It kind of bugs me that Landon Schoenfeld is known to most food-people as Colonel Mustard. For those of you who were out of town in 2007, he’s known as Colonel Mustard because of an infamous incident at the Bulldog NE, in which Schoenfeld sprayed mustard at a bartender who had allegedly requested a salad with dressing on the side.
Why does it bug me? Because it seems so unfair: Young Landon, who was 25 at the time, was working 20 hour days for months on end and sleeping in the service closet of the restaurant in an effort to make the bar a name—which he did—and he was crucified for the most harmless high jinks I can imagine. When I worked in restaurant kitchens, smearing coworkers with chocolate mousse, spraying them with water, or splashing hot sauce into someone’s soda were meaningless, sophomoric, and utterly enjoyable parts of kitchen culture—not career-definers. It also bugs me because Schoenfeld is one of the most talented young chefs in town. His work at the Bulldog was divine—he reinvented burgers in this town. And no one has done a steak tartare as well since (save the one he did at Barbette in his brief stint there). So no one was as thrilled as me to hear that Schoenfeld is back, in charge of the kitchen at the brand new Tosca.
What’s Tosca? It’s the restaurant in Linden Hills attached to, and owned by, the Turtle Bread Company. Avid restaurant news-hounds will remember that Turtle Bread owner Harvey McLain has been talking about opening a restaurant there since at least 2002 or so, before he got sidetracked with the Chicago Avenue Turtle Bread and accompanying Restaurant Levain. And now it’s open! Well, sort of. It opened last Tuesday for breakfast, and started serving lunch yesterday; full dinner service (and table service and a wine and beer license) are not expected to debut until January. Still, the new counter-service spot sounds dreamy: For breakfast, there are treats like French toast made with a spice-infused batter and served with apple compote, whipped cream, and a dusting of candied-walnut crunch. For lunch, they serve sandwiches and salads, like a Provençal one made with olive oil, poached and herbed ahi tuna, green beans, and greens. When dinner debuts in January, expect a rustic-Italian menu: chicken under a brick, polenta with mushrooms, a short antipasto list, salads, and the like.
How did Schoenfeld and McLain meet up? Schoenfeld was no stranger to the Restaurant Levain kitchen. He had worked for Restaurant Levain, Pizza Biga (that pizza place in the front of Turtle Bread), and Café Levain over the years. More recently, McLain, who is also a practicing attorney, had been giving Schoenfeld legal advice as he tried to get his own restaurant up and running. That restaurant didn’t come together (Schoenfeld looked at the old Auriga space and at JP’s). “For the foreseeable future, that’s on the back burner,” Schoenfeld told me, “and we’re going to see how things come out here. Harvey’s a good guy to work for; he knows how to open a restaurant without bogging everyone down. We’re getting the bar put in today. Hopefully the neighborhood will support a [liquor license]. But I’m really excited about it all.
“This year I’ve really been diving into old-school cookbooks, like Marcella Hazan, James Beard, and Fernand Point. Everyone else is moving forward,” he said, implying trends like molecular gastronomy, “but I’m moving backward.”
I disagree: Getting Landon Schoenfeld his own kitchen, and out of the post-Bulldog years, sounds like a great step forward.
3421 W. 44th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55410