It’s hard to remember green. This polar vortex has frozen the memories of packed farmers markets and the ease of sourcing meals from our backyard. Despite the lack of anything seeming to be growing (outside of the size of those snowbanks), there are several restaurants around town that still manage to utilize local ingredients.
Heartland Farm and Market Direct owned by Chef Lenny Russo is my favorite spot to see what can really be done with our Minnesota bounty. The shelves are stocked with glass jars that glimmer like jewels with all sorts of items that were put up just like grandma used to do, at the peak of their bounty. Berries are turned to jam; onions, mushrooms and cucumbers are pickled and apples are transformed into mostardas. The freezer case boasts downy colored lard, pints of churned ice cream and dairy and eggs from nearby farms. The meat case is perhaps my favorite place to lose myself for an afternoon. Their charcuterie is the same chef created delights available in the dining room can be brought into your kitchen for dinner tonight. (The bacon—oh my heavenly pork—the bacon is the best you’ll ever taste.)
Over at Corner Table, Chef Thomas Boemer is also doing wonderful things with pork. His pork belly preparation is one of the best dishes in the city. He also takes humble, cellar vegetables and transforms them into elegant plates, like a stunning beet salad. However, all the ingredients they use aren’t leftovers from the last growing season. Boemer uses takes advantage of Bushel Boy’s green-house grown tomatoes from nearby Owatonna for his tomato confit to give dishes served even in the depths of winter a burst of bright summer flavor. It’s a mouthful reminder that summer will come again and we are so blessed to live in this place. (Even if it is really, really cold a lot).