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Food & Wine magazine heralds Heyday chef Jim Christiansen

Posted by: Rick Nelson under Chefs, Minnesota newsmakers, On the national scene, Restaurant news Updated: April 1, 2015 - 7:31 AM

It’s official: Jim Christiansen of Heyday (2700 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-200-9369, www.heydayeats.com) is one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs.

Christiansen learned the news about a month ago — via a call from the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Dana Cowin — and keeping the news under wraps in advance of Tuesday’s announcement was not easy.

“That was not good,” he said with a laugh. “I just wanted to tell everybody, especially all of the people that I work with. It’s another chapter for Heyday, about doing what we do, and about progessing, and going forward, and building a great team.”

He was in New York City on Tuesday, posing for photographers and meeting-and-greeting at a gala announcement event.

“I’m just so grateful to be a part of this group,” he said. “They’re all super-talented.”

The news coincide’s with the restaurant’s 1-year anniversary, and to celebrate, Christiansen is planning a greatest-hits tasting menu to run April 23 through April 25. If he can acquire the necessary city permits, Heyday would like to host a block party on April 26. “We’ll get some music, and some grills, and some guest chefs,” he said.

Christiansen is the sixth Minneapolis chef to join the magazine’s Best New Chefs fraternity. Earlier BNCs include Tim Anderson (formerly of Goodfellow’s) in 1991, Tim McKee (of La Belle Vie, then at the former D’Amico Cucina) in 1997, Seth Bixby Daugherty (formerly of Cosmos) in 2005, Stewart Woodman (of Workshop at Union, then at the former Heidi’s) in 2006 and Jamie Malone (formerly of Sea Change) in 2013. A seventh, Erik Anderson (formerly of Sea Change) was a 2012 honoree for his work at Catbird Seat in Nashville. Malone and Anderson are working to open Brut in Minneapolis.

“We’re a great food city,” said Christiansen.

Along with Christiansen, the 2015 group includes Bryce Shuman of Betony in New York City, Michael Fojtasek and Grae Nonas of Olamaie in Austin, Zoi Antonitsas of Westward in Seattle, Jake Bickelhaupt of 42 Grams in Chicago, Jonathan Brooks of Milktooth in Indianapolis, Katie Button of Cúrate in Asheville, N.C., Tim Maslow of Ribelle in Brookline, Mass., Ori Menashe of Bestia in Los Angeles and Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Being in the Food & Wine spotlight isn't Christiansen's first taste of national recognition. In Februrary, he was named a semifinalist for Best Chef: Midwest by the James Beard Foundation.

Food & Wine's 2015 Best New Chefs — who must be in charge of a kitchen for five years or fewer — will be featured in the magazine’s July issue and will participate in the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colo., from June 19 through 21.  

Grapegate, the sequel

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: March 27, 2015 - 12:13 PM

Just when it appeared as if Grapegate had evaporated into the mists of time, a reminder bubbles up in the Star Tribune’s dusty archives.

Remember Grapegate? When the New York Times selected an iconic Thanksgiving recipe to represent each of the 50 states, and saddled Minnesota with a grape salad?

The social media response was cataclysmic, a collective you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me that rang out from Bemidji to Burnsville. Even the newspaper’s public editor chimed in, describing the “epic recipe fail” as “bizarrely wrong.” Ouch.

The whole sorry episode came roaring back as I gingerly thumbed through the fragile remains of the Dec. 18, 1980 issue of the Minneapolis Tribune’s Thursday Food section. Imagine my surprise when I spied the lead item in “Ask Mary,” the interactive (well, pre-Internet, anyway) recipe column penned by longtime staffer Mary Hart.

Yes, there it was: Grape Salad.

It started with a query from Mary Jane Leonard of Colorado Springs, Colo., who wrote: “I attended a brunch at Les Quatre Amis in Northfield, Minn., (in 1977 or 1978) at which was served a delightful concoction of green grapes, brown sugar, sour cream and walnuts. I would very much like to have this recipe and wonder if you can get it for me. Thank you so much.”

Hart’s reply: “Our letter to the Northfield restaurant came back, but we located Roger Mallet, who is involved in the eating establishment in Minneapolis at the Lumber Exchange Building.

“Mallet is busy getting ready to open the French restaurant on Hennepin Av., but took time to send this recipe:”

Who knew? The grape salad isn't Minnesotan. It's French! Here's the recipe:


Serves 12.

5 lbs. seedless grapes

8 oz. sour cream

Juice of 2 lemons

8 oz. brown sugar

2 oz. granulated sugar

8 oz. walnuts

8 oz. pecans

1 pt. fresh strawberries


Mix grapes with sour cream. Add lemon juice, brown sugar, granulated sugar, walnuts and pecans. Mix well. Use strawberries for decorations.

Just reading that recipe makes my teeth hurt (that's approaching two cups of sugar, yikes). Hart offered a helpful, ‘tis-the-season suggestion: The green of the grapes and the red of the strawberries made it an “appropriate holiday dessert.” Noel!

I have a vague memory of dining at Les Quatres Amis. Not in its original incarnation in Northfield – I would have been in high school at the time, and my parents leaned more towards the Mr. Steak/Embers side of the dining-out spectrum -- but I do recall visiting a few years later, when it relocated to a beautiful space deep within the Lumber Exchange Building in downtown Minneapolis. (The 1983 photo, top, is not Les Quatre Amis, but the restaurant that replaced it, City Tavern; the Strib's archive doesn't have a photo of LQA, but this image gives you an idea of the space, which I'm guessing is the Lumber Exchange's former trading floor).

The restaurant’s Northfield location (original name: Gharabally) was described in a special “Dining Out” issue of Taste, published Nov. 1, 1978, as “exquisite, excellent, the best restaurant [our] reviewer has tried in Minnesota. Entrees range from fillet de sole Stephan, $11.25, to tournedos Henri IV (twin filet mignons), $13.75, and Chateaubriand for two, $28.50.”

Those prices might not raise eyebrows today, but that was a considerable amount of dough for Carter-era diners. The 2015 equivalents of those three price tags are $41.33, $50.52 and $104.71.

Les Quatre Amis chef Rene Debon (pictured, above) was featured in a Thursday Food story from Oct. 3, 1982. Staff writer Kate Parry's story asked three chefs (the other two were Klaus Mitterhauser of Mitterhauser La Cuisine and Eugene Stoffel of the Link, the restaurant at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts), to substitute moderately priced turkey for expensive veal and lobster.

I'm half-curious, half-repelled by his solution, but it's quite the snapshot into the early 1980s. Here's his recipe:


Serves 4.

For roulades:

4 5-oz. turkey breast slices, pounded out to large scaloppine

10 tbsp. (1 stick plus 2 tbsp.) butter, divided

8 oz. cleaned and washed spinach

1/2 onion, chopped fine

Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

2 dill pickle sticks

2 hard-cooked eggs, quartered

For sauce:

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic

4 tbsp. butter

8 tomatoes, peeled, sliced and diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. dried oregano


To prepare roulades: Wrap turkey slices in plastic wrap and, using the smooth side of a meat tenderizer, pound turkey to form large, thin scallopine. In a medium pan over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Saute onion and spinach. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove from heat and cool.

Cut pickles into 6 long, thin strips. Top each turkey piece with a fourth of the spinach mixture. Lay two egg quarters end-to-end and put three pickle strips right beside them.

Roll up the scaloppine and secure with a toothpick. Season the meat with salt and pepper. In a medium pan over medium heat, melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter and saute roulades until golden brown on all sides.

To prepare sauce: Meanwhile, in a medium pan over medium heat, melt butter. Saute onion and garlic. Add tomato pieces and season with salt, pepper, bay leaf and oregano. Let tomatoes cook for about 15 minutes, uncovered. Serve tomato sauce over roulades.

Friday fish fry: Five ideas

Posted by: Rick Nelson under Restaurant reviews Updated: March 27, 2015 - 10:50 AM

Burger Friday has given up hamburgers for Lent, and is diving headlong into the Friday fish-fry ritual (find previous entries here and here). Although none of the following five suggestions adhere to the all-you-can-eat tradition, they certainly embrace the fish-fry spirit.

If you haven't tried the fish and chips at the Freehouse (pictured, above), you should. The kitchen dunks cod in a batter made with its house-brewed golden ale, serving the deep-fried results with thick-cut fries, a wonderfully lumpy tartar sauce and a side of mashed peas laced with mint. Huge portions, $17.

At its 29 Twin Cities locations, Culver’s, the Wisconsin-based fast-fooder, batters and fries North Atlantic cod, serving it with a warm dinner roll, a lightly-dressed coleslaw, a generous handful of crinkle fries and a tartar sauce flecked with olives, capers and sweet relish. A single piece of cod is $7.85, two pieces run $10.75 and three are $12.69.

The fish and chips at the Gold Nugget Tavern & Grille include beer-battered haddock (with malted tartar sauce), served with hand-cut fries and a side of coleslaw. Cost: $14.95. Another draw: The bar’s tap beer list, which includes craft brews from two nearby breweries, Badger Hill and Lucid.

Birchwood Cafe chef Marshall Paulsen is sort-of embracing fish fry mania, but on his own creative terms. This week he’s offering (gluten-free) fried halibut and monkfish, served with the kitchen’s (superb) organic French fries and a kimchi/Key lime tartar sauce, pickled cucumbers and apple-cumin coleslaw. Sounds great, right? It’s available for $15 after 5 p.m. As for dessert, don’t miss the kitchen's signature Key lime pie.  

How about a 3 a.m. fish fry? (remember, Friday commences at 12:01 a.m.). Every day – not just Friday -- the we-never-close Nicollet Diner serves four pieces of battered and fried cod (or sometimes Alaskan whitefish) with fries and house-made tartar sauce, all for $11.99.

From the Strib's archives: A day in the life of a server, circa 1975

Posted by: Rick Nelson under Restaurant news Updated: March 26, 2015 - 9:11 AM

The Minneapolis Tribune's Thursday Food section devoted its Oct. 9, 1975 cover to glimpses inside the lives of Twin Cities restaurant servers. "The only time most of us think about waiters and waitresses is when something is wrong," starts the editor's note. "The coffee cup is empty, the meat undercooked, the side order of fried onions missing. Waiters and waitresses spend their lives smiling even though their feet hurt, being pleasant to cranky customers and husting for tips from people who many leave anything from $50 to 50 cents for a $12 meal. Why do they do it? Staff Writer Irv Letofsky interviewed five of them to find out."

Let's just say that times have changed during the intervening 35 years, but some aspects of the job remain timeless. Letofsky's subjects included: 

Eighteen-year-old Ramona Eicher (pictured, above), a senior at Mounds View High School who had just started working at the then-new Country Kitchen in Roseville. "She went through the Bloomington training center, where she studied slides on how to wear the orange-and-white checkered uniforms, when to fill the salt and pepper shakers, the protocol of punching in, etc. 'Opening day we got all hyper,' she remembered. 'On my first table I didn't know if the hostess was supposed to bring the menu or me, whether you bring the water or the coffee first. The first night was a mad crush.'"

Becky Erbes, 23 (pictured, above), "has a well-organized figure that brings honor to her costume -- a black, low-cut, tights-like, Bunny-type uniform with sequins and the leg-flattering but otherwise foot-pinching three-inch spiked heel shoes. For the noon luncheon in the Apartment, the moody basement retreat at the White House complex in Golden Valley, she circulates in a basic bikini. The management prefers her in the new Rudi Gernreich thong swimsuit and black stockings, but it is 'kind of brief' (she says in understatement) and exposes more backside than is comfortable. Owner Irv Schectman rejects the term 'cocktail waitresses' for the help, preferring 'Bambi Girls.' He looks applicants over for their decorative possibilities, then instructs the successful ones on the rules of the room. For example, you don't sit down with customers. You don't smoke or drink. You don't bend over at the lowly cocktail tables ['You crouch,' Ms. Erbes said. 'Like a deep knee bend. After the first night there I was pretty stiff.'] You maintain decorum by avoiding slang. 'Certainly' is preferred to 'O.K.,' 'gentlemen' to 'guys.' And you never date the customers. 'Mr. Schectman wants a certain type of atmosphere and I think that's approriate. You cold attract the wrong types.'"

Lorraine Heath of the Gay 90s (pictured, above), who "has spent 38 of her 55 years in the service business." The 15-year veteran of "the relic theater-bar-restaurant that recently turned discotheque" said that she didn't know why she liked her job. "I still get tense every night. But I like meeting people. Even if I could do office work, I wouldn't. It would be too monotonous."

Phyllis Laiderman of Lincoln Del (pictured, above), "who has spent 13 years in and around chopped liver and chocolate pies and has maintained a reasonable girth. It is difficult to comprehend. 'Customers tell me I'm so lucky because I'm thin,' she said. 'Well, first of all, I'm not that thin. But you find that you just eat lighter when you're working. All the waitresses. I don't know why. But there's not a dessert here that I don't love today as much as when I started.'"

And a 27-year-old Michael Brindisi (pictured, above), who went on to become artistic director at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre in 1987. Here's his story, in full:

For actor-director Michael Brindisi, 27, his recent debut day as the first waiter among the array of waitresses at the Promenade Room in the Sheraton-Ritz Hotel was socko boffo -- $22 in tips on top of his $1.73-an-hour salary: “I told almost everybody I waited on that this was my first table.”

But the act didn’t do as well after that. The average ran to $4.50 a day in tips.

[To put those wages into perspective, $22 in tips in 1975 is the equivalent of $98 in 2015 dollars; $4.50 has a 2015 value of $20].

It was his first serious job since he was graduated from Lea College five years ago. But now he and his wife Linda, who was the first waitress to infiltrate the once all-male Cheshire Cheese restaurant a flight up in the hotel, are quitting for a move back to New York and, who knows, stardom.

He worked there six weeks, three as a bus boy, three as a waiter. It was an education, if perhaps a slow one.

“I mean, nobody told me anything and I would get orders twisted around – ‘Did you have the bacon? Who had the potato?’ So I started taking orders from the left and I got the food out there at the same time and looked snappy.

“Some of these waitresses are incredible – nine dishes at once. I could only do three. So I asked Linda, and she suggested using one of those big trays. Now why didn’t I think of that?

“Success, it occurs to me, is to get out there and read the audience, see what type of people they are. It’s like theater. You see if the shtick will work, if you should go broader with the comedy or lay back.”

He could improvise, too: One customer wanted a green vegetable but the restaurant only has salads. So Brindisi slipped upstairs to the Cheshire Cheese kitchen – “I just walked in like I knew what I was doing” – and scopped up a dish of green beans.

“The guy asked me where I got ‘em. I told him I had friends.”

He did best with older women. “I can talk the older ladies into having drinks, just by suggesting it, like, ‘How about a Bloody Mary today,’ instead of ‘cocktail.’ ‘Well, I really shouldn’t, I have to drive’ But they ordered two.

“Groups of businessmen, I don’t hit it off so well. I don’t know why. One night I had a bill for $12 and they left me 52 cents. They’d rather have Cathy wait on them . . .

“It was my job to see what the customer wanted from me. Sometimes he wanted to be left alone; sometimes he wanted to talk.”

One lonely man stared out the window one night, ordered a beer, then four more and a hamburger, medium rare, and a center cut of an onion. “I don’t care if it costs $10, I want a center cut of onion.”

Brindisi returned with a monster slice: “Is that the best you can do?” the man said. The waiter went back to the kitchen and cut up an onion himself.

“The man was looking real down and depressed and I said, ‘How’s everything?’ He said, ‘Michael, I’ve got to tell you. I received bad news today. I’ve got six to eight months to live.’

“It’s hard to respond to that. I got almost physically sick and couldn’t eat my supper.”

So he said, ‘So you tell that ____ ____ cook that if I want a center slice of onion, I want a ____ ____ center slice of onion.’

“Later I told the cook about it and he said, ‘Oh don’t pay any attention to him. That guy comes in here all the time and he can really spin a yarn.”


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