Lots of news this week, so let’s do this.
First of all, thanks to the hundreds of people who came down to the Wine + Dine by Design event Wednesday, and sorry. Really, so sorry. Here’s what happened: A few hours before the event was to begin, the people who were supposed to host it cancelled, and took their workers, food, and supplies with them. We tried to make the best of it because we knew we had hundreds of people on the way and we had all the things we had agreed to provide: Chef Mike ‘YC’ DeCamp from La Belle Vie, the wine, the wine glasses, and me, and so, finding ourselves locked out of the space we thought we were going to, with literally minutes of advance warning, our marketing staff found another spot to host the event. (Thanks, Valcucine! You are as kind and awesome as your kitchens are beautiful.) However, in retrospect, problem-solving and making the best of a bad situation was not all that was needed; what we should have done was greeted everyone at the door with news of exactly what was going on, and given you all the option to opt out. I’m so sorry. Without question the event was too crowded, there was not enough food, and it wasn’t good enough. Not that the night was a total loss: The wine glasses, valued at $12.95 each (my marketing co-workers tell me), were still beautiful, the South African wine was still delicious, the food from YC and the La Belle Vie staff was amazing–and YC is a soldier; he was asked to provide food for 200 (in the thought that most people would be filling up on the other food that was supposed to be there) and instead cooked some 600 plates for some happy, but some aggravated people. The food was perfect, the salad of watermelon with fior di latte mozzarella, basil pudding, watermelon emulsion, chive flowers, and fig molasses was an exquisite distillation of summer. Of course, we didn’t profit at all from this event, as all the proceeds still went to WAMSO, the volunteer association behind the Minnesota Orchestra. And anyone who wondered who the beautiful professional women washing dishes were, well, that was some of our senior staff, including Midwest Home’s publisher and Minnesota Monthly’s own Sue Zelickson. I talked to a number of you at the event and know that some people still had a good time, but others did not, and for that I’m sorry. I’m sorry if you feel we wasted your time, or if you were disappointed, or if you hate me and feel I didn’t give you value for what was promised. We’ll try to make it up to you. It definitely was not the caliber of event we try to provide, the marketing department will work with you to make things okay. So sorry.
Patisserie 46 to Open!
The food world has been abuzz ever since John Kraus, a former superstar French pastry instructor, announced he was opening a new French bakery in South Minneapolis called Patisserie 46. After many delays, Kraus is opening! Probably Monday, July 6th. I talked to Kraus this morning, and got a few details of what we can expect. First: Liege waffles! Those specialties of Belgium—thick, brioche-like waffles with crisp, caramelized sugar exteriors—will be on offer from day one. What to pair with them? Why not house-made ice cream, in flavors such as vanilla, caramel with fleur de sel, chocolate with lemongrass and peppermint, strawberry-basil, coffee-bourbon, or sorbet such as pina-colada and mango-cilantro. There will also be house-made chocolates, petit fours, and macarons (those egg-white-based French cookies, not the coconut balls) in flavors such as Earl Grey tea around an orange marmalade center. But that’s not all! Find coffee, of course, from Pepin, Wisconsin’s Great River Roasters. But more interestingly: Crepes! Kraus tells me they’ll have three real French crêpes on offer ever day, two sweet and one savory, and even make an in-house version of Nutella with hazelnuts and chocolate. There will also be sandwiches, including a croque monsieur, tables inside, tables outside, all-day hours (planned hours right now are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and hooray! That’s it. Watch the space, and when the lights are on and the door is unlocked, they’re open.
Real Lobster Rolls!
I was chatting with Russell Klein, chef of St. Paul’s Meritage, about this and that the other day and he told me he is serving lobster rolls, real ones, made daily from live Maine lobsters and served just as they should be, in soft white-bread hot-dog rolls. They’re not cheap, of course ($18), but I’d like to point out that for the first time in my memory, one can now have a lobster-roll taste-off, driving from Stella’s Fish Café in Uptown (lobster roll, $18.95) to Meritage. What, you say, a lobster-roll taste-off doesn’t come close to satisfying your deep lobster cravings? Well, I was talking to Steve Uhl, general manager of the Oceanaire in Minneapolis, and he pointed out that while they always have two- and three-pound live lobsters on hand, if you give them four or five day notice they can bring in as big a lobster as you like: “A few months ago, we brought in an eight-pound lobster for a guest,” Uhl told me. “Of course, it’s not like ordering a steak. If you want a six-pounder, we might end up with six-and-a-half or five-and-a-half, but we have customers that request: My wife’s birthday is coming up, she wants a female lobster and leave in the tomalley, and we are happy to provide.” Translation: A female lobster is preferred by some because it typically contains strings of bright coral-red lobster roe, and the tomalley is the greenish liver and guts which some people love (it’s a little like ankimo, monkfish liver) and some don’t; typically the Oceanaire chefs will clean that out before serving. Needless to say, giant lobsters are not cheap, at $29.95 a pound, but they’re cheaper than a Cape Cod vacation.
Vegan Junk Food!
I got a request, via Facebook, for the best vegan junk-food in the metro. Leaving aside the obvious bakery (French Meadow, Cake Eater, the Wedge) and French Fry options, my picks for absolutely craveable, I-can’t-believe-they’re-healthy options are:
- The chick-pea roti dhalpouri at Harry Singh’s. Chick-peas and potatoes stewed in a thick curry and rolled into a sort of Caribbean burrito and served with a remarkable sweet-and-sour cabbage chutney, this vegan roti is powerfully delicious.
- The Tempeh Reuben at French Meadow: Salty, lush, it defies all logic that you could have a fantastic Reuben without meat or cheese, but the French Meadow has done it.
- Pizza Athena at Pizza Lucé, vegan-style. I really love the homemade vegan cheese at Pizza Lucé; it’s not exactly cheese-like, but in another vein, remarkably tasty. And the spicy tomato sauce, kalamata olives, and so on make the Greek pizza a great vegan choice.
But obviously I’m not vegan. If you are, share the wealth! Got any tips for your fellow vegans about the best vegan junk-foods in the metro? Post them in the comments, and your fellow vegans will thank you.
New Cult Burger?
Nick Bullick, one of my former picks as creator of one of the state’s best burgers when he was chef at Buster’s on 28th, has taken over the Ugly Mug, that former underperformer in the Warehouse District. He called me up to let me know that the Ugly Mug should be on my radar, because: They’ve got 20 craft beers on tap, 100 more available by the bottle, and have burgers as good as any. Especially the peanut-butter bacon burger. What makes it so good? I asked. “The peanut butter and the bacon,” deadpanned Bullick. Ah well, you ask a man from Alexandria, Minnesota a question like that and you deserve the answer you get. He did add that this peanut butter bacon burger is topped with house-made mayonnaise. I am intrigued. And I will visit! But my schedule is ridiculous right now, and I might not be able to for another two weeks. Too busy to eat a burger? Gah. That’s not right. If you beat me to it, let me know your thoughts.
Most Powerful Woman in Minnesota Food Makes Food Art
In the “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” division: Lee Dean, the editor of the Star Tribune’s food coverage—and thus the most important woman in Minnesota food—has unveiled a new passion: Food art posters! The posters are meant for middle school and high school lunchrooms, health programs, doctors’ offices and such, and are meant to portray the importance of eating your veggies in a fun, visually interesting way, by using fresh vegetables as sort of mosaic pieces to create portraits and paintings. Dean doesn’t actually take the photographs herself, she says. “I work with a creative team. I come up with the concept, text and image, and an artist I work with does the actual placement of produce. Each one takes about four hours to complete and has about a 30-minute shelf life, during which it’s photographed (and then the fresh produce wilts and it’s reluctantly tossed). American Gothic took much longer—about eight hours (two figures in it and a background).” Go to the opening tonight, Friday June 25th from 5 to 8 p.m., or tomorrow, Saturday the 26th from 6 to 8 p.m., if you’d like to see the posters while eating food, drinking wine, and chatting up Lee Dean herself. Otherwise, the posters will be on display at the Corazon Gallery tonight and till the end of July, and at leedeanbooks.com forever.
That’s it! Have a fun humid summer!