Archive | Summer 2005

goblet

ETC… Local “foodie” news & eats Summer 2005

Story by Kathy Couturié
Illustrations by Mary Ogle

I’ve come to the Twin Cities area on behalf of Edible Communities, to help launch EDIBLE TWIN CITIES with our partners in eating, Michelle and Ken Hueser and Carol and Chuck Banks. My plan is to consume as much as possible of the local food scene, seeking out fresh, local foods, in the four short days I am to be in the area…a dream come true assignment! Following is a food fanatic’s journal of our delicious days…

goblet.gifAfter an exciting landing in what we Californians would describe as a mild tornado, I was starving! Fortunately we had dinner reservations at Heartland in St. Paul, but naturally my first stop in every new town is a wine shop…thus we maneuvered our way across the Lake Street bridge to Solo Vino. We met a marvelous salesperson, Chuck Kanski, who regaled us with stories of Hendry Ranch Block 8 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 – before he even knew we were from California. We learned that the “juice” from Hendry is pretty darn spectacular, so we purchased both the Cab and the Pinot Noir to taste over the next few days. Solo Vino is a spectacular little wine shop, and we enjoyed perusing their selection of California wines… The shop’s inventory is 85% imported, specializing in Spain, and we happily browsed the aisles while Chuck continued to educate us with his helpful wine tips. At the front counter I picked up a card for a “Taste & Enjoy” wine course at home, taught by Bill Coy at Vintage U – Bill writes the wine column for Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine. You just don’t get this sort of cultural richness in our small hometown of Ojai, California, and I am a wee bit envious of Twin Cities residents who have the ability to sample, enjoy and learn about fine wines in the comfort of their own home courtesy of Bill Coy (contact Bill at (651) 915-1138 or email vintageu@msn.com)… Solo Vino is truly “a full service wine shop” – please stop by, enjoy their unique selections, and say hello to Chuck for me: 517 Selby Ave., St. Paul; tel. (651) 602-9515 or visit www.solovinowines.com

We all met up at Heartland Restaurant – a fitting destination for a publication featuring fresh, local and seasonal cuisine. Chef Lenny Russo’s heart and soul are evident in this lovely restaurant, and I was intrigued by this description on their website: “The restaurant concept features North American Midwest regional cuisine that employs indigenous and cultivated ingredients from the American and Canadian Midwest to create a nightly changing menu… The restaurant has shunned mainline purveyors in favor of small family farmers and artisanal producers to source ingredients, the majority of which are either organically grown or naturally raised.” It took us some time to read through Heartland’s extensive menu and determine how to proceed with tasting as much as possible, but turns out we were the right group for this task…

quote.gifI considered just biting the bullet and ordering everything on the menu – hey, why not get wild your first night in town? After enjoying an amuse-bouche from the kitchen – a divine terrine of pheasant-hazelnut topped with tarragon aioli and radish sprouts, we settled on starters of roasted sweet onion-Calvados cream soup with fried Minnesota prosciutto and marjoram-chive oil, and an early spring frisée and baby arugula salad with Muscat grapes, goose leg confit, sweet onion and brown sugar-caraway vinaigrette… The soup was brilliant – I’ve never met a prosciutto I didn’t love, thus I found it hard to share Heartland’s crispy, locally made version floating in the soup… We happily moved on to mains: the grilled Fischer Farm Yorkshire pork chop with roasted baby turnips, grilled sweet onions and Kansas pecan sauce, the wild mushroom-crusted filet of Lake Huron walleye with freshwater crayfish consommé, basil oil, garlic butter-braised spring greens and preserved tomato-hazelnut pistou, the pan roasted Wild Acres Farm free-range chicken breast with fava bean-barley risotto, Shepherd’s Way Farm sheep milk grana cheese and herb-infused shell pea sauce, and the grilled Creekstone Farms grass-fed angus beef ribeye steak with wild leek-potato purée and brandied game bird glace. The pork chop was easily the largest pork chop I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and I was thrilled to taste the famed walleye I’d read about while researching Twin Cities specialties – delicious! With our meal we enjoyed bottles of two West Coast wines: a Shooting Star “Blue Franc” 2003 Syrah from Washington State, and the Andrew Rich Syrah from Newberg, Oregon – both quite drinkable, and I found Heartland’s wine list to be a great read, and reasonably priced… Naturally we required desserts, so we sampled the assorted regional artisanal cheeses with house-baked cornmeal crackers, on Ames Farm honeycomb and preserved fruit chutney, the bittersweet chocolate chess pie with Cointreau syrup-macerated strawberries, lavender panna cotta and candied walnuts, and the passion fruit curd tartlette with vanilla goat milk custard, caramel-rum sauce and chocolate hazelnut bark… I am a newly-converted devotee of cheese platters, and Heartland’s is fantastic – I loved the Shepherd’s Way Farm Friesago from Nerstrand, MN, and the Tres Freres semi-soft brie was nearly enough to make me weep, especially when dipped in Ames Honey… This was a fabulous meal, but the best part for me was towards the end when Chef de Cuisine/Proprietor Lenny Russo arrived at the table to chat…

We had lots of questions, and he fielded them with grace and good humor, regaling us with stories of his sources, organic suppliers, and his unique, personal relationships with seemingly every ingredient utilized in his restaurant. While drooling over some cave aged Virgin Pine Native blue cheese, I complemented Chef Russo on the little details, including the cornmeal crackers that came with the cheese. He explained that all the restaurant’s baked goods are homemade, using organic, local flour sources – including the cornmeal! Most of his ingredients come from a 100-200 mile radius, and when I asked him about the generous size of my pork chop he told us about Tim Fischer and his Yorkshire purebred hog farm near Waseca, MN, as well as Tim’s friend Harold Weber who grows the restaurant’s micro greens, and Joel who does the flour grinding, not to mention his source for bison that comes from the banks of the St. Croix river, etc. It was a pleasure to spend time with Chef Russo at Heartland, and this meal was certainly an auspicious start to our trip. Heartland is at 1806 St. Clair Ave., Saint Paul; tel. (651) 699-3536 or visit www.heartlandrestaurant.com.The next day we headed south to visit with various folks in the Red Wing area, but I must start the day with java… Thus we found ourselves in Dunn Bros. Coffee, a Minneapolis institution. We marveled at the incredible selection of fresh roasted coffees and slurped up our double cappuccinos in no time. Dunn Bros. has great atmosphere, friendly mid-west service, and I knew I wasn’t in California anymore when they didn’t scream “NEXT!” immediately after I ordered… Fortunately for Twin Cities residents, Dunn Bros. is at numerous locations throughout the region. Please visit www.dunnbros.comRead More

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barn

The Urban Farmhouse: Living off the Land while Living in the City

Story by Michelle Hueser
Photos by Carole Topalian

barn.jpgWhat is it about farming that seems to give us urban dwellers a romantic notion of how idyllic life would be if we lived out in the country and lived off the land? Well, perhaps not all of us feel that way but I would bet that the majority have had those thoughts occasionally, even if it’s only during a particularly bad commute or when eye fatigue has set in from staring at a computer under fluorescent lights all day. Then there is a small minority of that majority (such as my husband, Ken, and myself) who actually take the country dream one step further. We decided to start casually looking for our own little piece of solitude out of town with only a nebulous notion of what we would do on our small parcel of land to replace our humble, yet steady, city incomes.

Fortunately for us (and probably all of our would-be country neighbors), the more we looked at property, the more we became aware of some fundamental elements of our city-psyche that may not be compatible with making our living so far out of town. Romantic notions of being snowed in after a blizzard surrounded by nothing but an endless blanket of snowy stillness began to be pushed aside by thoughts like, “How would we get out of our long country driveway if, say, we did have to run an errand?” Imaginary summer days spent tending a large country garden full of plants yielding armfuls of beautiful, fresh produce turned to the reality of how little we know about growing anything. And, although I’m sure farmers will tell you there are plenty of moments when being surrounded by nothing but fresh air and nature is heaven on earth, I’ll bet it gets offset by lots of sunrise to sunset hard work in all types of inclement weather. We finally abandoned our country dream due to the slow realization that my South Minneapolis disposition would make it hard for me to trade quick bicycle rides to my favorite diner in the summer and streets plowed by someone else in the winter for the reality of hard work and isolation.

So how does a city girl like me capture some of the spirit of self-reliance that comes with living off the land without giving up easy access to my favorite coffee shop? Well, Ken and I thought we would try to bring some of the aesthetic of daily farm life to our city existence by trying to learn a few of the basic farm skills from which we are one or two generations removed.

Learning the skill of canning sounds exciting to us but also a bit mysterious. Growing and preserving most of the produce one eats is not a foreign concept to many, but the thought of pulling a jar of beans off of the basement shelf and serving up a heapin’ helping of our own homemade botulinum is enough to make us a bit nervous. We turned to my grandma, the older generation being the authority on such matters. “What if we do it wrong? Can’t you, like, die of botulism?” She chuckled, pitying the inexperience of youth. “No…you can tell if it didn’t seal properly when you look at it. Then you just don’t eat it.” Oh.

hoe.gifLast summer Ken and I stumbled through our first season with a community garden plot. Surprised by the news in late winter that a two-year waiting list had turned into only a few months, I hastily started a bunch of tomatoes from seed in a sunny south window. We ended the summer having harvested lots of tomatoes from our 27 plants, some spindly fennel, one or two peppers, a couple of nice spinach salads and lots of weeds. We spent the summer trying to figure out what to do with tomatoes because, although we both like to cook, we are not very creative in the kitchen and we often found ourselves turning to cookbooks for simple ideas on how to prepare tomatoes.

This summer we are no more prepared than last summer, except for having learned not to jump the gun when putting tomatoes in the garden in May. Faked out by late April warmth and spurred on by the large plants that evolved from once tiny seeds, we planted our tomatoes in early May last year only to be met a week or two later with a wet, cold snap which nearly cost us the majority of our plants. This year, the tomato plants happily spent the middle weeks of May in the basement under fluorescent lights, safe from yet another mid-May cold, wet spell.

Although our cooking and gardening skills fall into the “beginner” category, I can already detect a slight shift in our city mind-set. The neighborhood bunny we took such delight in seeing in our backyard, to the extent that we fed him carrots all winter, is suddenly seen as a potential adversary. At one point this spring he was spotted surveying a newly tilled garden patch in our backyard as if he’d discovered a nice new restaurant and would have to come back sometime when it was open. I imagined him merrily hopping along rows of sprouting spinach leaving nothing but bare stems in his wake. That’s the first sign, I suppose, of my transformation from someone who’s used to going to the grocery store before cooking the evening meal to someone who plans on growing most of what they eat.

We are definitely entering into this endeavor in a modern-day, urban frame of mind. If our efforts to grow a large portion of the produce we want to consume fail, we know we can go to any number of local farmers’ markets and get fresh, picked-the-same-day produce that was grown nearby. And, although I love my grandpa’s description of how they used to smoke meat and store it in the oats bin over the winter, I don’t think I’ll be turning our garage into a smokehouse this summer. We certainly aren’t going to start raising beef or dairy cattle or chickens in our backyard, either. Fortunately, there are plenty of local suppliers of all of these things and they are easy to find at local farmers’ markets and co-ops.

People tell me there will come a time when the bunny will not be cute anymore, but I don’t believe them.

The bunny fence is now up and the canning equipment is being purchased. Time to start climbing the learning curve.

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interior

Dining Out at Cafe Twenty Eight

Story by Tracey Ryder
Photos by Carole Topalian

interior.jpg Café Twenty Eight’s warm and inviting interior

The word bistro did not enter the French language until 1884 and although its origins are often argued, there is no confusion about its meaning. Everyone agrees that whether it’s a café, a small unpretentious restaurant, or simply a place to enjoy a glass of wine and a simple, yet tasty sandwich, a bistro is a place for good times with friends.

Located in Linden Hills, Café Twenty Eight is just this kind of neighborhood bistro. It’s beautiful to look at with its soft wood tones and earthy greens; it’s cozy, family-friendly, and serves delicious food. Under the guidance of owner, Linda Haug, and the culinary abilities of chef, Nick Cronin, Café Twenty Eight offers a dining experience that represents all that is good about bistro fare-honest flavors that are still connected to the earth they came from, yet raised to a higher level. Bistro food has a sense of generosity. It makes us feel that we are safe and comforted in a fast-paced world and that is what this neighborhood bistro accomplishes.

details

Café Twenty Eight

2724 West 43rd Street Minneapolis, MN (Linden Hills) Tel. (612) 926-2800 Reservations recommended Serving lunch and dinner Tues. – Sat. Sunday Brunch Closed Monday

A Linden Hills resident since 1993, Linda Haug wanted to create a restaurant that served the neighborhood as much as it did visitors. She wanted it to be a place that locals could walk to in the evening and enjoy a casual yet delicious meal. The location, the building, the size-all were critical to her vision, which is why the historic firehouse that houses the restaurant was the perfect choice. Haug took over the lease on January 1, 2002 and launched a remodel that took four months. Since the building had formerly housed the restaurant D’Amico and Sons, many people didn’t realize it had changed hands when Café Twenty Eight opened its doors on April 12, 2002. Haug laughs about it now: “I think ninety-percent of the people who first came through our doors thought it was still D’Amico and Sons. It took a while before they realized it had changed hands.”

Haug brings wide and varied experiences to the restaurant business. One look at the wine list and you will understand part of her past experience as a sales rep for a high-quality distributor. With a strong domestic palette represented in roughly eighteen wines, Haug has created a superb offering that pairs well with the seasonal menu. Earlier in her career, Haug even did stints as a cocktail waitress and prep cook at the famed Rio Grill in Carmel, California, where “fresh, local, and seasonal” are the gold standard. Adding to the sensibilities she developed on her own, Linda’s husband, Todd Haug, a brewer at Rock Bottom Brewery in Minneapolis, brings additional expertise to the equation. In fact, even for someone like me, who greatly favors wine above beer, the selections on the Café Twenty Eight beer menu challenged my opinion greatly, especially with the full-bodied, malty Trappist ales such as Chimay and Orval.

restauranteur.jpg Café Twenty Eight’s owner,
Linda Haug

Things that inform her sensibilities about food include growing up in Northern Wisconsin with a father who understood that the best food in any location was found at the neighborhood places frequented by locals. Haug recalls an experience when traveling with her father to the Bahamas and being in the back of a cab during a hurricane: “All my father would do was ask the driver ‘where do the locals eat?'” This, of course, led to a great meal (regardless of the weather), and her philosophy that food without pretension that is based on local ingredients always provides the best meal.

Rounding out the flavors as well as the family-friendly atmosphere of Café Twenty Eight is chef Nick Cronin, whose wife Briana and son Skyler, add to the mix of creative energy that seems to be overflowing here. Since coming on board in September of 2004, Cronin has added a whole new level of flavor to the seasonal menu with selections such as Fischer Farms Pork in Adobo, a slowly simmered naturally raised pork in a sauce made from three different chiles. Haug says of her chef: “Nick is respectful of the ingredients. He intuitively knows what works and I appreciate his ability to bring the ingredients to their highest potential while staying true to their authentic flavor.”

With more than a nod to local farmers and food artisans, Haug and Cronin are devoted to continuously adding more and more regional ingredients. In fact, the current menu includes organic eggs and chicken from Larry Schultz’s farm in Owatonna, pork from Tim Fischer’s Purebred Hog Farm, and beef sourced by Kristin Tombers and Greg Westergreen, owners of Clancey’s Meats & Fish, the Linden Hills neighborhood shop that sources meats from Minnesota farms. And, speaking of regional specialties, don’t miss the Wisconsin-style fish fry, which takes place every Friday night.

 

Author’s favorites from Café Twenty Eight:
Wine: Hop Kiln, California “Big Red” Zinfandel Blend
Beer: Orval Trappist Ale
First Bites: Wild Mushroom Pâté
Main Courses: Clancey’s Naturally Raised Beef Burger Three Ways
Specialties: Cornmeal Crusted Walleye Sandwich Gruyère & Caramelized Onion Quiche
Brunch: Fischer Farms Chorizo Sausage egg scramble
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