I can’t think whether to frame this as glass-half-empty or glass-half-full news: For those looking on the brighter side of things: Erik Andersen, part of the Steven Brown-led team that made Porter & Frye what it was, has been named Chef de Cuisine at the new Tim McKee-led restaurant that is taking over the Guthrie space formerly home to Cue. Congratulations Mr. Andersen, you have scored one of the only new prestigious cooking jobs to be created in town this year! Well deserved. Congrats, too, to Matt Holmes, who will be overseeing the Guthrie’s catering, Level 5 Café, and all Guthrie-non-restaurant related food, which is quite a lot. Holmes, formerly of Restaurant Max, has lots of resort cooking experience.
What he does not have is a name for the sustainable seafood restaurant. Neither does Tim McKee, when I asked Tim if he had a name for the restaurant yet, he said: “No. Do you?” So if you can think of a good name for a sustainable seafood restaurant with views of the Mississippi, feel free to post them in the comments. A little bit of local immortality could be yours.
Oh, McKee also reports that the first regional Spanish dinner he did at Solera with JP Samuelson this week was a hoot. They roasted a whole pig, paraded it around the dining room before serving, and generally had a ripe old time. I wish I had been there. Anyone wanting an ultra-foodie experience is advised to sign up for the next regional dinner, which they’re limiting to 50 people. If you go, you’ll get two, two chefs of national caliber— Samuelson and McKee—having a ripe old time and feeding you. They’ll also eventually do paella, perhaps breaking the Twin Cities’ long-time paella curse, in which no one can cook the darn thing right.
Before ringing off, I offered my congratulations to McKee on his James Beard nomination. He is up against Isaac Becker from 112 Eatery, Alex Roberts from Restaurant Alma, and some guy from St. Louis. If past patterns hold true, the Minnesota judges will split their votes among the locals, and the dude from St. Louis will win. I hope not, but I think so.
Back to Erik Andersen, though. Andersen, formerly of Auriga, and before that a student in the kitchens of the French Laundry and Alinea, was responsible for some of Porter & Frye’s more avant-garde dishes, such as the dish I remember fondly as the iced pork cupcake (they called it a Berkshire pork terrine, it was delicious). Can’t wait to see what he does with sustainable seafood. “To get a chance to work with a guy like Tim is really cool,” Andersen told me. “Everyone who has ever worked with him just loves him, and I think the fact that he has people who have worked for him for what, twelve years just says it all.” Yes, this is happy news.
And yet, for those inclined to see the world darkly, we may see this news as the final shoe dropping. From the killer team that Porter & Frye opened with—Steven Brown, Andersen, Fat Duck-trained Josh Habiger and Auriga’s Doug Flicker—only Flicker remains, as a very part-time hourly employee. How the restaurant expects to keep up their Mobil 4-Star rating is a mystery to me.
Speaking of things that are mysterious, I got an e-mail touting Vincent Francoual’s newest “strange but good” specials, including cider-braised veal tripe and breaded pigs’ feet stuffed with foie gras. So the bar has officially been raised: If you call yourself a nose-to-tail eater, it’s not just about sausages in this town anymore. Insert foot in mouth. Also, Vincent is serving an Easter Brunch for $30 a head, and it sounds fantastic.
Speaking of things that are fantastic, I’ve been meaning to blog about Scott Pampuch’s great new project “Tour de Farm,” a local version of Outstanding in the Field, in which you go to a farm and eat wonderful (I assume) food from that farm, cooked by a visiting chef. The first Tour de Farm is on June 7, costs $85, and will be led by Mike Phillips, the able chef of Craftsman. Phillips makes the best prosciutto in town, and is generally a pork wizard, so this particular dinner—there will be three more over the summer—should be on the wish-list of every pork nut in town. “It will be head-to-tail pig stuff,” Phillips told me, “Everything pork in the world. I use Hidden Streams farm for hams, guinacale, and everything. Originally we were thinking it would be a buffet, but now we’re thinking courses. It’s going to be a good porky time.” Check out tourdefarmmn.com for more information. As I mentioned though, I’ve been meaning to blog about it for a while, and I’m glad I didn’t because Stephanie March over at mspmag.com beat me to it and … holy cow! The boxing-match that has inexplicably erupted as result is a sight to behold.
Anyone who wants to eat a lot of pork but would rather do it in an urban environment is enjoined to check out Broder’s Pasta Bar—yes, the one you can never get in to—on Sunday, April 19th when they will make a day of devouring a La Quercia limited-edition acorn-fed pig. The meal starts at 12:30 p.m., covers at least eight courses, by my count, and runs $65 per person, with an optional wine flight for another $40. It’s a benefit for Slow Food so expect to see commenters from the last bit outside throwing rotten vegetable marrows, and expect the people inside to get a tax deduction of $25 for the meal, or $35 for the meal with wine flight.
Finally, chefs in search of Minnesota-made cedar planks for La Plancha-style cooking should check out truenorthcedar.com/mulch.html; people who want to eat $30 prix fixe fancy dinners and enjoy lengthy happy hours in the Gorilla Bar are enjoined to visit the Chambers Hotel. And any commenters who have thoughts about this new, newsier format are invited to chime in. Love it? Hate it? Indifferent? Oh, and check out the April Minnesota Monthly for my reviews of Roat Osha, the Cheeky Monkey, and an examination of the most esteemed Italian restaurants in the Twin Cities, in which I discover that one of the oldest lions is in fact an Italian stallion. Toodles!