This Are a Few of my Favorite (Edible) Things: 2018

“Ponder well on this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table.” - Charles Pierre Monselet 

I find that when I'm required to narrow my pondering of food-filled memories over the past year, I think of smiles, big forks, friendly toasts, and cheese. Here are some memories of the table from 2018 in no particular order:

On this day, I flew a kite, wore sequins, and dined at Hai Hai in Minneapolis. It was a very good day. So much of what they serve at Hai Hai delights with calculated splashes of lime juice and fish sauce and brings you back for more bites with delights of sun-dried shrimp and galangal. Their papaya salad is on point.

Ever heard of Colorado Style Pizza? Neither had I until I hiked Saint Mary's Glacier. As we climbed back down, I was informed by my cousins that pizza was our promised lunch, "And not just any pizza," they said, "Beau Jo's pizza!" The crust is thick, braided along the edge, and made with honey. Then they serve the pie with honey on side for dipping. Crispy pepperoni, honey crust, and giant glasses of water hit the spot after a glacier climb.

In my line of work (writing about agriculture), I sometimes have the privilege of participating in variety flavor taste tests. This year, the Cornercopia student-run organic farm at the U of MN invited guests to sample more than 80 varieties of organic, heirloom tomatoes, and vote for our favorites. If you have a chance to try a "Matt's Wild" variety of cherry tomato, do so, my friends.

I was informed by more than one Missourian that when visiting the Mizzou campus, one must stop at Buck's Ice Cream.  Gold-colored French vanilla ice cream with dark Dutch chocolate swirls comprises their most popular and famous flavor, Tiger Stripe. After a harried morning of field tours and campus visits, a cone of Tiger Stripe had me feeling cooler and sweeter.

A salad? Yes, THIS salad. I visited Minneapolis' own Gatherings Cafe for the first time this year right before I caught a tour of Growing Lots Urban Farm. They focus on fresh, local, and indigenous ingredients, and their Harvest Salad boasts kale, sliced red onions, dried cranberries, roasted sweet potatoes, toasted pepitas, citrus honey vinaigrette, goat cheese, and shredded turkey. 

Did you know Restaurant Alma serves the most amazing cheeseburgers on Thursday nights? Well, they do, and if you can get there early and order one before they're gone, you'll be as awestruck as my main squeeze was in this pic.
Should you find yourself in downtown Lawrence, Kansas, get thee to Merchants Pub and Plate. My dining companions and I had fits about everything we ordered from their fresh, local, bistro-style menu, but the pan-seared trout and their fresh ricotta with heirloom tomatoes and fresh pesto (pictured here) sent me.

These little smoked trout cakes with stone ground mustard and clover blossom honey at The Informalist in Eau Claire are flavor bombs you won't want to share, unless you're all dolled up with your BFFs for an epic 40th birthday celebration.

Muffaletta in the Park closed after 40 years of serving fresh, locally-sourced comfort food. I had to get there one last time for their iconic beer cheese soup, famously topped with popcorn. I'll miss it!

Now it's time for some real talk. My homegirl, Liz, has been coming over to my house to learn the ins and outs of making my fruit cake recipe for the past three years. It's a long day of baking that usually includes Christmas tree chimes, football, cider, and drama. When it comes to fruitcake, we're ride or die. I love this gal, and I love this tradition. 
With a bit of encouragement from several supportive, dreamer types, (especially Chef Carrie Riggs at Restaurant Alma) I started my own little business growing edible flowers called Witch Kitchen. That I get to share in the blossoming endeavor with our 4 year-old daughter means growth aplenty, both in the garden and in the heart. 

Here are some recaps from years gone by. It appears that I forgot to do a recap last year. C'est la vie.

Sure, I know better, but I decided to cross-post this content from my other blog, You Are Where You Eat.

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]

These are a Few of My Favorite (Edible) Things 2015

“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.” ― Ruth Reichl

When Gourmet Magazine closed its doors in 2009, the influential and talented Ruth Reichl continued recording her food adventures in books; years later, she's still finding satisfaction, inspiration, and a paycheck through the daily act of preparing, consuming, and discussing her endlessly delicious life. Even though an expanding career in sustainable agriculture and a small child at home afforded me less time to record/document my food-related adventures this year, my job and daughter simultaneously afforded me new edible opportunities. So while I am no Reichl, I am grateful for my endlessly delicious life.

And with that in mind, here are my favorite food-related things from 2015, in no particular order.

A trip to Portland meant dinner at Pok Pok. I rounded up a group of 12 colleagues, and the kind folks at Pok Pok graciously served us dozens of dishes at a colorful table located on a three season porch. The famous chicken wings they served up were juicy and tender, and the crispy skin was generously bathed in a glaze expertly balanced with sugar, fish sauce, and chili paste. 

A night of Portland microbrewery tours gave rise to a hankering for VooDoo Doughnuts.  While the namesake doughnut pictured here garnered the most attention from the masses, the apple fritter and the old fashioned cake doughnuts garnered the most love from my taste buds.

I planted totsoi in my garden for the first time this year, and I'm pleased to report that it's killer. Tender, succulent, and just a bit spicy, it's become my favorite green to grow at home. 

While taking a tour of the West Madison Agricultural Research Center in Wisconsin, we chanced upon a graduate student running a tomato taste test. We were lucky enough to get roped into participating in her taste test, and it was a lovely way to pass a sunny afternoon on the farm.

Two Minnesota cheese makers made big splashes this year with seemingly basic products - cheese curds and string cheese. Red Head Creamery's cheese curds are HUGE, squeaky at room temperature, and "udderly" satisfying. Lone Grazer's string cheese is hand stretched, and you can tell; it's super stringy and has a salty milkiness that keeps me running back to the co-op for more.

Revival in Minneapolis sizzled onto the scene with some of the best fried chicken I've had the pleasure of devouring. The Southern fried chicken is everything I want in fried chicken - the skin is heavily seasoned, lightly breaded, and fried to a crisp, the meat is tender and juicy, and it's served with dynamite sauces. The collard greens are a salty/sweet side that pair perfectly with the chicken, and the burger gets plenty of warranted applause with its double patty, cheese, and bacon. Don't even get me started on the pecan pie. A visit to Revival is worth the extra sit ups.

I picked this peach from a secret location in Illinois. It was sublime in a way that only a freshly picked, sun-warmed, juicy peach can be.

I had a chance to visit Charuth Van Buezekim's Dutch Girl Creamery in Nebraska this fall. She won an American Cheese Society blue ribbon for her Rosa Maria manchego-style cheese in July 2015, and now I know why. It's too legit to quit.

If you're as big a fan as I am of the Great British Bakeoff, you'll understand how one's brain becomes boggled by the bounty of pastries that exist. Fortunately, I have a friend who is a pastry chef, and who is endlessly curious about ways to combine flour, butter, and sugar. Carrie made kouign amann and I love her for it.

Should you find yourself in Ames, Iowa, The Cafe is a great choice for fresh, local food, but Vesuvius Pizza should make your short list. Their #9 signature wood-fired pizza boasts a garlic cream sauce, La Quercia prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, caramelized onions, and fresh basil. The strip mall pizza joint features a good selection of craft beer and artwork by Minneapolis's own Adam Turman. 

Never underestimate the power of a fantastic luncheon with a foxy fabricator. After a successful run as a food truck, Foxy Falafel opened a bricks and mortar restaurant in St Paul awhile back, and the cozy location proved to be memorable spot for a luncheon date complete with crispy-on-the-outside-fluffy-on-the-inside falafel balls, lightly dressed fresh greens, beer, and sweet treats.

Our industrious and fun-loving neighbors hosted their annual "Fryfest" again this year. I brought some deep fried Vietnamese style egg rolls as an entry and won this homemade strawberry pie. 

This year, I spent most of my actual birthday on the road en route from Nebraska. This weary traveler came home to hugs, a bouquet, and a warm spaghetti dinner. Spaghetti dinner with this little gal and her dad never gets old.

Previous Year's Recaps:

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]

These are a Few of My Favorite (Edible) Things 2014

M.F.K. Fisher once said,“First we eat, then we do everything else.” This year, we ate, then we had a baby, then we ate again. We didn't travel to exotic destinations, but we had plenty of adventures around the Midwest and behind our own front door. And so with that in mind, here are my favorite food-related things from 2014, in no particular order.

1. BABY DREAMS. Our little Margaret Mae expanded the horizons of our hearts when she was born in April. We've sketched out many of our dreams about her, some of which involve charcuterie. 

2. ALEMAR CHEESE. Midwest cheese makers manage to knock my socks off, year after year. To my delight in 2014, Alemar Cheese Company released a new brie-style cheese called Blue Earth. It’s slightly buttery, with a mild brie flavor, and an utterly unctuous texture. 

3. ST ISADORE'S MEADInga Witscher is a fourth-generation organic dairy farmer and the host of the television program, Around the Farm Table. We had the pleasure of enjoying dinner at her home in Western Wisconsin earlier this year, where she served us tender veal, home made cheese, and roasted vegetables - all from her farm.

4. FRIED CHICKEN. Two days after we came home from the hospital with the babe, our neighbors, Jess and Sarah, showed up on our doorstep all dolled up in vintage dresses carrying a basket of fresh fried chicken, sautéed greens, biscuits, and key lime pie. No joke, I think gerg started crying while he was eating it. 

5. WISE ACRE. An afternoon luncheon on a glorious sunny day at Wise Acre Eatery was a special treat last summer. This salted caramel, vanilla custard, and espresso shake was a heavenly end to a lovely meal.

5. BOOZE. Two weeks after baby arrived, we joyfully restocked the liquor cabinet and larder with spirits, kickass microbrews, and wine. We toasted, and toasted, and toasted, until we were toasted. 

6. GLAM DOLL DONUTS. Remember that time when I was 38 weeks pregnant and Ben delivered a box of Glam Doll Donuts to our house? No? Well, I'll never forget that.

7. BRASSERIE ZENTRAL. The lamb neck ragout and braised red cabbage over house-made gnocchi at Brasserie Zentral made for a memorable birthday meal, as did the chocolate mousse cake, the cocktails, and the leisurely motorcycle ride to and fro with my husband. 

8. BABY SHOWER. I'll never forget all of the amazing food served at my baby shower at the Pearson residence, including two fruit tarts made with love by rising pastry boss and all-around lovable gal, Carrie Riggs

9. COPPER HEN. The “breakfast cupcake” at The Copper Hen features fresh blueberries and bacon on buttery crumble cake. The whole works is topped with cream cheese frosting and maple syrup. It's a bit of a breakfast bomb, but it hits the spot with a cup of hot coffee.

10. STOCKHOLM PIE COMPANY. After YEARS of wishing and waiting, we finally made it to the Stockholm Pie Company where I savored this decadent slice of chocolate cream pie. 

11. RED STAG. Dominating Bloody Marys and bunch at the Red Stag with the Pearsons and Drabandts before heading to The Bank to watch the Packers school the Vikings was totally tubular.

12. RECOVERY FOOD. Four months after the baby was born, I made an encore appearance at the hospital to have my gall bladder removed. While I recovered, our friends and family went above and beyond, with food and love (in order left to right, top to bottom): baked enchiladas from the Pearsons, fresh spring rolls from the Ackermans, savory hand pies from Carrie, kefta and orzo salad from Jon and Aimee, Niçoise salad from Dan and Rachelle, taco salad from the Lorges, and pulled pork sandwiches from Reed and Sarah!

Other notables:
  • Maggie's first dim sum with the Liens, Trans, and Micah and Sarah.
  • The time we surprised the Drabandts with bloody Mary's, and Tim's parents were there and we ended up day drinking and talking smart about the Packers. 
  • The caramel and toasted almond tart that Aimee made on NYE.
  • The epic gingerbread castle we made with the Flanagan side of the family.
  • Remember how gorgeous it was in September? We enjoyed a glorious luncheon at Sea Salt in September with the Hirbars that I shant forget.
Previous Year's Recaps:
These are a Few of My Favorite Things: 2013
These are a Few of My Favorite Things: 2012
These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: 2011
These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: 2010
2009: A Few of My Favorite Edible Things

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]