Minneapolis pastry chefs on the move

When Khanh Tran left Cosmos for the Bachelor Farmer (50 2nd Av. N., Mpls., www.thebachelorfarmer.com) earlier this year, she kicked off a major migration among some of the Twin Cities’ top pastry chefs.

Around the same time, Niki Francioli left her job at Sea Change (806 S. 2nd St., Mpls., www.seachangempls.com) — where she was replaced by colleague Samantha Valesano — to help launch Brasserie Zentral and Cafe Zentral (505 Marquette Av. S., Mpls., www.zentral-mpls.com), the restaurant’s just-opened skyway-level counter-service cafe (tip: go for the excellent pretzels).

Now Francioli is returning to work for her Sea Change boss Tim McKee, replacing pastry chef Diane Yang at McKee’s La Belle Vie (510 Groveland Av., Mpls., www.labellevie.us). Chef Gavin Kaysen recruited Yang to open his upcoming North Loop restaurant, Merchant.

 

Farm dinner

Tickets remain for the 2014 Outstanding in the Field dinner, a true farm-to-plate experience. This year’s dinner takes place July 30 at 4 p.m. at Greg and Mary Reynolds’ Riverbend Farm in Delano, featuring chef Alex Roberts of Restaurant Alma (528 University Av. SE., Mpls., www.restaurantalma.com). Tickets are $210 per person and are available at www.outstandinginthefield.com.

 

Party time

August is the month when three North Loop restaurants turn their attention to the surrounding streets and stage block parties.

First up is Kräftskiva, the third annual summertime crayfish celebration at the Bachelor Farmer. This year’s iteration is on Aug. 2 from 5 to 10 p.m. and will also feature portable fare (meatballs, sweet corn) from chef Paul Berglund, drinks from the restaurant’s Marvel Bar, beer from nearby Fulton Brewery and live music including Haley Bonar, Night Moves and BBGUN. Admission is $5 at the door.

On Aug. 10 from noon to 7 p.m., the party moves to Borough and Parlour (730 Washington Av. N., Mpls., www. boroughmpls.com), with a mix of indoor (burgers and fries) and outdoor (grilled corn and ribs) food — plus a pop-up tent from Uptown sibling Coup d’état — along with drinks, beer (from 612Brew), over-21 “Popsicles” and live music from Black Market Brass, Private Oates and more. Admission is $5, sold in advance on the restaurant’s website or at the door.

Finally, the second annual Crayfish Block Party at the Smack Shack (603 Washington Av. N., Mpls., www.smack-shack.com) is from noon to 8 p.m. on Aug. 16.

Chef/co-owner Josh Thoma is planning on selling a ton — literally, 2,000 pounds — of crayfish in a Creole-style boil dinner that includes sweet corn, Polish sausage and potatoes.

Before the event — and subject to availability — the restaurant is offering a preview, with a pound of crayfish and all the sides for $14.95. “We’re trying to have it as often as we can, but we’re saving up for our event, literally,” said Thoma.

Cost is $40 in advance on the restaurant’s website (plus a $3.90 service fee) or $50 at the door. The price includes an all-you-can-eat crayfish boil, plus all-you-can drink Hurricane cocktails and Indeed and Fulton beers (“which is why we close at 8 o’clock,” Thoma said with a laugh), plus live music from by Davina and the Vagabonds, the Butanes, the Droppers and more.

Use the intervening weeks to train for one of the party’s two crayfish eating contests; no pre-registration is required.

The day’s cooking style may hail from Louisiana, but the crawdads are all Minnesotan, sourced from a single lake about 45 minutes north of Brainerd.

“I think they’re much better than Louisiana crayfish,” Thoma said. “They don’t live in mud the way they do in Louisiana. They’re in this clean, sandy, rock-filled lake, so they’re sweet and delicious.” And enormous. “They’re big enough that you can eat the claws on them,” he said with a laugh. “The tails are almost the size of shrimp.”

 

Crayfish, continued

The annual Ikea (8000 Ikea Way, Bloomington, www.ikea.com) Swedish Crayfish Party is set for Aug. 15. Tickets (now available in the restaurant) are $12.99 for adults and $4.99 for ages 12 and under, with four hourly seatings starting at 4:30 p.m.

The American Swedish Institute’s annual ode to the crayfish is scheduled for Aug. 16, but plan ahead: The cutoff date for registration is Aug. 7 (go to www.asimn.org or call 612-871-4907).

The ASI Crayfish Party takes place on the institute’s beautiful courtyard (2600 Park Av. S., Mpls.) and features breads, cheeses, salads, quiche and, of course, all-you-can-eat crayfish, along with a shot of aquavit. Cash bar, too, and live music. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., dinner is served at 7. Cost is $60; $50 for ASI members.

 

Eat local

The ninth annual Taste of Eat Local Minnesota will be held from 6-9 p.m. July 24 in the TCF Bank Stadium. For details and tickets ($40), go to http://twincitiesoriginals.com.

Rick Nelson