Let's talk food, from restaurants and recipes to farmers markets, food issues and wine. Lee Svitak Dean, Rick Nelson, Kim Ode and Bill Ward will start the conversation.

Farmers market find: Bagels

Posted by: Rick Nelson under Farmers markets, Restaurant news Updated: June 19, 2014 - 1:40 PM

Last Saturday morning, during a ferocious downpour, I ran – OK, it was more like a brisk walk, but still – through the Fulton Farmers Market, where I was stopped short by the sight of a new stand.

New to me, anyway. The market, too; the Rise Bagel Co. was in the middle of its second appearance. Sisters/co-owners Kate and Jen Lloyd (they call themselves “bread heads”) were busy hawking a half-dozen varieties of bagels, and, seriously, wow.

The Lloyds' handiwork is what bagel fanatics so rarely encounter in the Twin Cities. They have the look down cold: beautifully golden rounds indented with navel-like centers. Even more impressive is the texture, a muscular heft and chew (a characteristic that a bagel-loving pal of mine solemnly refers to as “yank”) that the bagel chains can't seem to touch.

All the standards are present and accounted for, starting with a straight-up plain bagel. Some are topped with a coarse salt, others with sesame seeds, Asiago cheese or poppy seeds. Naturally, there's an "everything" version, and a cinnamon-sugar variation is a first step into a planned cinnamon-raisin entry. I'm still kicking myself for not buying the popular rosemary-olive oil bagel, but that gives me a reason to return. 

The basic building block is an organic, high-gluten flour, and the recipe was developed over a year in the cramped kitchen of Jen's Loring Park condominium. Now that they're producing in retail-size quantities, the sisters have moved their boiling and baking operations into larger, more efficient quarters in a south Minneapolis commercial kitchen.

At the market, the format is simplicity itself, just bagels, a knife and cream cheese or peanut butter. The tangy, luscious cream cheese hails from Organic Valley, and it's applied with a generous hand.

There's a handful of cream cheese blends, including a lively, dill- and garlic-flecked veggie mix that's heavy on the cucumber. Still, the most popular combination is total bagel Puritanism: Plain bagel, with plain cream cheese. 

"We were surprised by that, but then again, maybe not," said Kate. "After all, we’re in the Midwest.”

The sisters cater to peanut butter lovers with a trio of flavors -- Minnesota-sourced honey, cinnamon-raisin and semi-sweet chocolate -- from Buddy's, a partnership born, in part, from serendipity; Buddy's owner Andrew Kincheloe shares commercial kitchen space with the Lloyds, and the three entrepreneurs made a connection as immediate as, well, bagels and peanut butter.

Prices are a fairly competitive $1.50 per bagel, with an additional $1.50 for cream cheese or peanut butter. I highly recommend buying a bag ($8.50/half dozen, $16.50/dozen) and clearing room in your freezer.

Here’s why: The Sisters Lloyd maintain a somewhat irregular schedule. They're wisely taking a cautious approach to their startup, sticking with a single market (Fulton) and introducing themselves with just two appearances in the past six weeks. 

Don't go running to Fulton this weekend with bagels on the brain, because the next Rise Bagel Co. outing is set for July 12. That’s a long time to wait for bagels this good, although there's good news around the corner: Starting in July, the plan is to adapt a three-Saturdays-a-month schedule, and maintain that pace through October. 

Their Lloyds' recipe developed over the course of bagel-binging research junkets to New York City, Montreal and San Francisco, culminating in a two-day tutorial at Beauty's Bagel Shop in Oakland. "We found them online, and we discovered that they were on the same journey that we're on," said Kate. "We worked the 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift, and out of that experience we found out what it would entail to make bagels non-stop."

Is there a permanent bagel shop on the horizon? “Naturally, people are asking us that question,” said Kate. “We’re having a lot of fun, but we both have full-time jobs [Kate works in marketing and public relations for Room & Board, Jen is product development and sourcing for Nordic Ware]. We’re taking it day by day, and seeing what the response is. Maybe we’ll consider it. Who knows?”

Should they go that route, it's hopefully not too much to ask that it land within walking distance of my house or my office. As for the Rise name, it grew out of a brainstorming session over beer at Muddy Waters, and it is imbued with multiple meanings, one of which is the manner in which bagels float to the top during the boiling process.

“And you’ve got to rise out of bed to eat a bagel,” said Kate. Bagel-makers rise even earlier. “Yeah, that’s another story,” she said with a laugh. “We’re not getting a lot of sleep, but that’s OK.”

Art Institute's Grain Stack to close for the summer

Posted by: Rick Nelson under Openings + closings, Restaurant news Updated: June 7, 2014 - 7:23 AM

What is it with Minneapolis museum restaurants?

First the Walker Art Center’s Gather drops its lunch service. Now Grain Stack, the newly remade restaurant at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (and a significant improvement from its predecessor) is going on summer vacation.

“Our new food service model is based on being financially sustainable, so when our traffic is slower (such as this summer), we won’t operate the mezzanine-level restaurant, as it would require us to subsidize the operation and that is not the best use of our contributed resources,” reads a memorandum to museum staff and volunteers.

The restaurant is managed by Stock and Badge, the partnership between Dogwood Coffee Co. and Rustica.

“After the success of the MIA + Stock and Badge’s Grain Stack operation which served thousands of MIA visitors during the Rock the Cradle, Art in Bloom, and Matisse: Masterworks from the Baltimore Museum of Art, the mezzanine-level restaurant will now close for the summer effective Tuesday, June 10,” reads the statement.

Fear not, hungry art lovers: Stock and Badge’s other MIA food-and-drink operations will remain open, including the Dogwood Coffee bar (and its great two-for-one craft beer happy hour) and the family-friendly, grab-and-go Half Pint, both located in the museum’s lobby.   

Surly hires Solera chef for $30 million brewery

Posted by: Rick Nelson under Chefs, Restaurant news Updated: June 6, 2014 - 7:57 AM

Jorge Guzman, chef at Solera in downtown Minneapolis, has been tapped to oversee the restaurant, beer garden and event center at Surly Brewing Co.'s news-making facility now under construction in Minneapolis' Prospect Park neighborhood.

“A big part of the Destination Brewery experience will be our craft beer-inspired food, so we knew we needed to put just as much focus on our kitchen and staff," said Surly president Omar Ansari in a statement. "Our executive chef will be the ‘head brewer’ of our beer hall, restaurant and event space. We are excited to add Jorge to the Surly team and immerse him in our world of beer.”

Guzman has been running the Solera kitchen for three years. He's also a veteran of Corner Table and the former Tejas.

Eight-year-old Surly expects to relocate from its Brooklyn Center home to its new Minneapolis digs later this year, opening the $30 million facility in stages. First up will be a casual beer hall with a 300-person capacity, scheduled for early 2015. The 175-person event center, 100-seat restaurant and two-acre beer garden will follow.

"We’re going to push the envelope with our beer-inspired foods using locally sourced, sustainable ingredients," said Guzman in a statement. "We’re not going to sit back.”

Friday is National Doughnut Day

Posted by: Rick Nelson under Restaurant news Updated: June 5, 2014 - 10:47 AM

Friday is National Doughnut Day. Some might want to take advantage of the delightful freebie offer at YoYo Donuts, which is handing out one free doughnut -- the ones with the holes in the center, so no Bismarcks, Long Johns or fritters -- starting at 6 a.m. and running while supplies last. Expect a line.

But for those who want to use the day as an excuse to indulge in a non-freebie fashion, here are a few options:

Consider one (or two, or three. . .) of Anne Rucker’s sublime brioche doughnuts — filled with Nutella or a vanilla bean cream ($3), or glistening in a brown-butter glaze ($2) — at her just-opened Bogart’s Doughnut Co. (pictured, above). Hint: Arrive early; doors open at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 7:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Rucker closes when she sells out, which can be as early as 10:30 a.m.

Or drop in on Glam Doll Donuts for the weekly over-the-top special ($3), a peanut butter-cream filled number with a raspberry glaze and peanut crunch on top.

Or look to Twitter for the whereabouts of the Chef Shack for co-owner Carrie Summer’s exquisite, cardamom- and cinnamon-dusted (and organic, so they’re good for you, right?) mini-doughnuts. If the truck isn’t out on Friday, head to its bricks-and-mortar iteration, which serves dinner starting at 5 p.m.

Or go old-school and drop in on a Baker’s Wife’s Pastry Shop for a plump, chocolate-iced cake doughnut (54 cents), or to Mel-O-Glaze for a triple-glazed raised doughnut ($1).

Or book it to the Birchwood Cafe for a vegan/gluten-free doughnut ($2.50; this week's flavor is chocolate-banana-chai), or to Hans’ Bakery for one of the state’s great Bismarcks ($1.69), or to Mojo Monkey Donuts for the unbelievable maple-bacon bars (also known as Long Johns); owner Lisa Clark is making a donation to the Salvation Army -- the originator of National Doughnut Day -- with every doughnut purchase.

I could go on, and on, and on. For a list of my favorite Twin Cities doughnuts, go here.

Piccolo gets a shout-out

Posted by: Lee Svitak Dean under Chefs, Minnesota newsmakers, On the national scene, Restaurant news Updated: June 2, 2014 - 11:18 AM

When the Wall Street Journal asked Hugh Acheson (James Beard award-winner, 'Top Chef' judge, New South chef) where he had eaten a recent memorable meal, Acheson singled out Piccolo in Minneapolis where he had dined about six months ago.

"I had dinner at Piccolo, which serves modern American farm-to-table food. The chef, Doug Flicker, is cooking with a seasonal sensibility that is profound, professional and inspiring. The food was just so fresh and smart, even on a cold, fall day. I had speck-wrapped capon with chanterelles, parsnip chow-chow, cockscomb pain perdu and parsnip milk. Nothing like a castrated chicken to make a meal sublime. And it makes you feel good when you find food of that caliber in a place where you didn't expect it."

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