1. Bulls-eye's grand slam
Many baseball fans think of Target Field as the House of Joe Mauer. But for food fanatics, the undisputed king of the ballpark is Orest Kramarczuk. He's the towering figure behind the fantastic grilled bratwurst and Polish sausages that Twins ticketholders are snapping up at a rate of 6,000 per game, all made fresh daily in a shiny new state-of-the-art facility at the E. Hennepin shop that has boasted his family's tongue-twisting surname for 55 years. "It was nice for the Pohlad family and the Twins to give a small guy a chance," said Kramarczuk. "The first time I saw the long line at the stand, I cried. I thought of my parents. I wish they could have seen how much their product means to people."
2. Cheers, mate
At the Four Firkins, his well-stocked St. Louis Park shop, beermeister (and native Australian) Jason Alvey elevates the notion of craft beers -- particularly from the ever-growing plethora of Minnesota microbreweries -- to dizzying new heights.
3. Star chef
It can't be easy to step out from under Wolfgang Puck's considerable shadow. But Asher Miller, the gifted chef at 20.21, runs Puck's dramatic restaurant at the Walker Art Center with a discipline and passion that might lead diners to believe that it's his name on the door, not his celebrity employer's.
4. Wine machine
Forget about the management benefits (a fresh-tasting 5-oz. pour, every time) of the Enomatic wine dispenser behind the bar at Aperitif. Isn't it cool to just watch in action?
5. Potato burrito
Have a hankering for fresh-made lefse? Finnish Bistro owner Soile Anderson and her crew pull fantastic, pizza-sized sheets of it, hot off the griddle, every day. Takk.
6. The hot seat(s)
Some of summer's top tables can be found at the Loring Kitchen & Bar, which boasts an indoor-outdoor design that takes full advantage of its hip urban location and sweeping Loring Park views. Can other restaurants please follow its sterling example?
7. -- 8. Jewish Penicillin
Modern medical science may still be coming up short on that whole cure-the-common-cold thing, but here's what doctors should prescribe: Chicken soup, steaming hot, swimming with tiny nodules of chicken-fat flavor and finished with soul-satisfying matzoh balls, from Meritage (fancy version, pictured on the cover) or Yum! Kitchen and Bakery (Mom's version).
9. Road trip
Sure, it's a bit of marketing hype, but the Great River Road Wine Trail -- 10 Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa wineries located near the Mississippi River -- is still a swell idea, particularly on June 5 and 6, when $20 opens up all 10 properties to wine, food and music. Designated drivers get in (and eat, but not drink) for free.
10. The joys of capitalism
With urban chicken farming on the rise, it's only natural that stylish back-yard chicken coops should follow. The portable cedar beauties manufactured by Andover-based MorningStar Coops could easily slip unnoticed into the Twin Cities' most fashionable neighborhoods.
11. Seventy-six and counting
Old Dutch potato chips have been scratching Minnesota's munchies itch since 1934. It's tough to imagine a better use for the humble potato than devoting it to an elegant double-bag box of these crisp, delicate, lightly salty, made-in-Roseville snacks par excellence.
12. Wake-up call
Cream of Wheat, a Minnesota breakfast staple for more than a century, seems positively one-note next to Paul's 7-Grain Cereal, a hearty blend of organic wheat, barley, rye, flax, millet, corn and steel-cut oats, all raised on Minnesota and North Dakota farms and ground by Natural Way Mills in tiny Middle River, Minn.
13. Now that's local
John Seitz and Julie Aponte might have the lowest carbon footprint of any vegetable vendor at the Mill City Farmers Market. Their heirloom tomatoes (28 varieties), salad mix, carrots, beets, beans and other bounty, sold under the Uptown Farmers banner, is grown, pesticide- and chemical-free, about three miles from the market in a pair of vacant south Minneapolis lots. "We're about as local as you can get," said Seitz, "unless maybe you were farming on the roof of the Mill City Museum." Now in their third year as inner-city agronomists, the two Wedge Co-op staffers are in a growth mode, taking on a third partner -- Nate Watters -- and looking to expand, via a new city hall-driven initiative, into two new plots in north Minneapolis. "We turn unused land into a productive thing," said Seitz. "Rather than having it sit as a weedy, empty yard, we use it to produce nutritious, quality produce for the community."
14. Beautiful butter
There's a swell back story behind each small-batch roll of Rochdale Farms Hand Rolled Butter. A network of Minnesota and Wisconsin Amish family dairy farms lovingly provide the cream, and a third-generation operation in Richland Center, Wis., skillfully converts it into this tangy, gently salty and luminously golden butter. Bake with it, just once, and you'll be a convert.
Available at Seward Co-op (www.seward.coop)
15. Don't touch that dial
Let other radio programs out-shout the future of the nation's democracy, glorify vacuous celebrity or parse sports statistics with a diamond cutter's precision. No thanks. Instead, we'll tune into "Fresh & Local," AM 950's genial Saturday morning all-local-foods-all-the-time chatfest hosted by Susan Berkson and Bonnie Dehn, which often airs live from the Minneapolis Farmers Market.
16. Frozen history
Schmidt Brewery, Peavey Plaza, Fort Snelling Upper Bluffs, the Roseville Dairy Queen. All have been named to the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota's annual -- and influential -- "Ten Most Endangered Historic Places" list. This slick strip-mall DQ, posted to the list last week, is believed to be the oldest branch of the Minnesota-based fast-food chain; its surprisingly unadulterated postwar style dates, at minimum, to the early 1950s. "It's hard to find historic fast-food places," said the Alliance's Erin Hanafin Berg. "Older ones are usually modified, but this one is intact, it's an original. It's very much an icon of that early Modernist style." Our plea to its ownership: Please don't replace this dilly of a pop-culture landmark with a generic Grill & Chill.
17. Grocery visionary
Twin Cities shoppers owe an enormous debt of gratitude to supermarket visionary Don Byerly (pictured in a 1968 Star Tribune file photo with Ruby Peterson). As the son of a Super Valu chairman, Byerly had the grocery business hard-wired into his DNA when, at age 28, he opened his first namesake store in 1968 in Golden Valley. Byerly's carefully researched stores looked and felt different from their competition, with carpeting, chandeliers, prepared foods, fully staffed meat and seafood counters and home economists. "But it wasn't the physical plant that defined Byerly's, it was the culture," said Dale Riley, a longtime Byerly's acolyte (and former president of the store) who now owns Fresh Seasons Market in Minnetonka and Victoria. "Don had a singular focus on creating a different kind of shopping experience. Overnight, he was a worldwide phenomenon." When Byerly debuted his vast St. Louis Park store in 1980, a bona fide tourist attraction and still the upscale supermarket gold standard, the Wall Street Journal hailed it "the Bloomingdale's of the supermarket world." Byerly sold the bulk of his business in 1990 to an investment firm, and rival Lunds bought it seven years later. Today, Byerly remains happily retired in California, but his impact on the local supermarket scene continues to burn bright. "Don always said, 'What would the customer think of that?'" said Riley. "That's still in my head, 24/7."
18. Pick it up
The cookbook of the moment: "The Minnesota Table" (Voyageur Press, $25). Author Shelley N.C. Holl introduces readers to the state's farmers, food artisans and traditions through beautifully drawn essays and sketches, and chef BJ Carpenter's seasonally focused menus feature recipes that creatively exploit familiar, locally raised ingredients.
Available at bookstores
19. Deli delight
Let other supermarket deli departments be content with offering pre-packaged sliced meats. Seward Co-op roasts, slices and packages its own great-tasting deli meats, using Michigan-raised free-range turkey and Iowa-raised grass-fed beef. "We thought we'd give it a shot," said Korey Evans of the co-op's meat department. "It definitely sells more than the pre-packaged stuff." As it should.
20. Midtown farm
Grass Roots Gourmet is the next best thing to a farmers market. Wait-- it just might be better, because it's (1) open year-round, (2) boasts a weatherproof location inside the Midtown Global Market and (3) features some of the region's top farm-fresh meat, poultry and dairy products for convenient one-stop shopping.
21. Gluten-free brilliance at the mall
If there's a better pad Thai than the brightly flavored version (it's all about the fresh lemon juice and herbs and tasty, naturally raised chicken) at Big Bowl, we haven't eaten it.
22. A hot condiment
Feisty Uncle Pete's Mustard may be made in Minnesota (Rice, Minn., to be exact), but it's definitely not Minnesota spicy. Nope. This rich, slightly sweet mustard, made from a third-generation Polish recipe, has a definite -- and welcome -- kick.
23. So long, Subway
Can't face another lunchtime sub sandwich? Then head to 3 Tiers and dig into owner Sarah Herr's beautifully handmade stromboli of the day, an ever-changing, well-stuffed noon-hour feast that's sold by the inch.
24. -- 33. Ten top treats
Here's our summer 2010 baked-goods countdown:
24. Anything rhubarb -- cupcakes, bars, free-form tarts -- at the seasonally focused Salty Tart.
25. The witty "Trademark" cupcake at cupcake, a chocolate mousse-filled vanilla delight that tastes as good as it looks.
26. The currant scones at Rustica, the benchmark by which all others should be measured.
27. Baker Gary Robertson's standard-setting pies -- seriously, the guy is a pie crust virtuoso -- brimming with locally sourced fruit, from Very Prairie.
28. Cocoa & Fig's bouchons, which quench a craven chocolate craving like nothing else.
29. Delicate, pastel-tinted and highly addictive French macaroons at Sweets Bakeshop, St. Paul's little Parisian refuge.
30. Sticky buns at Isles Bun & Coffee, a homey day-starter.
31. The chewy, brown sugar-packed chocolate chip cookies at Sebastian Joe's.
32. Sam-eos at Hot Plate, co-owner Sam Beberg's divine plus-size homage to the Oreo.
5204 Bloomington Av. S., Mpls., 612-824-4794
33. The insanely good custard-filled eclairs at Butter, proof that "simple" and "best" are indeed synonymous.
34. Locavore role model
Inside and outside her Seward neighborhood restaurant, Birchwood Cafe owner Tracy Singleton (pictured on the cover with daughter Lily Singleton-Hill) preaches the local foods gospel. In just the past two months, Singleton helped organize a group to pitch in at an exurban organic farm, arranged for the B'wood to be a dropoff depot for four CSA programs, co-sponsored jam-packed screenings of local foods-focused "Fresh" (and produced a few panel discussions, fundraisers and lectures with the film's director, Ana Sofia Joanes, and its featured farmer, Joel Salatin) and brought Anoka County farmer Bruce Bacon and her ever-curious customers together at a meet-and-greet. Oh, and she puts her business' checkbook where her mouth is, supporting Minnesota family farms by buying their produce, meats and dairy products.
35. Lyn-Lake's lure
Start with a hefty toasted Kaiser roll. Pile a small mountain of succulently rare, thinly shaved beef, lovingly marinated then slow-roasted over charcoal. Add onions and horseradish and the results are the standard-setting Pit Beef Sandwich at the Lyndale Tap House.
36. Blueberry bonanza
A favorite summer diversion: Blueberry picking at Rush River Produce, in Maiden Rock, Wis., where owners John and Terry Cuddy are predicting a bumper crop of indigo beauties on their jaw-droppingly beautiful daytrip destination, starting around July 4. "I can hear folks starting their blueberry engines already, but I'm going to need everyone and their brother -- and the Chinese army -- this summer to get all these berries off the farm," said John Cuddy, pictured. Spoken like a man tending 9 fruit-laden linear miles of blueberry bushes.
37. Sweet spot
What to buy, what to buy. That's the question at the enchanting Sugar Sugar, where owner Joni Wheeler stocks an enticing collection of hard-to-find candy, from 13 varieties of licorice (don't miss the disc-shaped, molasses-ey Pontefract Cakes) and limoncello-sea salt marzipan to cognac-flavored cordials, hard-to-find vintage products (Zagnuts, Mallo Cups) and a tasty selection of British candy bars. "I'm constantly turning the inventory over, changing it up all the time," said Wheeler. "It keeps it fresh for my customers, and for me."
38. Lighting up
The Pillsbury's Best and Gold Medal Flour neon signs bookending the downtown Minneapolis riverfront could be upstaged by a third similarly kitschy/iconic presence: Nicollet Island's Grain Belt Beer sign. A proposal to renovate and re-light this long-dormant monument to the city's brewing past comes with a controversial price tag, including mounting an electronic billboard (and its valuable revenue stream) to the back of the sign. Will a compromise be reached? Stay tuned.
Located on Nicollet Island in downtown Minneapolis
39. Pizza prince
Eighteen months ago, when Jordan Smith launched Black Sheep Pizza -- and instantly started turning out some of the best in town -- he started small. The dinner-only format has slowly evolved into lunch, local office delivery and, coming soon, outdoor seating. As for a second location, "We're close, but we haven't found another deal yet," he said. It's easy to see that the longtime D'Amico employee is loving being his own boss. "It's been a gas," he said. "It's the most fun I've ever had in a restaurant, period."
40. North to the North Shore
Need motivation for a Duluth getaway? Look no further than the New Scenic Cafe, where chef/owner Scott Graden showcases the local larder. The fruit pies can't be beat, and the shore-hugging drive, about 15 minutes north of Duluth, is spectacular.
41. The best part of waking up
Breakfast is a new routine for D'Amico Kitchen chef John Occhiato, but his work tastes as if he's an a.m. old hand. Case in point: His breakfast bruschetta, a plate of grilled, butter-drenched spears of rustic bread finished with prosciutto, a pine nut-and-currant-flecked ricotta and a wallop of fragrant floral honey. Bellissimo.
42. Check it out
Those retro green "GuestCheck" tablets that servers from coast to coast use to record their customers' orders? They're been printed, since 1905, by National Checking Co. in St. Paul. Who knew?
43. Clean. Really clean.
Minneapolis-based Restore Products Co. makes a citrus-scented dish soap using biodegradable, plant-based materials that are sewer- and septic-safe. Best of all, it cleans a sinkfull of dirty dishes in a snap.
44. Bountiful basket
Every morning, Giuseppe's Italian Ristorante co-owner Stacy Traviss is hard at work, baking for the New Brighton restaurant's well-stuffed bread basket. Along with garlic-Parmesan bread sticks, the selection includes a rustic white Italian loaf that Traviss dresses with pepperoni, or olives, or pesto, or the occasional in-season tomato. "Luckily, it's my favorite part of the day," she said of her early bird schedule. Lucky for fans of freshly baked bread, too.
Need a day brightener? Log into www.pillsbury.com, click on "Doughboy Fun" and coax Poppin' Fresh, Minnesota's most iconic (and adorable) brand mascot -- he's celebrating his 45th birthday this year -- into doing the Hustle, the Robot and other happening dance moves. Does "Dancing With the Stars" know about this?
46. Preview of coming attractions
Dessert is a two-part extravaganza at Victory 44, where a free pre-dessert platter of amusing little morsels of goodness not only captivates the sweet tooth but also signals the ingenuity of the treats to come. As sales tools go, it has to have a pretty high success rate; we certainly fall for it, every time.
47. Feet as a feat
At the idea factory known as Piccolo, chef/owner Doug Flicker is constantly inventing new ways to delight and satisfy, but one of his first notions has quickly become an instant classic: Luxurious scrambled eggs dressed with pillowy, gently bacon-ey pickled pigs feet.
48. Quacking good eggs
Khaiti Kahleck's business started with a taste. "I had my first duck egg and I flipped out," said this former self-described "angry vegan." "They have so much substance and richness, it just blew me away." We have that same feeling about her duck eggs, produced by 160 happy, milk-chocolate-colored Khaki Campbells, who roam outdoors and eat very well on Kahleck's small Osceola, Wis., farm. The eggs' shells have a stunning opalescence, and their nutrient-packed yolks translate into some incredible baking. A former Seward Co-op staffer, Kahleck christened her farm "LTD," for Living the Dream, and in just three years she's carved out a swath of devoted customers. "I have some pretty hard-core fans," she said.
49. Painting locally
Ginger Hansen Shafer's day job at Lucia's Restaurant has two sides: She's a server and she's also responsible for the dining room's lavish floral arrangements. She's also a painter. "Being an artist is very isolating, so the social aspect of working in a restaurant is nice," she said. But two days a week, Hansen Shafer goes solo, sets up her easel at Riverbend Farm in Delano, a chief supplier of the restaurant's produce, and immerses herself in the en plein air tradition of Monet and Renoir. Now Lucia's customers can enjoy this artist-farm-table collaboration in the form of striking note cards that feature five lovely images from Hansen Shafer's work.
50. Spring thing
A foolproof May pleasure: The first taste -- and deep, grateful inhale -- of fresh garden-grown mint.