Dining Dish: Beards, Meadows, and Trucks

I’m always thrilled to see local names listed when the James Beard Award finalists are announced—like I had anything to do with it. I found myself high-fiving myself in all my rightful predictions when Amy Thielen was nominated both for her cookbook and her show. The moment I got my hands on a copy of The New Midwestern Table, it felt like she was speaking directly to me! There was Sammy’s Pizza and Russ Kendall’s smoked fish, it’s part food yearbook of where I come from and an impressive home tool for creating fabulous meals.

She’s not the only local name to appear, either. Michelle Gayer of The Salty Tart was again recognized as an Outstanding Chef Midwest as were Lenny Russo of Heartland and Tom Berglund of The Bachelor Farmer. Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine were nominated again for The Perennial Plate and Lynn Rossetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table received another nod. They’ll all be heading to New York in May for the awards ceremony and I hope to see some of them bring home some medals.

In other news, St. Paul breakfasts just got a little tastier with the opening of The French Meadow on Grand Avenue in the old Coffee News spot. Not only is the pastry case crammed with beautiful grab and go options, but the same menu for morning, noon, and night is all available. The breakfast I tried was delicious and I can’t wait to get back in for a happy hour at their beautiful, shiny bar that sports several craft beer taps and a nice selection of wine.

As the snow banks lose their battle for life in the sun (die, you filthy mongrels!), it’s just about time for food truck season! I was sad to learn, though that Sarah Burt of Saucy Burt’s won’t be joining the crowd. She’s decided to hang up her apron and I will miss her meatball and her clever ball puns.

Across town at another truck, business will be heating up. I spoke yesterday with the owners of Gastrotruck—the green and white beauty that delivers chef made, sustainable dishes and the single best serving of pork belly you can find curbside will be expanding. They’ve put their plans for a brick and mortar restaurant on hold for a bit longer (fingers crossed we’ll see that space open some time next winter) and bought another truck! This means more black bean sliders for everybody! Now I won’t have to choose between St. Paul or Minneapolis for a food truck lunch, because they’ll have both cities covered.

For happy hour, I might be heading out of town, though. Yesterday Mike Brown shared with me the news that early seating at Travail will now allow you to sample their impressive, mind bending, and always fun tasting menu for $85 on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. You’ve just got to get in for a seat before 6pm (they open at 5). The deal starts today.