Realistically, you could be serving mini-hot-dogs on a stick and they would still be a delight when served in the stunning gardens at the Minnesota Arboretum, which held its Toast and Tastes fundraiser last night under a sunny sky with balmy temperatures.
Nonetheless, those at the gathering had far better dining options -- in fact, the best in many years of the festivities. Here were some of the highlights:
Shrimp chorizo with fennel, from chef Hakan Lundberg of the Minneapolis Club, topped my best-of list. Unexpected (ground up shrimp, shaped), fun (on a stick) and really tasty (I had to grab a second one, just to be sure it was as good as the first!).
A close second: carrot-cured hamachi sashimi with apple and radish from The Rabbit Hole (Midtown Global Market). Served with sparkling lychee kombucha. Wow. Make that two wows.
Duck breast with farro, pickled rhubarb and kohlrabi puree, with a chocolate bouchon on the side filled with passion fruit panna cotta, from chef Scott Graden of the New Scenic Cafe in Duluth.
Housemade roasted andouille sausage with two sauerkrauts on brioche from chef J.D. Fratzke of the Strip Club (St. Paul).
Korean glazed pork belly on-a-stick from chef Scott Pampuch of the University of Minnesota (Arboretum Catering).
And the flowers and greenery, of course.
It seems fitting that a booze mart will be opening in a newspaper building, given the indelible image of hard-drinking journalists with a pint in their desk drawers in such films as “His Girl Friday.”
Except that when Revival Wine Beer and Spirits opens in the classic St. Paul edifice known to many as the Pioneer Building, there will be no journos in the house (the Pioneer Press offices moved a block or so away years ago), and this store will cater to a more upscale crowd than us ink-stained wretches.
The man behind the store, slated to open in mid-May (with a public tasting slated for May 20), is Jeffrey Huff, who started the charming Little Wine Shoppe in St. Anthony Park a few years back. This “shoppe” will not be “little”: 2,200 square feet compared to 300 for his former store. “My walk-in cooler’s almost bigger than the Little Wine Shoppe,” he said with a chuckle.
But it should be just as personal. Huff has been building cabinets to protect his inventory from getting too much light in a space with “massive windows.”
“The space is just amazing,” said Huff. It’s on the second floor of the Pioneer Endicott Building, which dates to 1889 and had been empty for a few years when Richard Pakonen of Pak Properties bought it, largely for residential usage.
Some of the 230 new luxury apartments are already occupied, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art will be taking up the entire first floor. Huff, who will be the first commercial tenant to open, named the store after the building’s architectural style, Romanesque Revival.
Huff said his store will be heavy on craft beers and the emerging artisan distillery world, and that the wine selection will be focused on quality and value. “I know the demographics of who’s down there,” he said. “But I knew the demographic in St. Anthony Park, and that didn’t quantify into selling high-end wines.”
Regardless, he’s excited to be in “an absolutely beautiful space” and has gotten comfortable with its size. “I guess you start small and get bigger. That’s the goal, right?” Huff said. “This is all the bigger I want to be.”
Savor Minnesota isn't for everyone, I guess. But here's who it is for: those who figure Minnesota-made wine is not so good, but have an open mind about it. Or those who preach "local, local, local" when it comes to food but not wine.
The fifth annual event, slated for April 26 at Canterbury Park, will find 20 Minnesota wineries pouring their wares from 1 to 5 p.m. I can vouch from experience that the stuff from Cannon River, Chankaska Creek, Saint Croix, Carlos Creek, Sovereign and Woodland Hill is absolutely worth checking out, and I'm looking forward to sampling fermented grape juice from Buffalo Rock, Forestedge Winery, Garvin Heights, Goose Lake, Indian Island and others.
At the very least, those who still pooh-pooh the state's wines should check out the Marquette from whoever is serving it. And they also can quaff some beer from August Schell, Summit and Mankato Brewing, not to mention bites from a score or more food purveyors. And if nothing else, you'll come away with a free wine glass.
Tickets are $45 at the door, $40 in advance at Northern Vineyards in Stillwater or at SavorMN.com.
Attendees can buy up to six bottles of wine before departing — the better to change the minds of friends who are blasé, or worse, about the rapidly evolving local wine biz.
It's a honey of a tasting tonight as local professional chefs present their best pastries featuring dandelion honey. Come for a sample -- many samples -- from Spoonriver, Lucia’s, Restaurant Alma, Andoyne, Gigi’s Café Uptown, Mason Restaurant Barre, Open Arms, Seward Co-Op Bakery, Treat, Mademoiselle Miel and Jenny Breen. Proceeds go to support Healthy Bees, Healthy Lives initiative.
When: Thursday, April 10
Where: Nicollet Island Pavillion, 40 Power Street, Minneapolis
Minnesota did not send the largest number of competitors to the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off, held earlier this week in Las Vegas. That distinction is held by two states -- Texas and Pennsylvania, with 10 cooks each.
Among the Bake-Off's 100 finalists were four Minnesotans (the million-dollar winner was Glori Spriggs of Henderson, Nev., for her Loaded Potato Pinwheels). Here are their recipes:
ON THE GO BREAKFAST COOKIES
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
Note: From Beverly Batty of Forest Lake.
1 package Pillsbury Big Deluxe refrigerated oatmeal raisin cookies
1/2 c. Pillsbury Creamy Supreme Coconut Pecan Frosting
1/2 c. quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
1/4 c. flaxseed
1 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped '
2 tbsp. sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Let cookie dough stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, combine cookie dough, frosting, oats, flaxseed, walnuts, cranberries and coconut and mix until thoroughly combined.Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake until edges are light golden brown, about 12 to 16 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
MINI ITALIAN SHEPHERD'S PIES
Makes 36 appetizers.
Note: From Sonya Goergen of Moorhead.
1 box (9 oz) Green Giant® frozen chopped spinach, divided
1 lb, extra lean (at least 90%) ground beef
1/2 c. finely chopped onion
1 c. marinara sauce
1 box Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
1 package (24 oz) refrigerated mashed potatoes (about 2 1/2 c.)
2/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 36 mini-muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray. In a microwave oven, cook frozen spinach to thaw, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from oven and squeeze spinach dry with paper towels. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, brown ground beef, breaking up large pieces, until meat is no longer pink, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in onion and cook 3 to 4 minutes until tender. Drain pan of oil. Stir in marinara sauce and half of the spinach.
Meanwhile, unroll pie crusts. Using 2 1/4-inch round cookie cutter, cut 18 rounds from each crust, rerolling dough if necessary. Press each round in bottom and up side of muffin cups. Spoon rounded tablespoon meat mixture in each cup.
In a microwave oven, cook mashed potatoes as directed on package, about 2 to 3 minutes. In a medium bowl, mix potatoes, remaining spinach, cheese, salt and pepper until well blended. Top each cup with a rounded tablespoon of potato mixture. Bake until potatoes are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cups to loosen pies. Serve warm.
SEEDS AND CHOCOLATE PASTRY WEDGES
Note: From Vicki Mager of Bloomington.
1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
2 1/4 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 c. dried currants
1/4 c. roasted unsalted sunflower nuts
1/4 c. roasted salted hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/4 c. Jif Chocolate Flavored Hazelnut Spread
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unroll pie crust on an ungreased baking sheet. Pinch outside edge of crust to form a 1/4-inch rim. Prick dough several times with fork. In small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over crust. In medium bowl, mix currants, sunflowers nuts and pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle mixture over crust. Press mixture firmly into crust. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and bake until edges are light golden brown, about 3 to 6 minutes longer. Remove from oven and immediately cut into 12 wedges. Do not separate wedges. Spoon chocolate hazelnut spread into decorating bag or 1-quart resealable food storage plastic bag; seal bag. Cut off tiny corner of bag; squeeze bag to drizzle spread over seeds. Cool completely.
ORANGE CARDAMOM BLUEBERRY CROSTATA
Note: From Cathy Wiechert of Mound.
1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
1/2 c. Smucker's Orchard's Finest Pacific Grove Orange Marmalade Medley
2 tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
2 c. fresh blueberries
1 egg yolk
1 to 2 tbsp. coarse white sparkling sugar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a 15x-10-inch baking pan with sides with parchment paper. Unroll pie crust in prepared pan. In medium bowl, mix preserves, flour and cardamom. Carefully fold in blueberries. Spoon mixture over crust to within 2 inches of edge. Fold edge of crust over filling, pleating crust as necessary. In small bowl, beat egg yolk with two teaspoons water. Lightly brush crust edge with egg mixture; sprinkle with sugar. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly, 17 to 23 minutes. Remove from oven and cool at least 30 minutes before serving.
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