The Food Lover's Guide to Minnesota
(page 3 of 3)
Eat Local (Syrup, Vinegar & Pickles)
Sweet and sour are two of the most important building blocks of cuisine.
But you don’t need to look to cane sugar or Old World vinegars to flesh out your local cooking. Instead, use something spectacular, like these: RED LAKE NATION CHOKECHERRY SYRUP, made from wild chokecherries, has a funky bacon-like taste. Pair it with venison for something they’ve never tasted in New York. WALETZKO FAMILY 2011 MAPLE SYRUP is vintage dated. Sure, winter 2011 was rough, but it created great flavors. STANLEY’S SUGAR BUSH GRADE B, a darker syrup, has fantastic spice-box and caramel notes; add it to spicy dishes for depth. ANDERSON’S APPLE SYRUP is a simple, but brilliant apple reduction. Pair it with pork or add it to sparkling water for a fun summer spritzer. LORENCE’S BERRY FARM RASPBERRY SYRUP is pure local berries and some sugar. Pour it over ice cream or use it in cocktails. LEATHERWOOD VINEGARS are a must-try: the GARLIC IN MIXED FRUIT is woodsy tasting, while the RHUBARB has a lively lightness, like a good white balsamic. GOLDEN FIG ROSE RASPBERRY VINEGAR is so fruity and rose-petal fragrant you can make an original lemonade-variant with it.
Buy it: Red Lake Nation Chokecherry Syrup—Birchberry; Waletzko Maple Syrup, Leatherwood Vinegar, and Golden Fig Vinegar—Golden Fig; Anderson's Apple Syrup—Kitchen Window; Lorence's Berry Farm Syrup—Just Food Co-op; Leatherwood Vinegars—Vinaigrette. For store and producer details, see our Food Resource Guide.
Nothing makes plain food fancy faster than a pantry full of good pickles.
Some of the best: TALMADGE FARMS SPICY GREEN TOMATOES are crunchy, lightly fiery, and perk up everything. Add to mayonnaise for a great sauce for fish, or tuck into a hot dog. HEARTLAND PICKLED BURDOCK will forever change your regard for the common garden weed. Did you know it’s traditional to pickle the roots in Asia? Brilliant. TANGLETOWN GARDENS BASIL BEAN PICKLES and CORN RELISH are made by Sandi Younkin, a cook known more for her baked goods (at her Bars Bakery) than her pickles. Add her exotically herb-scented green-beans to a locavore martini, and serve the corn relish over grilled salmon. PAPA PAT’S SWEET BREAD AND BUCKLE PICKLES are so sweet they’re practically Southern. Add them to salmon salad or serve with barbecued chicken and watermelon for a perfect backyard feast. Heartland pickled cherry tomatoes are traditional to serve with vodka as Russian appetizers, though they’re also lovely on winter salads. Heartland sauerkraut is just right—sour and crunchy, but not too sour—and carrots give it a sweet garden aspect.
Buy it: Talmadge Farms—Golden Fig; Heartland Pickles—Heartland; Tangletown—Tangletown; Papa Pat's Pickles—Golden Fig. For store and producer details, see our Food Resource Guide.
Eat Local (Beer & Meat)
Surly made big news by getting a bill through the legislature to allow breweries to sell glasses of beer.
Hooray! Now watch an already national-class local-brew scene kick into high-gear. The hippest in hops: SUMMIT UNCHAINED GOLD SOVEREIGN ALE is energetic and clear as a bell. LIFT BRIDGE FARM GIRL is the consumate food pair, spicy and robust. FURTHERMORE FATTY BOMBALATTY is a white beer so unfiltered it’s practically bread. SURLY BEERS may be the one thing you can pack into your packed luggage that would be gratefully received by both rock stars and British princes: DARKNESS STOUT is black and flavorful as chocolate; SMOKE LAGER is smoky like a fire pit. ABRASIVE ALE is nervy, scouring magic. DAVE’S BREWFARM MATACABRAS offers scents of tomatoes, apples, and coffee, a rebuke to any thought that beer is simple. RUSH RIVER IPA is brisk as a cold bubbling stream.
Buy it: Summit Gold Sovereign—liquor stores, including Haskell’s; Furthermore and Lift Bridge—liquor stores, including Lake Wine & Spirits; Surly—liquor stores, including MGM Liquor Warehouse; Dave’s Brewfarm Matacabras—liquor stores, including the Four Firkins; Rush River—liquor stores, including Surdyk’s. For store and producer details, see our Food Resource Guide.
Last June it was illegal to bring home a growler (a half-gallon) of beer from a Minneapolis brewery.
Now it’s not, and Minnesota’s beer-scene has gotten turbo-charged. Want to try the best? New Brighton brewpub BARLEY JOHN’S OLD EIGHT PORTER is chocolatey, weighty, and deep, but not at all sweet. HARRIET BREWING is a Belgian-style brewer making fragrant, eminently elegant beers like a snappy PILS and signature WEST SIDE BELGIAN IPA. TOWN HALL BREWERY serves beers so fresh they taste alive. Try their MASALA MAMA IPA for a crisp and peppy brew. BRAU BROTHERS BANCREAGIE is made with peat-smoked malt, giving it the uncanny scent of a fine Scotch whiskey; the SHEEP HEAD ALE is so hoppy it’s full-on spicy.
Buy it: Barley John’s—Barley Johns; Harriet Brewing—Harriet Brewing; Town Hall Brewer— Town Hall Brewery; Brau Brothers—many metro liquor stores, including France 44. For store and producer details, see our Food Resource Guide.
With an abundance of water and tall grass, Minnesota has always been a natural for raising top-quality animals.
But the last few years have seen sudden and wonderful growth in the ability of regular metro-home cooks to get world-class products from local farms. Here’s the best of the best: WHETSTONE GOOSE from just over the border in Sisseton, South Dakota, is gamey and delicious and just what we should be eating in this lake-covered state, especially when covered with LORENTZ PEPPER BACON, raised down in Hormel country, in southern Minnesota. CALLISTER FARMS CHICKEN is the greatest luxury: a free-ranging, never-frozen, utterly succulent bird. WILD ACRES DUCK is the pride of Twin Cities restaurants; the meat is ideally fatty and tastes as rosy as a distillation of Cru Beaujolais. PASTURES A PLENTY PORK from Kerkhoven is custardy, apple-y, and sweet. AU BON CANARD FOIE GRAS BUTTER is rich yet energetic, more complex than the offerings of many other regions. Many critics argue that Caledonia produces the best foie gras in the United States.
CORNER TABLE PATE and CHICKEN LIVER MOUSSE are what happens when a great chef like Scott Pampuch confronts great ingredients. They’re confidently rustic and not overseasoned—perfection next to a local beer on the deck. (Get them from Corner Table’s new to-go case.) CLANCEY’S PEPPER BACON PATE is made with splendid Hidden Stream pork. Is CLANCEY’S DUCK PROSCIUTTO Minnesota’s most perfect food? It showcases both our ducky landscape and our ever-improving local butchery skills, and it tastes like great Syrah made flesh. You could also argue that the best food in the state is HEARTLAND’S MANGALITSA BACON, a rangy, wild-tasting, knee-weakening bacon from an ancient pork breed. HILL AND VALE LAMB CHOPS, from Wykoff, are berry-sweet, but have that hint of minerality that makes lamb taste regal, not flabby. HILL AND VALE RIB EYE is from cows raised on grass pastures who are also given access to corn, resulting in steak that has both the wild flavor of grass-fed beef but oh-so tender marbling, too.
Buy it: Whetstone Goose, Wild Acres Duck, Hill and Vale Lamb—many co-ops, including the Seward Co-op; Pastures a Plenty Pork—many co-ops, including Linden Hills Co-op; Lorentz Bacon—many grocery stores, including Mississippi Market; Callister Farms Chicken—Local D’Lish; Au Bon Canard Foie Gras Butter and Heartland Mangalitsa Bacon—Heartland; Corner Table Pate and Chicken Liver Mousse—Corner Table; Clancey's Paté, Duck Prosciutto, Rib Eye—Clancey’s. for store and producer details, see our Food Resource Guide.