We Love Winter

Come frostbite or windchill, blizzard or sleet, Minnesotans know how to embrace the outdoors. So lay on the layers, dig out, and join the fun—our spicy soup and hot toddy recipes will help you warm up afterward.

Freeze Frame

With a few layering tips, melting the ice is twice as nice  

By Katie Dohman, Styled By Nate Johnson/Bstyle

The only antidote to sharp winter winds? Sharp dressing. Bundle-up flannel is back in style—as if for us Minnesotans it ever went out—pair with a henley underneath and a luxe-fabric hoodie on top. (We layered toasty plaid pants under do-it-all-denim and cuffed them for extra style points.) Don’t forget detailing on your coat: stitching, buttons, leather panels—we wear them far too often throughout the year not to make them a style statement. Ice the cake with bright patterned hats, scarves, and gloves.


Lay on the LayersWomen’s side:


1. Carolina Amato wool hat, $70 @ N’etc, 5005 France Ave. S., Edina, 612-922-9321, netcmsp.com 
2. Scarf, $70 @ Banana Republic, several metro locations, bananarepublic.com  
3. Carolina Amato wool-and-leather gloves, $160 @ N’etc 
4. Ashley B leather-and-wool jacket with vest (not pictured), $1,150 @ N’etc  
5. Puffer vest, $138 @ J.Crew, several metro locations, jcrew.com 
6. Gray/red/navy flannel shirt, $90 @ J.Crew
7. Navy polka-dot shirt, $88 @ J.Crew
8. Red striped long-sleeve V-neck T-shirt, $40 @ Banana Republic 
9. Flannel pajama pants, $25 @ Gap, several metro locations, gap.com 
10. Won Hundred Nathalie jeans, $180 @ N’etc 
11. Cotton camp socks, $17 @ J.Crew

Men’s side:

12. Scarf, $35 @ Gap 
13. Universal Works Fair Isle cap, $95 @ MartinPatrick3, 212 Third Ave. N., Mpls., 612-746-5329, martinpatrick3.com 
14. Oliver Spencer Bunker coat, $740 @ MartinPatrick3 
15. Wings & Horns cashwool knit hoodie, $330 @ MartinPatrick3 
16. Cotton flannel gray/red/navy shirt, $70 @ Banana Republic 
17. Chambray shirt, $70 @ Banana Republic 
18. Red/white/blue Gitman Bros. large plaid shirt, $174 @ MartinPatrick3  
19. Blue striped henley, $65 @ J.Crew  
20. Flannel pajama pants, $25 @ Gap  21. Jean Shop rocker denim in single rinse, $260 @ MartinPatrick3

Al Birr, Snowplow Driver
Photo by A. Steinberg/Sidecar

Riders on the Storm

Al Birr on the rewards and hazards of driving a snowplow

As told to Matt Smith

I’m 35 years with the city as a heavy-equipment hauler and operator. Then in the wintertime I do snowplowing. I’ve worked every district. There’s not a street I haven’t been down or haven’t plowed.

I love it. We’re out there when people are told to stay home. To me it’s a challenge that has always been welcome.

I’m more into the machinery now, like motor graders—I would have to say that’s my favorite. A motor grader has six wheels, two in front and four in back, and it’s got a real long blade right in the center of it, and that blade can do more things than any snowplow. There are so many options that a truck will never do. I prefer machinery when it comes to real snow, real storms—’91 blizzards and things like that.

When snow hits, 12-hour shifts are pretty common. You get pretty worn out after a 12-hour shift. In snow emergencies, we try to get it done in a three-day time frame, to open the city up, and most times it works. But when we get the big snows, it’s not as easy to do.

Every storm is different. You think you’ve seen it all, but it’s not that way. A heavy piece of equipment has to fight the street elements just like a little car would. Blizzards, whiteouts where you can’t see. The hardest thing for a driver is the windshield freezing. You can have your defroster on, but that snow and ice comes onto your windshield and sticks onto your blade, so now you’re trying to knock that ice off. You can go two blocks and the thing will build up with ice again. The absolute worst is ice storms. That’s probably the scariest we can deal with. You’re on edge, even the most seasoned person.

I’ve been on big hills where my truck started sliding backward. We have a blade underneath that’s called an underbody blade. When I was going down the hill backward, I was able to put pressure down on the underbody, and it was able to slow the truck up so I could get my steering and bearings. I’ve had the motor grader do the same thing—sliding right toward a parked car, and I just missed it. I was able to take that blade and wiggle it to get me away from the situation.

We like to think we’re pros, but it happens even to the best of us. Even with the years I’ve had, it can change in a heartbeat, but having a little experience helps.

I’ll tell you a funny story. I was plowing Portland Avenue, and the snow was so full and so packed. I was in a truck plow at the time, moving this heavy pile of snow, trying to make a nice cut to the gutter. The last second before trying to push that big pile, the vibration of the equipment whittled the snow pile down to where I could just see like two inches of an antenna. It was a car, not a hunk of snow. And I was going to move it. Had I not caught that at the last minute, boy…

Luck does come with driving. I don’t care if it’s your own car or heavy snowplowing equipment, you got to have your share of it, and I have.

We know we’ve got to be out there, and we know we’re in the worst elements possible, but it’s a part of the job we take pride in. I love to get out and know you’re making a difference for someone who’s trying to get to a hospital, to a daycare, to work. That’s always the good thing about the job.

I wish there was more recognition of that. We are there for a reason, to get you to and from safely. Yeah, you’re probably not going to like it when we plow your driveway back in that you just shoveled. But I got to put it someplace, too. We feel your pain. We’ve all got to work with the elements as best we can.

The Ultimate Winter Warm-Up

By Jason Ross, Photos by TJ Turner/Sidecar

Every year around this time, I make promises. I promise to ice skate regularly, to engage the enemy (my kids) with snowballs, to fortify the perimeter (our front yard) with snow forts, to truly and finally enjoy Minnesota winter for all its snowy pleasures. If this is going to be the year of making good—of skiing and snowshoeing, of windy walks lit by snow-flecked city lights—then I’m going to need a steaming soup and hot drink to revive me after all the outdoor activity.

Blistered Red Pepper Soup – Makes 6 servings

For help creating a soup that would thaw me out from icy eyelashes to frozen toes, I turned to Matt Bickford, chef and co-owner of Icehouse. He’s been running peppers through his smoker and using them to liven up soups with a splash of color and a hint of heat. At home, you can roast sweet or spicy peppers on the stovetop to impart a charred flavor reminiscent of summer barbeques. (If burning things doesn’t warm you up, nothing will.)

Roasted Red Pepper SoupIngredients:

2 red bell peppers
1-2 Fresno chili peppers
1 onion, minced
1 celery stalk, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 qt. chicken broth or water
sour cream, julienned peppers, scallions, tortilla chips, and cilantro leaves for garnish


1. Roast peppers on gas stovetop, directly in flame, until blistered and blackened. Cool in a wrapped bowl. Remove seeds and stems. Peel off blackened skin, chop, and set aside.

2. Sweat onions and celery in oil with salt and pepper. Add tomato paste and cook until color deepens to brick red, roughly 5 minutes. Add peppers and broth. Simmer 20 minutes, until peppers are tender and soup is slightly thickened.

3. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with sour cream, peppers, scallions, tortilla chips, and cilantro.

Hot Whiskey Old Fashioned – Makes 1 drink

I also talked to Erik Eastman, the “Easy” in the local bitters company, Easy and Oskey. He recommended several warming blends, including mint tea toddies and reverse Manhattans made with high-proof whiskey and two parts vermouth. But I decided to run with his idea for a hot Old Fashioned, a drink made for a mug, with equal measures whiskey and nostalgia.

Hot Toddy IngredientsIngredients:

½ Tbsp. brown-sugar syrup
splash fresh-squeezedorange juice
2 oz. whiskey
½ oz. Cherry Heering
dash cherry/vanilla bitters
orange peel garnish


1. To make brown-sugar syrup, heat two parts brown sugar and one part water until sugar dissolves.

2. Mix orange juice with brown-sugar syrup in a cup or mug. Add whiskey, Cherry Heering, bitters, and 2 to 3 oz. hot water.

3. Garnish with orange peel.

Want to see more ways Minnesotans embrace the winter outdoors?

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