The Secret Atlas of North Coast Food: Chapters 17-25

secret-atlas-layout-325Dear Heavy Table Readers,

Thanks so much for your support of this project — because of you, we’ll be able to create The Secret Atlas of North Coast Food, and include at least 24 chapters.

We’ve got less than 12 hours to go, so please consider backing our project and / or politely prod any likely friends / relatives.

At this point, most of the money we’re taking in will go to help reimburse writers and illustrators for the food and gas expenses they incur while on the road.

This list completes our planned slate of chapters, but don’t be surprised when the final book is missing a few of these… and includes a few that you weren’t expecting. As we hash out the research and writing, some topics will shift and migrate, but we’re confident the final book that you’re going to receive late this autumn will be a doozy.

Please stay in touch; we’ll field your emails and comments as move forward. We have been humbled and honored by your support and will do our best to deliver 110% of what has been promised.

James Norton
The Heavy Table

A Trip Along the Mekong
Written by Joshua Page, illustrated by Adam Turman

A concentration of excellent restaurants on a stretch of University Ave. in St. Paul known as “Little Mekong” allows local diners to explore the cuisine of Southeast Asia. This chapter takes a trip along the Mekong River through the food of five restaurants that run along the Light Rail corridor on University Ave. (Bangkok Thai Deli, Cheng Heng, Family Lao-Thai, Little Szechuan, and Treiu Chau). Through in-depth interviews with restaurateurs, the chapter traces the dishes from their places of origins to St. Paul.

The chapter will include three main sections. The introduction will provide background on Little Mekong, outlining its geography and history. The middle section will include five sub-sections that focus on each of the restaurants. A brief conclusion will argue that the individual restaurants collectively comprise a special place that should be on residents’ and tourists’ maps of North Coast Food.

The illustration will be a map depicting University Ave. from N. Avon to N. Marion. It will include two light rail cars (one going east and one going west), and people walking from the light rail cars toward the featured restaurants. To the side of the map of the stretch of University Ave. will be a map of Southeast Asia with the Mekong River in bold. The restaurateurs’ hometowns (or dishes’ places of origin) will be clearly marked, and lines will connect the hometowns to the restaurants (the lines will be similar to those on maps showing the trajectory of airline flights).

Blanket Coverage: Picnicking Across Wisconsin
Written and illustrated by Sean Weitner

A consumer’s guide to dining in the Wisconsin outdoors, as experienced by a lapsed cartoonist and his intrepid family of explorers. We’ll seek out the best to-go fare proximate to the best al fresco locations, with an emphasis on bringing food into (and taking trash out of!) Wisconsin’s state parks. From small-town restaurants to purveyors’ pop-up markets, we’ll craft a menu out of the state’s byways and pair it with a map inspired by Ruth Taylor White’s 1930s classics.

That Old Fashioned Feeling
Story by Lindsay Christians, Illustrated by Brandon Raygo

Beloved by the supper club set and resented by mixologists everywhere, the Wisconsin-style brandy Old Fashioned is the badger state’s signature cocktail. Sweet and deceptively strong, made with soda, Sprite, or sour mix, the Old Fashioned contains multitudes, each built on a base of “fruit salad” – a muddled orange slice and a candy-red maraschino cherry.

We talk to supper club bartenders like “Martini” Bob Perry at Smoky’s Club in Madison, who has been making the cocktail for more than three decades, and the crew at the Old Fashioned on the Capitol Square, where a weekend night may have waitstaff muddling 400 lowball glasses of the restaurant’s namesake drink. We’ll also see where the Old Fashioned is getting a makeover – going into a bottle (made by Arty’s in Clintonville), using Wisconsin brandy (from Wollersheim or Old Sugar Distillery), and getting classy with high-end variations.

Illustrations: An Old Fashioned Flow Chart, detailing variations on sweetener (simple syrup, sugar cube, etc.), liquor, mixer, bitters, and garnish.

A diagram of the “classic” brandy Old Fashioned.

And possibly a map of where the Old Fashioned is going (e.g, places with interesting variations, places where brandy is made).

Becca Dilley Photography
Becca Dilley Photography

All-Star Cheesemakers
Story by James Norton, illustrated by TBD

The Upper Midwest is home to some of the world’s best cheese, and the creators of this stuff are among the world’s most interesting people: They’re craftspeople, artists, and culinary pioneers. This essay will explore 10-15 of the area’s most intriguing cheese personalities, everyone from Sid Cook of Carr Valley, to Andy Hatch of Uplands, to green-friendly cheese entrepreneur Bob Wills, to Michael Stanitis of the South Shore’s Sassy Nanny Cheese.

In addition to a map illustrating where these cheesemakers are based, we’ll present baseball card-like portraits with vital stats for each of the masters.

Pit Stop Eating on the North Coast
Written by John Garland, illustrated by Matt Dooley

The major highways that connect Minneapolis, Des Moines, and Madison contain roadside eats the hurried traveler might miss. This straightforward atlas will tell you what humble roadside spots hold secret local treasures. Should you stop for eats at the world’s largest truck stop? What’s the smell coming from that river boat? What’s the German place all those RVs are huddled around? This map will give you a sneak peek into all those places you may have wondered about while driving on by, and where to stop next time you’re hungry.

Mini-Map TBD
Written by Chuck Terhark, illustrated by TBD

Still to be hashed out, this chapter will be a “map” of something very small — a single restaurant, or even a plate of food.

Small Town, Good Eats
Written by Chuck Terhark, illustrated by Matt Dooley

Great food isn’t confined to metro centers; there are small eateries throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin that are beacons of gastronomic light that radiate far beyond the small towns and villages that surround them. This will be an Upper Midwestern road-tripper’s delight.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Pizza Turf Wars
Written and Illustrated by Jeff Nelson

Illustrator Jeff Nelson walks us through Twin Cities pizzerias (and their spheres of influence) with a gastronomic spin on a gangland turf map.

Open Farms, Open Arms
Written by Jason Walker, Illustrated by Matt Dooley

The Farms chapter will be 5-6 vignettes of farms in Minnesota that welcome visitors. The chapter will detail how small farmers operate regarding direct marketing and on-farm marketing, and how it’s important for visitors to visit the farm to make a personal connection with their food and their farmer. Alongside profiles of the farms involved there will be some guidelines, from the farmers, on how to best interact: when it’s OK to come visit, why you need to call beforehand, what there may be for sale on said farm, etc.

The whole idea is that often people who are into local food never get further than the farmers market, and it’s important for people who are truly interested in local food to understand what farms are like, how they operate and why buying from a small farmer can ultimately be optimal. It’s also difficult for people to wade through the multitude of small farms in the area; by using my expertise and connections in the farm community I can pinpoint a few farms that readers will appreciate knowing about and will potentially be excited to visit.