Pavé at Corner Table, Photo by Stephanie A. Mayer
Last Saturday night I had the pleasure of doing something I haven’t gotten to do in a very long time. And I didn’t think it would ever happen again. I was in a kitchen with chef Scott Pampuch, watching him cook, serve guests, and talk animatedly about where his food came from. Anyone who knows him knows that it takes very little prodding to get him talking about farmers and the importance of feeding one another on an elemental, human level. But after he walked away from Corner Table in Minneapolis, way back in 2011, it looked as if he might have moved on from this world. But he’s returned, thankfully for us eaters—because this man can cook a piece of meat. As of Tuesday, he’s been running a kitchen out of an Airstream trailer at Fulton’s Taproom.
Last night, I had another dinner with a different chef who sold his restaurant and walked away from the grind for new opportunities. It was a blast to watch Alexander Dixon—formerly of St. Paul’s Zander Café, which shuttered ten years ago—cook inside Icehouse’s kitchen while Chuck Kanski, of Solo Vino (based in Zander’s former digs), poured wine. Old friends have the most fun together, even when doing something new.
In that mood of new culinary adventures and nostalgic revivals, this week try these three bites imbued with history but served completely fresh.
Celery Root Pavé on Corner Table’s new tasting menu: Owners Thomas Boemer and Nick Rancone have brought in a new chef de cuisine at their award-winning south Minneapolis restaurant, and revamped the menu. This new layout is similar to Alma’s coursed tasting menu and is designed for those who have dietary concerns (and, of course, love food). It’s long been a safe space for those with gluten or other intolerances, and now, it’s even easier to order. I went to a special media preview dinner, and Karyn Tomlinson’s delicate, crunchy, savory dish—the celery root pave—was astounding, and it just happens to be vegetarian.
Frose at the Lexington’s new deck: I didn’t think it would happen this year, but the Lexington has opened its new rooftop patio to St. Paul diners, and it’s pretty stinking fabulous. I was smitten with the burger: a beautiful mess of house-made SPAM on a thick patty cradled in the tender, chewy embrace of an English muffin baked onsite, but what I cannot escape is the frose (that’s “frozen rose” to the uninitiated). What sounds like a boozy gimmick is actually a delicate and impossible-to-put-down refreshment. Jockey for one of these coveted seats before the sun leaves us—and take it easy. The brain freeze is real.
Porchetta sandwich at Fulton’s Taproom: To preview Scott Pampuch’s new porchetta sandwich, now served at the taproom, was to witness meaty glory willed into existence by a chef whose love for the business never quits. The sandwich alone is worth a pilgrimage to the taproom, even if you aren’t a fan of the hoppy arts. The tender meat begs to be picked off the sides of this tall sammy. Crusty bits with fennel and black pepper clinging to the juicy sides demand immediate attention.