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]

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: 2013

Dorothy Day once said, "Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul." So many of the meals I've enjoyed this year were about more than just the food. The company, the atmosphere, the location, the dirty jokes, the variety of forks - all of that contributed to my highlights this year.

I had so many dining experiences that served as food for the body AND the soul.

So without further belaboring the point, here are my favorite edible things from 2013, in no particular order.

1. BOROUGH. Gerg and I had the opportunity to enjoy a five-course, Skuna Bay salmon dinner at Borough shortly after they opened last year. The gravlax topped blini (upper left) was particularly lovely.

2. GLAM DOLL DONUTS. Glam Doll Donuts opened this year, to the cheers of late night donut lovers everywhere. After a night on the town, we grabbed a heaping platter of donuts, featuring my favorite, the Femme Fatale, filled with fresh raspberry curd and topped with vanilla icing. I DIG IT.

3. VALENTINO PASTA. Much to my surprise, a blast from the past started a pasta business last year. These home made pork meatballs and red sauce with Valentino spelt lumache pasta were perfection. Valentino pasta is handmade, small batch pasta from Chicago. 

4. FROZBROZ. We adored the Cinnamon Candied Pecan AND the 3x Chocolate ice cream we got from Froz Broz as our prize for supporting their kickstarter this year. The ice cream-making duo known for their zany flavors and random Facebook ice cream giveaways is finally selling pints of their killer ice cream at their new commercial kitchen space at CityFoodStudio.

5. FRESH INDIANA PEACHES. These freshly harvested peaches at Tuttles Orchard in Greenfield, Indiana were mind-blowingly good. My colleagues and I had an opportunity to do a multi-day farm tour around Indianapolis this year, and we stopped by Tuttles Orchard at peak peach season. Lucky us.

6. PIZZA NIGHT AT TWO PONIES GARDEN. Four fabulous friends had a chance to grab a margherita pizza at Two Ponies Garden in Long Lake, MN this fall. The pizza was a high five for your mouth, but the atmosphere was even better. We loved hiking through their dahlia garden.
7. RESTAURANT ALMA. A noteworthy birthday celebration at Restaurant Alma included a 9-course dinner and 3-course dessert. The standouts for me were the wild cod and mussel stew and the honey chocolate pot du creme. We also raised a glass to our friend, Carrie, who became the pastry chef at Alma this year.

8. FRESH MICHIGAN BLUEBERRIES. On a week-long farm tour through Michigan, some colleagues and I stopped to talk with blueberry growers in Covert, MI. We walked and talked through the rows of bushes and nibbled on freshly harvested blueberries for lunch!

9. LAKEVIEW DRIVE INN. On a day-trip date to Winona, MN, Gerg and I stopped at the Lakeview Drive Inn for some fried sunfish and a home made root beer. It was a perfect Minnesota summer lunch with the handsomest companion.
10.  GOOD THUNDER. Made with grass-fed milk from Cedar Summit Farm, Alemar Cheese's Good Thunder has a stiffer, pasty texture, with a smoothness that is slightly reminiscent of its sister cheese, Bent River. New this year, these lovely squares of cheese are molded and salted by Kieth Adams and his crew, and then the rind is washed in Surly Bender, an oatmeal brown ale. 
11. BURCH STEAK. Burch opened in 2013 to thunderous applause, and while I adore their dumplings and pizza, the wood roasted marrow bone with gremolata is my favorite dish there. We rang in the New Year at Burch this year, with a grip of some of our favorite folks, and it was a damn good idea.

12. TRAVAIL AND UMAMI. Before Travail closed in 2013, we had to stop in for one last supper. My favorite dish that night was thangliotti with asparagus, a poached egg, and a buttery foam sauce reminiscent of hollandaise. After they closed, I had a couple of opportunities to check out Umami by Travail, their temporary, pop-up restaurant. I'll never forget Umami's legendary chicken wings. 
13. NEW GLARUS. A group of us goofballs made a trek to the New Glarus Brewing Company's 2013 Beer, Bacon, and Cheese Fest. It was an epic day filled with sun, tons of glorious suds, and a fabulous Wisconsin supper club fish fry for dinner afterwards.

Other edible noteables:

  • My royal birthday cake, whipped up by Carrie Vono.
  • TWO Jello molds for Shanny's Halloween party, crafted with care and booze.
  • Pizza and pumpkin pie in the hospital after my sister delivered her first baby.
  • Entering jams, jellies, and pickles in the MN State Fair, even though I didn't win a ribbon. AGAIN.
  • An epic gingerbread house building competition with my in-laws.
  • An off-the-hook fish fry the night before Mark and Sarah's wedding. 
  • My last drink before I found out I was pregnant in August was...a bottle of Schlitz.
Previous Year's Recaps:
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]

Enter to Win Reetsyburger's Cheese Giveaway!

When a box of cheese arrives at your doorstep, an average day gets upgraded to first-class - especially when it’s Culture Magazine sending you new cheese from Coach Farm. And today could be YOUR most excellent day too. Right here, right now, you have an opportunity to win free Coach Farm goat cheese from yours truly.

Earlier this month, I was selected by Culture Magazine for their "Hello My Name Is...Blogger Contest" to write about a new style of cheese. For this particular contest, they sent me a shipment of Coach Farm goat cheese including a brand new variety of raw goat’s milk cheese.

Many remember Miles and Lilian Cahn as the owners of the famous Coach Leatherware Company – you know, the makers of belts, wallets, and those oh-so coveted handbags. Well, in 1985, the Cahns sold Coach Leatherware, and since then they’ve been “held hostage” by their herd of more than 1000 Alpine French goats at Coach Farm. 

Located outside of New York City in the Hudson Valley, Coach Farm's cheesemaker Mark Newbold crafts artisanal goat cheese for a wide variety of customers, including foodie major leaguers like Mario Baltali and Pierre Chambrin. Coach Farm bagged a 1st place prize at the 2008 World Championship Cheese Contest for their Triple Cream Wheel, and that’s just one of many awards they’ve locked down.

Coach Farm's new, raw goat's milk cheese. Photo by Marie Flanagan.
The as yet unnamed, Coach Farm raw milk goat cheese that arrived on my doorstep was all dolled up in an insulated box, tucked in alongside a few cheesy companions. As I unpacked the box, I smiled when I got my mitts on the big hunk of raw goat’s milk cheese. Reminiscent of bûcheron, a French cheese which is usually aged for 25-50 days, Coach Farm's raw milk cheese is made with unpasteurized milk and aged for at least 60 days. 

It has a bloomy, edible rind, and inside the rind, the cheese proffers two layers of flavor and texture. A thin creamline of smooth pâte gives way to a substantial layer of semi-firm, slightly tangy chèvre. Pair it with a glass of sparkling Vouvray and some grapes, and enjoy it at brunch or for an evening dessert. The flavor is clean and bold enough to pair with your beet salad, but it expresses itself more nobly alongside some simple fresh fruit. And for that reason, I suggest Noble Raw as the name for this new cheese. 

My first-ever cheese giveaway. A collection of Coach Farm cheeses. Photo by Marie Flanagan.
With so much cheesy splendor in the house, I'm obligated to pay it forward, so I’m sharing some of this shipment with one, lucky reader. Included in the shipment will be a round of their award-winning Triple Cream, 4 ounces of their classic fresh goat cheese, and a piece of their brand new, unnamed raw goat’s milk cheese. 

The time is NOW. Do what the readers of this blog do best – gush about food. To enter for a chance to have this cheese shipped to you, either share this post on facebook -OR- write a description of your favorite goat cheese dish in the Twin Cities in the comments section below (if you live elsewhere, share a favorite restaurant's goat cheese preparation in your locale). This is your chance to WIN FREE CHEESE! Enter by the 18th.

Please note: This has been posted on multiple blogs. You need only enter on one of them.

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