We sampled more than 30 bites and sips at last week’s Heavy Table + Wedge Community Co-op North Coast Nosh. (I know. Tough job.) Not a single one of them disappointed, but there were a handful that stuck with us — and might even subtly change the way we cook and shop and look at food.
I have a few culinary regrets in my life. And after the Nosh, I have at least one more: I regret every time I walked past the long line at Rise Bagels at the farmers market. I regret thinking, “A line for bagels? Have we no self-respect?” Because, damn, these two sisters make a fine bagel. A beautiful bagel, inside and out. A chewy bagel with a deeply developed flavor in the dough. A bagel worth a few minutes in line. And now you can learn from my mistakes by following Rise Bagels wherever they may show up.
Poorboy Caramel Sauce
This is my favorite instance of culinary synergy — pretty much ever. The Lone Grazer has vats of whey left over after making cheese. Whey is a thin liquid, but it’s packed with protein and milk sugars. Poorboy, makers of delicious caramels, takes that whey, boils the heck out of it to reduce the liquid, and makes jars of rich tangy-sweet caramel sauce unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.
Lone Grazer Ricotta with Curry, Cilantro, and Caramel
Culinary synergy, part 2: The Lone Grazer was showing off its whole-milk ricotta in a dip that I never in a million years would have dreamed up. Hold your judgment until you try it: ricotta mixed with curry powder and cilantro, then drizzled with Poorboy Caramel Sauce — the stuff made with Lone Grazer whey. It was like the caramel had come home. Smoky, sweet, herbal. Perfect. (Sorry, you can’t buy the dip; you’ll have to make it yourself.)
Redhead Creamery is run by Alise Sjostrom and her husband Lucas alongside her parents’ dairy farm, Jer-Lindy Farms. It was founded this year with assistance from a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $41,495 — more than $6,000 beyond its initial goal.
The founders of Jer-Lindy Farms are Jerry and Linda Jennissen. They grew up on dairy farms and met at a calf show when they were children.
Many years later, they married. They started their own farm (in Brooten, Minn.) in 1983.
“It is amazing to be on a farm that my parents basically built from scratch,” says Alise.
Every week or two, a new Minnesota food, drink, or restaurant campaign is launched on Kickstarter. We’ve covered many of them on the Heavy Table, and most succeed, some spectacularly so (see: Travail). In a sense, all campaigns are the same: organizers set a dollar goal, offer rewards for different levels of financial support (i.e. back us for $25 and get a collectible T-shirt), and strive over the course of the campaign (typically 30 days) to raise financial support through social media, traditional media, personal connections, and any other legal means available.
Unlike many other crowd-funding sites, Kickstarter operates on a win-or-die basis. If you don’t meet your goal, you raise none of the money pledged, which motivates organizers and backers alike and can lead to sometimes tragi-comic levels of veiled desperation as the clock ticks down on a doomed campaign. Done right, a campaign can launch a successful business or renovate a flagging one; done incorrectly, it can strangle a good idea in the cradle or fatally freeze a project’s momentum. All in all, it’s fun to watch, and a bit terrifying to run.
Most press focuses on the launch of new campaigns. But as inspiring as it can be to look forward to a campaign’s successful completion, it can also be useful to look back on an idea that’s hit its goal and figure out what went right, what went wrong, and whether the money was worth the price paid in time, anxiety, and material rewards for backers.
“I think it’s a fantastic tool,” says Alicia Hinze (below, second from right), one of the co-founders of The Buttered Tin in St. Paul. “Not everybody can expect what happened with Travail, but as long as you use it as a tool, it’s going to help you a little bit. It’s not going to make your business, it’s not going to pay for everything you need with your business, but it is a great tool for starting businesses.”
But we wanted to broaden our reach, so we interviewed other metro-area food Kickstarter veterans about their experiences: The Buttered Tin (goal: $10K; raised: $10.8K), Redhead Creamery (goal: $35K; raised: $41.5K), and Birchwood Cafe (goal: $100K; raised: $112K).
1. KICKSTARTER MONEY ISN’T FREE
From the outside — and the potato salad guy’s campaign only adds to the perception — Kickstarter looks like a magical plastic bucket that one need only wave with a bit of panache for it to fill to the brim with high denomination currency.
The truth is, any funds brought in through Kickstarter are earned by a combination of sweat, creativity, smart and/or tenacious marketing, promised rewards, standing connections, and existing reservoirs of goodwill. The money is only free if time and stress have no value, and many (if not most) smart, medium-to-large campaigns end up spending some money on extras such as professional video production, paid media marketing and/or social media boosts.
The Kickstarter explosion continues, and Travail’s on the cutting edge: Their new, larger space was fully funded ($136.3K / $75K) within the first six hours of posting and continues to pull in pledges à la Veronica Mars (if you donated, they made this quirky-cute thank-you dance party video just for you). Also en route to succeed: The Rabbit Hole ($9.6K / $10K), the Left Handed Cook’s swankier, “travel adventure” sibling, and — with two weeks to go — the sustainably powered Redhead Creamery ($23.8K / $35K) (read our profile here). Not funded through Kickstarter: Newcomer Bang Brewing Company just opened their tap room along the central corridor in St. Paul last weekend. And the brand-new Torpedo Room at Eat Street Social has been a trendy stop: Joy Summers and the guys at the Well Fed Guide to Life each weigh in (here’s our take).
The Tap loves restaurant tips from readers, so we’re awarding a copy of “The Secret Atlas of North Coast Food” to the best tipster of September and October. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We thought it’d be a great way to help us get started,” says Redhead Creamery co-founder Alise Sjostrom. The campaign must raise at least $35,000 by Sep. 25 in order for the project to receive its funds. If successfully funded by Kickstarter, loans, and a potential Minnesota Department of Agriculture grant, the cheese plant will operate on Alise’s family’s 180-cow dairy farm in Brooten.
“I wanted to get back on my parents’ farm for a lot of reasons,” she says. “We have an anaerobic digester here, which produces electricity from cow manure [similar to the setup at the farmstead Crave Brothers plant in Wisconsin]. We also have this picturesque scenery we’d like to take advantage of — I feel like if we bring people here for cheese, they’ll be awestruck.”
As for why she and her husband Lucas are opening their creamery in Minnesota (as opposed to Wisconsin, which offers stronger public support for the dairy industry) she says: “We love this state. We moved all over and we felt like we had to come back.”
Alise is one of four redheaded farm-girl sisters who inspired the creamery’s name. The cuteness of that anecdote aside, she’s jumping into business with a good deal of relevant experience: she has spent time working at well-regarded cheese companies, including Vermont’s Grafton Village and at the Crave Brothers.
Among the creamery’s first cheeses will be a cave-aged cheddar, a batch of which is currently aging at the University of Minnesota. “We’ve done some different rubs on them,” says Alise. “One has a cayenne pepper rub, we were trying to get something red to go with our name. It has a little bit of spice. We also did an ash-rubbed cheddar, and a clothbound cheddar which we haven’t opened yet. It’s about six months old right now. I want it to age out.”
Down the road, Alise says that Redhead may produce a washed-rind cheese or a blooming rind brie-style cheese.
The Kickstarter campaign’s rewards include a harvest meal on the farm, custom aprons, and — of course — cheese. Backers at the $25 level receive a full pound of local farmstead artisan cheese, a fair retail price that doesn’t factor in the satisfaction of helping a new Minnesota dairy venture get up and running.
Seventh Street Social is the first food-and-drink venture for owner Brian Glancy, who has taken a self-described “long, kind of weird road” from corporate finance through project management into restaurant ownership, courtesy of in-laws with a thriving beverage catering business.
Glancy’s “romantic notion” of the business has led him to the old Parrish’s Supper Club / Casa Vieja space on W 7th St, St. Paul, where he plans to open a restaurant dedicated to upscale comfort food. “When somebody walks in the door, it’s a very comfortable atmosphere,” he says. “There’s two levels to the bar — one side is bar stools and the other side is regular low chairs. We’re combining the old and the new. Every 18 inches along the bar, we have outlets so people can plug in their laptops and phones.”
The menu encompasses a number of different American favorites (some old, some new), with an emphasis on scratch-made comfort food. “We’ll have everything from roasted marrow bones to cold cuts to poutine,” says Glancy. Burgers will be a showpiece of the menu, not a mere obligation: “I’m a big believer in searing beef, so we’ll have a large flattop so we can really sear them,” he says. “When you’re eating a burger, it’s not supposed to be healthy — you want to cook it in its own fat. We’re going to grind our meat — we’ll have our own house grind with prime rib, chuck, and short rib. Every burger starts off with two 3 1 / 2 ounce burgers and you build it from there.” Smoked meat will be a big presence as well — Glancy says chicken wings, baby back ribs, and prime rib will all be blessed by the flavor of smoke.
Skillet roasted lobster pot pie is another of the house’s upcoming specialties, says Glancy: “It’ll be market vegetables, homemade cream gravy, with both the knuckle and tail meat [of the lobster], and then it’s covered in a cheddar-buttermilk biscuit top. It’s one of the things I’m really looking forward to.”
Glancy adds that the restaurant will have 12 beers on tap, mostly local — all local, in fact, if he can swing it. But first and foremost, he promises, Seventh Street Social will shoot for delivering consistency in everything it does: “In my mind, quality equals consistency, and vice versa. When it comes to everything here — when it comes to food, to the service we provide, to the cleanliness of the place … consistency isn’t just a behavior, it needs to be a mantra. Everything we do in this kitchen is from scratch, so consistency is very very very important.”
The Tap is the Heavy Table’s guide to area restaurant openings, closings, and other major events. The Tap is compiled and published biweekly by the Heavy Table. If you have tips for The Tap, please email James Norton at email@example.com.
Readers: Win Pint Glasses
The Tap loves restaurant tips from readers, so we’re awarding a copy of “The Secret Atlas of North Coast Food” to the best tipster of July and August. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.