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Dining Dish: News on Hola Arepa, Birchwood Cafe, Sandcastle, and the James Beard Foundation MN Nominees


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Photo by Kirsten Mortensen

Spring has sprung and it is a great day to be alive! No, don’t look out that window! It’s is spring and I refuse to hear any other sort of logic to the contrary. We have a few sure signs that the great melt is coming and the snow will not bury us forever.

One sure sign that that the seasons are turning is that the James Beard Foundation has announced this year’s semi finalists. Several local names are in the running for Best Chef Midwest, including Paul Berglund of The Bachelor Farmer, Steven Brown of Tilia, Doug Flicker of Piccolo, Michelle Gayer of The Salty Tart, Jamie Malone of Sea Change and Lenny Russo of Heartland. Isaac Becker of 112 Eatery, Bar La Grassa and Burch, who has already won the Best Chef Midwest honor is in the running for Outstanding Chef. Alex Roberts darling Restaurant Alma was recognized for Best Service. While Steve Horton of Rustica is a semifinalist for Best Pastry Chef. Meanwhile, the cool kids down at Marvel Bar are on the list for Outstanding Bar Service.

It’s the most prestigious award that the food industry can bestow and our dining scene is done proud by these individuals. I’d like to extend my congratulations to everyone and will be crossing my fingers with the finalists are announced.

Other signs of spring include news from the food trucks. Most notably, Birk Stefan Grudem and Christina Nguyen of Hola Arepa have announced that they’re opening a shiny new brick and mortar restaurant. It’s a sweetheart space in South Minneapolis and they just picked up the keys yesterday. Watch for the lights to turn on some time in early May.

In another corner of Minneapolis, Birchwood Cafe is gearing up for their final goodbye’s. The venerable farm-to-table gathering spot will close on Saturday with an epic party including free Peace Coffee, pizza specials, and more. Stop by and leave your mark (literally—they have pens available). After that, construction will begin for their expansion that they expect to last for 10 weeks. While the restaurant undergoes a major makeover, Chef Marshall Paulsen will be collaborating with Verdant Tea’s owners for some special breakfast dishes. Find Birchwood classics twisted through a Northern Chinese lense, seven days a week from 8 a.m. - noon.

Lastly, it’s not summer without ice cream and I am so excited to settle in on the patio of Sandcastle and taste some of their soft serve. Chef Doug Flicker, his wife Amy Greeley, and their business partner Chele Payer are already looking towards the Lake Nokomis beach season and they want to bring us ice cream! They’ve started a Kickstarter for what Flicker called, “The holy grail of ice cream,” soft serve. There will be chocolate. There will be vanilla. There will be a twist and there might even be something super fun like olive oil and sea salt. They’ve already raised $6,000 towards their $17,000 goal to make my ice cream dreams come true. I mean, their dreams, of course.

So, I’m telling you, pay no mind to any stray snowflakes that might be falling in the next few weeks. They will not last. Spring is happening.

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Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

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