolis
  • Franklin Street Bakery, 3904 Sunnyside Rd, Edina | franklinstreetbakery.com
  • Joe Senser’s, 16605 County Road 24, Plymouth
  • Cafe Raisa, 15090 Chippendale Ave W, Rosemount
  • Fermentations, 236 Railway St N, Dundas
  • Marcello’s Pizza, 4112 Lancaster Ln N, Plymouth
  • Roman Anthony’s, 1350 Minnesota Cty Rd 96, White Bear Lake
  • Vescio’s, 601 Marquette Ave S, Minneapolis | vescios.com

COMING UP

  • Lynden’s Soda Fountain, 490 Hamline Ave S, St. Paul (old Kopplin’s). Opens April 15. | 651.235.5646 | lyndens.com
  • New Nick and Eddie Warehouse/Speakeasy, 1621 1/2 Harmon Alley, Minneapolis. Opens April 16.
  • Azia Market Bar & Restaurant, 2550 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens in late April. | 612.813.1200 | Find it on Facebook
  • Tin Fish, 3000 E Calhoun Pkwy, Minneapolis. Opens for the season in late April. | 612.823.5840 | thetinfish.net
  • Angel Food Bakery, 80 S 9th St, Minneapolis. Opens in late April. | hellskitcheninc.com
  • Devil’s Advocate, 89 S 10th St, Minneapolis. Opens in April.
  • Rincon 38, 3801 Grand Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens in May.
  • The Left Handed Cook, 920 E Lake St, Minneapolis (Midtown Global Market). Opens in May. | Find it on Facebook
  • Nadia Cakes, 11650 Fountains Dr, Suite 207, Maple Grove. Opens May 15. | nadiacakes.com
  • Well Seasoned, 920 E Lake St, Minneapolis (Midtown Global Market). Opens this spring. | 612.886.2489 | wellseasonedmpls.com
  • Maruso Street Food and Cocktails, 715 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis. Opens this spring.
  • Cowboy Jack’s, 126 5th St N, Minneapolis. Opens this spring. | theaftermidnightgroup.com
  • George and the Dragon, 813 W 50th St, Minneapolis. Opens this spring. | 612.355.9114 | ganddpub.com
  • Ike’s, 17805 Hwy 7, Minnetonka. Opens in April. | ilikeikes.com
  • Rodizio Grill, 12197 Elm Creek Blvd N, Maple Grove. Opens in April. | rodiziogrill.com
  • Somos Peru, 6009 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens May 4. | 612.244.3400 | somosperurestaurant.com
  • Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis. Opens in May. | Find it on Facebook
  • Harriet Brasserie, 2724 W 43rd St, Minneapolis. Opens in early May.
  • Selma’s Ice Cream, 3419 Saint Croix Trl S, Afton. Opens in May.
  • J.J.’s Coffee Company & Wine Bar, 1800 W Lake St, Minneapolis. Opens in May. | Our take on the original
  • Little Tijuana, 17 E 26th St, Minneapolis. Reopening this spring. | Find it on Facebook
  • Cafe Maude at Loring, 1612 Harmon Pl, Minneapolis | cafemaude.com
  • Masu Sushi & Robata, Mall of America. Opens this spring. | Our take on the original
  • Bar Louie, 1320 Lagoon Ave, Minneapolis. Opens this spring. | barlouieamerica.com
  • Birdhouse, 2516 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens this spring. | Find it on Facebook
  • Sweet Ducky Cupcakery, 117 W Churchill St #2, Stillwater. Opens this spring. | 651.472.1150 | Find it on Facebook
  • Blue Door Pub, 3448 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens this spring. | thebdp.com
  • Mona, 333 S 7th St, Minneapolis. Opens this spring. | 612.208.7675 | Find it on Facebook
  • Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub, 2724 E 38th St, Minneapolis. Opens this summer. | 612.328.1450 | northboundbrewpub.com
  • Cupcake, 949 Grand Ave, St. Paul. Opens this summer. | cup-cake.com
  • Smack Shack, Washington Ave N and 6th Ave N, Minneapolis. Opens this summer. | smack-shack.com
  • Excelsior Brewing Company, 421 3rd St, Excelsior. Beers available on tap this summer. | 952.474.7837 | excelsiorbrew.com
  • Pizza Luce, 800 W 66th St, Richfield. Opens in June. | pizzaluce.com
  • Tavern Grill, 772 Bielenberg Dr, Woodbury. Opens in June.
  • El Burrito Mercado, 920 E Lake St, Minneapolis (Midtown Global Market). Opens in June. | elburritomercado.com
  • Primebar, 3001 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | restaurants-america.com
  • Indeed Brewing, 711 15th Ave NE Minneapolis. Opens this summer. | 612.643.1226 | indeedbrewing.com
  • Sole Mio, 1750 Weir Dr, Woodbury. Opens in July.
  • Cossetta’s, 211 7th St W, St. Paul. Existing market opening new rooftop restaurant; opens this summer. | 651.222.3476 | cossettaeventi.com
  • New Don Saunders restaurant, 2115 W 21st St (old Kenwood Cafe), Minneapolis | Our take on Saunders’ In Season
  • Blood and Chocolates, 495 Selby Ave, St. Paul. Opens in 2012. | 651.492.4799 | Find it on Facebook
  • Super Moon Buffet, 6445 Wayzata Blvd, St. Louis Park
  • Dangerous Man Brewing, 1300 2nd St NE, Minneapolis | 612.377.4164 | dangerousmanbrewing.wordpress.com
  • The Original Just Turkey Restaurant, 3758 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis | originaljustturkey.com
  • Rusty Taco, 522 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | rustytacomn.com
  • Alley Sports Tavern, 100 6th St N, Minneapolis
  • :D-Spot, Dinkytown, Minneapolis | Our take on the original
  • Pistol Pete’s BBQ, 222 N Chestnut St, Chaska
  • Damera Ethiopian Bar & Restaurant, 823 University Ave, St. Paul
  • Dilla’s Ethiopian Restaurant, 1813 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis
  • Chopstiks Cafe, 501 University Ave, St. Paul
  • Moonlight Cafe, 1907 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis
  • Ruze Bakery and Lounge, 4669 Lakeland Ave N, Robbinsdale | ruzebakery.com
  • Burger Night, Minneapolis. Still looking for location. | 612.217.0102 | burgernight.me
  • Humble Pie, 822 W 36th St, Minneapolis. Kim Bartmann’s revamp of Gigi’s. | 612.825.0818
  • Rocky and Shem’s Ice Cream Shoppe, 56th and Chicago, Minneapolis. Opens late 2012 / early 2013.

The Tap is The Heavy Table’s guide to area restaurant openings, closings, and other major events. The Tap is compiled by Heavy Table writer Jason Walker, and will be published biweekly. If you already subscribe to our newsletter, look for an emailed version of The Tap every other week — otherwise, you can find it on the website on alternating Tuesdays.

If you’ve got tips for The Tap, please email Jason Walker at jason@heavytable.com. The Tap’s Twitter feed has moved to @heavytable.

State of the Local Food Scene and Morning Roundup

A sweeping state-of-local-food-scene story on KARE11 dares to rank the local food scene up there with the coasts, Dara weighs in on the whole best fish fry thing as does WCCO, Hell’s Kitchen hosts a concert to defeat the marriage amendment, Rick sings the praises of the eight-course tasting menu at La Belle Vie, Wisconsin’s DCI cheese company announces nine interesting new specialty cheeses, and Harriet Brewing puts on a benefit for an injured employee.