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Burger Friday: The Lynn on Bryant

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: April 18, 2014 - 11:26 AM

The burger: The notion of stuffing foie gras inside a hamburger patty didn’t just materialize out of nowhere. New York City star chef Daniel Boulud has been catering to Burger Nation's 1 Percent-ers for more than a decade with a ground sirloin patty stuffed with short ribs, foie gras and truffles.

Still, that particular brand of extravagance hasn’t enjoyed much of a foothold here in the birthplace of the Juicy Lucy.

Until now, thanks to the advent of the Juicy Goosey, the witty, semi-preposterous (and, yes, delicious) foie gras-stuffed burger at the Lynn on Bryant.

(Side note No. 1: Chef/owner Peter Ireland is taking poetic liberties with the name, since the Juicy Goosey calls upon duck liver rather than goose liver, but that’s a minor technicality, since the vast majority of American-made foie gras comes from ducks.)

This is one labor- and time-intensive burger -- from start to finish, it follows a four-day process -- and a marvel of ingenuity. The foie gras is prepared as a torchon, painstakingly marinated and poached before being parsed into 1-ounce pieces. Through much research and development, Ireland discovered the best way to preserve the foie gras’ silky texture and flavor was by freezing it.

Next step: Beef. As it happens, each burger requires a substantial amount of ground chuck (a grass-fed and exceedingly flavor product from Grass Run Farms), and here’s why: cooking the foie gras any further than medium rare causes it to melt like so much Velveeta. Preserving the liver’s firm-but-silky texture requires a thick buffer of insulating ground beef, which explains the patty’s less-than-dainty proportions.

(Side note No. 2: That beef is delicious. "People ask us what we marinate our hamburger beef in," said Ireland. "We don't. It's just tasty beef. We only add salt and pepper.")

Instead of grilling – again, exposure to that level of prolonged heat is a foie gras no-no – it’s sous vide to the rescue, a gentle, low-temperature cooking process. Then that softball of a patty heads to the freezer. 

Just prior to serving, the frozen patties get a 60-second spin in the deep-fryer (using lard!), which burnishes the outer shell with a marvelously crispy crust, yet leaves the beef’s firm interior pink and juicy and preserves the foie gras’ essence. In case you're wondering if duck liver and ground beef make for a happy marriage, the answer is most definitely yes.

Not content to leave well enough alone on the coronary health front (see lard, above) Ireland piles on more fat-laden touches. Crumbles of smoky bacon started as strips, but they proved difficult to eat. As for the Big Mac-esque “secret sauce,” it’s the classic French sauce Americaine, brimming with tarragon, shallots and cornichons. 

There’s no bun. “We started with a buttermilk poppy seed bun, but you couldn’t get your mouth around it,” said Ireland with a laugh. Instead, there's a crisp, tender and blessedly skinny waffle, its shallow wells tailored to capture that creamy sauce.

The overall effect is spectacular, and spectacularly rich. My appetite cried "uncle" about a third of the way in. My suggestion: Share it, a notion I suspect Ireland encourages, since it arrives, conveniently, cut in half. “We should serve it with a side of Lipitor, and partner with Big Pharma,” he said with a laugh. No kidding.

Price: $24. You were expecting less with a 1-ounce foie gras torchon?

Fries: None. Instead, Ireland mirror’s the burger’s waffle with a generous handful of crisp, wafer-like gaufrettes. They’re fried in rice oil, a lighter touch than the lard the kitchen uses for its fries.

Inside information: While Ireland has had a burger – a terrific burger, actually – on his menu since opening the restaurant in October 2012, the Juicy Lucy is unchartered territory. “We toyed with doing one when we first opened,” he said. “But to be honest it felt a little gimmicky. We’ve sort-of been defined by the doughnut [no surprise, since the kitchen’s buttermilk-apple cider cake doughnuts border on life-changing], and you’ve got to be careful with what you’re defined by. We don’t want to be defined by a hamburger, although people love hamburgers.”

Funny story: “The first person to eat it was an 11-year-old kid,” said Ireland. “He said, ‘this is the best foie gras I’ve ever had, There’s no vein, it’s well-seasoned, and it’s not just a piece of fat.’ And I said, ‘Man, you’re 11!’”

Say cheese: Don’t forget to snap a picture of your Juicy Goosey, and then post it to Instagram (adding #juicygoosey and #thelynnonbryant). The restaurant’s staff selects the best image of the month, and the winner receives a free Juicy Goosey.

Address book: 5003 Bryant Av. S., Mpls., 612-767-7797. Open for dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and open for brunch 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Talk to me: Do you have a favorite burger? Share the details at rick.nelson@startribune.

Thoma, Riebel to buy the Lexington in St. Paul

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: April 14, 2014 - 3:33 PM

The plan was to make the announcement at a press conference on Thursday, but the news slipped out: Smack Shack business partners Josh Thoma and Kevin Fitzgerald are buying the venerable Lexington restaurant in St. Paul.

“I’m super-excited about it,” said Thoma. “When it came up we knew that we had to do it. Any time that you’re given the opportunity to update and revitalize a historic landmark, well, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The restaurant’s current owners, John Hickey and Ed Ryan, shuttered the Grand Avenue institution on May 31, 2013. A previous sale fell through in July.

Thoma and Fitzgerald opened the Smack Shack in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood last year, an ambitious and instantly packed bricks-and-mortar iteration of their equally popular food truck of the same name.

Thoma and Fitzgerald are partnering with former Butcher & the Boar chef Jack Riebel. Thoma and Riebel worked together when Riebel was running the Stillwater incarnation of La Belle Vie (Thoma was a previous co-owner). Riebel, also known for his long stint at the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant, opened B&TB in 2012 to great acclaim; it was the Star Tribune's 2012 Restaurant of the Year, and Riebel earned a 2013 Best Chef: Midwest nomination from the James Beard Foundation. He departed the downtown Minneapolis restaurant a few months ago.

“We’re very excited to have Jack as our business partner,” said Thoma. “I think he’s one of the most talented chefs in town. I very much enjoyed working with him in the past, and look forward to a long-lasting partnership.”

Thoma, Fitzgerald and Riebel all have connections to the Lex, if only tangentially. Fitzgerald currently resides about three blocks from the 76-year-old restaurant. When Thoma was a kid in St. Paul, his family spent 13 years in a house two blocks from the Lex. And Riebel grew up on Lexington Avenue. “His mother still lives there,” said Thoma.

Specifics will have to wait until Thursday. “But we plan on doing updates, revitalizing the existing dining rooms and bar programs,” said Thoma. “But that’s all we’re talking about for now.”

Hits and misses: Rating the new food at Target Field

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: April 8, 2014 - 3:57 PM

A new baseball season means a handful of food debuts at Target Field. Here’s a rundown.

Although Andrew Zimmern has dropped the sensational goat burger out of the rotation at his ballpark AZ Canteen stand (section 119), he makes up for the loss with a trio of gotta-try newcomers. Why fool around with a mere hot dog when a ridiculously outsized slab of pork belly ($10) awaits? (Seriously, on the portions front, it probably exceeds the Surgeon General’s monthly bacon-consumption guideline).

As it hits the grill, the celery juice-cured meat (from Lorentz Meats in Cannon Falls, Minn.) bastes in its own shimmering fat until it reaches a optimum crispy-chewy stature. The bun gets a swipe of boisterous jalapeño jelly, and the crowning touch is a vinegar-ey cabbage-carrot slaw, its bright acidity elbowing a dent in the pork’s richness. It is, in a word, phenomenal.

Another winner is the Canteen’s smoked beef sandwich ($12). Think tender, slightly pink brisket and shoulder (twin cuts, get it?) that’s cured for 10 days, smoked and then shaved thin and generously piled on a buttered, toasted bun. There’s more of that excellent coleslaw, and a sauce of garlic and mellow dried Hatch chiles sweetened with maple syrup. Really nice, as are the crispy, super-seasoned cottage fries.

The stand — overseen with a watchful eye by chef Asher Miller — is also serving up what’s easily Target Field’s most refreshing nonalcoholic beverage, a not-too-sweet lemonade ($5) splashed with cool juice from muddled cucumbers and brimming with freshly chopped mint (vodka is available for an additional $3), a concoction that will no doubt prove its thirst-quenching bonafides when temperatures start to soar.

The smoked barbecued beef sandwich ($12.50) at the Carvery (section 126) is no match for the AZ Canteen version. Still, the super-juicy (and super-fatty) meat has a pleasantly smoky aura. It’s sliced to order and stacked to near-absurd heights on what turns out to be an unfortunately forgettable bun.

Meanwhile, the State Fair Classics stand (section 133) continues its novelty noshes theme with a pair of Iron Range delicacies inspired by Valentini’s Supper Club in Chisholm, Minn. The first stuffs peppery shredded porketta into a pair of crispy and, yes, oversized egg rolls ($8), serving them with a decent marinara sauce. The second flattens a generously seasoned meatball, sears it to a deep char, slips it into a drab potato bun and tops it, pizza burger-style ($10), with pepperoni, provolone and that same marinara.

It’s difficult to muster much enthusiasm for either (or for the $9 basket of so-so meatballs at the various Frankie V's stands), particularly when your nose gets a tickle of the tantalizing smoke that heralds the proximity of the Butcher & the Boar stand (section 140).

On Monday’s home opener, chef Peter Botcher — enveloped by that fragrant nimbus and the sounds of juices spattering against the grill’s hot coals — was painting hefty slabs of beef ribs ($12.50) with broad strokes from a wide, sauce-clogged brush. Talk about showmanship: Botcher totally upstaged the action down on the field, although the Twins’ 8-3 takedown by the Oakland A’s wasn’t much competition.

The meat, glazed in a sticky-sweet-spicy barbecue sauce and chopped into manageable pieces, barely hangs on the bone, and nearly each bite offers a bit of blackened crispiness chased by next-to mouth-melting tenderness. A few sweet pickle chips are tossed in to act as a kind of palate cleanser. A fork is provided, but this is definitely an eat-with-your-fingers delicacy. And a Target Field don’t-miss experience.

After several seasons of enduring dreadful ice cream, Target Field ticket holders will be thrilled to encounter a modest Izzy’s Ice Cream scoop stand (section 114), stocked with eight made-in-the-Twin Cities flavors of lusciously chilly goodness.

The good news is that co-owners Jeff Sommers and Lara Hammel are featuring their sublime salted caramel and divine (literally) “Church Elder Berry,” a rose-colored, five-berry (strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and elderberry) treat, originally formulated for Methodist dining hall at the Minnesota State Fair.

The not-so-great news is the price. A single scoop — capped with the shop’s signature “Izzy scoop,” a second, more diminutive dollop — goes for $7, served in a cone or a cup. Then again, sticker shock has been an integral part of the beer-buying economics at the House of Joe Mauer from the get-go, so paying a premium for premium ice cream is a relatively easy justification.

Memo to the Twins executive suite: More vendors along the lines of AZ Canteen, Butcher & the Boar and Izzy’s, please.

New York City chef heading to the North Loop

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: March 31, 2014 - 2:10 PM

The news lit up the Twittersphere on Friday: Bloomington native Gavin Kaysen announced that he’s leaving his perch at Café Boulud in New York City -- the restaurant he shorthands to Café -- and returning to Minneapolis to open a North Loop restaurant he’s calling Merchant.

He was in Yountville, Calif., when the news broke, immersed in guiding the training process for the next Bocuse d’Or, the international culinary competition, and the response has been volcanic. “It has been an emotional storm,” he said. “Totally overwhelming.”

After cooking in Switzerland and London, Kaysen’s rise to fame began at El Bizcocho in San Diego. In 2007, Kaysen was recruited by superstar chef Daniel Boulud to run Café Boulud on New York City's Upper East Side. A year later, Kaysen was named the nation's Rising Star Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation and earned a star in the Michelin Guide. I spoke to him from his kitchen at Café Boulud.

Q: Why Minneapolis?

For me, the biggest thing was opportunity. Not that I don’t have opportunity in New York City, or elsewhere. But I like the sense of having a connection to the people dining in the restaurant. Over the years at the Café, we’ve had more and more people coming in to eat who are from Minnesota.

Minneapolis is such a great place to raise a family [Kaysen and his wife Linda have two sons, ages 4 ½ and 2], and that’s ultimately one of the most important things in my life.

I grew up there. I went to Holy Angels. My folks still live in the Twin Cities, except my brother, he lives in Los Angeles. Really my whole family – my cousins, aunts and uncles – they’re all there. They’re going to be putting in a lot of sweat equity [laughs]. It takes a village, right?

I left when I was 19. The past 15 years have been an amazing journey for me. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve been given as I’ve gone through the stages of my career and developed as a cook, as a chef. I’ve learned so much.

I was at home last summer – I go home a few times a year – and I was with my parents, and a bunch of friends. We were having this big barbecue. It was a fulcrum kind of moment, you know what I mean? I thought, ‘This is where I need to open a restaurant.’ I’d never felt that way before. It hit me like a ton of bricks.

So I started to come back more often, and eat in more restaurants. By seeing what people like Tim [McKee, of La Belle Vie] and Isaac [Becker, of 112 Eatery] and Alex [Roberts, of Restaurant Alma] have accomplished, it really inspired me. It gave me a real understanding of the opportunity that is there in Minneapolis. Not that it hasn’t been there, I just wasn’t looking for it. And the community there supports the people who come back. It’s a thriving and exciting time to be in Minneapolis. And these guys -- Isaac and Tim and Alex and so many others -- they inspire me. I want us all to be successful.

I’m a hometown kid. I’m humble to the bone. I love the roots that I have from growing up there. But I’m also conscious of where I’m coming from: New York City and Café Boulud. That’s going to make people think that the restaurant will be formal, with white tablecloths and fancy silverware and 50 wine glasses on the table. But that’s not my intention. That’s Café Boulud, but at its core, Café is also a neighborhood restaurant. We have a core group of customers who eat here one or two or three times a week. That’s my goal. I want to create a restaurant in Minneapolis where people will come in two or three times a week. I’m also excited because, for the first time in my career, I’m choosing where I want to live. In the past it has always been people telling me where to live.

I also feel like my generation of chefs needs to build something to make the next generation of chefs more successful. I was talking to Daniel and Thomas [Keller, of the French Laundry] about this. Their generation built such an incredible platform for all of us to jump off of, and now we have the responsibility to do the same for the next generation. All of the chefs that have trained with these global superstars can go home to Minneapolis or Portland or St. Louis and spread their knowledge.That camaraderie of the chef community will make the next generation stronger, and they won’t have to go and work in big cities but stay where they are, and learn.  

Q: What’s the timeline?

My last date at Café is June 1, and we’ll be moving home as quickly as possible after that. We don’t necessarily have an opening date, but I told David [Shea, of Shea Inc., the Minneapolis design firm handling Kaysen's project] that we’d like to push for something before the holidays, sometime in late 2014.

We’re still going through the submissions process. The kitchen is probably 90 percent sketched, and the restaurant is maybe 80 percent sketched. I’m very excited and motivated to make this happen, but as I say that, I know that some things are going to change. That’s what happens when you’re opening a restaurant. Some of it is out of your control.

But there’s going to be a large bar in the front entrance. The dining room will be split into smaller sections. There’s going to be an open aspect to the kitchen, I’m not quite sure how much yet. And there will be two private dining rooms in the back. I feel that that’s very important.  

Q: Where’s the location?

It’s in the North Loop. I can’t say the exact location because I want to be sensitive to the permit process. I worked hard and looked at a lot of spaces, and when I saw this space I just fell head over heels. It’s 6,000 square feet. It’s over a hundred years old, and it has an incredible amount of character. It has a story, and I have a story. I didn’t want to be in a brand-new building. There’s nothing wrong with that, but from my perspective -- and from where I’ve cooked in my life, all around the world -- I’m used to being affiliated with a story.

Q: Are you working with any partners?

I have business partners who are backing me up. They’re all locals, and they’re excited to be part of this process.

Q: What are you thinking about in terms of the menu?

We’ll start out as dinner only, with the idea of developing weekend lunch. There will be cold composed appetizers and hot appetizers. We’ll have grains, pastas, things from the sea, things from the land. We’re going to have a rotisserie, and not just for meats but for vegetables, too. A fully vegetarian section is such an exciting way to eat. I want the food to be hearty and delicious, a little refined in how it’s plated. But I want the flavors to be familiar. I just want to cook great food.

The intention is to keep the prices reasonable. I’m not going in with the misconception that the average check will be $90 per person. That’s not something that interests me.

I’m super-excited about this: My grandmother Dorothy [Ann Kaysen] inspired me to cook, starting at age 7. I still have the rolling pin that we would use together. She passed away four years ago, and when she died, I received all of her recipes. All those old index cards, they’re ratted up, they’re stained with fat; it’s fantastic. One of the concepts that I have for the menu is to create a 'Dorothy’s Dinner' and change it every day. You know, tonight it might be a rotisserie of roasted beets with horseradish and dill, and pot roast, or fried chicken or a whole grilled fish. You come in and gather around a communal table and break bread the way my grandmother would have fed you.Then you’ll get a parting gift, maybe the cookies or brownies that she was known for.  

Q: What’s the story behind the name?

I was in L.A. a week and a half ago, and I sat down and looked up and saw this beautiful building. It had this great architecture and I thought, ‘I wonder what that is?’ I looked up and saw the name carved above the door and it was the Farmers and Merchant Bank, and I thought, ‘That’s the name.' A merchant is by definition a purveyor of goods, the seller of a craft, and that really spoke to me. My intention is to continue my craft of cooking.

Q: You were in California when the news broke on Friday. What’s going on there?

There couldn’t have been a better place for that announcement. Up until Friday this was a silent dream that only I knew about. Well, it was only Daniel and I.

I’m head coach for the Bocuse d’Or team this year, I’m so incredibly honored. Thomas Keller is president, Daniel is chairman and Jerome Bocuse, the son of Paul Bocuse, is vice-chairman. The candidate is Philip Tessier, the executive sous chef at the French Laundry, and his commis is Skylar Strover, also of the French Laundry. We train in an R&D kitchen next door to the French Laundry. This was one of many trips. We’ll go to Stockholm from May 6th through the 9th for the European finals. The competition is in January 2015.

I competed in 2007, and it helped create a friendship with Daniel. It’s how I got this job. We became friends through Bocuse d’Or. I’d do press lunches and he would be my sponsor. In 2007 he called me on my cell in San Diego and said, ‘What if I offer you chef at Café?’ I said, ‘I’ll be there in a month.’ I got off the phone and said, ‘Hey babe, how do you feel about moving to New York?’

Q: I’m assuming you gave your wife a little more time with this decision. Yes?

[Laughs] Yes. She’s thrilled. She’s from Sweden originally, so the landscape in Minnesota is familiar to her.

Q: Looking back, 2007 was a big year for you, wasn't it?

I’d just won Food & Wine [magazine’s] Best New Chef. I was on “Next Iron Chef” on the Food Network. I competed in the Bocuse d’Or. My first day at Café was in November. So, yeah. That was seven years ago, so I guess something big happens every seven years.

Q: How does it feel to be moving on from Café Boulud?

It’s been so amazing to be a part of this place. When I sat down to tell Daniel, I said, ‘Chef, you have to understand that it’s not about the grass being greener. There is no grass here. I have to plant it.' He’s like a father to me. I love him with all of my heart. I will do anything for the man. He is such a successful person because the relationships that he develops are genuine.That’s why people go out of their way to help him. I hope that I can only be a smidgen of how successful he is.

My chef de cuisine Aaron Bludorn is taking over for me here. He’s worked for me for five years. I love to see that evolution. It’s going to be a proud moment when I leave and look back in the rear-view mirror and see all the people who have come through this kitchen and have gone on to do great things.

James Beard award nominations announced

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: March 18, 2014 - 2:21 PM

The James Beard Foundation has announced nominees for its 2014 awards.

The Twin Cities boast three nominees in the Best Chef: Midwest category:

Paul Berglund of the Bachelor Farmer,

Michelle Gayer of the Salty Tart

and Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market.

It's a first nomination for Berglund, and the fourth for both Gayer (nominated twice in Outstanding Pastry Chef, and twice in Best Chef: Midwest) and Russo. The last time a Twin Cities chef won the award was in 2011, when Isaac Becker of 112 Eatery heard his name called out in Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.

The Best Chef: Midwest award honors outstanding chefs in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. Other nominees are Justin Aprahamian of Sanford in Milwaukee, Gerard Craft of Niche in St. Louis and Kevin Nashan of the Sidney Street Cafe in St. Louis.

Amy Thielen is up for two awards, in the TV Program Studio/Fixed Location category for her Food Network show, Heartland Table, and for her "The New Midwestern Table" cookbook in the American Cooking cookbook category. Thielen resides near Park Rapids, Minn., and is a 2011 Beard winner for a series of stories published in Taste.

The Splendid Table -- and its host Lynne Rossetto Kasper and producers Sally Swift and Jennifer Russell -- is nominated in the Radio Show and Audio Broadcast category; the show is a 1998 and 2008 winner. And The Perennial Plate producers Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine are included in the Video Webcast on Location category. Klein and Fine won the award last year.

Golden Valley native Cindy Pawlcyn, owner of Mustards Grill and Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena, Calif., was nominated in the Outstanding Restaurateur category.

It's a strong year for women. Pawlcyn is one of three women nominated in her category of five. Two of the five nominees in Rising Star Chef of the Year, two of six in Outstanding Chef and four of five in Outstanding Pastry Chef are women. Still, the numbers drop considerably when tallying the nominees in the 10 regional Best Chef categories (the Beards divide the country into 10 regions, including Midwest). Of the 52 chefs honored in 10 categories, 10 are women.

Find the full list of nominees here.

The foundation, founded in 1986 and named for cookbook author and teacher James Beard (born 1903, died 1985), works to "celebrate, preserve, and nurture America's culinary heritage and diversity." The Beard awards began in 1990 and are frequently shorthanded to the “Oscars of the food world.” Judges include past chef winners, along with industry professionals.

Winners in the journalism and cookbook categories will be announced at a dinner at Gotham Hall in New York City on May 2. Winners in the restaurant, chef and design categories will be announced at a gala event at the David H. Koch Theater in New York City’s Lincoln Center on May 5.

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