Here's a rundown on what's happening, food- and drink-wise, in the Twin Cities this weekend:
Saturday: Izzy's Ice Cream is celebrating the opening of its sparkling new Minneapolis ice cream kitchen and scoop shop on Gold Medal Park (pictured, above), with a long list of reasons to stop by, including free kids' activities (noon to 2 p.m.), free peeks into the kitchen and samples of locally-sourced ingredients (4 to 7 p.m.), and a series of tours ($15 to $20) with architect David Salmela (12:30 to 1:30 p.m.; read more about the building's design here) and co-owner Jeff Sommers (3 to 4 p.m. and 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.).
Saturday: The season's first indoor version of the Mill City Farmers Market kicks off at the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis, with 40 vendors selling late-fall produce (kale, spinach, root vegetables, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and squashes), along with eggs, baked goods, milled grains, cheeses, honey and more. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
A reminder: The St. Paul Farmers Market continues its outdoor market hours, open Saturday from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. And the Minneapolis Farmers Market remains open 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily through the middle of the month.
Sunday: Be on the lookout for a second indoor farmers market, this time a combined effort of the Kingfield Farmers Market and Fulton Farmers Market, at Bachman's in south Minneapolis. Expect a crowd, browsing over wide selection of produce, meats, cheeses, prepared foods and more, along with wine and beer by the glass from the good folks at the Bryant Lake Bowl. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
I am seriously bummed. I will be working on the night of one of the coolest wine events of the year.
A week from tonight, on Oct. 2, the Parkway Theater will screen “A Year in Burgundy,” which is just what it sounds like: a chronicle of 12 months in what many of us consider the world’s foremost wine region.
Divided into four chapters denoting the seasons, the documentary covers the tumultuous 2011 vintage, with up-close-and-personal looks at everyone from an 80-year-old matriarch known as “the Queen of Burgundy” to a 2-year-old who might eventually fill that role.
James Molesworth, one of the Wine Spectator’s best writers, calls it “lovingly shot … tender and real. … It captures the romance and allure of the wine business without an overabundance of schmaltz.”
So the film itself is worth the price of a regular movie admission. But for just $20 ($25 at the door), you not only can see the movie but enjoy some Burgundian wines and appetizers (from Meritage and Café Arnaud) beforehand, and coffee and desserts afterwards.
The folks at Martine’s Wines, Grand Père Wines and South Lyndale Liquors are responsible for those extras, and proceeds go to Alliance Francaise. Tickets are available here,
Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait for the DVD. Sigh.
Here's what's going on, food- and drink-wise, in the Twin Cities this weekend:
SATURDAY AND SUNDAY: Seventeen Minnesota and Wisconsin cheesemakers -- including Alemar Cheese Co., Shepherd's Way Farms, Singing Hills Goat Dairy and Stickney Hill Dairy -- are the main attraction at the Minnesota Cheese Festival, along with artisan food producers, a handful of food trucks (Foxy Falafel, the Moral Omnivore) and wine and beer pairings. Workshops and demonstrations, too, all held at the International Bazaar at the Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights. Tickets $15 ($10 children) or $65 for a VIP pass, and must be purchased in advance; no at-the-door sales.
SATURDAY: The brewers at Summit Brewing Co. will be on hand at Brit's Pub & Eating Establishment (outdoors, on the restaurant's rooftop veranda) in Minneapolis, tapping 10 of their latest brews. Brewers are available from noon to 3 p.m., taps run from noon to 4 p.m.
SATURDAY: Drop in on the 10th-annual Wild Rice Festival at the Harriet Alexander Nature Center in Roseville. The day begins with a wild rice pancake breakfast (served with wild rice sausages and locally produced maple syrup), and includes games, storytelling, crafts, demonstrations and more, all focused on local Native American cultures. 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
SATURDAY: Meet local author Anne Gillespie ("Ingrebretsen's Saga") at a meet-and-greet (samples, book signings) at the Midtown Farmers Market in Minneapolis.
SATURDAY: Chef Sameh Wadi of Saffron Restaurant & Lounge and World Street Kitchen in Minneapolis will take to the podium at the Minneapolis Farmers Market at 10:30 a.m. (free). Also at the market: be sure to pick up your free reusable shopping bag, starting at 8 a.m.
SATURDAY AND SUNDAY: Meet influential cookbook author Deborah Madison ("Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone," "Local Flavors," "The Greens Cookbook") and hear her talk about her latest book, "Vegetable Literacy" at two events: On Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Mill City Farmers Market in Minneapolis, and on Sunday at 4 p.m. at SubText Bookstore in St. Paul. Free.
Hank Shaw isn't a Food Network-level brand name. Well, at least not yet.
But the highly engaging voice behind the blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook (winner of the James Beard Foundation's 2013 Best Food Blog award) and the author of the well-received 2012 cookbook "Hunt, Gather Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast" embodies a rapidly growing segment of the American cooking population, that of the self-sufficient, eating-off-the-grid forager, farmer, fisherman and hunter.
Shaw's latest work, "Duck, Duck, Goose: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Waterfowl, Both Farmed and Wild" is debuting next month, and the Sacramento, Calif.-based writer is making an appearance at the Bachelor Farmer on Oct. 9 at 7 p.m.
Expect a family-style tasting menu -- created by Shaw and Bachelor Farmer chef Paul Berglund -- along with wine pairings and cocktails by Marvel Bar mixmaster Pip Hanson. Oh, and plenty of conversation with Shaw. Cost is $145 per person, reservations (starting after 2 p.m. Monday) at 612-206-3920.
Despite my Variety colleagues handing over a prodigious amount of their section’s real estate in the Saturday paper, I wasn’t able to squeeze all of my day-of-gorging observations into my annual survey of new Minnesota State Fair foods. So here goes.
A fairly recent fair food phenomenon has vendors investing enormous amounts of capital and manpower into mega-attractions: O’Gara’s, the Minnesota Wine Experience, Famous Dave's and French Meadow Bakery & Cafe are just a few examples. This year’s entry into the bigger-is-better sweepstakes is Mancini’s al Fresco (Carnes Av. at Nelson St.), an outpost of the iconic St. Paul supper club. It’s a great-looking space, filled with the requisite historic photos and vintage fixtures, and it features a fairly lengthy (for the fair, anyway) menu.
In my new-foods rundown, I turned the spotlight on what I thought hit the highest marks on the Delicious-O-Meter, the Porketta Pork Wings ($8). I was less impressed with the stand’s signature dish, a steak sandwich ($9, pictured above). The thick-cut beef was nicely grilled, with a flavorful char and a pink-ish, fairly juicy center, and it exuded a big, beefy bite. But it was a bit on the chewy side (although let's get real, you were expecting butter knife-quality prime at $9?) and the flimsy foccacia bun was soaked in grease. It’s improved with the addition of onions and red peppers, which should be included in the price but aren’t, requiring an additional $1.
More successful is the Cicchetti, a seasoned bread cone filled with tender meatballs doused in a lively marinara sauce (or shrimp). It’s a clever Italian-American take on portable fair food, and it’s priced right: $6.
A sausage stuffed with onions and red peppers and speared on a stick ($6) left absolutely no impression, and a heaping, overpriced carb-bomb of basket of grilled garlic toast ($5, pictured above), greasy, near-flavorless and inundated in marinara, is best avoided.
Ending on a positive note, dessert is first-rate: Twelve rotating flavors of gelato ($5 and $7) from Ring Mountain Creamery Cafe in Eagan; three cheers for including this south-of-the-river gem at the fair.
One of my perennial fair favorites is the all-things-honey section of the Agriculture Horticulture Building, starting with the swell honey-nut ice cream. This year, the area’s Bee Hive shop, which features a wealth of Minnesota-made bee products, has a lovely addition: Honey-Bee Sticks (50 cents) from Mademoiselle Miel, skinny plastic straws filled with a burst of bright, sunshine-ey honey culled from a number of rooftop hives in St. Paul and Minneapolis. They’re packaged in two flavors: one is straight-up golden nectar, the other is smoked and blended with trace notes of Scotch. Another nice touch: Each purchase benefits the University of Minnesota Bee Lab.
“Where can I eat healthy at the fair?” is a question I’m often asked in late August, and my first thought always races to the Produce Exchange, the fresh-fruit outlet located on southeast side of the fairgrounds, just outside Ag-Hort. This year, for the first time, they’re slicing up ripe watermelon ($5), and it really hits the spot as ttemperatures and humidity levels climb and a person’s tolerance for fatty, deep-fried foods evaporates.
But the stand also features a selection of gorgeous, sinfully ripe peaches – warning: the juice will run down your chin, there's no stopping it – and in the next few days, co-owner Shannon Hannigan is hoping to feature those tasty, modestly-scaled Summercrisp pears (a cold weather-resistant breed developed at the University of Minnesota in the 1930s), harvested from Fairhaven Farm in South Haven, Minn.
Inside the building – you can’t miss it, it’s that gorgeous art deco-ish pavilion with the distinctive hexagonal concrete tower – is another eating-healthy destination: Minnesota Apples. The stand features crisp, just-picked fruit (right now, Paula Reds) from Pine Tree Apple Orchard in White Bear Lake, and this year they’re also hawking a fantastic applesauce: cool, barely sweet, marvelously thick and with a just-barely pink cast. It’s one of the most satisfying ways to spend $1 anywhere on the fairgrounds.
Minnesota Farmers Union (Dan Patch Av. at Cosgrove St.) has a bevy of food newbies, and I raved about two of them: the mango ice cream bar, and the affogato. Space restrictions – and, I have to admit, a lack of interest on my part -- didn’t allow me to mention two others: a vanilla version of that ice cream bar ($5.75) and a trio of fresh-baked cookies – chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and white chocolate-macadamia nut (pictured, above) – sold separately ($1) or as a trio ($2.50). I yawned off the both. The former isn’t all that different from any other vanilla ice cream at the fair (the best remains at Nitro Ice Cream, inside the Food Building), and the latter are boring, you're-not-missing-anything factory-made cut-and-bakes.
Up on what used to be called Machinery Hill, Tracy’s Idaho Taqueria (Randall Av. at Underwood St.) is serving up taco-inspired waffle fries, but it’s also preparing a deep-fried-free version by enliisting a baked potato ($8). It’s fine – the portions are notably generous -- but it’s nothing that couldn’t be had at any shopping mall food court in the 1980s.
One welcome trend that makes total sense is the rush of Minnesota-brewed craft beers flooding onto the fairgrounds; after all, shouldn't the Minnesota State Fair be a showplace for Minnesota-made products?
Instead of focusing on a new food item – which owner Tim Weiss and chef Alex Sadowsky routinely do very, very well – the team at Giggles’ Campfire Grill (Cooper St. at Lee Av.) as focused their 2013 energies on an impressive new beer garden (pictured, above), one that would not look out of place in a ritzy northern Minnesota lakeside resort. Under the heavy-timbered roof, the good-natured Gigglesians are pouring a bevy of Minnesota beers, including Brau Brothers, Finnegan’s, Flat Earth, Big Wood, Lucid and Fulton, as well as Iowa’s Millstream, Wisconsin’s Leinenkugel, Michigan’s Keeweenah and Clown Shoes from Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, over at the Ball Park Cafe (Underwood Av., between the Food Building and the Garden), co-owners and brothers Dan and David Theisen are have boosted their already impressive list of brewed-in-Minnesota craft labels, with a roster that includes Lucid, Mankato Original, Badger Hill, Lift Bridge, Excelsior, Surly, Steel Toe, Third Street, Bent Paddle and the aforementioned Indeed. It's an extremely well-edited list, one that many Twin Cities restaurants and bars would do well to emulate.
If only the fair embraced Minnesota-distilled spirits. I know I'd line up for craft cocktail shaken with Prairie Organic Vodka or Panther Distillery bourbon.
Finally, an observation. How great would it be if more fair food vendors took their design cues from Big Pepper (Liggett St. at Judson Av.) and made their stands resemble the products they serve? Think about it: A towering cookie jar for Sweet Martha’s, a gigantic bucket of fries for the Fresh French Fries stands. Calling Claes Oldenburg!
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