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What's hot this week: Twin Cities Oktoberfest bonanzas, pop-ups, and latte art battles

Contrary to the celebration’s name, many Oktoberfest events wrap up in September. But don’t worry, if your brain is only just starting to think about fall, there are still plenty of opportunities to munch on sausages and imbibe spicy beers. And of course, that's not all. Also in this week's lineup? Motorcycle shenanigans, latte art battles, food-themed opera (or is it opera-themed food?) and one craaazy pop up going down in Uptown.

Read on for all the best food-and-drink themed extravaganzas that might tickle your fancy.

Thursday, Sept. 29:

Oktoberfest at Black Forest Inn continues -- This is your last weekend for the iconic accordion-laden festival at Black Forest Inn. Expect the usual spread, but unusual them nights. Inexplicably, Friday is David Hasselhoff night (apparently he has a cult following in Germany?), Saturday is black turtleneck night (in honor of 20th century protestors?) and if those oddities don’t inspire you enough, on Sunday, they start dropping the price of beer at 2 p.m. until it’s gone. More info here.

Oktoberfest at Gasthof Zur Gemutlichkeit continues – This Friday and Saturday evening and next weekend, indulge in smoked pork chops, soft pretzels and live polka music under the big tent. Bring your own beer glass or buy their half-liter mug for $6. A full bar is also available. Entry is free, buy tokens for eats and drinks. More info here.

Saturday, Oct. 1:

Motosota – The trade show goes 12 hours strong – from noon to midnight – so crank up your motorcycle and get over to the parking lot behind Norseman Distillery on Saturday for shenanigans that involve food trucks (El Taco Riendo and Cafe Racer Kitchen), seriously intriguing giveaways (Ivy Lifestyle longboard, anyone?), beer from Fulton Brewery and libations by Norseman for those of you who don’t show up on a two-wheel death trap. More info here.

Loco Duuk 2 – If you’re into crazy pop-ups, this is one not to miss. The folks behind LolaRosa, Cook St. Paul, Dumpling and Union Kitchen are all cramming into the kitchen at Gigi’s Cafe to churn out a cache of “bowls” (think Filipino sausage, orange pork and fire-roasted shrimp) and a tasting menu that will include dumpling soup and kimchi tempura. Drinks and desserts by Gigi’s. More info here.

Tuesday, Oct. 4:

Wise Acre Eatery’s Cidermaker Dinner – Read all about the six-course feast with pairings from homegrown hard cider slinger Eric Jorgensen (of Finnriver Cidery in Washington State) here.

Thursday, Oct. 6:

Latte Art Throwdown – Whether you’ve got foamed milk skills to boast or you just can’t get enough pretty latte Instagrams, head to Bachelor Farmer a week from now for their barista battle. Entry is free for watchers $5 for milk steamers; doors open at 7 and the coffee swirling begins at 8. And if you’d rather wind down than ramp up, there’s also beer in the parking lot. No points will be awarded for artistic beer moustaches. More info here.

Naomi Pomeroy Cookbook Dinner at Spoon and Stable –OK, tickets are sold out for the main event featuring this James Beard award-winning chef from Portland, Ore. But regular patrons can still enjoy a special menu of bar snacks throughout the restaurant. More info here.

Oct. 6-8:

St. Paul Food Opera – Visiting some of the restaurants headed by All-Star chefs around these parts can feel like absorbing some serious culture, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that a handful of them are collaborating with Zeitgeist and composer Ben Houge for a super sophisticated weekend. The folks behind St. Paul’s Tongue in Cheek, Saint Dinette, Handsome Hog, Golden’s Lowertown, Izzy’s Ice Cream and Brake Bread are collaborating for a dining experience that will be “paired” with Houge’s musical compilations. More info here.

Oct. 7-8:

Twin Cities Oktoberfest – Anything at the State Fair grounds tends to be especially epic and this year’s Oktoberfest doesn’t appear to be any exception. Live performances, games and plenty of vendors will be on site to entertain while you stuff your face and drink yourself silly. Would you expect anything less from the home of the Great Minnesota Get-Together? More info here.

(Photo credit: Kyndell Harkness and Marlin Levison for Oktoberfest; Jen Lee Light for Finnriver ciders)

Pork-free ramen shop to debut in St. Paul next month

The Twin Cities’ newest ramen shop – Tori Ramen – has experienced some delays not unfamiliar to restaurant openings, but chef/owner Jason Dorweiler says the restaurant WILL open on its new date, Oct. 15, come heck or high water.

“Or else I’ll have to rob a bank or something, I don’t know,” Dorweiler joked. “We can’t go any longer than that because we’re not bringing in any income; we’re just focusing on the restaurant, trying to get it open.”

Originally, the debut was slated for September, but unexpectedly high state fees strained the shop’s funding. Now, Dorweiler and Co. are waiting for loans to be approved in order to continue with the buildout at 161 Victoria St. N in St. Paul, which is nearly complete.

 “We’re ready,” Dorweiler said. “We’re excited.”

Since he and partner Asiya Persaud – she’ll be handling front-of-the-house duties – are gridlocked in terms of the space, Dorweiler is spending the extra time continuing to tweak his unique pork-less ramen recipes.

Yep, that’s right, Tori Ramen will be an entirely pork-free ramen shop, focusing instead on poultry varieties. And Dorweiler – who previously worked as a consultant at Ippindo Ramen House and Domo Gastro, and as the general manager and chef of Unideli at United Noodles – is not apologizing. Not only is he eschewing the ingredient perhaps only second best known to the dish, next to noodles, he’s doing so with pretty lofty goals.

“My aim is to be the best ramen shop,” he said. “I’m not going to stop until I reach that achievement.”

Dorweiler has been toying with the idea of opening such a ramen shop since his days at United Noodles in 2012-14, when he started receiving a lot of requests for pork-less ramen. He’s been working on perfecting his product ever since.

 “There are a lot of people who want pork-free [ramen]” he said. “That’s clear. We also wanted to do something different, something people wouldn’t typically associate ramen with being.”

Like with traditional ramen, the Dorweiler’s foundation is a well-nurtured broth. He boils the bones for 20-plus hours to achieve similar complexity and richness. Then comes the chashu, with variations made from chicken and duck, thinly sliced.

The menu at tiny Tori – with just 700 square feet total, there will be about 25 table seats and a seven-seat bar -- will consist entirely of ramen, in ten forms (a vegetarian option is included). The restaurant will serve wine, beer and house made kombucha as well.

“You can do the same things with chicken as you can with pork, without the gaminess,” Dorweiler said. “And I think it’s way better.”  

Feeling doubtful? Dorweiler is salivating for the challenge.

“I confused myself when I cooked it,” he said. “It tastes very similar. The texture is spot on. If people don’t know that it’s going to be pork free, they might think there is still pork in there.”


(Above photo from Unideli, by Courtney Perry)

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