Ambitious openings, fire closings (and post-fire recoveries), a madcap brewery boom, and a continued blossoming of the farm-to-table marked the year in food for 2011. What follows are some of the highlights and lowlights: notable openings and closings, some of our favorite meals, and most controversial writings about food and drink over the past 12 months.
James Norton visited with Lenny Russo of Heartland (above) about his ambitious pork and charcuterie program.
Madison, WI, contributor Sean Weitner wrote up the ambitious (Underground) Kitchen (which later burned down and was reinvented, in part, as a charcuterie company), and James Norton checked out northwestern Wisconsin’s ambitious tilapia and salad greens farm.
And Maja Ingeman reviewed the intriguing (and ultimately nonviable) downtown gastropub The Inn (above).
In the Churn: Town Talk Diner folded, Cake Eater Bakery relaunched, local brewers made good on an international list of beers, Harriet Brewing opened its doors, and Minnesota’s congressional delegation had a hotdish throwdown (winner: Sen. Amy Klobuchar).
Speaking of illustrations: Andy Sturdevant’s epic trip down 38th St. with pen and sketchpad in hand is one of the most ambitious things we’ve published on this site.
In the Churn: Surly announced its $20 million brewery plan, Pearson’s closed, D’Amico took over food at the Walker while Wolfgang Puck’s 20.21 was kicked to the curb, and Summit dumped twist-off beer caps.
Heavy Table’s Silver Whisk awards were announced — they honored Uplands Cheese Company (above), Chef Sameh Wadi, and In Season.
We provoked a bit of controversy with a not-so-flattering assessment of the St. Clair Broiler, and a loving tribute to the Spaghetti Board of Bunky’s in Madison, which many commenters found to be, in a word, gross.
And we traveled all the way out to Iowa to try Flavor Flav’s new chicken restaurant, a not-so-bright star that shone all too briefly.
In the Churn: A broad survey of Minnesota pizza ran in Slice by our own Aaron Landry, Evalon cheese from Wisconsin’s LaClare Farms won a major national prize, patios touched off a restaurants-vs.-City Hall fight, a look at where Wisconsin protesters were eating, and the issue of support for Gov. Walker started a minor civil war in the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.
At the start of the month, readers poured in from around the world to see if we really saw the interior of Prince’s fridge, and to debate whether Pour Decisions was truly a new brewery, or an elaborate prank (turns out to be the former).
Sean Weitner and cartoonist John Kovalic visited a smelt fry at a shooting range in south-central Wisconsin, and we hailed the opening of Tilia and explored the lunch food of Minnesota’s storied past and diverse present in the book Minnesota Lunch.
And James Norton tried Gianni’s steakhouse of Wayzata, rendering a controversial verdict.
In the Churn: The venerable drive-in Porky’s closed, Republicans fought to weaken protection for wild rice in Minnesota, Erik Anderson left Sea Change for Nashville, the endlessly shuttered Rachel’s finally opened, City Pages readers named us “Best Local Blog,” the ambitious Forum restaurant closed, and a rockslide crushed a bakery in St. Paul.
James Norton and Becca Dilley drove southeast for a beautiful Lake Pepin getaway in Stockholm, WI, and visited the nearby Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery.
In the Churn: The post-fire Nook re-opened, Chef Isaac Becker won the Beard Award for Best Chef: Midwest, Schumacher’s Grill 212 closed, ambitious new airport dining was cleared for takeoff, and Big Brewing targeted the little guy in Wisconsin.
The chilaquiles at Homi warmed our souls, the gourmet chicken wings of :D-Spot caught us off-guard (in a good way) and we ventured up to Grand Marais to enjoy the Angry Trout.
And we held our first ever North Coast Nosh at Peace Coffee, bringing together more than a dozen local purveyors and 120 guests. (Our next edition of this sip-and-sample takes place on Jan. 20 at Open Arms.)
In the Churn: The critically beloved Inn shut its doors, the Sunnyside Up closed down, Lucky Bucket beer launched, Totino’s closed after 60 years, Muddy Waters cafe reopened as a restaurant, and the website Simple, Good and Tasty was sold.