If you know me on a personal level or have been reading my blog long enough you know that Red Stag is my favorite restaurant in Minneapolis.
Perhaps it would not be the restaurant I would go to all the time if I had indispensable income. But for where we live, what they offer, and their dedication to the environment and local food, it's a slam dunk.
I've recently partnered up with Lee from Simple Good and Tasty regarding his local food endeavors.
Due to some exciting news (TBA really soon, I promise) I will hopefully have more time to be more frequently involved in the works of SGT in the near future. If you didn't know about SGT (as I fondly call it) it's a new project of this incredibly nice guy named Lee, he's smart, incredibly friendly, and totally ambitious. He started SGT from the bottom up, knowing little about the "locavore" movement (now in the Merriam Webster... this is the real deal people) and soon approaching expert level status. The dinners he arranges on a monthly are a great many things, but to keep things short the things I appreciate MOST about them is that they are:
1)Economical: $35 for four-course meal at the Red Stag is amazing, not to mention the optional beer or wine pairings you can add on based on your desires.
2) Friendly: Everyone attending these meals is prepared to sit at a table with strangers. This pretty much ensures little social awkwardness.
3) Like minds: If you don't care about local foods, there is really no reason to be there. You don't have to worry about your table partner being a McDonald's shareholder. They probably have a garden or csa, or they at least know what a co-op is and appreciate a good meal
4) At amazing restaurants. The list of restaurants that have so far been on the SGT line up have been places I would recommend that out of towners go to try out true Minnesota fare.
Locally sourced Arugula and Broccoli used in the Red Stag Kitchen
If you're not on the mailing list you can email Lee at email@example.com and you can prepare yourself for up and coming locavore events by checking out the new and beautiful Simple Good and Tasty Calendar.
In lieu of describing the dinner, I'll allow my pictures and Lee's recap to walk you through the deets.
Chef Hauke on the line
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
It's time once again for me to shout the praises of Marx foods. No, they don't pay me money to say nice things about them or use their products, but they DO send me sample. If you're a blogger they'll send you samples too, with the simple request that you blog about whatever it is they send you. Right now they are giving away some dried mushrooms for you to review AND today is the last day to enter the 10# kobe burger give away.
I still have a line up of things from Marxfoods I need to try out (they've been MORE than generous) but I realized I never posted anything about the lastest item to arrive on my door step, ec0-friendly palm leaf plates. We've had a crazy busy summer and haven't really had anyone over for a barbeque (epic fail). I've been I'm eating on the run more than I'd ever care to admit (I think Slow Food would disapprove) but this is a great alternative to using another paper towel, and a good way to avoid finding fiestaware in your car. Breakfast sandwiches are my in-car meal of choice
And when you're done, you throw it in your compost bin and poof, zero impact disposable dishes! We'll be ordering a plethora of these for the upcoming Sommers' Summer's Over 1st Annual Pig Roast at the end of August (details to be announced soon). All of the fabulous folks at Marxfoods are invited!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Do you know how to can?
Okay I'm kidding, but I am pretty jealous. Chances are a family member taught you. My grandfather was a canner by trade, but lived in Texas and I never learned the family business. Okay fine, he worked in can plant and didn't make pickles for profit... but apparently he and my grandma used to can at home all the time. They did have a hobby farm after all. What's the point of farming if you can't use your stuff year round?
Veggies weren't the norm in my garden growing up, aside from tomatoes (which were always eaten fresh) and one time I think we grew a baseball bat sized zucchini. Apparently my mom has "never actually canned" either which sad, but also sheds light on how things change from generation to generation. And now, here we are, "Generation - Oh shit the world is falling apart", planting our gardens, cooking locally grown food and eating our vegetables, and without Grandma next to us to show us what to do.
I've thought about canning. Friends encouraged me: "It's not hard at all" "Just read the Joy of Cooking, they'll tell you how to do anything". Great. But it seems to me canning is one of those things people teach you how to do, not something you can just learn to do from a $5 book you bought at Menards. Yes, boys and girls, Menards.
My hopes is that one CAN learn to can by the book, and that as I learn to can, maybe it will help you learn too if your mom, uncle or grandma or dad didn't have the chance to teach you how. Just for you I will expose it all; my successes, my lessons and my failures.
I decided my 1st endeavor would be an easy one: dilly beans. String beans (or green beans, or wax beans) run rampant in Minnesota this time of year and for an insanely cheap price. I bought what I estimate to be about two pounds for five bucks.
I'm not providing a recipe because I don't want you to sue me if it doesn't work and I haven't tried the beans yet to tell you how delicious they are. There are of course loads of recipes on the Internet and canning books are notoriously inexpensive. I do however want you to have a good understanding of the canning process from one learners perspective to another, so here we go.
Warm up those jars. I have a dishwasher so this is the method I used as I had a few forks and knives that needed cleaning anyway. I made sure it was on the heated water cycle, and waited for my jars to get clean and hot. This can also be done by simmering the jars for 10 minutes, completely submerged in water, but what can I say, I'm a lazy canner.
While I waited for the dishwasher to run I got everything else ready. Water and vinegar with salt solution on the burner? Check. Beans hulled and organized? Check. Garlic peeled, dill heads picked, crushed red pepper and mustard seed at the ready? Check. Lids heated in a separate pan? Check.
*Failure: I didn't have my lids heated/sterilized when I was ready to go. They are supposed to be boiled for 10 minutes, and there is nothing in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving about using the dishwasher as an option. This set me back. I would suggest boiling them in the same water that you plan to can in HOWEVER, unless you have a super long magnet wand, the water will probably be too deep for this option.
So now, your jars are hot, your water is boiling, your brine is ready, your lids are sterile. And it's go time:
Take out one jar at a time. Place one garlic clove, one head of dill, mustard seed and crushed red pepper in the bottom of the jar. Fill it as tight as you can with beans. And I mean tight! Use a flat utensil to stuff the beans onto one side of the jar while you fill the other.
Once the jar is full and the beans are lower than the middle of the threads on the jar (this is called 1/2 inch of headspace) you're ready to add your vinegar solution.
Using a canning funnel (incredibly helpful!) add water to the same point of the jar (1/2 inch headspace). Take a flat, clean utensil and agitate to get out any air bubbles. Shove any floaters there might be a few) back under the point of no return (re: 1/2 inch from the top of the jar) and grab your lid out of the hot water (the oh-so-fancy Ball magnetized sticks are incredibly convenient here as well) and set it uniformly on top of the jar.
Screw on the ring so that it is finger tight, not so tight a 5 year old couldn't unscrew it.
*Fail. I have a HUGE pot a home. I have no idea how big it is, and I'm not going to go check just to brag, but I was POSITIVE the ball jar rack would fit into my ridiculously huge pot. Guess what? Yep, just 1/4 inch too narrow for that fancy jar rack. This led to both cursing and improvisation. I used my big ole'pot, without a rack, and with yet another fail, not enough water to cover the single jar at a time method I had decided was going to work best for me without Mr. Jar Rack. Why do I even bother continuing on at this point? Well... sometimes there is just no going back.
Place your four jars in your jar rack, making sure there is at least one to two inches of water covering the tops of your jars (yeah, har har, yuck it up...). Boil for 5 minutes, remove jars and let cool.
*Fail: My brining solution ran out after jar one. 2 cups of water plus 2 cups of vinegar in a quart jar apparently mean negative space in a jar filled with green beans? Or I simmered the solution too long and 3/4 of it evaporated? THIS is why I'm not giving you a recipe.
Oh, and did I mention that's it. THAT'S IT? You're done!?! Wait two weeks to see if your pickles taste like pickles, don't mold, expand or get fizzy. Where is my instant gratification? Where is my PING?
Not one recipe indicated WHEN the jars are supposed to ping (meaning SUCCESS! You've done it! You've successfully removed air from your jar, your lid IS decompressed and your food isn't going to kill you when you eat it!... hopefully!) or what this ping sensation was going to be like. Would you be able to hear it from the next room? Is it distinguishable from other noises around the house? Should it have decompressed while it was in the water bath? I may or may not have heard one (or maybe two) pings during this process. The 1st jar I completed seemed to have completely decompressed during the boiling process. Two others, and the 1st were definitely compressed after an hour of cooling, but that 4th jar was a thorn in my side. What did I do wrong? How did I do anything differently with that 4th jar? I went out to socialize that evening and by the time I got home it was down!
Clearly, I have no idea WHAT I am doing, but so far, they look greenish, haven't exploded, started growing mold and are actually kind of pretty!
Things I've learned (aside from my previously listed failures):
1.Do this with someone else. Have a "Lets learn to Can" party, or force your significant other into the learning process with you. I already know two people who are mad I canned without them, so chances are, you know someone who wants to try it out too.
2. Be really organized. Is your kitchen a little cluttered? Clean it up. Get your Mis En Place together more than you would for any other meal you've cooked.
3. Don't worry about failure. Canning has been around since the days of Napoleon. If you go to eat something and it looks or smells horrible, consider it a done deal and order a pizza... or buy some Gedney's.
4. Submerging your jars isn't a must, but will result in lowered liquid levels inside your jars (according to the Magic Blue Book)
5. You CAN learn to can from a book... AND trial and error. I am now the proud owner of 3 canning books, and honestly can't wait to try again. (My grandma is so excited I'm canning I'm inheriting the family pressure canner). I'd like to try something not pickled next time but it is about to be cucumber season. Salsa is definitely on the list. Any other must try ideas out there?
Sunday, July 12, 2009
If you don't know my mom, you're really missing out. She a fantastic lady (I know this because I am exactly like her).
And, today is her birthday! She's a couple years older than me, but is filled with spunk, pizazz and opinions (and you wonder where I get it from)
She also blogs, and I know she would love it if you all went to her blog Have it All, and said Happy Birthday to her in your own special way.
But now, it's my turn:
Thanks for being you Mom, and Happy Birthday!
Friday, July 10, 2009
Kyle and I decided to have an honest to goodness date night yesterday. We decided on the Northeast Social for a few reasons. 1) It's ridiculously close to us 2) Kyle hadn't gone the first time around and 3) While I had enjoyed myself the 1st time around, it was REALLY busy, their first full week in business and still a little rough around the edges.
We got there around 5:15 (we are often earlier diners than I would like, but when you wake up at 5am and eat lunch at 10am, it's hard to adjust). Fortunately this was still in time for their 1/2 price bottle of wine happy hour deal. We ordered the Carneros Chardonnay, which pretty much exemplifies what I think great Chardonnay should taste like: balanced: a little creamy, a little oaky and you're good.
I asked about the soup of the day which reminded the server that she hadn't gone over the specials with us. The soup (tomato bisque) didn't sound exciting but then she mentioned the "special" appetizer, Padron Peppers. Not being familiar I was intrigued, and we ended up ordering them. They came prepared very simply, being sauteed in butter with salt, pepper and lemon and were very tender and pretty darn delicious. Who knew. They weren't spicy at all until all of sudden each of us ate our 6th pepper and a tiny burst of severe heat came, and almost as quickly went away. It turns out there is even a saying about this phenomenon : "Os pementos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non" -Padron Peppers: some are hot and some are not. How random.
We also split the welsh rarebit (kyle succumbs to welshophilia:all things welsh, all the time) which was AWESOME (I didn't even mind the blue cheese one bit) and the burger. When ordering a $12 burger it's pretty hard to not have high expectations, and they were entirely met. I loved that they used wild arugula instead of any other green, the fried pickled peppers added just enough zing, and the fries (shoestring style) were crisp... I only wish there were a few more!
I'm still a bit hesitant to say that Northeast social is changing how we eat in Northeast Minneapolis. It is nice to know I can get a dressed up burger so close to home without heading to the Bulldog, or go out for a bottle of wine at a very reasonable price.
Friday, July 3, 2009
We have a winner! 23 people left comments or links to their re-post about the Les Petites Images first give away! Using random.org's random number generator the 15th comment is the lucky winner.
And that lucky person just happens to be Suzanne:
And now I've been challenged to lavender foam and inside out omelets.
Thank you so much to everyone who entered! I have now have a huge list of places in NYC to sort through, and lots of great cooking ideas. While I can't promise to visit all places or cook all dishes, consider your suggestions on the shortlist of finalists in my future. Suzanne, please DM me on twitter with your contact info... or maybe we can schedule a tweetup with you and other twin cities entrants!
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Attending this Paired was different than the others. I only knew minimal attendees, had a less than stress free weekend, and was definitely not ready to go an hour beforehand (Chris stopped by to pick up his cutting board he had left at our house earlier in the month and looked at me with concern asking "... are you guys coming tonight?" while I greeted him bra-less, un-showered and at best, disheveled. Classy).
The setting for the first weather cooperative Paired was intimidating as we approached the industrial part of Midway via 94 (What? Not in Northeast?). Kyle, myself and another couple consisting of two well dressed individuals greeted each other as assumed Paired attendees in the wrong part of the parking lot, made a few confused phone calls to the powers that be, and were eventually escorted to the correct entryway by Lauren.
There is something alluring and mysterious about entering a dining space with signs that remind you that if you're not authorized personnel, you aren't welcome beyond a certain point. Tonight, we were authorized.
We climbed numerous flights of stairs and finally emerged into a wood workers studio. I like to play games with myself and do zero investigative research into the artists that are announced in the Paired emails. This most likely stems for my disregard for reading the back of movies I find intriguing, or the synopses of books I am about to read (We can investigate my neuroses later). I was excited to find ourselves in a wood workers studio. Though not much saw dust was laying around, plenty of beautiful evidence surrounded us.
After snooping around a bit in the studio Brooke suggested I look into the dining area. It almost took my breath away. Aside from the gorgeous table laid out in front of me, the decor, surroundings, everything was just calm, beautiful, and inviting. I was SO excited.
The studio is part of a co-operative, but the artist featured was Scott McGlasson of Woodsport. On top of having gorgeous pieces on display for us, Scott was the least intimidating of all the artists I've encountered during Paired, and was definitely the most social. He talked about his work in non-complicated terms, gave us advise about the moulding situation in our 110 year old Farm house, and easily joined the crowd for dinner. Oh yeah...dinner. That's what I'm normally blog about, right? Well Scott is great, and you should buy some of his work.
These vases were also crafted by Scott
Now onto the food.
Chris brought the woodsy theme to the table (made out of re-use wood, given to the studio and originally from a Church, as far as my memory serves me) in all 3 courses. He also invited us to eat radishes to whet our palettes.
1st up was a White Gazpacho with poached egg and gelée with grape (Gelée!! Way to bring it Chris!!) This dish was definitely the most thought provoking, with a mystery ingredient, contrast of textures and plain old creativity.
2nd up was a garbanzo bean salad served family style with mint, plum and yogurt. I love all forms of beans (though I should omit Lima from that statement) and loved that it was served on some of Scott's work.
Our Main course was Walleye (caught just the day before up in North Dakota), which was grilled on a cedar plank which gave it an incredibly smokey flavor. The field greens added a nice bitterness to the plate which was balanced by the tartness of the rhubarb compote and the creaminess of the potatoes.
Dessert was composed of gingerbread cookies and fresh from the farmer's market strawberry ice cream. I loved that the cookies were cut into shapes for us to play with. I always had an affinity for Lincoln Logs, and who doesn't love to play with their food?
Drinks were a mixture of wine, beer made by Kevin Horkheimer (with whom you can chat at the Northern Brewer in St Paul)
and Scotch served with dessert. I actually really enjoyed the scotch, but won't comment as to whether that was influenced by numerous servings of wine and beer prior to that point in the meal.
Final thoughts: the setting was gorgeous and the food was perfect for the 1st cool evening in what seemed like weeks. I'm so fortunate to have such amazing people in my life that express their creativity this way. I am both saddened by, and excited about the last Paired meal coming up in August. Regardless, it has certainly inspired my desire to host more dinner parties.